Summer Sunset

Sunset sunlight laying itself gently down like fragile thin sheets of paper gold on westward facing leaves of lime and dangling laburnum bells.

To the east, high, harsh and pregnant-heavy, rainclouds are bergs of heat-bruised smoke and a light, capricious wind moves the dancing flames of my

dry-log fire. Big traffic is on the hoard and wolf road again. I can hear the cries of homebound geese.

My garden, my soul and my world need the promised rain. I will be gone before it begins. Tarzan must seek his God alone. It is the only way.

Solstice and Technology…

So this year’s solstice has come and gone, an in the words of the song it seems “no one cared enough to blink an eye”; almost certainly because of  the long, long and still more-long rain here this year (ever since ironically the government announced and official drought and the water companies imposed a hose-pipe ban). But this evening – for only the second time this year (first was way back in March during an unseasonable heat-wave (yes, really!) – I have dragged out the fire-pit and am sitting outside.

Quiet reflection, flames and the crackling of wood burning seem to fit so naturally together.

Is it the same for you?

For both sexes?

Earlier I watched a retrospective BBC programme featuring the late, great Ray Bradbury, such a prolific and sometimes random talent. When he was six, he said he wanted to become a magician, sometime later he changed his mind and wished to become a story writer after going to see the magician, Mr Electrico, who pointed at him with his “Sword of Truth” and said “live forever!” Interesting, because Ray Bradbury, through his work will live beyond his mortal span, but in doing so has ensured that Mr Electrico also lives on. The coals slip, the illustrated man turns in his sleep and another picture begins to move …

I was at the D.I.Y. store earlier, needing to replace a saw and buy some “stuff” for an allotment project.  On production of the allotment membership card we should get a 10% discount, but the past couple of times I have been, the line supervisor has challenged the cashiers (is this the right word for the till operators?) I have challenged this, sought confirmation from the allotment hierarchy and been told that yes all goods purchased entitle the card holder to a ten per cent discount. Unfortunately, though I  had been hoping it was her day off, her dinner time or something else, she was there again today, lurking as I joined the queue. So, steeling myself I decided to step out of the line and simply ask … I was quite prepared if she sang her usual “plants only” tune to abandon the trolley and go elsewhere, but she offered, through a steel rimmed scowl a chance to speak with the manager about it.

I was polite, the “… if it’s no trouble “ line. The manager did not appear, but a message came back … I was right, discount applied on all purchases. She could have apologised, but pretended that there had been a late change in the management decision.  She went right down in my estimation, it would have been so right, so simple just to apologise – but would have made her appear human.

So back into the queue, refusing to “jump” ahead and smiled at a lady in a wheelchair, clearly saving a place for two other, heavily made up young women with a trolley filled with curtains, poles and light fittings. There was some light banter between the three; the lady in the wheelchair needing to return the chair (borrowed from the store)and get back on her crutches.

When she wheeled away with an impish grin, the shorter of her companions reached out some super-mobile phone and spoke to someone I assumed was just outside: “just in the queue,” she announce, “out in two, light up a cigarette for me ready when I get out eh?”

I stood there, thinking …

… all the progress, the technology, the micro-processing power and battery and circuitry smaller than a WordPress full stop. The science that can pinpoint your position to within meters from space, the apps and wisdom and capability in that phone …  … and the only request is to someone she is seconds away from seeing and is a plea to bring Death closer, faster.

 

“All Things Are Connected …”

“All things on earth are connected, of course, but those that are similar are connected more closely.”

After collection from the Austrian airport I am sitting waiting for lasagne (it will be a big Austrian-hospitality sized portion I have no doubt) in the house of friends I have not seen for some time. Nor to be fair, until I found out the lady was, I believe, a surprise to most people was pregnant again have we been in any kind of contact (internet or ‘phone) at all. But here we sit, and the two sons impress me with their English and their confidence in conversation and ability to engage. There is some brief – perhaps inevitable competition between them. Who can most quickly and correctly name European capitals?

Romania comes up and I am able to divert the competition for I flew to Bucharest in October and stayed in Brasov … and the talk turns to Dracula. Life is filled with coincidences perhaps; for I was so impressed by my colleagues in Romania and their openness and friendly nature and the excellent tours and discussions that I had with people there that I bought our daughter a book, Vlad as part of a Christmas present – and that is the very book I chose to bring to read (at least) on flights to and from Linz. It purports to tell the “real story” of Vlad Dracul and is written by C.C. Humphreys: whether it does or not I cannot judge, but it is well-written, reflecting a line said to the fictional “scholar” soldier, Harris by Richard Sharpe in the Cornwell series “Write a book with plenty of shooting and battles and you can’t go wrong.”

There is strategy; I imagine based on comprehensive research, character building and what reads like excellent background: all in all very convincing as a narrative… and I am only half way through it (a plane journey). But this lad knows the background, the time as hostage in Turkey, the castles in Romania, the name of the territory Wallachia (well it’s German equivalent anyway) and about the involvement of Crusades and Islam. He proudly tells me that he knows it “from TV, from books, from school … you know…” and I am truly stunned.

I doubt if many English kids of his age would know beyond the vampire legends created by Bram Stoker (who initially had the ideas for the book written and had his vampire lord coming from Syria – until he visited Romania/Transylvania with Sir Henry Irving the actor – and changed the location and film history). In fact in the age of popularity of the Twilight sagas maybe English kids will not even know of this Gothic invention Dracula. That’s a question worth asking because it certainly isn’t an easy book to read!

But what history do Austrian students learn? I certainly like the idea of broad European history; countries and states change on today’s planet faster than in a long time, particularly after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was usually in there somewhere as a big influence.

And what lessons for the English curriculum? English society?

And will we learn the answers any time soon?

And a question I must re-visit: I was lucky enough to visit Bran Castle* while staying in Brasov, but what do I now need to know about Poenari?

 

*The castle at Bran is excellent, short, steep climb from fine gardens (there was snow on red, fallen-autumn leaves when I was there) refusing to bow too far to Hollywood and features interesting displays about Romanian monarchs and customs, leaving a small room for Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee at the top somewhere – but, hey life is life and the market and pub down below sell the vampire industry to visiting tourists, most of whom would not be there if not for the blood sucking image.

 

Honeybees and Honours.

This is taken directly from a BBC news item on the internet. I am posting it here because I was really priviledged enought o work for/with Geoff in education. He gave me opportunities and had,when we worked together

(he was clearly the superior, but never made it feel anything other than working “with” him, not for him) a superbly friendly, intelligent, articulate and impish sense of worth,

always considered theneeds of teachers and children – something that is increasingly lacking at present.

He truly deserves this honour and I wish him well.

“A veteran beekeeper is among those from Staffordshire named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Geoffrey Hopkinson, 84, from Walton-on-the-Hill, will receive the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to beekeeping and environmental education.

Mr Hopkinson said he was delighted for himself, his family and his friends.

Mr Hopkinson took up beekeeping regularly despite a rough first experience when he was stung dozens of times as his cousin was moving bees in 1948.

‘Folk hero’   He said: “I got 60-odd stings… My mother didn’t recognise me when I came through the door. I went to bed, slept for 24 hours and then I got up the next day – beekeeping was for me.

” I was actually a bit of a folk hero because word got around that ‘Geoff Hopkinson nearly got killed yesterday’.

“I thought ‘the bees are not going to beat me’.”

Mr Hopkinson added that as a beekeeper “you meet a lot of interesting people here and abroad”.

He said: “You have your disappointments, you have your thrills, you have your successes, you get your first prize at the honey shows.”

Now the quandary: I was talking with some other local beekeepers a couple of weekends ago (honeybees and other wild bees here are suffering and numbers dropping)

and mentioned Geoff, who is still very active.

Should I get in touch with him?

A congratulations card would be good I think.

Never Blue

Sunset road is

Empty again;

Only the hard bones

Of  the river of stones

Tremble and flow,

Deep sea-bound slow

‘Neath the gallow-bridge frame.

This river was never blue;

Water is only ever

The colour of what

It carries –

Or what it reflects.

P.L. Higgs (Linz)

(16th June, 2012)