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The Original "Getting Real"

The Original "Getting Real"
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Tuesday, 30 November 2010


It seems so short a time since we were shovelling snow in the interminable winter last year, and yet already, with no summer to speak of in between, here we are again. Nowadays snow is seen so often as nothing but a nuisance and yet, as Robert Bridges wonderful poem – London Snow - shows, in our clamour for ‘efficiency’ it’s easy to overlook the beauty of the season....

When men were all asleep the snow came flying,
In large white flakes falling on the city brown,
Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying,
Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town;
Deadening, muffling, stifling its murmurs failing;
Lazily and incessantly floating down and down:

Silently sifting and veiling road, roof and railing;
Hiding difference, making unevenness even,
Into angles and crevices softly drifting and sailing.
All night it fell, and when full inches seven
It lay in the depth of its uncompacted lightness,
The clouds blew off from a high and frosty heaven;
And all woke earlier for the unaccustomed brightness
Of the winter dawning, the strange unheavenly glare:
The eye marvelled—marvelled at the dazzling whiteness;
The ear hearkened to the stillness of the solemn air;
No sound of wheel rumbling nor of foot falling,
And the busy morning cries came thin and spare.
Then boys I heard, as they went to school, calling,
They gathered up the crystal manna to freeze
Their tongues with tasting, their hands with snowballing;
Or rioted in a drift, plunging up to the knees;
Or peering up from under the white-mossed wonder,
‘O look at the trees!’ they cried, ‘O look at the trees!’
With lessened load a few carts creak and blunder,
Following along the white deserted way,
A country company long dispersed asunder:
When now already the sun, in pale display
Standing by Paul’s high dome, spread forth below
His sparkling beams, and awoke the stir of the day.
For now doors open, and war is waged with the snow;
And trains of sombre men, past tale of number,
Tread long brown paths, as toward their toil they go:
But even for them awhile no cares encumber
Their minds diverted; the daily word is unspoken,
The daily thoughts of labour and sorrow slumber
At the sight of the beauty that greets them, for the charm they have broken.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


It’s that time of year again....poppies, recollections and reviews of the horror of war and, in the mists and dank nights of November, vague recollections from childhood of elderly relatives speaking of the wars with a melancholic look in their eyes as they remembered lost brothers and friends.

The terribly tragic story (made into a wonderful film) of Rudyard Kipling’s eagerness to enable his son to enlist, followed by the death of his son, did much to tarnish the reputation of that great writer. Interesting that he was one of the ‘names’ to believe in the Cottingley Fairies – perhaps the loss of innocence that came with the First World War and the agony of feeling in some way responsible for his son’s death, led him to seek a return to a more mystical age.

Regardless of what happened with ‘My Son, Jack” – and Kipling was no different from any other father of that age – this poem, which was once voted the favourite English poem of all time, remains a tribute to his brilliance.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Masked Ball

Blogging and the countless forums on the net are rather like a masked ball, aren’t they? People strike up conversations with others anywhere in the world and some conversations lead to removing the masks, while others are merely brief exchanges with someone appearing behind a mask of anonymity or the persona they choose to portray.

It strikes me often that everything in life appears more and more like dance in which we sometimes sit a day, a month, a year, a decade out, then return to the dance with greater gusto but it never really dawned on me before how much of life is like a masked ball. People appear in different places at different times with different masks – sometimes they have their ‘work mask’ on, sometimes their ‘weekend mask’ or their ‘father/mother/sister/brother/friend’ mask on. I used to think the world would be so much happier if everyone just spoke their minds and we were all mask-free all the time, but life doesn’t seem to work like that and perhaps part of being alive is the fun of playing the masked ball, the masquerade. And if we’re going to dance, we might as well dance with gusto, like the dancers in the wonderful Hillaire Belloc poem, “Tarantella”:

“Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the spreading
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of tar?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
(Under the vine of the dark veranda)?
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
Who hadn't got a penny,
And who weren't paying any,
And the hammer at the doors and the din?
And the hip! hop! hap!
Of the clap
Of the hands to the swirl and the twirl
Of the girl gone chancing,
Backing and advancing,
Snapping of the clapper to the spin
Out and in--
And the ting, tong, tang of the guitar!
Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?

Never more;
Never more.
Only the high peaks hoar;
And Aragon a torrent at the door.
No sound
In the walls of the halls where falls
The tread
Of the feet of the dead to the ground,
No sound:
But the boom
Of the far waterfall like doom.”