written and posted by members of Lancashire Dead Good Poets' Society

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Digging - Gold, Gold Gold!

In  1849 John Sutter, a pioneering Californian farmer, commissioned a carpenter to construct a sawmill on his land. While he was working, the man found small amounts of gold in a stream. Despite the two men forming a secret pact, news of the find soon spread and men from all over the world began to flock to the area: The Californian gold rush had begun.

Most of the '49ers' arrived with only the clothes on their backs to begin digging for gold. Soon there were 300,000 invaders forming a makeshift settlement. Many came by sea, risking life and limb to round Cape Horn, Traders arrived to capitalise on their demands for basic provisions and prospecting tools. Soon saloons overflowed with whisky laden prospectors. Few fortunes were made though and more often, it was the traders who made their fortunes by exploiting the remote population, charging exorbitant rates for even the most basic provisions.

There were  no rules to restrict mining at the outset but eventually a system of 'staking a claim was introduced. Within a decade, the mines were exhausted and soon some of the campsites became ghost towns. One remained and was named Sacramento. The city of San Francisco developed and California achieved sate status. John Sutter was bankrupt even though an estimated 4 billion dollars equivalent was found in the environs surrounding his land.

Fifty years earlier, there had been a gold rush in North Carolina and the bulk of gold coins minted by the US Treasury were struck from gold mined there.


The Prospector


           

I strolled up old Bonanza, where I staked in ninety-eight,
    A-purpose to revisit the old claim.
I kept thinking mighty sadly of the funny ways of Fate,
    And the lads who once were with me in the game.
Poor boys, they’re down-and-outers, and there’s scarcely one to-day
    Can show a dozen colours in his poke;
And me, I’m still prospecting, old and battered, gaunt and gray,
    And I’m looking for a grub-stake, and I’m broke.
I strolled up old Bonanza. The same old moon looked down;
    The same old landmarks seemed to yearn to me;
But the cabins all were silent, and the flat, once like a town,
    Was mighty still and lonesome-like to see.
There were piles and piles of tailings where we toiled with pick and pan,
    And turning round a bend I heard a roar,
And there a giant gold-ship of the very newest plan
    Was tearing chunks of pay-dirt from the shore.

It wallowed in its water-bed; it burrowed, heaved and swung;
    It gnawed its way ahead with grunts and sighs;
Its bill of fare was rock and sand; the tailings were its dung;
    It glared around with fierce electric eyes.
Full fifty buckets crammed its maw; it bellowed out for more;
    It looked like some great monster in the gloom.
With two to feed its sateless greed, it worked for seven score,
    And I sighed: “Ah, old-time miner, here’s your doom!”

The idle windlass turns to rust; the sagging sluice-box falls;
    The holes you digged are water to the brim;
Your little sod-roofed cabins with the snugly moss-chinked walls
    Are deathly now and mouldering and dim.
The battle-field is silent where of old you fought it out;
    The claims you fiercely won are lost and sold.
But there’s a little army that they’ll never put to rout —
    The men who simply live to seek the gold.

The men who can’t remember when they learned to swing a pack,
    Or in what lawless land the quest began;
The solitary seeker with his grub-stake on his back,
    The restless buccaneer of pick and pan.
On the mesas of the Southland, on the tundras of the North,
    You will find us, changed in face but still the same;
And it isn’t need, it isn’t greed that sends us faring forth —
    It’s the fever, it’s the glory of the game.

For once you’ve panned the speckled sand and seen the bonny dust,
    Its peerless brightness blinds you like a spell;
It’s little else you care about; you go because you must,
    And you feel that you could follow it to hell.
You’d follow it in hunger, and you’d follow it in cold;
    You’d follow it in solitude and pain;
And when you’re stiff and battened down let someone whisper “Gold,”
    You’re lief to rise and follow it again.

Yet look you, if I find the stuff it’s just like so much dirt;
    I fling it to the four winds like a child.
It’s wine and painted women and the things that do me hurt,
    Till I crawl back, beggared, broken, to the Wild.
Till I crawl back, sapped and sodden, to my grub-stake and my tent —
    There’s a city, there’s an army (hear them shout).
There’s the gold in millions, millions, but I haven’t got a cent;
    And oh, it’s me, it’s me that found it out.

It was my dream that made it good, my dream that made me go
    To lands of dread and death disprized of man;
But oh, I’ve known a glory that their hearts will never know,
    When I picked the first big nugget from my pan.
It’s still my dream, my dauntless dream, that drives me forth once more
    To seek and starve and suffer in the Vast;
That heaps my heart with eager hope, that glimmers on before —
    My dream that will uplift me to the last.

Perhaps I am stark crazy, but there’s none of you too sane;
    It’s just a little matter of degree.
My hobby is to hunt out gold; it’s fortressed in my brain;
    It’s life and love and wife and home to me.
And I’ll strike it, yes, I’ll strike it; I’ve a hunch I cannot fail;
    I’ve a vision, I’ve a prompting, I’ve a call;
I hear the hoarse stampeding of an army on my trail,
    To the last, the greatest gold camp of them all.

Beyond the shark-tooth ranges sawing savage at the sky
    There’s a lowering land no white man ever struck;
There’s gold, there’s gold in millions, and I’ll find it if I die.
    And I’m going there once more to try my luck.
Maybe I’ll fail — what matter? It’s a mandate, it’s a vow;
    And when in lands of dreariness and dread
You seek the last lone frontier, far beyond your frontiers now,
    You will find the old prospector, silent, dead.

You will find a tattered tent-pole with a ragged robe below it;
    You will find a rusted gold-pan on the sod;
You will find the claim I’m seeking, with my bones as stakes to show it;
    But I’ve sought the last Recorder, and He’s — God.

Thanks for reading. Adele 

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Digging - Squirrel Nutkin



2016 UK Coin 50p Silver Proof Coloured Beatrix Potter - Squirrel ...



A Little Squirrel (Fun Poem) - Poem by David Harris

All summer long he collected his nuts
Burying them here and there
When it came to dig them up
He couldn’t remember where
He hid his treasure store

The moral of this tale
Be sure, there is one indeed
If you want to bury your treasures
And you ain’t that smart
Draw a little map, that will help for a start



The fattest squirrel I’ve ever seen lives in our neighbourhood.  It favours the back gardens of half a dozen houses of which ours is one. It runs along the tops of the fence panels that separate us from next door, the narrow alleyway and adjacent properties. I’ve watched it climb our buddleia to reach the fence of the garden opposite. It moves fast, it is cute and although it’s grey, my grandson and I call it Nutkin, after the Beatrix Potter character. This one still has a complete tail. Its main occupation is eating and digging. Nuts are buried only to be dug up again.

Most of our garden was removed a couple of years ago. Neither of us are able-bodied enough to  do much digging or maintenance and it had become overgrown and neglected. Birds were responsible for the planting of unwanted sycamore trees.  The holly which used to look so pretty ‘in berry’ had died on one side. The dark magenta berberis was beautiful but too prickly to deal with.  Weeds were knee high and everything was woven together with brambles and some sticky grass our dog had collected from walks on the nearby field.  It had become a messy, unusable area. We needed a practical, easy-care courtyard, somewhere pleasant to sit out and safe for the grandchildren to play. We found the right person for the job, no, not Alan Titchmarsh, but someone with equal expertise and vision, and he was happy to carry on in our absence – we took off to Scotland. It is a good idea to escape the noise of home improvement tools, particularly mechanical diggers, chainsaws and lump hammers.

When we returned there had been much digging, much removing and now there was much sunlight reaching previously inaccessible places. Not a thorn or prickle remained, it looked wonderful, and that’s before it was finished. We had two small garden areas, easy to plant and look after, needing nothing more than a trowel and a kneeling mat, and lots of space for children to run about. Planters and flower pots placed randomly could be moved about as required. The end result was and is perfect, just right for us non-gardeners.

The other day I decided to re-pot a worn out houseplant and see how it faired outside. It was either that or bin it. (This activity could be listed under ‘Things to do in Lockdown.) As I prepared an outside flower pot by removing something that didn’t matter to create space, I kept finding buried monkey nuts. Squirrel Nutkin. I left them out for him / her.

Seamus Heaney’s famous Digging


 Digging



Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.


Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013)

 Thanks for reading. Stay safe and enjoy the sunshine, Pam x

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Thirsty work - put the kettle on

My parents took their first pub when I was four, moving from a family house to a large apartment over the public area. I well remember the first time I tasted a Coca Cola - the glass bottle was a work of art and the contents, particularly unusual and  refreshing, especially when ice cold. After several weeks, my Dad performed and experiment on the bar top. He put a dirty old penny  into a glass of Coke. We all watched as the liquid bubbled and completely cleaned the coin until it sparkled. I can honestly say that that I have rarely partaken since. God knows what it does to your insides.

As  a young girl I would watch my two older brothers and their mates have pint drinking contests. When the bar was closed in the afternoons, I would pour myself  a pint of lemonade  and practice drinking it down in one.  The boys were very surprised that I could soon do this with a pint of lager - it was far less fizzy than pop of course.

In my twenties, I worked as an entertaining Bluecoat for Pontins, taking part in several musical productions each week.  One night we had a Wild West show. We did the usual can-can and then I dressed up as Annie Oakley to perform 'I'm  just a girl who can't say no'. Later in the evening, there was a pint-drinking competition in the bar and I would be pitted against a few willing gentlemen. The glasses of beer would be placed on the floor in front of us. When the whistle blew we would bend down to pick up the glass. I was at the front and as I bent over, my stocking tops would be in full view. Naturally, the gentlemen behind me would be distracted, giving me the edge. I usually won the contest. I will never forget one occasion, when a woman in the audience stormed over to me and shouted, "You can't beat my husband at drinking, he does it for a living". I found that so amusing.

So how about thirsty work, this week's blog theme?  A few years ago, I attended a ball at Blackpool Tower. I danced all night and towards the end of the evening, I and some friends ordered a pot of tea. It was hot, strong and wonderfully refreshing. Probably the best cup of tea I have ever drunk. Cheers.



A Nice Cup Of Tea

I like a nice cup of tea in the morning,
just to start the day you see
and at half past eleven,
my idea of heaven is a nice cup of tea.

I like tea when I'm thirsty at dinner
and a nice cup of tea with my tea.
Then about this time of night,
there is nothing like the sight
of a nice cup of tea.

Adele.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Thirsty Waters

We are thirsty creatures, now more than ever. Current circumstances reveal thirsts not previously known.

We spend our time trying to fill the gaps in our lives and in ourselves; and despair that we will ever be satisfied.

We work against powerful tides trying to make an island for ourselves.

We reach for what will keep us afloat; I believe one day we'll all do it...

 


Thirsty Waters
There are rivers in me
That flow and flow
I don't know where.
They go their own ways;
I lose sight of them.
 
They are a thirsty water;
Want to fill themselves with experience.
 
Living puts salt and sugar in them.
Strange fish begin to grow.
 
And the waters bathe me clean.
I drink out of the thirsty water.
They teach me to swim
I'll float
Not drown
In the thirst of my waters.
 
Laura Colville

Sunday, 17 May 2020

What Nonsense! The Extraordinary Mr Lear.

Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss are synonymous with the word ‘Nonsense’. They were the masters at turning the world on its head. However, my ultimate hero dubbed the Father of Nonsense by many, is Edward Lear. He has provided me with a lifetime of enjoyment and inspiration. Like a myriad of other children, I grew up with his delightful nonsensical rhymes like the Owl and the Pussycat that took me on imaginative journeys to surreal and faraway lands with conversing animals, anthropomorphic objects, funny people and other imaginary beings. My absolute favourite is the Table and the Chair. This poem has taken on new meaning as I read with fresh eyes whilst in isolation, banned from going to other people’s houses, restricted in movement and distancing whilst ‘taking the air’.

Table and the Chair Drawing - by Edward Lear
From A Book of Nonsense, Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics 

I
Said the Table to the Chair,
'You can hardly be aware,
'How I suffer from the heat,
'And from chilblains on my feet!
'If we took a little walk,
'We might have a little talk!
'Pray let us take the air!'
Said the Table to the Chair.

II
Said the Chair unto the Table,
'Now you know we are not able!
'How foolishly you talk,
'When you know we cannot walk!'
Said the Table, with a sigh,
'It can do no harm to try,
'I've as many legs as you,
Why can't we walk on two?'

III
So they both went slowly down,
And walked about the town
With a cheerful bumpy sound,
As they toddled round and round.
And everybody cried,
As they hastened to their side,
'See! the Table and the Chair
'Have come out to take the air!'
 
IV
But in going down an alley,
To a castle in a valley,
They completely lost their way,
And wandered all the day,
Till, to see them safely back,
They paid a Ducky-quack,
And a Beetle, and a Mouse,
Who took them to their house.

V
Then they whispered to each other,
'O delightful little brother!
'What a lovely walk we've taken!
'Let us dine on Beans and Bacon!'
So the Ducky, and the leetle
Browny-Mousy and the Beetle
Dined, and danced upon their heads
Till they toddled to their beds.

Table and the Chair and Animals Drawing - by Edward Lear
From A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear, Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics

Lear however was not only a master of nonsense poetry. This extraordinary man was a gifted writer/journalist, an illustrator, musician and art teacher (he taught Queen Victoria). He was a fine landscape painter well adept in oil painting and watercolour. Poetry inspired many of his paintings, particularly works penned by his good friend Mr Tennyson. Lear and Tennyson exchanged letters and verse for many years.

Venice 13 & 16 November 1865 - by Edward Lear
Pencil, Sepia Ink, Watercolour

From The Painter Edward Lear by Vivien Noakes, David & Charles

    Mr Lear was certainly clued into Victorian reality. He travelled the world and his keen observational skills and understanding of what he saw and experienced fed his imagination. He could be found sitting and drawing within the enclosures at the London Zoo and Knowsley Hall communing with parrots or riding a camel in Albania.
 
Red and Yellow Macaw, 1830
by Edward Lear

Hand-coloured lithograph. Plate 7 in Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, Or Parrots, 1831.
From The Painter Edward Lear by Vivien Noakes, David & Charles
 
    He took what he saw and transformed reality juxtaposing elements in text and visuals. His amusing and humorous creations initially were intended to entertain the children and grandchildren of his patron, Edward Smith-Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby, President of the Zoological Society and later for a world-wide public fan base of children and adults alike.

Pen and Ink Drawing - by Edward Lear
 From A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear, Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics

There Was An Old Man - by Edward Lear
Pen and Ink
From A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear, Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics

   The worlds created by people like Lear, Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss may make no sense to some, but they make perfect sense to me. Fictional nonsense is a gift – it is entertaining.  These texts have hints of our world askew with lots of ridiculous thrown in, perhaps not quite understood, but that’s okay – it’s another world, not our own.

    These alternate universes however strange they seem, are a bit of fun, they inspire me to construct my own alternative universes that welcomed relief from the often relentless, nonsensical and craziness of the outside world – and that world at the minute I’m really struggling to make sense of.

    A sampling of my own nonsensical world written 2nd May 2020

Gwinnipeg
Gwinnipeg from Winnipeg
a perfect penguin with
an extra leg
stuck out of
her head
between
the eyes
a submarine in disguise
in water the foot like a periscope
that can balance balls and bars of soap
or do clever moves like arabesque                                                      
pointing straight up – she likes it best
when swimming the leg like a handsome horn
of the most magnificent unicorn
and when on land she flips and flops
from feet to foot she hops and hops
an acrobat – she’s hard to stop
flipping flopping flipping flopping
flipping flopping
SPLASH!

 
Credits:
Lear, E. (1846). A Book of Nonsense. Everyman’s Library A Book Of Classics. Random House. Germany.
Noakes, V. (1991). The Painter Edward Lear. David & Charles. London.
https://farringford.co.uk/news-events/tennyson-poems-blog/edward-lear-and-tennyson
http://www.prescotmuseum.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Edward-Lear.pdf

Kate Eggleston-Wirtz