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. 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!

Advent and Destiny

 

 


 

The past is not dead, it is living in us, and will be alive in the future which we are now helping to make. So said William Morris, textile designer, writer, social activist and colleague of the Pre-Raphaelites.

 

 

Destiny. The subject has obsessed philosophers and occupied dreamers for as long as mankind has been trying to get a handle on his passage through this world. I don't want to get lost in that loop involving predestination and existentialism, but simply to share  a few striking thoughts. These throw up as many questions as explanations, but they do offer new lenses by which our appreciation of daily life may be enriched. Advent is a good season to reflect upon these things.

Anyone who wants to expunge history from the student curriculum is surely driving a nail in the coffin of the human race. Those of us who've ventured into the dense forests of genealogy know well, despite many surprises, the feeling of familiarity and of things making sense, of being part of a canvas that is beyond the scope of our comprehension and influence. How much of memory, instinct, déjà-vu, the sudden atmosphere of other times and places, the very paths we tread, is encoded in our DNA? Do those we are connected with, who have died, guide us? To what extent do our actions and disposition offer hospitality to the roaming 'spirits of the air'? And can the links we forge in this world, even those at a geographic distance, significantly impact our being?

I was born and brought up in Leicestershire, in the UK Midlands, as far from the coast as you can get in England. From earliest years, it never felt right. Neither of my parents was local and they didn't really fit into the community way of thinking with all its lore and historic assumptions. It may surprise Americans and those from other continents, that, although these islands are small, the customs and mythology are area-centred and are, perhaps, roughly defined by its ancient kingdoms, Mercia, Northumbria, and so on. (Hence Thomas Hardy's revival of Wessex consciousness.) The regions have their own character and dialect, arising from the landscape and soil, prevailing climate, and their trades and industries. Consult Ordnance Survey maps and you begin to understand how this has evolved.

The Welsh people nowadays are bi-lingual, but they are proud of their mother tongue and defend their heritage fiercely. The English understand Welsh idioms, but the language is impenetrable and actually more foreign than the languages of Europe and Scandinavia. The Scots, too, are keen on keeping Gaelic alive, particularly in the outlying isles. There is English Gaelic, full of colourful, rugged phrases, with strange words, along with more familiar words that have other meanings and evoke a different experience. Lewis Grassic Gibbon was an author who made profound use of this in his wonderful Scots Quair. Then there is the  old Gaelic language you can only crack with a sledgehammer if you're lucky, which invents a plethora of written syllables that actually have little sound when spoken. But maybe that's just to the Sassenach ear! Despite travel and the media, there are still local accents we may struggle with. Glaswegian is a wholesale assault upon auditory nerves! (Sorry, Weegies.)

 

 

The point of this digression is to try and explain a compelling feeling of being out of context that had no root in my living experience. Always, when I mentally envisioned a map of Britain, I was standing in the middle, looking South and to the right, which meant the West. Why that was so didn't occur to me until fairly recently. My family tree, on both sides, is rooted in Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset and Devon, with the prevailing gene pool coming from Dorset. Since fate has contrived to bring me close to the Hampshire border, I am beginning to feel a strong pull West, a longing for Hardy's Dorset among people with whom there is an established rapport, in a landscape I seem to know to the core. The sense of peace and 'rightness' in being there is a siren call. I live in a picturesque stretch of the South East among good friends and would be sorry to put distance between us, but the pull is something even more fundamental.

And there are other ways in which I wonder how much we're affected by the lives of those who have gone before. The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation, as the Old Testament says. Are we destined sometimes to 'carry the can' for our forebears in order that the chain of consequences arising from malicious deeds might be broken? The text should be approached in context, but does point to our need for rescue by some external agency. It prefigures the coming of the Messiah who, for Christians, is the Sacrifice for Sin.

Whatever our system of belief, this elemental truth is instinctive to our psyche. The dynamic is immanent in every religion and culture worldwide and inspires their characteristic Art, Music and Literature.

 

 

An age-old tradition of former centuries, still occasionally observed, is the concept of 'sin-eating'. This holds that at a person's death, a relative or someone close elects to take on the responsibility for his/her wrongdoings, by prayer and ritual, so that the ongoing fallout might be stemmed and the soul fully released to enjoy eternity.

This is the theme of Mary Webb's legendary Shropshire novel, Precious Bane, set in the Napoleonic era. The heroine, Prue Sarn, is born with a hare-lip and provokes superstitious revulsion. Her brother Gideon has chosen to be the sin-eater for his dead father, scorning the power of the curse on the Sarn menfolk who were believed to have 'lightning in their blood' after one of them was struck dead by lightning during the Civil Wars, two hundred years before. Gideon believes in self-determination and proudly labours to be rich and successful. But in rejecting the momentum of something greater than himself, he invites witchcraft, murder and suicide into the arena.

Prue believes herself beyond the pale, but strives to exorcise her 'bane' with sheer goodness of heart. She blooms with an inner beauty, perceived only by the weaver, Kester Woodseaves, a Christ-like figure. When events conspire to bring a tragic climax and Gideon poisons his own ailing mother who is a burden, Prue becomes the focus of mob-hatred. The community must have its scapegoat. Surely, her ugly defect is a sign that she has been smitten by God as a baneful presence. She is tied to a ducking-stool in preparation for a witch's drowning, but is rescued by her 'guardian angel', Kester, and carried off to wedded bliss.

Precious Bane is one of the most beautiful, powerful and evocative novels in the English language. It rings with deep truth. The title is taken from Milton's Paradise Lost and echoes with many connotations of the work.

Let none admire
That riches grow in Hell; that soyle may best
Deserve the precious bane.

For me, it also brings to mind the felix culpa quoted by Thomas Aquinas when endeavouring to explain how God is able to bring a far greater good out of evil when we apply to him.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

This phrase is usually said or sung at Easter, but in Advent is pregnant with Hope and expectation of New Life.

We are all exiles and outsiders in one way or another. It is good to reflect that, ultimately, we are not in control. We belong to a realm without borders, beyond Time and Space, and our destiny is formed by how we choose to regard that. It both draws and drives us.

We are all exiles insomuch that it almost renders the term meaningless.

 



Footnote:
 Mary Webb has been called a 'neglected genius' and nothing could be so apt. She lived from 1881 -1927. Precious Bane was awarded the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse Anglais for 1924–1925, given annually for the best work of imagination in prose or verse (descriptive of English life) by an author who had not attained sufficient recognition.

You can learn all about the author via this link:

The Mary Webb Society

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
Very interesting. I don't know this author.
Monday, 07 December 2020 03:01
Rosy Cole
Female authors of that era, and way before that, were seldom taken seriously. At least Mary Webb kept her own name. But I think it... Read More
Sunday, 13 December 2020 17:43
511 Hits
2 Comments

Florence

 

 

This is the moment she lets down her hair, newly washed at the Belfast sink, and offers it to a beneficent sun. The coiled braids, set free, ripple in a fanciful breeze and glisten with silver.

She is standing on a grassy incline, next to the hawthorn hedge, where no one will see her in this state of disarray. No one except the small girl who is bemused by the transfiguration. An elfin shadow falls aslant behind her.

For Florence, it echoes of another little presence, far away and gone. She knows about grief. After going into service, she gave birth to a son fathered by her master. The child was torn from her life, as though he had never lived, and the long conspiracy of silence only stresses her the more. He would be a young man by now, perhaps with a wife and family of his own. Sometimes, she is sure of it: her psyche is populated with shadows that live and move and have their being within the wings of everyday reality.

Young men did not come courting after that, but how could they when they lay lifeless in some corner of a foreign field? She bears her shame with meek fortitude, holding her head high among those who do not see her.

 

 

“Least said, soonest mended,” is what she tells her sister, Bella, who bicycles over the hills in her hat and coat on visits. Bella is inclined to pretend Daisy isn’t there. The sisters whisper overhead, while Bella glances down her nose and chides Florence for being put upon.

Daisy catches a phrase or two, though she is more interested in the magpie browsing the apple tree. “Lonely child, lonely woman,” says Bella.

“She mixes well enough. I don’t mind,” Florence tells her. And adds, somewhat cryptically, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.”

Florence keeps house for her engineer brother, a saturnine fellow who likes a lot of mustard on his food and finds children tiresome.

'Your wife, your dog, and your walnut tree, the more you beat them, the better they be,' he jokes.

"Give over," Florence scolds.

It is whispered that he has taken up with a woman two villages away and plans to marry. Daisy is fascinated when Florence gets on her knees with Lol’s boiler suit spread over a wavy brick floor, lathering the tough denim with Sunlight soap and scraping the slurry off with a blunt knife before it goes into the copper to be boiled in suds created with soap and a cheese-grater. Men have fought for their country in trench, jungle and desert. They are the breadwinners, the prime holders of mortgage agreements, the payers of rent. Way must be made for them and their interests served.



 

She is a country woman to the core and delights in her garden, the digging and planting and picking, the rogation days and harvest home. The child capers back and forth with a toy watering-can imprinted with mermaids, dipping it into the rainwater butt and dragging it to the thirsty plants. Daisy loves her floral ‘choir’ that stands tall at the edge of the potato crop. The ink-blue of delphinium spires, the chuckling sunflowers, the hollyhocks and ox-eye daisies, the canterbury bells, and snapdragons whose jaws are gently prized by furry bees prospecting for gold. Her favourites of all are the marigolds. Her wheaten locks, parted and tied in bunches, bob up and down behind her ear lobes as she darts to and fro.

Startled, her little forefinger guards her mouth and she is motionless, sure that she can hear singing from some far distance place.

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green...

Florence is seized by a moment of undiluted joy.

“See the piggies?” suggests Daisy, off on another tack.

“I’m all behind like the cow’s tail today,” says Florence. “There’s Lol’s shirts to iron and...”

Daisy is crestfallen, because Lol’s shirts are definitely not top of her agenda.

“Well, you’d best go and put your bonnet on, then, while I take my pinny off and make myself fit.”

Daisy squeals with delight and does her happy dance.

In the afternoon, they call at Farmer Knight’s where Daisy clambers on to the pigpen gate for a lofty view of a litter of inquisitive snouts. Fortified by flapjacks and squash, the pair stroll home through field, wood and churchyard, sucking barley sugars, the luminous air filled with the hum of summer, while silken butterflies alight on flowers and dragonflies hint rainbows.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a beloved ritual through the seasons, the naming of flowers. Snowdrops, aconites, anemones, Star of Bethlehem and wood sorrel. Violets, bluebells, lady’s smocks and dog roses. Speedwell, ragged robins and Queen Anne’s lace. Cornflowers, campion and tansy. Autumn crocus, Jack-in-the-Pulpit… Daisy can reel off this litany to her heart’s content.

A mosaic of tiny yellow petals, tinted with crimson, half-hidden in the grass, catches her eye. Delightedly, she pounces on it, losing hold of Florence’s hand. “Egg and bacon!”

“That’s right,” says Florence. “But you couldn’t eat that for your tea, now could you?”

She thinks of the apple cake resting on the pantry shelf and a gratifying brew of pekoe tips to round off the adventure with her small charge.

“What’s that?” asks Daisy, pointing. “Baby pansy?”

“Why, that’s heartsease,” says Florence.

But Daisy has no time for sighs. She is telling the time with a dandelion clock. The flossy seeds float upwards and away, to take root in some other pasture.

Florence will hug this day of mystical balm to herself for ever. And she will never know the treasure she has bequeathed.

The lady is aptly named.

 

 

These images reveal the glorious exuberance of nature in a churchyard during lockdown.

 

 

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
Enjoyed this so much. Charming, evocative, and lyrical.
Tuesday, 16 June 2020 23:34
Rosy Cole
Thank you for your delightful comment. It is good to reflect on a way of life that has been lost.
Wednesday, 17 June 2020 16:44
673 Hits
2 Comments

Every Leaf In Springtime

It’s been the darkest winter I can remember, skies uniformly leaden, the earth deluged, the nation divided, and the world angst-ridden in the throes of a deadly virus that looks set to change our way of being for ever.

But the truth is, the future was never ours. We hope, we make plans, we strive and steer towards our goals, though, often, life imposes other designs and death may come as a thief in the night.

There is no future except what opens up from the present moments and how we approach the challenges and appreciate the blessings they afford. It’s about our best endeavours in plying with what is. Oughts and shoulds belong to the past.

Earning and deserving don’t enter the picture. Rain falls and sun shines on just and unjust alike. The life of the planet and the wellbeing of everything on it awaits our generous response. We can't do it alone. We need each other. And we need the mercy and grace of the Creator.

If death and destruction can steal a march on us, so can good fortune, just like the breathtaking revelation of spring...





“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” 

Martin Luther





“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”

Leo Tolstoy




“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”

Rainer Maria Rilke





“Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in spring.”

Vladimir Nabokov




“I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older.”

Virginia Woolf




“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.”

 Marty Rubin





“It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not what.”

John Galsworthy




“Spring drew on...and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily,
suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”


Charlotte Brontë




“A Robin said: The Spring will never come,
And I shall never care to build again.
A Rosebush said: These frosts are wearisome,
My sap will never stir for sun or rain.
The half Moon said: These nights are fogged and slow,
I neither care to wax nor care to wane.
The Ocean said: I thirst from long ago,
Because earth's rivers cannot fill the main. —
When Springtime came, red Robin built a nest,
And trilled a lover's song in sheer delight.
Grey hoarfrost vanished, and the Rose with might
Clothed her in leaves and buds of crimson core.
The dim Moon brightened. Ocean sunned his crest,
Dimpled his blue, yet thirsted evermore.”

Christina Rossetti





"Nature is bent on new beginning
and death has not a chance of winning..."

Rosy Cole





Recent Comments
Ken Hartke
Thank you for a hopeful view of days ahead. I always think of spring being downhill from winter. You can see it in the distance an... Read More
Friday, 17 April 2020 06:04
Rosy Cole
As I see it, Ken, there's no point in not having a hopeful view. Disastrous situations will happen, but turning them on their head... Read More
Friday, 17 April 2020 17:10
Ken Hartke
We were in London on March 2 before the restrictions were much in place. I was very surprised by the flowers that early.
Saturday, 18 April 2020 05:34
2006 Hits
4 Comments

Christmas At Thomas Hardy's Sherton Abbas

 

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Glazed Nativity inside the old Conduit House, Sherborne

 

The bells of Sherborne Abbey are famed as the heaviest peal of eight in the world! Four of them were cast by the imperilled Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

 

About Sherborne Abbey

 

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Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
Stunning - what a wonderful p;lace to celebrate Christmas.
Tuesday, 31 December 2019 00:01
Rosy Cole
Thank you! It was! Glad you enjoyed! :-)
Saturday, 04 January 2020 17:46
786 Hits
2 Comments

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Latest Comments

Rosy Cole So May We All
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I intend to try with the cap locks on, but in a quiet, subtle kind of way :-)
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It's true, you can see more of them, and if paintings, details at closer and clearer quarters, at yo...
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I agree, Stephen. It's the simple things.
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Female authors of that era, and way before that, were seldom taken seriously. At least Mary Webb kep...