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.





 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


2276 Hits


Wind-swept, East of England skies.  Shapeshifting clouds.  Swirls of white puff that stretch into mountains, curl into castles, swell into dragons, rise into chariots, then metamorphose into angels.  Skies mottled with lead-grey, steel-grey, velvet grey with  undertones of purple, shades of pink, hints of blue and glints of gold.  Ever-changing skies.  Skies so big, they come all the way down to your feet.


Elms that rise proud against the sky, copper beeches that glow in the afternoon sun, weeping willows swaying by the river, oaks – hundred of years old – that stand strong against the hurricanes.  Trees that have witnessed generations parade before them.  Trees with stories full of magic to tell, if you would listen.


Winds that howl in the night, winds that rattle wooden window frames, gales that push against you as you struggle to walk up the street.  Winds that tear off scaffoldings.  Passionate, exhilarating winds that stir your soul.


The river that rushes beneath your favourite bridge.  The bridge that overhears your secrets you whisper to the river.  The river, that washes away your worries and to which you confide your dreams.


Autumns of scarlet, ocher and gold.  Springs bursting white pink and white blossoms. 


Contrasts.  Passion.  Change.  Light.  Colour.


Scribe Doll



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Princess Victoria Has Thick Ankles—Insults And Their Consequences

For my partner Johnny's  61st birthday, we took the train from London to the beautiful historic town of Bath. The last time I was there was in 1977 when my husband and I hitch-hiked and camped all over  Britain. It seems to me that apart from the modern thermal spa which opened at the beginning of the 21st century, this hospitable Georgian town has changed little throughout the ages.
We had an opportunity to sample the traditional hospitality when we arrived at the town center. Each day, apart from Christmas, the town offers free walking tours conducted by kind and knowledgeable retired volunteers. Our lovely tour guide Maggie took us to see beautiful Georgian buildings around town and told us their stories. But another kind of story stayed with me.
On our way we passed the Royal Victoria Garden, a small  beautiful park facing a formidable building by John Wood the Younger.* Maggie told us that for its dedication ceremony the 11-year-old Princess Victoria came to Bath. It is unclear if someone made a comment, or if it was written somewhere, that the princess wore a dodgy dress and had thick ankles. Apparently the young princess was so hurt that in all her years as queen she never once returned to Bath.
It is unclear whether it is a real story, but it made me sad; in my mind I saw this dejected little girl who, for no fault of her own, and  because of her position, was the  target of cruelty at such a young age. It also made me wonder about insults and their consequences.
We often make thoughtless  remarks, without considering their effects. The name “thoughtless” suggests that thinking would have prevented the whole chain of events. Those who commented on the princess’ appearance clearly didn’t regard her as a person, looking at her only as a product, or as we say today “a celeb.”  They may have thought it was funny or even brave to pass such judgment.
Perhaps Victoria heard (or imagined) people laughing at her, which would have augmented the whole unfortunate event and made her feel humiliated. Sometimes children are offended more by the reaction of the people close to them than from random comments by strangers, as they feel betrayed by their loved ones.
Very few women have achieved in their lifetime the power and the stature of Queen Victoria, but she was first a child and then a woman. Today it would take a life-time and hundreds of hours of therapy to erase childhood events that have resulted in traumas. Princess Victoria who grew up to be the Queen never forgot or forgave; apparently  whenever she was passing through Bath in the train the Queen drew the window shutters.
This seemingly simple story, like any good story, has universal qualities. It brings up many  issues on different levels: girlhood, insults, memory, femininity, cruelty, media, celebrity, consequences, forgiveness, and loneliness.
I visited Bath first as a young woman of 22 and returned after a lifetime,  hopefully I changed and learned something in those 35 years.
Buildings and architecture in Bath:                                                                     
7094 Hits

What Does A Fat Cat Do In The BBC?

Johnny and I were sitting  in the train when he drew my attention to one of the headlines in the freebie that was lying about. It took me a few seconds to decipher that title. Then it occurred to me that those  kind of titles were incomprehensible to many of the tourists who were travelling with us in that London train.
Teaching my students how to write the topic and the main idea sentence of a passage, I instruct them first to look at the title and the subtitle of the article. We usually practice this skill on articles from newspapers such as the New York Times and even The Guardian.
But this technique would never work with the Metro and the Evening Standard, which are full of puns, idioms and slang.  As they belong to the culture and the history of the people who speak the language, puns and idioms are the hardest to learn and to use correctly in a foreign language.
I was discussing with my students an article which appeared in several newspapers in the US, the title of which was, “Would your child pick up a gun? Don’t kid yourself.” Perhaps because of the gravity of the subject, some editions refrained from including the pun.  It seems to me that, in contrast to most American publications, the British freebies never resist a good pun.
When I first came to Britain in the late 70s I was fortunate to meet the grandfather of an English friend. He was a real Cockney who used to work on the Thames docks.  He taught me  some Cockney rhyming slang: a beer was “Pig’s ear” and a sister was “a skin and blister.” The issue became more complicated when a beer was replaced with “pig’s,” and a sister with a “skin.”  I had to know the whole phrase in order to decode the part which didn’t rhyme. Like Alice in Wonderland, I felt confused. It was a though I was introduced to a secret language, which in a way was what this Cockney rhyming slang was.
 London is full with tourists most of the year, and many of them have a good enough mastery of the English language. But  if they happen to look at the freebies they would  lose all confidence in their language skills. Perhaps this is the sweet revenge of the British, whose island is conquered every year by millions of foreigners: in their own quiet and understating way they make sure that we remain outside.
Oh, and I almost forgot, so what does a fat cat do in the BBC? She draws a fat-cat pay cheque of course.


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1 Comment

Latest Comments

Nicholas Mackey The Bolingbroke Hook
11 December 2018
Thank you, Stephen for taking the time to read and comment. Agreed that this method of acting the ac...
Stephen Evans The Bolingbroke Hook
09 December 2018
What a wonderful memory! I learned Shakespeare this way in college, by putting it on its feet and ac...
Stephen Evans Climbing
30 November 2018
Thank you!
Katherine Gregor Climbing
30 November 2018
Beautiful poem. I love both the meaning and the rhythm.
Monika Schott You know
25 November 2018
Thanks Jitu

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