Monday 23 February 2009

"No Mule's Fool".... but fool for a Mule, nevertheless.

A dusty day in this old town
A hazy yellow eye looks down
A buzzing bee's the only lazy sound

I take the grass, she hits the hay
The two of us drift through the day
A butterfly, a sigh, and it's flick away

I know we're lazy, lots of people say so
But one day they're gonna see
We're only doing whatever makes us happy
We're sitting here, me and my mule
We make our own rules, and it's cool

We know we're lazy, lots of people say so
But one day they're gonna see
We're only doing whatever makes us happy
We're sitting here, me and my mule
We're nobody's fool, and it's cool

I close my eyes, yeah I feel alright
Must be close to 95
Got my shade from a good old hat that's made of hide

One more day in God's good sun
We won't move for anyone
Spend our lazy days and ways just turning on

I'm looking down, there's my old mule
Stubborn nag, but no, no one's fool
She's my only friend and she's cool

My old mule, nobody's fool

Family, 1969

Sunday 15 February 2009

A Cotswold Ballad: The Cottager's Reply

Frank Mansell was a man bred of the Cotswold hills, (even though his actual place of birth was London), his spirit, if not his body, remains forever in the village of Sheepscomb, probably mostly poking at the cricket pitch there.
Frank repaired and installed telephone lines as his job, but he was also a poet, writing "Cotswold Ballads".

Perhaps the most iconic Cotswold writer of the twentieth century was Laurie Lee, whose book "Cider With Rosie" is a lasting delight.

('It's cider,' she said. 'You ain't to drink it though. Not much of it, any rate.' Huge and squat, the jar lay on the grass like an unexploded bomb. We lifted it up, unscrewed the stopper, and smelt the whiff of fermented apples. I held the jar to my mouth and rolled my eyes sideways, like a beast at a water-hole. 'Go on,' said Rosie. I took a deep breath ...
Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie's burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again ...
Cider with Rosie, 1959 )

Laurie met Frank in The Woolpack, in Shad, and the two became great friends, with Laurie encouraging Frank's writing.
"Laurie and Frank met one night at the Woolpack in Slad and struck up an almost instant friendship. Laurie helped his fellow wordsmith to publish his first collection of verse, which they delivered in cardboard boxes to rough-cider taverns up and down the valley. They shifted 2,000 copies of Cotswold Ballads in a week, extraordinary for a part-time poet whose day job was mending telephone lines for the GPO. Laurie said: "You never knew where you'd run into Frank. Either stuck up a lamp post or coming out of the ground spouting poetry.""
Laurie paid for a plaque in Frank's memory at his beloved cricket pitch, -In Cider with Rosie, Frank the bowler appears thus "At first only the outfield was visible, then you'd see the top of Frank's cap. Then his flushed face and great heaving shoulders until gradually, like a galleon, he'd come billowing into view and loose his fast, furious ball like a shot from a cannon."

Recently, singer Chris Wood recorded a great folk album, Trespasser. He was voted Folk Singer of the Year, and Trespasser was Best Folk Album of the year at the BBC Radio " awards ceremony, 2009.

Chris Wood link, Myspace, more music and information.

Here's Chris Wood, singing Frank's ballad, The Cottager's Reply.

Saturday 7 February 2009

The Mower's Song Andrew Marvell 1621-1678

Picture: The Mowers, Sir George Clausen R.A.

My Mind was once the true survey
Of all these Meadows fresh and gay;
And in the greenness of the Grass
Did see its Hopes as in a Glass;
When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the Grass, does to my Thoughts and Me.

But these, while I with Sorrow pine,
Grew more luxuriant still and fine;
That not one Blade of Grass you spy'd,
But had a Flower on either side;
When Juliana came, and She
What I do to the Grass, does to my Thoughts and Me.

Unthankful Meadows, could you so
A fellowship so true forego,
And in your gawdy May-games meet,
While I lay trodden under feet?
When Juliana came , and She
What I do to the Grass, does to my Thoughts and Me.

But what you in Compassion ought,
Shall now by my Revenge be wrought:
And Flow'rs, and Grass, and I and all,
Will in one common Ruine fall.
For Juliana comes, and She
What I do to the Grass, does to my Thoughts and Me.

And thus, ye Meadows, which have been
Companions of my thoughts more green,
Shall now the Heraldry become
With which I shall adorn my Tomb;
For Juliana comes, and She
What I do to the Grass, does to my Thoughts and Me.

Clausen, Sir George: In my local art gallery, there used to be a very large room full of what was known as the Sam Wilson Bequest.
Sam Wilson left his art collection to the city of Leeds, on the understanding that it was all to be displayed together for fifty years. Recently, we passed the fifty year mark, the Art Gallery had a huge extensive make-over, and a big part of the collection I had grown up with disappeared.
It seems to me that the paintings which came out of store are not, in many cases better than, or even equal to those which have been "disappeared".
Sam Wilson's Clausens were a constant fascination to me, I would look at the recurring characters in them, the young woman reading by lamplight, the child with an apple, elsewhere I read that she is called Rose. She and the lamp-woman have similar faces, is Rose her younger self? are they sisters?
The bearded man, gardener, haymaker, the young boy, Rose's brother, all are characters I get to see by Clausen's painted windows onto their world. Long dead, they are, but alive forever in their gilded frames.
Take a look at the picture I headed this post with. Look at the way the paint is swirled in the arc of the scythe, the motion-blur on the trousers of the mower, if I told you it was a Van Gogh would you doubt me?
There are many painters who deserve more recognition, for me, Clausen is one.

Friday 6 February 2009

Another Shovelful of Steam

I went back to the Railway Museum last weekend, and invited my mother along. She's 86, and leaps at the chance to go out and about. It's one of those things she misses greatly since my father died, the way he'd say "Let's go somewhere", and take her on a meandering journey interspersed with lunch at some quiet market-town, a stop at an ancient castle, or a stately garden.
So yes, carpe diem is her motto. And she carpe'd with both hands, pausing only to grab her trusty walking stick, scarf, and handbag.

"Do they have any trains from the Great Western Railway?"she asked.
"Of course", was the reply. I directed her toward a great green locomotive, Lode Star, by name.
This loco was built in the Great Western works at Swindon in 1907. At the time when her father, after coming home from the sea, and marrying his sweetheart, was an engineer for the GWR at the Swindon Works.
Near the loco, two museum staff members were working, and she asked them questions about Lode Star.

This locomotive did two million, five thousand eight hundred and ninety-five miles in service before being retired in 1951.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Steamy Thoughts.

No, not those sort of steamy thoughts................

Pulling the "Peppercorn Pioneer", Feb 1st 2009
(See YouTube at end of post. Worth watching just for the whistle!)

As my blog's name might suggest, I'm a 'tinkering with the greasy bits' sort of person. If it's mechanical, I want to figure out how it works and why, and what for. I admit I'm a bit less enthusiastic these days for lying under a vehicle in freezing rain, changing the differential gears. These days I like it to be indoors and I want, at the very least, an old bit of carpet between me and the concrete.

"Soubriquet decided to install a rotary spit in the new kitchen. So far so good, now he has to catch a giant hamster to power it."

Oh the stories I could tell of remote repairs, far from the madding crowd, a snapped off gearlever, and eighty miles to go...
Remedy? take the top off the gearbox, the tunnel cover out, and shove the selector forks with a screwdriver...............
What fun we had. Actually, gearboxes is a bit of a sore point. When my beloved was over, last summer, we were out for the day, had just negotiated some rocky tracks, and had returned to smooth roads when BANG!... Gearbox fail.

Well, I could engage first and fourth, so we got home, albeit a bit lumpily, with a stink of hot atf, and the occasional loud bang as a drifting fragment was caught up and spat out again. Rebuilding the box was not an option. Sharp things had been propelled about so often and explosively that everything in there was a mess. Luckily a friend had a spare LT77 box, and I paid to get it fitted, because I was lazy.

All this preamble is really to introduce my love of the National Railway Museum at York.
(York is about twenty five miles from home).

Holder of the world speed record for a steam train, 126 miles per hour in 1938, pulling six coaches and a dynanometer car, STILL the world record holder seventy years later.

You see, I suggested, jestingly, to her that I could take her to the rail museum. Imagine my surprise when she said "Yes please! I love trains". I checked carefully. After all, we men are used to being humoured, or tolerated... No, it really was true. She wanted to visit the rail museum. So we did.
And what fun it was. -You just wait, I'm going to buy her her own toolbox, she wants an old red pickup truck, I don't think painting my old Land Rover red will suffice.
So trains...

Japanese Shinkansen "Bullet-Train"

The Model collection at NRM is amazing.

A newly built A1 Pacific, Peppercorn class express loco, completed 2008.

Agenoria is the oldest preserved railway engine in the world.

The same company built another loco just like Agenoria, in 1829, it was called
The Stourbridge Lion, could pull eighty tons at five miles per hour.....
It was the first ever railway locomotive to run in the new United States of America.

Built in Britain, for the Canton-Hankow Railway, 1935.

Sorry about the blur

Argh Look at the time! Bedtime! work tomorrow. I'll add to these later.