Traveller's tales

Monday, November 20, 2006

Frederick Delius - a great Yorkshireman

Born in Bradford, West Yorkshire in 1862, Frederick Delius was the fourth child of a family of fourteen. Named Fritz Theodore Albert by his parents, Delius was born into a musical family.

He grew up with a love of the moors nearby and much of his music has bucolic themes: ‘On hearing the first cuckoo in Spring’ is perhaps one of his most well known, but ‘To Daffodils’, ‘The Nightingale has a Lyre of Gold’, and Two songs: ‘The Violet and the Autumn’ all point to his love of the countryside. ‘Brigg Fair’ is based upon a folk song, as much of his music was, some on Norwegian themes, some on poems: Three Shelley Songs: ‘Indian Love Song, ‘Love’s Philosophy’, and ‘To the Queen of My Heart’, and four Nietzsche songs, among many, many others.

He rests in the small town of Limspfield, Surrey, with his devoted wife, Jelka.
Robert L. Fielding

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bleak House

Dickens' huge novel, 'Bleak House' was the author's condemnation of Chancery, that source of legal loopholes and confusion that so affected the lives of almost everyone who had the misfortune to come in contact with its workings. If procrastination is the thief of time, then prevarication is the thief of hope; it certainly was in poor Richard Cartsones' case, despite his eternal but misguided optimism to the contrary.

Dickens was a master at showing the follies of the human condition. He showed us Wilkins Micawber in Copperfield, and he gave us a panoply of fools in Bleak House.

It has been said, for instance, that the character of Lawrence Boythorn was a parody of Dickens' contemporary, Walter Savage Landor. Still, anyone with the wisdom and skill to write 'Imaginary Conversations' cannot have been entirely foolish.

We know from Oliver Twist that, 'the law is a ass, a idiot', and the same conclusions are unavoidable in Bleak House.

Robert L. Fielding

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Burgh Island - tractors, pilchards and plots

Rounding the point, the little holiday village of Bigbury on Sea comes into view, and with it Burgh Island, joined to Bigbury by a spit of sand which is covered at high tide.

Walk across to the Pilchard Inn in the daylight, and return after last orders by tractor.

This little island with one pub and a hotel was the place our most famous crime writer, Agatha Christie, came to hatch out her plots and entangle her readers in yet another bestseller.

I came across it whilst walking the South West Peninsula footpath many years ago. The district of South Hams in the county of Devon is a beautiful area with Salcombe back round the corner, and Thurlestone with its famous rock a few yards offshore. It is a beutiful part of England, largely unspoilt and visited by only a few.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lest we forget

On this Armistice Day in 2006, a year when so many are losing their lives in warfare, I thought we might need to remeber how bad it can be. My deepest sympathies go to the loved ones of all those who have died in Iraq, of whatever religious persuasion, and from whatever nation.

2) Siegfried Sassoon described in his diary details of a patrol into No Man's Land that took place on 25th May 1916.Twenty-seven men with faces blackened and shiny - with hatchets in their belts, bombs in pockets, knobkerries - waiting in a dug-out in the reserve line. At 10.30 they trudge up to Battalion H.Q. splashing through the mire and water in a chalk trench, while the rain comes steadily down. Then up to the front-line. In a few minutes they have gone over and disappeared into the rain and darkness.I am sitting on the parapet listening for something to happen - five, ten, nearly fifteen minutes - not a sound - nor a shot fired - and only the usual flare-lights. Then one of the men comes crawling back; I follow him to our trench and he tells me that they can't get through. They are all going to throw a bomb and retire.A minute or two later a rifle-shot rings out and almost simultaneously several bombs are thrown by both sides; there are blinding flashes and explosions, rifle-shots, the scurry of feet, curses and groans, and stumbling figures loom up and scramble over the parapet - some wounded. When I've counted sixteen in, I go forward to see how things are going. Other wounded men crawl in; I find one hit in the leg; he says O'Brien is somewhere down the crater badly wounded. They are still throwing bombs and firing at us: the sinister sound of clicking bolts seem to be very near; perhaps they have crawled out of their trench and are firing from behind the advanced wire.At last I find O'Brien down a deep (about twenty-five feet) and precipitous crater. He is moaning and his right arm is either broken or almost shot off: he is also hit in the right leg. Another man is with him; he is hit in the right arm. I leave them there and get back to the trench for help, shortly afterwards Lance-Corporal Stubbs is brought in (he has had his foot blown off). I get a rope and two more men and go back to O'Brien, who is unconscious now. With great difficulty we get him half-way up the face of the crater; it is now after one o'clock and the sky is beginning to get lighter. I make one more journey to our trench for another strong man and to see to a stretcher being ready. We get him in, and it is found that he has died, as I had feared.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mealtimes in Wigan - Orwell eats

I suppose the ultimate piece of research for a book involves living the life of those you are writing about. George Orwell visited Wigan before he wrote his famous condemnation of the conditions in which the working classes lived in England.

When you think of it - nothing makes your gorge rise more than reading about poorly served food eaten under filthy and appalling conditions - to put it mildly.

Orwell knew his trade, of course, and would have used his description of mealtimes as an illustration of his point of view - that the working class people of England were treated little better than beasts of burden - driven as they were to these depths by the grinding poverty that existed at that time - and that despite the enormous creation of wealth by the very same people who had no share in it.

The meals at the Brookers' house were uniformly disgusting. For breakfast you got two rashers of bacon and a pale fried egg, and bread-and-butter which had often been cut overnight and always had thumb-marks on it.However tactfully I tried, I could never induce Mr Brooker to let me cut myown bread-and-butter; he would hand it to me slice by slice, each slicegripped firmly under that broad black thumbs For dinner there weregenerally those threepenny steak puddings which are sold ready-made intins--these were part of the stock of the shop, I think--and boiledpotatoes and rice pudding. For tea there was more bread-and-butter andfrayed-looking sweet cakes which were probably bought as 'stales' from thebaker. For supper there was the pale flabby Lancashire cheese and biscuits.The Brookers never called these biscuits biscuits. They always referred tothem reverently as 'cream crackers'--'Have another cream cracker, Mr Reilly.You'll like a cream cracker with your cheese'--thus glozing over the factthat there was only cheese for supper. Several bottles of Worcester Sauceand a half-full jar of marmalade lived permanently on the table. It wasusual to souse everything, even a piece of cheese, with Worcester Sauce,but I never saw anyone brave the marmalade jar, which was an unspeakablemass of stickiness and dust. Mrs Brooker had her meals separately but alsotook snacks from any meal that happened to be going, and manoeuvred withgreat skill for what she called 'the bottom of the pot', meaning thestrongest cup of tea. She had a habit of constantly wiping her mouth on one of her blankets. Towards the end of my stay she took to tearing off strips.

From: 'The Road to Wigan Pier' by George Orwell

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Water music in Town Square, Al Ain

If you go along to sit and drink delicious Moroccan tea in one of the cafes bordering the square at about 9 each night, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Listen to the music come up and then watch the beautiful fountains as they dazzle, leap and swirl in a noose of light.

The effect really is fantastic, and its free. Enjoy the strains of Mozart and Wagner and the like, and then listen as the tempo changes to more 'local' music from the shores of the Red Sea.

Wait just a little longer and you will be entertained by dramatic film scores - 'Mission Impossible' and others.

I will include some actual shots of the display, but for the joy of the real thing, why not go along any night around 9pm to sit and enjoy, and to relax with a spicy cup of tea.
Robert L. Fielding

Monday, November 06, 2006

The historical and the geographical - the setting of Finnegans Wake

In the very first lines of Finnegans wake (or are they the last?) James Joyce sets the scene for his last and most opaque, enigmatic novel.

You will have noticed that there is no capital letter at the beginning - for that you must go back to his last page - this novel is circular, and it has been argued that you can start anywhere in it and finish where you began.

Right away, Joyce sprinkles his words with allusion and mention - rather like a giant cryptic crossword without too many clues - none at all for the reader not ready for it - that includes most of us - certainly me. Perhaps the only two men who really understood it are dead - James Joyce himself, and Anthony Burgess, who wrote an explanation entitled 'Here Comes Everybody' - still difficult reading but much more transparent than the Wake.

"riverrun[rlf1] , past Eve and Adam's[rlf2] , from swerve of shore to bend
of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus[rlf3] of recirculation[rlf4] back to
Howth Castle and Environs[rlf5] .
Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, fr'over the short sea, had passen-
core [rlf6] rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy
isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his peni*olate war: nor
had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse
to Laurens County's gorgios while they went doublin[rlf7] their mumper [rlf8]
all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed[rlf9] mishe mishe to
tauftauf thuartpeatrick not yet, though venissoon after, had a
kidscad buttended a bland old isaac[rlf10] : not yet, though all's fair in
vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a
peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory
end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.
The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonner-
nuk!) [rlf11] of a once wallstrait[rlf12] oldparr is retaled [rlf13] early in bed and later
on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the
offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan,
erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends
an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes:
and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park [rlf14]
where oranges[rlf15] have been laid to rust upon the green [rlf16] since dev-
linsfirst loved livvy."

Taken from: Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

[rlf1]Continues from the last sentence of the book and carries the meaning of continuous motion.

[rlf2]Dublin scenery and the dawn of history

[rlf3]Vico’s Recourso/cf vicious circle

[rlf4]Vico’s recourso

[rlf5]HCE Here Comes Everybody

[rlf6]pas encore = not yet

[rlf7]Refers to the city of Dublin

[rlf8]‘Doublin their mumper’ means Increasing their money.

[rlf9]A portmanteau word meaning what?

[rlf10]Isaac Butt

[rlf11]The longest ‘word’ in English Literature

[rlf12]Wall Street

[rlf13]What two words could Joyce be referring to here?

[rlf14]The topography of Phoenix Park in Dublin



Finally, although it all looks strange, Burgess follows Joyce himself by stating that there is not one word of nonsence in the whole book.

Kilnsey Crag - where the Wharfedale glacier rubbed shoulders with the fells

The overhang of Kilnsey Crag, located between Grassingotn and Kettlewell in the beautiful valley of Upper Wharfedale is huge. It presented a great chalenge for rock climbers and these days is probably free climbed, except for the section directly under the 'roof' of the overhang.

Its shape is one of the most well known in the area, and is somewhat forbidding in appearance, particularly when approached by road from the south.

It overwhelms the little village of Kilnsey with its village pub which featured in the film, 'Calender Girls' with Julie Walters and Helen Mirren.

Glacial activity was responsible for many features of the landscape of these upper dales, where the lines are more angular and precipitous than they tend to be downstream as they join the Ouse as it flows gently to the North Sea.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The origins of Bolton Abbey

The death of young Romilly in the arms of the merciless waters of The Strid in Wharfedale was recorded in the poem, 'The Force of Prayer' by William Wordsworth and prompted the boy's mother to have Bolton Abbey constructed to his memory, some way down river from Grassington close to the spot where her son met his fate.

"What is good for a bootless bene?"
With these dark words begins my Tale;
And their meaning is, whence can comfort spring
When Prayer is of no avail?

"What is good for a bootless bene?"
The Falconer to the Lady said;
And she made answer "ENDLESS SORROW!"
For she knew that her Son was dead.

She knew it by the Falconer's words,
And from the look of the Falconer's eye; 10
And from the love which was in her soul
For her youthful Romilly.

--Young Romilly through Barden woods
Is ranging high and low;
And holds a greyhound in a leash,
To let slip upon buck or doe.

The pair have reached that fearful chasm,
How tempting to bestride!
For lordly Wharf is there pent in
With rocks on either side. 20

This striding-place is called THE STRID,
A name which it took of yore:
A thousand years hath it borne that name,
And shall a thousand more.

And hither is young Romilly come,
And what may now forbid
That he, perhaps for the hundredth time,
Shall bound across THE STRID?

He sprang in glee,--for what cared he
That the river was strong, and the rocks were steep?-- 30
But the greyhound in the leash hung back,
And checked him in his leap.

The Boy is in the arms of Wharf,
And strangled by a merciless force;
For never more was young Romilly seen
Till he rose a lifeless corse.

Now there is stillness in the vale,
And long, unspeaking, sorrow:
Wharf shall be to pitying hearts
A name more sad than Yarrow. 40

If for a lover the Lady wept,
A solace she might borrow
From death, and from the passion of death;--
Old Wharf might heal her sorrow.

She weeps not for the wedding-day
Which was to be to-morrow:
Her hope was a further-looking hope,
And hers is a mother's sorrow.

He was a tree that stood alone,
And proudly did its branches wave; 50
And the root of this delightful tree
Was in her husband's grave!

Long, long in darkness did she sit,
And her first words were, "Let there be
In Bolton, on the field of Wharf,
A stately Priory!"

The stately Priory was reared;
And Wharf, as he moved along,
To matins joined a mournful voice,
Nor failed at evensong. 60

And the Lady prayed in heaviness
That looked not for relief!
But slowly did her succour come,
And a patience to her grief.

Oh! there is never sorrow of heart
That shall lack a timely end,
If but to God we turn, and ask
Of Him to be our friend!
1807. William Wordworth

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gaping Gill

The opening of the cave system known as Gaping Gill, in the Craven District of the Yorkshire Dales, is deceptively small. True, a large stream runs into its opening, tumbling to its floor, but the full extent of this well known cave lies inside. It is said that its main chamber, seen above, is big enough to hold one of Britain's smaller cathedrals. It is huge.

To get down into Gaping Gill, a winch is rigged up and people are lowered down to the cave's floor. The people doing the lowering traditionally listen oujt for the screams as the person in the chair goes through the waterfall. Whether it is also true that they stop for a while there is open to debate.

Although it sounds extremely dangerous, it is a safe descent down to one of the most amazing cave systems in the British Isles.
Robert L. Fielding

Fingal's Cave - an organ in stone - a natural cathedral

A sea cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, Fingal’s Cave gave its name to one of Felix Mendelssohn’s most well known works; The Hebridean Overture.

Mendelssohn visited Scotland in 1829 and wrote the overture a year later, and published it in 1835. It received its first performance by the London Philharmonic Society and was roundly applauded.

Mendellssohn was attracted to the cave, formed of hexagonal basalt, part of the ancient lava flow that was reponsible for Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. The eerie sounds produced by waves gave it the atmosphere of a natural cathedral, it was said.

Mendelssohn was rowed to it in a small boat with his friend, Carl Klingemann, who said, "Its many pillars made it look like the inside of an immense organ, black and resounding, absolutely without purpose, and quite alone, the wide grey sea within and without." Mendelssohn was apparently inspired by the strange echoes in the cave, as well as by its organ like appearance.
Fingal was the name of Fionn mac Cumhail, the hero of a poem by James Macpherson the 18th Century Scots poet-historian and earlier immortalized by the poet Ossian. The cave itself was discovered by the naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks in 1772.

The overture is now an essential piece in any orchestra’s repertoire and is played regularly and often in concert halls all over the world.
Robert L. Fielding

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