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!

Another Time, Another Place: The Power of Words and Music

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Once upon a time, in another place, I ran a music agency called Intermezzo. It was dedicated to themed words and music programmes for a variety of events, private and public. The notion of 'spectacle' didn't for the most part enter into it since we were there to enhance someone else's party. Marking a special occasion calls for ambience. There are things about tapping into the natural music of the universe, the rhythms of prose and poetry, that express our longing to harness destiny.

Having grown up in the fifties and sixties, when mass imagery did not clamour for attention the way it does now, and before television was a way of life and the cinema a rare treat, all we had was books and radio to populate our interior landscapes. Now that technology has melded them, we can listen to stories, plays and poetry, with echoes of tales told by the camp-fire on the edge of that purple twilight beguiling our ancestors.

There are vital clues in audio it is easy to miss with stage and screen. Shakespeare is wonderful and in many ways richer in nuance. It helps that radio stations can afford to employ the best actors when costs concomitant with film and theatre aren't an issue. It's a sophisticated art. The whole picture is painted with voice, neither fanfare nor foible to distract.

Many years ago, Catherine Cookson described how she liked to plan the following day's writing in utter silence before she went to sleep. Whilst she was mentally configuring situations, she was listening for that canny modulation in Northumbrian dialogue. She referred to it as 'going to the pictures'.

A friend recently described how singing in a language that is not native to the piece destroys the atmosphere and complementarity, the words fighting the music. Like good poetry that cannot be fully apprehended at a first, or second, or third, reading, sound and rhythm hook in their own right. T S Eliot is a supreme example, enigmatic, intriguing. Yes, in a strange way, at a primal level, we've heard it all before. There is an ageless truth we recognise, like a mother's heartbeat, or the whispering sea.

The urge to convey our childhood mythology to our children is strong and I can't help thinking that something got lost in translation when television took over and many children's programmes became cult viewing. Edward Lear became Mr Men and Grimms' Fairy Tales, Dr Who. There is a distinct breach in the culture of centuries at the point our children were learning to decipher the world. The strange thing is that though television is intensely graphic, it seldom resonates deep in the psyche. It may have thought-stimulating potential, but it is ephemeral and depends on the acuity of the mind's eye there and then. In the twenty-first century, we tend to believe that only what has passed through the rational mind has reality, when the mainsprings of creativity arise in the subterranean deeps beyond our control.

My early education was spent in Church of England schools (at primary level with a staunchly English Roman Catholic teacher who introduced us to the Apocrypha, also an honoured part of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the C of E) and I'm glad to have been compelled to recite long passages from the King James Bible by heart. Those cadences, despite the archaisms and quaint imagery, set me up for life as a writer and prompted my choice of reading, purely from their compelling resonance. While Shakespeare paved the way between the medieval era, the realms of Chaucer, and the Enlightenment, the Authorised Bible was, still is, a pillar of our heritage, though it is now largely deemed an irrelevance. Surely those vibrations delivered from a shared unconscious make it a masterpiece of language?

As to sound, its colour and architecture, I remember being enthralled aged three or four, by the brooding mystery of a serialisation of Wilkie Collins' The Woman In White on Woman's Hour (still going, like The Archers!) That story influenced my fledgling novels in subtle ways, but when I came to read the book as a young adult, I found its thickets tedious to penetrate and soon gave up trying to follow the plot.

We all agree that music has a magical potential to dissolve any kind of boundary you can think of. I have long been fascinated by the process of harmonising libretto and score as a heightened means of storytelling, but what about the spontaneous images and scenes evoked by arranged sequences of notation? The atmosphere, approaching something like memory, of times and places we have not experienced. In a similar way, perfume can sometimes trigger nostalgia for venues that belong nowhere in the context of the life we know.

When I was thirteen, I fabricated a tale to music by André Grétry, logging down impressions, passage by passage, and linking them together. In my head, I wanted to create a ballet. I remember the piece was entitled Auphine and featured a black rose with mystical powers. The project withered when my Dad took a look at it and said there was no such thing as a 'black rose'. Several years later, when I'd embarked on novel-writing as a serious enterprise, like many scribes, I would use music as inspiration for the mood of a scene. I found it gave me courage to get words down on the page (ballpoint in exercise books in those days!) The overture to Beethoven's Fidelio accompanied the early passages of my second 'apprentice' historical novel, set in Paris at the time of the French Revolution. I knew nothing of the opera at that time and was only a vaguely familiar with the music. When, two years later, I attended a production in which friends were starring, I was astonished to see the scenes from my story translated to the stage! By what strange alchemy do the laws of physics and biochemistry become image?

One thing we can be sure of, our senses, and there may be many more than five, ebb and flow and overlap in a rich multiplicity. They are not as distinct as our impression of them. Use earplugs for any purpose and you could find yourself in trouble with spatial awareness. I was told by a musician that the virtuoso percussionist, Evelyn Glennie, who is profoundly deaf, senses music and vivid colour through vibration along the spine.

How the blind decipher sound, what kind of picture is formed in the imagination, can't really be known or compared. I'd like to think it's something the rest of us might well recognise.

But does image evoke sound the way sound projects image on to the imagination's screen?

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Copyright

© © Rosy Cole 2014

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
Rosy, you put into beautiful words much of how I think and feel about sounds and music vs image. I strongly suspect that sound tr... Read More
Monday, 21 July 2014 10:37
Rosy Cole
I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Katia, and that it meant a lot to you. If experience has taught me anything it's that what I intuit... Read More
Monday, 21 July 2014 14:54
Stephen Evans
I am reminded of two things: one, that the Elizabethans spoke of hearing a play, rather than seeing one; and two, that very funny ... Read More
Tuesday, 22 July 2014 04:21
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6 Comments

Sanctuary (Divine Comedy)

 

 

My mind's sunk so low, Claudia, because of you, wrecked itself

on your account so bad already, that I couldn't like you if you

were the best of women, or stop loving you, no matter what you

 do. Catullus.

 

 

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 Poor Claudia! 'Twas ever thus!

 Since Adam's frame was formed of dust,

 And Eve was taken from his rib,

 She was his offspring, born to quib.

 Without her he had been forlorn,

 Roamed in the Garden all alone.

 He sensed he had no complement

 When plucking fruit all passion spent,

 No mirror for his lofty soul,

 No praise when he had reached his goal,

 No one to cheer, his wit admire,

 No one to help fulfil desire.

 So while he slept, his spirit warm,

The Lord did conjure from his form

A maiden of such pulchritude,

She gave no hint of pending feud.

At dawn, when Adam gazed on Eve,

His heart rejoiced she'd never leave,

He harkened to her every word,

To ignore her just seemed absurd,

 

 

But then the Serpent bent her ear,

The Tree of Knowledge had no peer,

Eve took and bit the luscious flesh,

Gave some to Adam, so they'd mesh

With bonds they could appreciate.

The glory faded. All too late,

They stared bereft, the vision gone

And work alone would see it won

O'er many a millennial span.

Thus many a skirmish then began

And many days with struggles fraught

Did end in bitterness of thought.

 

 

Well, he blamed her and she blamed him

For standing by, his purpose dim,

Their only hope, the marriage bed,

And space. He built a garden shed!

 

 

 

Poem from the 'Whimsies' section of The Twain, Poems of Earth and Ether

 

 

Image courtesy of Anna Mason Art

 

Copyright

© New Eve Publishing

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
Brilliant! :–)
Tuesday, 15 July 2014 08:35
Rosy Cole
Thank you ... Read More
Thursday, 17 July 2014 12:22
Joseph James Breunig 3rd
A delightful retelling of a familiar tale; appreciated the whimsical approach and quality of your writing; wonderfully conceived! ... Read More
Thursday, 07 August 2014 18:04
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5 Comments

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

As a small child, I lived in a poky cottage opposite a tall red brick wall which formed the curtilage of Georgian rectory, a classical house of pale stone, abandoned and fallen into ruin. The bricks glowed fire-red at sunset and, though pitted here and there, had a sheen you never see in modern buildings. Years of unlit hearths had saplings sprouting from the chimney-pots, as though from the noses of trolls in Norwegian fairy tales. Tattered rooks swooped about them, their cawing a coarse counterpoint to the lazy cooing of pigeons from the nearby woods.


The back and front yards, I was sure, were made of peanut brittle; some kind of pebble-embedded concrete. The back garden was narrow, but long and open to the sky. It was raised above most of the village and looked out upon blue slate, pantile and thatched roofs, all higgledy-piggledy, beyond a walnut orchard. “Your wife, your dog and your walnut tree, the more you beat them the better they be,”maintained the owner, whose name I forget. He looked as though he would not have spared the rod on vociferous children. He wore a brown overall, the same colour as the paper bags shops used, and a battered felt hat, not unlike a Quaker's. I've written elsewhere how WWI and WWII set us back decades and the tenor of life in the country still belonged in the Edwardian era, albeit the effects of the Great Exhibition of 1951 were slowly ushering in a new style of living. Children were seen and not heard in company, unless addressed. But, oh, how much you learned from listening and taking stock! Books and the radio were our main indoor entertainment and we didn't think  ourselves deprived. More to the point, we still don't.

The cottage was one in a row of four which flanked a stony hill up to the church where children preferred not to linger but delighted in spinning scary yarns about the gravestones and the haunted vicarage. These were fuelled by the Brothers Grimm and Laboulaye's Fairy Tales. The churchyard path was a short cut to a back lane where the farm was situated which delivered our milk. They ladled it into our cans at the gate from a galvanized churn. On one occasion, when the delivery was late, I went with my Dad to the farm and on the way back through the churchyard meadow, he much impressed me by swinging the can in a circle over his head without spilling any milk. He worked in civil engineering and explained that this was something called centrifugal force. I had no idea what it meant. It seemed like a miracle. So, the far-fetched was a part of who we were.

 

One day, he and I stood on the back doorstep. You could see several miles distance, the horizon clearly showing a buff-gold peak. We lived near the Swithland slate quarries and not far from the Mountsorrel sand and gravel pits. My Dad pointed to the distance: “You see the mountain over there? You were born on the other side of that.” I had visions of being forsaken  naked on a heap of abrasive scree by angels instead of under a gooseberry bush, but it seemed evidence of a realm of wonder out there, where I might one day belong. The mountain is long gone now, dispersed in the building of motorways which radiate like wheel-spokes from the heart of the Midlands.


The vegetable patch at the far end of our garden seemed nothing but a white butterfly nursery and was approached by a mossy path, on one side apple, pear and damson trees, on the other, a clump of soft fruit bushes. I remember being fascinated by the veined peridot of whiskery gooseberries against the light, the redcurrants like bubbles of ruby and blackcurrants like Pooh Bear's eyes. I remember the drone of wasps sinking mandibles into the overripe plums and the thrushes dizzy with fermenting juice in the autumn. The birds loved our yew berries, too, which made the slate steps into the lane purple-stained and slippery with their viscous golden seeds popping from the red flesh like pimento-stuffed olives. The intricate, somehow prehistoric, design of a bright green grasshopper was fascinating when it landed on your arm. One of the earliest poems I learned to chant was by Ada Skinner from one of her books of Children's Verse, now revived by the Baldwin Project:

 

Grasshopper Green is a comical chap;

 

He lives on the best of fare.

 

Bright little trousers, jacket and cap,

 

These are his summer wear.

 

Out in the meadow he loves to go,

 

Playing away in the sun;

 

Its hopperty, skipperty, high and low—

 

Summer's the time for fun.

 

 

When I knee-high to aforesaid grasshopper, Dad would read from Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies. Despite the illustrations being mostly only pen and ink, they were evocative of an underwater world and of the strange characteristic striated rock of the North Devon coast from where the author and many of our ancestors hailed.


My world was in miniature, a lot more so than a child's world today. But my destiny beckoned and I never doubted that there was a road out to the wide blue yonder. The children's literature of the day inspired an expectation of it. After all, a repeated phrase (usually referring to a man, it is true) was 'and set out to seek his fortune'. Even then, I grasped that fortune did not necessarily equate with money. There was a unique way of being to be discovered that would enlarge each of us and enrich the world. 



Laboulaye's Fairy Tales
(Of All Nations) whose illustrator was Arthur A Dixon, was spell-binding. If any should doubt that the timeless narrative tale is a lost art, take a look between these pages if you get a chance. Among those I liked best was The Twelve Months. It was the story of two sisters, Katinka and Dobrunka. Katinka determined upon a life of luxury and made demands upon her longsuffering sister to obtain from the twelve months, who manifest in human form, all her whims and wants. In the end, the hardworking Dobrunka gained happiness at the expense of her lazy sibling. It was a Russian tale. There was no notion of 'politically correct' in those days. Most stories were what we would now regard as propagandist, though it was sound enough everyday morality.

 


Other favourites were Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, The Magic Tinder Box, Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretel. But, perhaps, the best-loved was Hans Andersen's The Ugly Duckling and I would get my Dad to read it over and over again. It made me cry and filled me with hope all at the same time. Justice was served and there was evidence of order and balance in the cosmos.


 

These books had the most wonderfully atmospheric drawings and I particularly loved the mythical world translated by the Art Nouveau era. I might mention Arthur Ransome, Kate Greenaway and Mabel Lucie Attwell as original illustrators, but my supreme favourite has to be the Danish artist, Kay Nielsen, whose images reign on this page. His artwork appeared in books of collected fables from a diverse range of cultures. One such is the volume of Norwegian folk tales entitled East of the Sun and West of the Moon, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1914 and revived in 1976. Nielsen's oeuvre is full of strange attenuated lines consistent with tall stories, and beguiling curlicues. The grotesque becomes pantomime and the masque a venue for hinting at clandestine truth. His fabulous dreamscape world describes what we cannot articulate in words and resonates deep in the psyche. It is an enchanted dominion where Good and Evil draw swords. It is tinctured with pain and resolution, warning and bliss, and fosters the Hope that is a prelude to renaissance.

 

Maybe, I have Viking ancestors. My Dad always said so. And the chances in these Isles are somewhat above odds on!

Recent Comments
Ken Hartke
Bravo... Reminded me that when I was a kid we had a series of books called "My Book House" with very similar illustrations and st... Read More
Friday, 11 July 2014 18:43
Rosy Cole
Thank you, Ken. It's good to keep in touch with those first magical influences. It reminds us who we are, which modern life seems ... Read More
Saturday, 12 July 2014 11:14
Stephen Evans
Such powerful stories - a good reminder. Haven't read this collection, should honor my Norwegian ancestry and get it!
Friday, 11 July 2014 19:32
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New Ends, New Beginnings

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Nostalgia In Reverse


Westerlies
clouds shafted with gold
Atlantic
travellers without
frontiers


carriers
of strange prophetic
atmospheres
and scents I cannot
yet translate

 

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Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
Beautiful, Rosy. Thank you for giving us travelling wordsmiths a safe haven.
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 08:28
Rosy Cole
Thank you! Welcome, both! It's lovely to see you at the new venue. Looking forward...
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 08:58
Orna Raz
This is so lovely Rosy, I admire you!
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 13:13
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3 Comments

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