The Bluebell *

Bluebells and Wild Garlic May 2015 [c] Shullie H Porter 20015-2017

The Bluebell*

A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.

Yet I recall not long ago
A bright and sunny day,
‘Twas when I led a toilsome life
So many leagues away;

That day along a sunny road
All carelessly I strayed,
Between two banks where smiling flowers
Their varied hues displayed.

Before me rose a lofty hill,
Behind me lay the sea,
My heart was not so heavy then
As it was wont to be.

Less harassed than at other times
I saw the scene was fair,
And spoke and laughed to those around,
As if I knew no care.

But when I looked upon the bank
My wandering glances fell
Upon a little trembling flower,
A single sweet bluebell.

Whence came that rising in my throat,
That dimness in my eye?
Why did those burning drops distil —
Those bitter feelings rise?

O, that lone flower recalled to me
My happy childhood’s hours
When bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers,

Those sunny days of merriment
When heart and soul were free,
And when I dwelt with kindred hearts
That loved and cared for me.

I had not then mid heartless crowds
To spend a thankless life
In seeking after others’ weal
With anxious toil and strife.  

‘Sad wanderer, weep those blissful times
That never may return!’
The lovely floweret seemed to say,
And thus it made me mourn.

Ceramic tile by Victorian artist Walter Crane

* Ann Bronte
© Shullie H Porter 2016 – 2017
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‘Where ever the river may take me.. where ever the river may take us; Where ever it wants us to go. . . ‘*

I have just been looking back on some of my writing in particular my piece on Mother Dunn – more usually known as the River Don – ….when this piece of music came on my playlist – Pulp – The Wickerman – It must be something in the Sheffield Soul…’Where ever the river may take me.. where ever the river may take us; Where ever it wants us to go. . .’

 

*

Just behind the station, before you reach the traffic island, a river runs through’ a concrete channel.
I took you there once; I think it was after the Leadmill.
The water was dirty & smelt of industrialisation
Little mesters coughing their lungs up & globules the colour of tomato ketchup.
But it flows. Yeah, it flows.
Underneath the city through’ dirty brickwork conduits
Connecting white witches on the Moor with pre-raphaelites down in Broomhall.
Beneath the old Trebor factory that burnt down in the early seventies.
Leaving an antiquated sweet-shop smell & caverns of nougat & caramel.
Nougat. Yeah, nougat & caramel.
And the river flows on.
Yeah, the river flows on beneath pudgy fifteen-year olds addicted to coffee whitener
And it finally comes above ground again at Forge Dam: the place where we first met.

I went there again for old time’s sake
Hoping to find the child’s toy horse ride that played such a ridiculously tragic tune.
It was still there – but none of the kids seemed interested in riding on it.
And the cafe was still there too
The same press-in plastic letters on the price list & scuffed formica-top tables.
I sat as close as possible to the seat where I’d met you that autumn afternoon.
And then, after what seemed like hours of thinking about it
I finally took your face in my hands & I kissed you for the first time
And a feeling like electricity flowed through’ my whole body.
And I immediately knew that I’d entered a completely different world.
And all the time, in the background, the sound of that ridiculously heartbreaking child’s ride outside.

At the other end of town the river flows underneath an old railway viaduct
I went there with you once – except you were somebody else –
And we gazed down at the sludgy brown surface of the water together.
Then a passer-by told us that it used to be a local custom to jump off the viaduct into the river
When coming home from the pub on a Saturday night.
But that this custom had died out when someone jumped
Landed too near to the riverbank
Had sunk in the mud there & drowned before anyone could reach them.
I don’t know if he’d just made the whole story up, but there’s no way you’d get me to jump off that bridge.
No chance. Never in a million years.

Yeah, a river flows underneath this city
I’d like to go there with you now my pretty & follow it on for miles & miles, below other people’s ordinary lives.
Occasionally catching a glimpse of the moon, through’ man-hole covers along the route.
Yeah, it’s dark sometimes but if you hold my hand, I think I know the way.
Oh, this is as far as we got last time
But if we go just another mile we will surface surrounded by grass & trees & the fly-over that takes the cars to cities.
Buds that explode at the slightest touch, nettles that sting – but not too much.
I’ve never been past this point, what lies ahead I really could not say.
I used to live just by the river, in a dis-used factory just off the Wicker
The river flowed by day after day
“One day” I thought, “One day I will follow it” but that day never came
I moved away & lost track but tonight I am thinking about making my way back.
I may find you there & float on wherever the river may take me.
Wherever the river may take me.
Wherever the river may take us.
Wherever it wants us to go.
Wherever it wants us to go.

Written by Jarvis Branson Cocker, Stephen Patrick Mackey, Nick Banks, Candida Doyle, Mark Andrew Webber, Paul Giovanni • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group
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Birch

A wonderful short film…..

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Imbolc – The Feast of Brigid*

st-brigid-and-white-cow

The Feast of Brigid

The red-haired girl draws milk
in a pail from the earth.

The earth is a spotted cow
with teats that are geysers
and anthills and rotten logs.

The red-haired girl
strokes and strokes
the dark soil.

When the milk rises in spurts
she catches its arc of white froth
to give out to visitors.

At the gate of the farm
the world holds out its hand,
while in a field rimed with frost

the first snowdrop toddles from the ground. *

snow-drop-snow-2014

Jill Hammer –  Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Volume 22, Number 1, Spring, 2006 , pp. 75-82 | 10.1353/jfs.2006.0009

 

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Candlemass 2nd February

1-candlemasvillagers-on-their-way-to-church-simon-bening-c-1550

Bede records in his Reckoning of Time (A.D. 725) the use of candles at the Feast of Purification was common in his day.  (Latin Text)

[O]n the feast of St Mary, the whole populace with the priests and ministers goes on procession through the churches and the city neighbourhoods, all singing devout hymns, and carrying in their hands burning candles given them by the bishop. As this good custom grew, it provided a model for the conduct of other feasts of the blessed Mother and perpetual Virgin as well, not in the five-year lustration of a worldly empire, but in the everlasting memory of the heavenly kingdom where, according to the parable of the wise virgins, all the elect shall go out to meet the Bridegroom, their King, with the lamps of their good deeds alight, and then shall enter into the heavenly city with Him. (Bede, The Reckoning of Time, Translation by Faith Wallis, Liverpool University Press, 1999 p. 49)

taper-candles

Ronald Hutton observed that the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2 gives ample reason for candles when the Christ child “was recognized there, according to the tale, by an old man called Simeon, who hailed him as the messiah of Israel and a Light to lighten the Gentiles.” (The Stations of the Sun, 1999:139)

luttrellpsalter-candlemass

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is there, in bowers of endless spring,
One known from all the seraph band
By softer voice, by smile and wing
More exquisitely bland!
Here let him speed: to-day this hallowed air
Is fragrant with a mother’s first and fondest prayer.

Only let Heaven her fire impart,
No richer incense breathes on earth:
“A spouse with all a daughter’s heart,”
Fresh from the perilous birth,
To the great Father lifts her pale glad eye,
Like a reviving flower when storms are hushed on high.

Oh, what a treasure of sweet thought
Is here! what hope and joy and love
All in one tender bosom brought,
For the all-gracious Dove
To brood o’er silently, and form for Heaven
Each passionate wish and dream to dear affection given.

Her fluttering heart, too keenly blest,
Would sicken, but she leans on Thee,
Sees Thee by faith on Mary’s breast,
And breathes serene and free.
Slight tremblings only of her veil declare
Soft answers duly whispered to each soothing prayer.

We are too weak, when Thou dost bless,
To bear the joy–help, Virgin-born!
By Thine own mother’s first caress,
That waked Thy natal morn!
Help, by the unexpressive smile, that made
A Heaven on earth around this couch where Thou wast laid.

John Keble

our-lady-of-candlemas

Our Lady of Candlemas — The Polish legend relates that Mary, the Mother of God of the “Blessed Thunder Candle” (Matka Boska Gromniczna), watches over the people on cold February nights. With her thunder candle she wards off the ravenous pack and protects the peasants from all harm.

The Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.

And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.

But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.

And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest:

Who shall offer it before the Lord, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female.

And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.

Leviticus 12 KJV.

oil on canvas, 48"x36"Mikvah ©2006 Carol Buchman

 

 

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January 27th , Avinu Malkeinu אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ‎‎; “Our Father, Our King

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ‎‎; “Our Father, Our King

I know that this  is usually sung at Rosh Hashanah [Jewish New Year ]and Yom Kippur, [Day of Atonement ] but after the last few weeks I felt I wanted something that touyched my soul, to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and too give hope for all of us who face such an uncertain future after the events of the last few months, indeed the last week;  be they/you or even I , Jewish, None Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Pagan, those of failth and those of hold no faith.

Just sit and listen, and if you can, with your eyes closed – It is a truly haunting prayer/song.

 

 אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ‎‎; "Our Father, Our King

Hear our prayer
We have sinned before Thee
Have compassion upon us and upon our children
Help us bring an end to pestilence, war, and famine
Cause all hate and oppression to vanish from the earth
Inscribe us for blessing in the Book Of Life
Let the new year be a good year for us

Avinu malkeinu sh’ma kolenu
Avinu malkeinu chatanu l’faneycha
Avinu malkeinu alkenu chamol aleynu
V’al olaleynu v’tapenu

Avinu malkeinu
Kaleh dever v’cherev v’raav mealeynu
Avinu malkeinu kalehchol tsar
Umastin mealeynu

Avinu malkeinu
Avinu malkeinu
Kotvenu b’sefer chayim tovim
Avinu malkeinu chadesh aleynu
Chadesh a leynu shanah tovah

Sh’ma kolenu
Sh’ma kolenu
Sh’ma kolenu

Avinu malkeinu

Avinu malkeinu
Chadesh a leynu

Shanah tovah

Avinu malkeinu
Sh’ma kolenu
Sh’ma kolenu
Sh’ma kolenu
Sh’ma kolenu

January 27th – Holocaust Memorial Day

The 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.
sunset-winter-soltice-2016

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The Queen of Hearts – a Novella in three parts

Queen of Hearts

Part One:

Alice watched as the news scrolled up the feed.

She has never been a great fan of social media, nor used it as often as she should.  She knew about it of course but it had never held much fascination to her, and she had not felt the need to engage with it, until she had read that post.  Until she had seen the picture.

The picture had made her literally stop in her tracks. She was walking the dog around the park, when she received a message to check her tweeter .  The link to the picture lead  her to web page, as these things do.

She had hurried back home and pulled the web page up on the laptop  and read it again and again. It was full of so many  long ramblings and  indeed that’s  what they were ‘ramblings’.  On and on,  un-cohesive ramblings, which most of the time did not make sense. The term ‘Verbal Diarrhoea ‘ came to mind.

Now, she had to admit that she was not averse to ramblings herself, at times. Indeed Charles had once said that was one of the things he loved about her;  that and her ability to go off in tangents. But these ‘ramblings ‘ appeared to be of someone who had perhaps in a past life partaken of and/or sniffed a little too much. . .  well you know what.  And was as mad as, well, as mad as the ‘proverbial.’

Indeed when she looked closer at the ‘ramblings’ she saw that the writer, she couldn’t bring herself to call her an author, was called Hattie .

Alice wondered.  Could this be the same ‘Hattie’?

Surely it couldn’t be could it? Not after all this time. Perhaps she was  just related,  in that localised way.  It was a common ‘ish’ name, especially with families from that area.

Alice looked closer at the photograph, faded as it was, it was of a young woman with dark hair, signing what appeared to be a book, dressed in what appeared to be rather vintage clothes. Or is was an old photograph.  The type of old photograph that people use when they have not aged as well as the could have wished for.  Then she looked closer at the wordings, the turn of phrase and realised that it was indeed the same ’proverbial’ one she had known, well met, all those years ago.

Alice told herself, she has not really ‘known’ her, their paths had crossed at a sort of tea party she had been invited too many years ago. She hadn’t really wanted to go, but you know what it is when you are a newish author; you have to get out there and meet people. One of the publishers was a friend of Charles and she was advised that it would be in her best interest and that of her work to make a good impression.

Book art © Ekaterina Panikanova.

Book art  [c] Ekaterina Panikanova.

The publishers had been called Burke & Hare.

 

*******************************************************************************

Archie Hare had been a university colleague of Charles when he was up at Oxford.  Archie was actually the Most Honourable Archibald Hare of Listowel; a  Marquis.  But the family fortunes were sadly depleted and so after having to sell of the family silver due to Inheritance tax, and much of the lands,  he had decided to drop the title and concentrate on what he loved best.  Burke and of course books.

Archie Hare had ended up in Oxford studying as an undergrad as all of his forbears had, but had then remained in the cloistered  city.  He continued as a student there, spending time between parties getting his Masters, and his doctorate. Finally, he was offered a a fellowship there, before realising that life was too short and that if he was not careful he would end up like many other of the professors he new, alone and sitting in dusty rooms, wondering where his life had gone.

When he was in his mid 40’s, he and Burke had met at one of his sister’s parties and hit it of straight away.  Burke however was still a member of the ‘Faith’, and has as such had obligations. So they created the publishing company, giving birth to reasons to spend time together and with no questions asked.

Archie had given up his tenure in Oxford and moved to London, choosing to live below the small shop that he and Burke had rented, and where he spend most of his days.  The basement flat was at times damp, but it was dark and private.  It had a separate entrance and he, and Burke, could come and go as they pleased without being overlooked.  Above the shop was the office, where the publishing firm was based.

One day, in those early hours, the ones which linger silently before the chorus of the last birds in the city had got their selves together, Archie and and Burke were on their way back to the flat after a  delicious night in Soho.  They wandered,  arm in arm, whispering and giggling with delight, intoxicated of each other and that which they had consumed.  When as they turned the corner, they bumped into Charles, who himself was hurrying  back  from some late business deal.

Burke insisted that Archie invite Charles back to the flat for morning coffee, after all they were old friends and Burke wanted to know more about Archie’s old friends.  Archie, tried to persuade Burke that Charles had somewhere to go, was tired and didn’t need to come back to listen to there boring conversation.  Burke disagreed and  said it would be great to catch up on old times, he insisted, and he put his arm through Charles and led his down the dark alley to the back door of the shop and the flat.

Charles left the flat a few hours later not sure exactly what had happened.  The streets were busy with early morning commuters.   He had texted Alice the evening before too say that he was not going to make it home that night as he had a lot off work that he need to get done for the up coming deadline.  Alice understood, she always did.  She was dependable like that.  When he had bumped into Archie and his friend, he had every intention of  trying to get back to his office, for a shower and change of clothes.  But Burke had been very persuasive and there was something about him that intrigued Charles.

He and Archie went back many years, they had shared and kept each others secrets. He was surprised to see that Archie was so happy.  he had never been a happy  boy or student.  How he had got his undergraduate degree or his Master etc always amused  Charles.  He wasn’t sure where the money had come from for starters, but that was not something gentlemen discussed. The Old Boy Network was alive and kicking as always.

Before he had left the flat that morning Charles had  told Archie and Burke about his wife, about Alice.  He told them how she was an author, or wanted to be.  he told them how they had met when she had been a ‘office angel’, at his office and how he had been enchanted by her.  he told them about the whirlwind romance,  the great sex and the society wedding.  But after 7 years or so and how despite trying, things were not working out as he had wanted,  or as he had planned.  However, he loved her, and she loved him.  Well, he admitted, he  loved her like you love a pet, if that made sense. He told them that he did love her in that familiar way that you do an old Labrador bitch, wgho is every faithful, but a bit dull.  And, he and well life has a way of moving on, if they knew what he meant.  They had nodded, and smiled at each other.  He continued to add that he  had married Alice, and he took that very seriously, and that he had all intentions of remaining  married;  he  supported her to do what she wanted to do and she  left him to do what he needed to do.  And she wasn’t that bad.  She looked after their home, managed everything for him; he was away a lot.  Oh and she wrote . She wasn’t that bad at it either. Charles looked at Archie and smile.  He had a favour to ask, after all  he owed him a favour or two, especially now.

 

**********************************************************************************

Archie had then agreed to and then actually read a couple of Alice’s manuscripts and had been impressed enough to sign her up.   He was a tall slender man, with light brown hair, smartly dressed in what could only be described as a eccentric manor.  He favoured Edwardian dress, he knew not why, but had embraced it  when Burke had commented on how it much it flattered him.  Burke of course, with his wild white hair, and piercing blue eyes preferring the long black clothes of the Raven.  Archie’s hair was precisely cut in a way to hide what Alice though were rather large ears. Indeed she noticed him at times, checking to make sure that the hair was not a smidgeon out of place.  And he was not as bombastic as Charles had made out. Indeed, she found him to be quite delightful when he was on his own.  Alice never actually got to meet Mr Burke, he preferred to spend most of his time in the Dublin Office according to Archie, digging up things and finding new ‘authors’.  Archie laughed and asked her if she had read much of the work of Foucault?  She had looked at him perplexed and he whispered to her ‘ all authors are writers, but not all writers are authors’. He chucked to himself as he walked away muttering indeed, Mr Burke seems to have an amazing aptitude to digging up these ‘peculiar auteur’.

It appeared that Hattie was one of them.  She was a local girl, in that she lived close to where Burke had once lived and had worked for most of his life.   Her family had known Burke’s family since time immemorial, and there had been whispers of ‘family relationship’, but Archie had dismissed it, he knew Burke to well.  However, Burke had insisted that Archie had given the girl a go. And her work did not appear that bad. Though, if he was honest, he has not read it nor was likely too, so he had  passed it to the young office girl, who he had recently employed. A small quite girl, mousy in appearance with rather none descriptive coloured hair which hung down her back in a rather unfashionable manner.  She had appeared to like it. She had told him that it was a little clumsy in places, not well edited as such, but was not too  bad and well they may make  some profit from it, for them and the ‘author’. They needed the cash as he was well aware, as was Burke.  Hare was not sure what was happening to all the funds, that was not his department, but he knew things were tight, and ‘needs must where the devil drives’ as his father was fond of saying.  So Hare had agreed, a contact was drawn up, and he even offered his services as an editor; but she had almost angrily refused, saying she already had an editor, a member of her family, who she believed had done ‘ a grand job’.  Hare had told Burke he was not happy with it but Burke had insisted they give it a go.  Hare had to admit that he was uncomfortable as the contents were also not what they normally considered, but for Burke he let it go.  They were branching out into the metaphysical genre, as that was where the new money appeared to be. This, it seemed was a semi-autobiographical story of a mysterious family, one with historical links to the folk law of Ireland and he thought to himself what the hell He would give it a go, what had he too loose.

by-william-harvey-aleph-london-hodder-and-stoughton-1869

 

Alice made herself a coffee, and sat at the kitchen table. Indeed ‘the proverbial one’ and that actual tea party, how could she forget?  The tea party had been a much talked about and well publicized event.   Archie had insisted that she come.  He had been emphatic about it.

tea-table

Charles couldn’t make it, he was away, as usual, but Archie insisted she would be fine.  She hadn’t seen Archie for a while before; she had been busy trying to get her novel completed, and so had he.  He had cancelled the lunch dates they had made to discuss her work, and the times she had bumped into him at various parties, he had, so it seemed, almost purposely avoided her.  She had noticed that he was as not as well kept as he had pervious been, he looked a little hollow faced, and kept scratching the back of his ears.  Alice had heard on the grapevine, and as much as she hated gossip sometimes it was good to know, that Burke’s visits back to the office had started to wane, and she wondered if this had affected him more that he wanted to let on.  Alice had realised when Archie had talked about his partner that there was more to it than just a business arrangement, but she was too polite to say so. And well, what two older gentlemen like Archie and Burke did was their own business.

So she had found it very strange when the white invitation had appeared at her house.  It had been hand delivered. Archie use to just call her, or text her and let her know when and where.  This was much more formal and again not Archie’s usual style.

*************************************************************************************

Alice had made her way across the town for the Tea Party. The Map had arrived a few days after her RSVP had been returned. The Tea Party was to be held in one of the most bizarre and difficult places to get to she had ever known.

She has travelled up and down escalators, tube stations, a maze of tunnels and then streets and lanes to an area of London she was not very familiar with. It was almost 6pm, a strange time for a tea party in her book; she preferred tea and cakes around 4pm.  This, however, she told herself, was not her tea party and was, she had to remind herself, a book launch or meet the author kind of thing. Or so she thought.  She wasn’t, if she was truthful, entirely sure.

The Tea Party, according to the invitation was to take place in a small building next to The Ferryman’s seat on the South side of the River. She had never heard of the Ferryman’s seat, and had to look it up.  She had found that it was close to The Globe theatre. No one was exactly sure how long it had been there and how old it was but it was supposed to be the place where the Ferrymen rested in-between taking passengers back and forth over the River Thames in the 1700’s.  The South of the Thames at that time was a lawless place, full of brothers, dens of other unspeakable iniquity and bear baiting. Indeed the seat itself was to be found on a street called Bear Street, where the last pit was located.

bear-street

As Alice  walked down aptly named Bear Street, the light was starting to fade , the streets were empty and a cold chill touched Alice’s nerve. Alice saw that on her right, in the midst of the new up and upcoming buildings, a small dark and dingy Georgian house sat back against the river.  At the side was an even smaller wooden arched doorway.  Alice stopped outside and looked up and down the now deserted  streets.  The yellow of the lights casting shadows of those who had once wandered up and down plying their trades as well as those who preyed upon them.  Alice shivered and knocked and waited.  The door was opened slowly by a slight mousy looking woman.  It was a woman, though Alice initially thought it was a child.  The woman could not have been more than 4 feet tall, with long grey whiskery hair than hung down her back like rats tails.  She was dressed in what Alice could only consider was miss match of various styles and periods.

The mouse like woman/child asked in a voice so quietly that Alice strained to hear, if she could help.  Alice looked at the invitation and read out the ‘password’.  The mouse like woman/child asked her to come in and Alice followed her down a long dark corridor to the back of the house and into what had maybe once been a kitchen.  Then the woman turned and to Alice’s amazement they went down a number of rough cut stone steps, and into the entrance to cellar. On the left side was yet another old small wooden door, with oversized hinges and large lock.   Alice was sure she could hear the sound of water, and the air smelt of death and dampness.   The mouse like woman/child turned as she could hear Alice’s thoughts and fear and introduced herself as Donna.  Donna had a soft Irish lilt to her voice.  Alice offer her hand out  the woman, who seemed to flinch as she did so; then let out, what Alice could only imagine was some kind of nervous laugh.  Shaking her head, Donna answered she did not shake hands as she was always scared of catching a cold.  Then turning to the right,  she ushered Alice through an old and rather dirty long dark velvet curtain and into what appeared to be a room to with a rather long table down the centre.  The lighting was mainly candles, though there was the occasion electric rig up looking very much out of place. To the side of the table were a number of various styles of chairs, each a different size and colour and at the end what one could only described a rather garish throne on which the dark haired woman, who was later to be introduced to Alice as  Hattie, was seated.  On the walls, there appeared to be a number of images of Hattie, signing something, or looking into a crystal ball.  There also appeared to be various pseudo Gothic emblems, very badly designed and painted, and as Alice was later to learn, also created by Hattie herself.  At the end of the table was a large coat of Arms which hung precariously over the throne. Alice looked at the coat of arms and thought she had seen it somewhere before, but she couldn’t just think where exactly.

 

the-general-arrangement-of-the-table-set-for-a-party

Archie ran up to Alice as soon as he saw that she had entered the room and hugged her.  She was so surprised by the significant change in his appearance.  He seemed a shadow of himself.  He was very thin, his clothes, appeared dirty and he smelled of something she was not  quite sure off.  What was most striking was that he seemed to be under the influences of something.  She initially thought he may have drunk too much; port or claret, he was always fond of claret, a throwback, he would say, to his genetic disposition.  But this was something else, something different, strange even.

Archie ushered Alice down the room to the end of the table.  ‘Sit here’, he said, pulling out a rather small and comical chair.  Alice hesitated and then sat down.  Archie came and sat next to her pulling his chair up very close.

Alice looked around. Donna had also taken a seat that the other side of the table in a much larger chair, and giving more emphasis to the impression that she was a child.

‘Are we expecting anyone else?’ She looked at her watch it was 6pm, and at the empty seats.

‘Well yes and no…’ Archie replied nervously, looking at Hattie and then at the door.

‘ I invited lots of people,  I promised Hattie that I would invite all of the best people, all the most influential people I know and of course all of the finest writer. Yourself included. I asked them here so that Hattie could meet them and they Her, but sadly so many have other appointments or so it seems, and are unable to make it.  I asked Charles if he could persuade you to come, and he said he would try. I know he is away and I thought it would be wonderful for you to finally meet Hattie as she is so very special, so extraordinary, and of course beautiful, so beautiful…’ Archie signed longingly as he gazed up at Hattie.  Then as if he  had just remembered that Alice was there, he added, ‘ and she is interested in the same kind of work you are . Aren’t you my dear?  Archie looked again adoringly at Hattie, who seemed to be glaring intensely at Alice.

Archie continued ‘You know, she writes about the same kinds of things as you do, and has a very similar story to yourself.  I mean a similar background.  I am sure you would have so much in common and she adores your writing.  Don’t you my dear?’

Archie quickly glanced at Hattie, who smiled in that way a snake does just before they devour their prey.

‘She has read all your work, indeed she reads them all for me, not just yours of course but all the metaphysical authors we now have on our books.   I find it very hard to understand you know.  As Hattie says, it’s not my kind of thing, and well it makes me have a headache. Yes a headache I seem to have a started to have, have a lot of those since, well since,. . .  well’.

Archie took a deep breath, ‘Well, we won’t go into all that but since those days, those dark dark days’, Archie swallowed  hard as he fought to stop the sob, ‘ Since those days Hattie has been wonderful to me. She looks after me and she is such as a dear, she makes me such wonderful tea’s and elixirs, magical elixirs and they do help they really do.  Yes they do. ‘

Would you like a glass of wine or something?  Archie reached out for a bottle on the table and started to fill Alice tea cup.  A rather brown thick liquid came out.

 

nugent-jubilee-cake

‘It’s mean to look like tea’, he giggled like a school boy who has just got the joke.  ‘Hattie thought it would be delightful and rather funny to just serve drinks that look like tea. You understand, what with it being a Tea Party.  There are also cakes.  Donna get the cakes!  You will have a piece of cake wont’ you Alice? Hattie ordered them herself.  She has some wonderful family you know; they have their fingers in lots of pies.  Here and back home in Ireland… yes very influential in the area they work in.  Oh and the do such good work.  Did you know that Hattie is also a gifted, yes gifted psychic, healer an even dare I say it?’  Archie looked form side to side for some unknown enemy and then turned to Alice and whispered, ‘Witch!’  He laughed out and loud, and bellowed across there room ‘There I’ve said it.’ Before giggling again catching his breath.

‘Oh and Alice, as I am sure you know, Hattie does so many  fabulous shows for charity; she raises thousands of pounds – sorry I mean Euros for children’s charities, and various animal shelters. She has held such amazing Balls for all the best people and well Alice, you know me, well I hope you do, I would not  have believed in any of it until I met Hattie, and then. Archie seemed to almost grab the last breath. ‘Well what can I say she has changed my life and that of many more. She is so well known and respected. I am sure you have heard and know of  her. Especially in your kind of circles you work in. ‘

Archie then stood up, please with his innuendo  and ran around the table and sat next to Donna, who had returned from somewhere with a plate full of cakes.

Alice sat in disbelief, for all the years she has known Archie, though to honest it wasn’t that many, she has never heard him speak so much or so fast. Or behave in such an odd way.

‘Hattie is so good to me and such a help now that …. ‘

Hattie  looked at Archie and he stopped mid sentence, then he looked at Alice.

‘I do love you hair where do you get it done?’

Alice was thrown of guard.. she stuttered I go to a local salon, in Oxford, near to the college…

‘Ahh,’  Hattie  replied ‘ That perhaps why it’s so desperately in need of a trim’.  You know with your salon being so far away, it can’t be easy to get to,  and to have it ‘done’, especially when you are going to events such as this.  I can always give you the number of mine, he is such a darling and so expensive, well you get what you pay for don’t you. Especially these day, in a town such as this, full of charlatans’.

Alice noticed that Hattie also had an Irish accent, a broader accent than that of the mouse and harder. Not as well educated, she would have guessed.  But Hattie was working on it, the odd word had the clipped middle class English as she tried to add some depth to her voice.

Alice thanked Hattie, and said that it was fine, and that she was due to see her hairdresser in the following weeks and all would be sorted.  Alice then wondered why she felt the need to explain herself to this, what she now had decided was a rather horrid woman.  Alice had never been one to quickly decide what kind of person someone was on their first conversation, but there was something about this woman that unnerved her.  She wanted to leave, but she was not quite sure how to get out .

‘Suit yourself,’ Hattie answered, only trying to help one of my dear Archie’s up and coming.. or so he says.  You are an ‘up and coming’ aren’t you?  I have read some of your work, and well I have to say, it needs something doing with it but I am sure you know what with you husband being who and what he is we can come to some sort of arrangement.  We looking at helping people self-publish, a small fee  for our time and a certain % of the sales.  I know it’s not the same as you are used to, but I am sure we can do a deal for you, under the circumstances. Obviously as things being as they are, with you and Charles, n I am so sorry to hear what about,  well you  and I know what men are like and under the circumstances, we will be happy to help you.  Of course I, that is, we will need full copyright over any of the work you have already published with us.  But we can sort that out at a later date.

Alice sat in disbelief and looked across at Archie who it was in a world of his own oblivious to what Hattie was saying to her.  And Donna seemed to be asleep.

Alice looked directly at Hattie and said ‘I am not sure what you mean?’

Hattie grinned.  ‘Oh I am sure you do my dear’

‘ Oh has Arche told you our good news ? It seems that Burke and Hare are to be no more and we are to have our own little publishing house. Isn’t that nice don’t you think.  And of course we will be taking up Mr Hare’s title again now that I am here to help him.  It adds that   bit of grandeur .

Alice sat in disbelief, not sure what she was hearing.

‘Have a drink my dear and a cake?’

No thank you Alice said, struggling to get to her feet.  It’s time I left, I need to leave. I have another appointment.

Do you said Hattie, laughing Where would you have an appointment?.

Alice felt her knees buckle as she struggled to pull herself together.

Hattie laughed and lifted a glass, Archie rose and poured her a drink of some red liquid he had in his pockets..

‘Are you sure you won’t have a drink or two? Asked Hattie as Alice, pushed herself up.  ‘No? Oh well… Arche it seems our guest needs to leave.’

Arche glared at Alice.

Why ? why do you need to leave? You don’t really I know you don’t.  What have you got to leave for. Charles is way on ‘business’ again isn’t here.. Archie  laughed loudly- yes away on “business”, with that nice little secretary  of his,  just like you, the same age as you too, except she has more going for her,  not a dried up shrivelled piece of shit like you…She will let him bend her over desks, she will let him do all those lovely perverted things you no longer let him do..  and she loves it, she begs him and screams for him.

Alice gasped and ran to the door… Archie screamed after her’ your finished you know that! You work was never any good; I only published you as a favour for Charles… ‘

Alice heard the laughter as she scrambled up the stairs and into the cold starless night.

 

london-night-by-harold-burdekin-from-1934

 

Alice shuddered as she remembered that night; it was like a dream, a nightmare.

Indeed she came to find that what Archie had told her was true, re Charles and the secretary.

It was all true, and at first she had been a broken woman.

She had stopped writing and hid.

*************************************************************************************

Then a  few years later, on her way home from work, she picked up a day or two old copy of the  Times that someone had left on the bus seat next to her .  A picture had caught her eye and the headline underneath it  read ‘The Honourable Archibald Hare had recently married a Ms Hattie Ó Faoláin  at Westminster Register office. It had been a small gathering of a few close family and friends.

the-bridal-night-18-may-1797-by-james-gillray-c-historic-royal-palaces-lord-baker_2

Alices heart lurched and then her stomach turned, she grabbed the paper and rang the bell to get off the bus.

She walked the last few stops home and back to her small flat.

Charles had offered her a decent pay out, she had tried to refuse, but her parents convinced her that she deserved and needed to take something. So she agreed to a small amount enough for a decent deposit on the flat. She took little else, but her books and of course the dog.

She managed to find her keys and let herself in.  Her large white dog, Rabbit, bounced down the hall to her; eager to smell her and eager to be fed.  ‘Soon,’ she whispered as she made her way into the small kitchen. Turning on the light she pulled the stool to the counter and spread the paper out.

 

© Shullie H Porter 2016

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Posted in Literature, magic, Pagan, Short Story, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Solstice …

window-lodge-jan-2015

 

Solstice Poem, by Margaret Atwood
I.

Through the slit of our open window, the wind
comes in and flows around us, nothingness
in motion, like time. The power of what is not there.
the snow empties itself down, a shadow turning
to indigo, obliterating
everything out there, roofs, cars, garbage cans,
dead flower stalks, dog turds, it doesn’t matter.
you could read this as indifference
on the part of the universe, or else a relentless
forgiveness: all of our
scratches and blots and mortal
wounds and patched-up jobs
wiped clean in the snow’s huge erasure.

I feel it as a pressure,
an added layer:
above the white waterfall of snow
thundering down; then attic, moth-balled
sweaters, nomadic tents,
the dried words of old letters;
then stairs, then children, cats and radiators, peeling paint,
us in our bed, the afterglow
of a smoky fire, our one candle flickering;
below us, the kitchen in the dark, the wink
of pots on shelves; then books and tools, then cellar
and furnace, graying dolls, a bicycle,
the whole precarious geology of house
criss crossed with hidden mouse trails,
and under that a buried river
that seeps up through the cement
floor every spring,
and the tree roots snouting their slow way
into the drains;
under that, the bones
of our ancestors, or if not theirs, someone’s,
mixed with a biomass of nematodes;
under that, bedrock, then molten
stone and the earth’s fiery core;
and sideways, out into the city, street
and corner store and mall
and underpass, then barns and ruined woodlands, continent
and island, oceans, mists
of story drifting
on the tide like seaweed, animal
species crushed and blinking out,
and births and illnesses, hatred and love infra-
red, compassion flesh tone, prayer ultra-
violet; then rumours, alternate waves
of sad peace and sad war,
and then the air, and then the scintillating ions,
and then the stars. That’s where
we are.

long-night-20-12-16-winter-soltice

2.

Some centuries ago, when we lived at the edge
of the forest, on nights like this
you would have put on your pelt of a bear
and shambled off to prowl and hulk
among the trees, and be a silhouette of human
fears against the snow bank.
I would have chosen fox;
I liked the jokes,
the doubling back on my tracks,
and, let’s face it, the theft.
Back then, I had many forms:
the sliding in and out
of my own slippery eel skin,
and yours as well; we were each other’s
iridescent glove, the deft body
all sleight-of-hand and illusion.
Once we were lithe as pythons, quick
and silvery as herring, and we still are, momentarily,
except our knees hurt.
Right now we’re content to huddle
under the shed feathers of duck and goose
as the wind pours like a river
we swim in by keeping still,
like trout in a current.
Every cell
in our bodies has renewed itself
so many times since then, there’s
not much left, my love,
of the originals. We’re footprints
becoming limestone, or think of it
as coal becoming diamond. Less
flexible, but more condensed;
and no more scales or aliases,
at least on the outside. Though we’ve accumulated,
despite ourselves, other disguises:
you as a rumpled elephant—
hide suitcase with white fur,
me as a bramble bush. Well, the hair
was always difficult. Then there’s
the eye problems: too close, too far, you’re a blur.
I used to say I’d know you anywhere,
but it’s getting harder.

winter-soltice-21-12-16-guardian-shadow

3.

This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.

Taking hands like children
lost in a six-dimensional
forest, we step across.
The walls of the house fold themselves down,
and the house turns
itself inside out, as a tulip does
in its last full-blown moment, and our candle
flares up and goes out, and the only common
sense that remains to us is touch,

as it will be, later, some other
century, when we will seem to each other
even less what we were.
But that trick is just to hold on
through all appearances; and so we do,
and yes, I know it’s you;
and that is what we will come to, sooner
or later, when it’s even darker
than It is now, when the snow is colder,
when it’s darkest and coldest
and candles are no longer any use to us
and the visibility is zero: Yes.
It’s still you. It’s still you.

sunset-winter-soltice-2016

© Shullie H Porter 2016

Posted in Life, Literature, magic, moon, Pagan, Poetry, Seasons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

She had never been much of a seamstress. . .

The Young Seamstress Artwork by Harold Knigh

She had never been much of a seamstress, thank goodness for the internet.

She had found the oversize gingerbread man pattern on line, downloaded it and printed it on the new printer he had insisted they had bought.

She had found one of his old shirts at the back of her wardrobe. One he had left, forgotten about, just as he had left and forgotten her.  She had held it to herself and smelt it when she found it; old habits.  There was still a linger of him on it. Once upon a time she would have worn it to bed, to keep him close to her. But not now.

Sitting on the bedroom floor, she placed the paper pattern on the back of the shirt and carefully cut around the distinctive shape.  Then taking it to the dining room, where she had earlier threaded up the old singer sewing machine her grandmother had left her, she got to work.   She sang to herself as she carefully placed the wrong sides together and stitched. She sang the song they had for their first dance, it was cheesy then and even more so now…

‘Never gonna  to give you up,

Never goona  run around and desert you.

Never gonna  make you cry, never gonna say goodbye

Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you. . . ‘

Turning it the figure the  right way round, she hummed as she used one his 2HB pencil to make sure she pushed the corners out.  Finally and happy with the shape, she laid it flat before carefully embroidering the face on.

She made sure she added the small freckle birth mark that he had above his top lip.  His beauty spot she had called it.  He has been embarrassed about it when he was younger, but she had always loved it.

He had initially hid it for with a rather bad moustache,   but she had managed to persuade him to shave it off and be proud of the ‘devil’s kiss’ as her grandmother had called it.

She swiftly then stuffed the figure with the remains of the of the shirt and  a few other items she had judiciously chosen:

  • The small piece of paper with the distinctive marks.
  • The wax from the candle she had burnt slowly over the last few weeks.
  • The piece of his hair she had so carefully kept. She had cut the lock from him on their honeymoon, just after the first time they had made love.  She wanted to keep it in her locket.  He had found it sweet.  He had whispered to her that it was ‘part of her charm’ and why he loved her so much,  before he had kissed her and fell asleep.
  • The tissue she had used to wipe herself after the last time he had come to see her. Makeup sex was the best he had always said. Except he had not come to make up but to tell her that he was moving on with his life. That included moving in with the mother of his new daughter.

She stitched the small figure up, leaving a small gap at the crotch, which she closed with an exquisite gold safety pin from her Grandmother’s sewing box.

For the next month she took the figure with her everywhere she went, even to her new job.  She kept it in her draw, so that it was close to her. She made sure she slipped it into her bag  when at lunch time she would walk to the Peace Gardens to eat  her sandwiches out of the old green Tupperware box she use to pack his lunch in when they were first married.  She spoke to it and ate dinner with it. She offered it wine and food, and always laid a place for it.

At night she would take it to her bed and laid it by her side. Kissing it goodnight, making sure that it’s head rested on the pillow next to hers.

Then as the moon entered its final stage, she started to get the rest of the items that she need together;

She filed a jam jar with  the 50 year old Garrafeira Port they had brought back for Lisbon the year he had started work for himself.

A small pearl handled silver knife from the set they had been given as a wedding present; a family heirloom his mother had said, to be passed down’.  He had never let her use it, even when they had friends or family over, just in case it got spoiled.

The bottle of plant food he had kept under the sink, for the tomatoes that they never got round to growing.  She checked and it was still in date, just.

And the small flowered print trowel he had bought her from the garden centre they use to go to for coffee and cake.  Neither of them were any good at gardening and they use to laugh when they visited the centre that the real reason to visit was the devil’s chocolate cake .

And the Blackberries she had picked that morning. Today was their wedding anniversary.  He loved Blackberry pies and her Blackberry Jam.  She had always been, as he had always wanted, the Homemaker.  Just like his mother.  So she became the woman who stayed at home and baked cakes, and made jam.   ‘ And why not’ he used to say, he made enough money so she did not have to work.  They were blessed that they could afford to do this.  Wasn’t it what all her friends wanted to? They would all congratulate her and then bemoan that they had to continue to work after they had got married and after the children had arrived. The plan was, he had said, that she would be a stay at home mum.  How wonderful that would be and what a wonderful childhood their children would have.  But that never happened as much as they tried even after all the tests and the attempts, the numerous injections and hormones.  It never happened. Not Once. Though according to the doctors there was no reason for it not to.  His mother of course blamed her. He had tried to defend her, and they would laugh and say that well they had so much freedom now and they could take holidays whenever they wanted, it would happen. They had faith; it would happen, one day.  So she stayed at home, doing the ‘making’, and waiting.

 

She brought the items upstairs where the figure laid anticipating on the bed they had shared. She removed the golden pin, opened the groin and popped in three of the biggest and most juicy blackberries she had picked.  Three was his lucky number he used to tell her. Three’s a charm.

As she sewed the hole up, the dark purple stain kissed her fingertips; she hungrily licked off the juice.

The moon’s face was completely hidden as she placed the figure in the dark velvet bag. Placing it and the other items in the wicker basket she used for the cut flowers, she grabbed the dog lead from where it was always kept. He had always been a creature of Habit. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’ And calling for the dog, she left the insignificant semi-detached and walked to the small urban park; just behind the small new build executive estate.

The sound of the traffic faded away, as she opened the park gate and walked into the darkness.  She made her way up the long avenue, until she came to the place where the path split into three.  Behind the park sign post was the large oak tree. And behind it the small enclosed woodland.  She paused for a moment.  Looking each way to make sure no one was following her. No other late night dog walkers.  She stepped behind the magnificent Oak.   Opening her bag, she worked quickly. She dug the hole and placed the figure in it, kissing him goodbye one more time; then taking the small knife she anointed him; his head, his heart and his groin. She poured over the wine and then the plant food.  Covering him with the moist dark earth, and  making sure he was too deep to be eaten by any passing rat, though that would be ironic, she lifted her skirt and crouched over the dark spot and pissed on him.

The dog sat and watched, patiently.

She sang to herself as she and the dog made their way back down the drive way and finally back to the warmth of the central heated house.   That night she slept so well, the best she had for months.

The year passed quickly, her first Yule alone, she didn’t mind too much, she kept herself busy. She volunteered for the local Homeless shelter and on Christmas day she enjoyed feeding the many.

Throughout the dark months she kept herself busy, work was good, she enjoyed it, and when she got home, she would read, listen to the radio and occasionally watch films on the television.

Then came spring, and she felt the air start to clear around her. She relished the walk through the woodland and the park. Her heart felt the sap rising as life returned to the one sleeping giants that surrounded her and the nodding of the daffodils as they danced in the wind made her laugh.

Then came the summer passed, it was a truly typical English Summer; a warm and very wet June and July, then a hot ripening August.  She and the dog continued to walk through the park, nodding to the Oak as they passed.

Behind the Oak, in the woodland, the brambles grew and grew, first the flowers, the sound of bees, and then the fruit.  There was so much fruit.  She picked buckets of the large ripe blackberries, leaving a touch of blood as payment in return.  She made pies and jam, lots of it, giving it away to friends and family.  Every one said how tasty the pies were. How the jam shone when you held the jar up to the light.  She would smile and say that it wasn’t her, it was the blackberries themselves.

 

The news came at the end of September; he had been taken ill, some kind of growth in his groin.  They were not sure what it was. They had mentioned cancer, but it wasn’t like any kind of cancer they had seen. A growth that resembled brambles, leaving purplish marks all over his lower body.  He had died when the growth had got so bad that it had erupted through his left thigh, bursting his femoral artery. He had bled to death before the nurse had found him.

 

As his wife, still, even though they were separated, she had seen it as her duty to thank the doctors and nurses for all their hard work.   She had dutifully sent the nurses on the ward a card, and some jam of course to say thank you.

At the funeral, she had stood to one side as his new partner had to be carried away when they had lowered the coffin into the freshly dug grave.  She had waited as the grave diggers had diligently covered the coffin and filled the hole with the consecrated soil. She had given them all a little something, a token of her appreciation of all their hard work. They all thanked her and said what a nice lady she was, even despite all that had happened to her. How gracious she had been.

As they left, she knelt at the grave side and buried a few of the dark ripe blackberries she had managed to collect before the funeral.  It was late in the season she knew, but these had come from the small woodland, behind the back of the Oak tree and she knew that he would love them.

Blackberries in Basket painting by August Laux.

© Shullie H Porter 2016

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“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”
Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds

I just wanted to share a few photos of the sunset from last night… and the quote above sums it up…

IMAG2508 IMAG2511 IMAG2514 IMAG2521 IMAG2528 IMAG2546

All images © Shullie H Porter 2016

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