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 Labrador cross, Poppy, who keeps a firm paw on the work-and-walkies schedule!

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
Rosy Cole
Delighted you enjoyed the post, Kevin. I do have most of the Kahlil Gibran books. At least I've counted eleven on my bookshelves,... Read More
Sunday, 06 June 2021 14:06
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A Ride On The Cosmic Ferris Wheel (Review of The Circus Poems)

 

Adults are inclined to the illusion that all children love clowns and masks and life-sized puppets, but the unknown being inside a funny fuzzy bear costume can sometimes reduce a bemused infant to tears.

 

 

 

Alex Grant's THE CIRCUS POEMS picks up the theme of FEAR OF MOVING WATER** and goes on to describe anthropoidal existence in a bewildering universe where even symmetry and order are random. He stresses the fragilility of living forms while showing their tenacious commitment to a beating pulse. We go hurtling through constellations at the mercy of sheer momentum until, worn down to dust, we disappear through a pinprick of light that is birth. Thus the cycle begins again. Of the Human Cannonball, he says:

 

"He dreams the same dream night after night – he is shooting down a narrowing opening towards a pinprick of light – he hears the muffled voices, clanging metal, the soft, liquid rumble sluicing behind, firegush and cordite thick in his mouth - a subterranean voyager riding towards his nightly salvation, high above the pink blur of humanity, upturned faces calling out his name – knives glinting in their hands."

 

Was there ever a more vivid analogy of birth? One wonders whether the poet dimly remembers his own to have infused this with so much elemental energy.

 

 

 

The circus characters are the acceptable face of the sinister aspects of human nature. Such entertainment ensures the riveted curiosity of an audience in ecstacies of alarm about how close to annihilation it is possible to steer while keeping balance on life's tightrope. They are all present, the Clown, the Bearded Lady, the Contortionist, the Magician, the Lion-Tamer, the Strongman...

 

"Listen as he tears a telephone directory of hearts in two. The strongman fears nothing, Tiger-striped, thicker-skinned than the elephant, wilderness in his eyes, hair thick as tug-boat rope, he'll crush your ribs like a bar of sodden soap. Children ride on his shoulders, powder pink and soft as guilt."

 

 

In different ways, these individuals sum up what our dreamlike span means on a disintegrating planet. The Fortune Teller's words have a soporific hum that 'winds in your ear'.

 

"You are on a very long voyage, unsure of your destination – many companions will come and go, certain places will hold you – you are moving, returning, always returning."

 

To capture any of it is a feat as great as any prowess demonstrated by the Acrobat.

 

"...then flips her grasshopper body and lands on the white stallion's back as it canters past. Her body melds with the horse -its snort and rumble pulsing through her feet...mane flapping like white seaweed in a bridled sea of dust and plumes and memory."


Seurat-Circus.PNG - 1009.96 kb

 

Between the big-top spectacular and peeping in at the sideshows, we dip into a few of the calamitous events of global history's fair. Here, the characters are unmasked projections of those ogled from the ringside. The edges of the Self melt and the lives of the many are contained like fluid in the life of one.

 

There is a vivid and atmospheric account of the Bolshevik drive to capture Archangel where the White Army put up fierce resistance. I found it reminiscent of the Komarovsky train scene in Doctor Zhivago. The narrative moves from phrases about rutted earth, reddened snow and shards of bone, through wind and ice and men and animals pitching camp in the forest until the wheels turn again:

 

"and I am done with tents and pegs and iron cages

 

...Today, I heard a gunshot from my window – the blast echoed

 

 like a lost voice and I imagined the animal falling, its hooves

 

extending like a four-pointed star, its breath gushing

 

to the center of the world, its body sucked into the vortex..."

 

 

to this, the following day, as if a grip on reality were only to be conserved within the memory:

 

 

"...The democracy of snow falls noiselessly to earth. Tomorrow, I will walk

 

and eat snow and think of my wife – but in this moment,

 

I raise a glass of Bull's Blood to the world -

 

my first in seven years, and it tastes like the ache

 

of a young boy – like summer by the Bosphorous - "

 

 

and, finally, to this:

 

 

"...The Buddha said that to be born human

 

is like coming up for air in an infinite ocean

 

and finding your head inside the only ring that floats..."

 

Picasso-ParadeStageBackground.PNG - 769.04 kb

 

When the circus passes through Mesa Verde on its roll from Colorado to Utah, a flash flood washes away the big cats' trailer, but the show goes inexorably on with its thrills, spills, its contortions and deformities. There is a quotation from the Lancashire Evening News of November, 1871 in which a two-headed, eight-limbed female entertained an audience at the Temperance Hall with her duets, one voice contralto, the other soprano, in a 'very pleasing manner'. This says everything about our amorphous values and attitude to Death. The story underlines the shiftingness in all things. Those stalwart Victorians might well have applauded themselves for their triumph over the demon liquor, and even a civilised lack of qualms, but their primitive palate for horror was undiminished.

 

As Virginia Woolf once remarked: the accent falls in the wrong place.

 

For, there are times when the circus itself, with its cracking whips, flinging knives, bloody teeth, fields the danger. During an earthquake which devastated an Andean Valley in 1971, dislodging millions of tons of glacial rubble, 25,000 people perished in one town alone. According to the Punta Arenas Citizen, only 400 people survived and 300 of those were children attending a circus performance.

 

The ghost of a Deity, neither benevolent nor inimical, looms through these poems. One such passage describes the Trapeze Artist:

 

 

"The cross-bar hangs like a churchyard flag in a lull - the congregation

 

waiting for one more revelation to come flying out of cloistered cloth.

 

The priest of the air mounts his wooden pulpit – throws his spangled

 

cape into the audience and genuflects in their direction. A silent cross,

 

a mumbled prayer, and he looks up past the blazing light, the catcher’s

 

arms open like a pale sacrament, eucharist of skin and bone and wrist."

 

 

This is a superbly focused volume and is, in some ways, more sophisticated than FEAR OF MOVING WATER**. But there is little whimsical diversion, just unvarnished irony. Grant uses words like surgical instruments probing the deeps of the psyche to abstract the truth. He skilfully dissolves the barriers between all the human senses and methods of perception. The collection is not for the squeamish. Or the panic-stricken who are anxious to stop the world and get off.

 

This unnerving ride on the cosmic ferris-wheel will certainly affect your vision.

 

 

RJC

 

 

 

 

 

**Awards for FEAR OF MOVING WATER:

 

Runner-up for the 2010 Oscar Arnold Young Award - Best Collection by a North Carolina Poet. (June, 2010)

 

Runner-up for the Brockman Campbell Award - Best North Carolina Poetry Collection. (June, 2010)

 

 
 
 

 

Copyright

© Rosy Cole 2010 -2016

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
Sounds fascinating - almost Tarot like.
Thursday, 21 April 2016 02:59
Rosy Cole
Yes, that's an interesting observation, not that I know much about the Tarot Pack, but this collectiion is reminiscent of the Shak... Read More
Thursday, 21 April 2016 14:10
Barbara Froman
Marvelous review, Rosy! Another title for my list. Looking forward to the read!
Thursday, 21 April 2016 17:53
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