Tuesday, 19 February 2019

28 Days ... and the 28 that got away ...


I’ve given up – twenty-eight x four or five months of being floored by this prompt … nothing came to mind … I was working a story – but lethargy struck … so nothing to say but a loss of lots of thoughts and no doubt numerous hours and days – but I won’t count …



So a poem I came across recently – which is so clever … that it would have got printed here at some stage …


An array of subjects printed on a mug from Blackwell’s – the academic bookshop, to be found in Oxford city centre and in other main cities around Britain …  so here goes …


Argue in Archaeology
Buzz in Biology
Chat over Coffee
Dream in Divinity
Explore Economics
Frolic in Forensics
Gambol in Geology
Hasten to Health
Investigate Iberia
Jog in Jurisprudence
Kip in Kinetics
Linger in Linguistics
Mountaineer in Mathematics
Navigate Neurology
Orbit in Ophthalmology
Ponder in Philosophy
Quest in Quandary
Rave in Revolutions
Shelter in Seismology
Tango in Technology
Uncover Universes
Veg out under Volcanoes
Walk on the Wild Side
Yodel in Yoga
Zip through Zoology …


Blackwell's in the Broad, Oxford


… whatever the subject they have it at Blackwells – but even the Knowledge Retailer was not able to help me with Twenty Eight Days – a subject that will forever haunt me!



Apologies to the organisers … this just did not gel … so that’s my hopeless entry per the subject … but fun entry per thought processes … I shall now no longer Harry Hapless Hilary!

An array of errors - c/o The Economist

Twenty-Eight Days of failure … pure failure – but who cares … not me – these things happen!!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Robert Service … “Bard of the North” …


Just sometimes in life we come across quite extraordinary people … whose lives we learn about … Robert Service (1874 – 1958) is one of those … he spent a few years in Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island in his early twenties … after leaving Scotland for new horizons …

 
c 1905 - aged 31

We learn that this imaginative, day-dreaming child was already composing rhythmical verses at the age of 6 … appropriately a delightful child-like grace:

God bless the cakes and bless the jam;
Bless the cheese and the cold boiled ham:
Bless the scones Aunt Jeannie makes,
And saves us all from bellyaches. Amen



Plain boiled ham - this though
looks rather good
Wonderful lives people lead … this six year old had been sent to live with his grandfather, a general store postmaster, and three maiden aunts in Kilwinning, Scotland – there were ten children, so perhaps understandably some got ‘farmed out’ …



Highland Dancer swirling kilt
in the 21st C


… his mother, on her husband’s return from England, came to visit to find her son happily dressed in a kilt with nothing underneath … she took him back to Glasgow!





He was forever reading books, particularly poetry … Burns, Shakespeare, Browning … on leaving school early he apprenticed with the Bank of Scotland … where due to inactivity he developed his craft of writing and “selling verses” …





Driving down towards Cowichan Bay
… as you can imagine he got bored, wanted to travel and at 21 in 1895, journeyed to Vancouver Island, where the family had relatives;  he dreamt of becoming a Buffalo Bill type cowboy having read or seen the Wild West performances in England and Europe.



Corfield Farm - c/o Cowichan Bay Museum Archives
He explored up and down the west coast … just subsisting … returning to the Island he took a job as a cowhand/store-keeper/ also tutor to the farmer’s sons … once again experiencing life to the full … garnering stories …



… it was an idyllic time … later he thought it was time wasted … but to earn a bit more in 1903 he returned to bank work in the capital Victoria … while continuing to write verses …


Railway crossing the North Thomson
River, Kamloops
… very soon the bank sent him to Kamloops (a new railway transportation hub on the mainland) … from there he was sent to Whitehorse, Yukon – a prospectors stop-over on the way to Dawson City to test their luck in the Gold Rush ...  


Still working for the bank, but in a frontier town where entertainment was always needed … Robert continued to write his verses or doggerel … entertaining the wide range of characters chasing their fortune in the frozen ranges.


Sailing north to the Yukon
He was able to amass a collection of ballads, which he sent, to his father, now living in Toronto, asking him to have them printed up into a booklet, which he was going to give to friends in Whitehorse.  He had covered the costs with a cheque …



The booklet true to its title was a self-starter … the foreman and printer recited the ballads while they worked; a salesman read the proofs and sold 1700 copies in advance orders … the publisher sent Robert’s cheque back and offered him a ten percent royalty contract for the book.



 Songs of a Sourdough’ (sourdough – as is the bread starter stored in distinctive pouches by the old miners; and/or as a term for an experienced miner) …


Paying with gold dust, Dawson City

Robert’s life was set – he found he fairly easily was able to draft his works … doggerel, ballads, novels, newspaper articles … making sure they would appeal to the ear and reflect to the eye … he had found his voice …


His cabin in Dawson City - it is still there,
but tourists can only walk round

Coarse rolls of lining paper were hung up … where he copied out his verses using charcoal … refining them, pacing and repeating … until the words flowed.



I could write lots more about this fascinating man – who started life as a boy with no knickers under his kilt, who could write verses without having visited Dawson City … he listened to the miners, parodied their tales …

Films were made,
verses quoted etc

He continued to live in the Yukon writing … but being able to travel went to see other parts of the world … WW1 commenced and he wanted to sign up – but due to varicose veins was rejected … he still wrote for newspapers … after the War he settled in Paris, married but moved to the USA west coast during WW2 …


They holidayed and lived in Brittany
 - which is where he is buried

They returned to France, with Robert living out his days as a wealthy gentleman, who at night transformed himself into a tramp, and together with his doorman, wandered the Parisian streets seeking inspiration …





A collection
That is Robert Service who loved the Yukon, honed his ‘voice’, wrote to entertain, whose words are forever embedded as wonderful ballads, doggerel stanzas, whimsical tales of the frozen north … the small child who could praise ‘cold boiled ham’ …






Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Thursday, 31 January 2019

A barrow by any other name …




A Barrow on the Downs in Sussex, and to Barrow at the tip of northern Alaska … this at least takes me in the direction of Canada!

Panoramic view looking down over Alfriston village,
Cuckmere River is in the valley

 The community of Barrow, Alaska named after Sir John Barrow (1764 – 1848) who was a promoter of Arctic voyages, though appears not to have visited this part of the world, except early in his life he had been to Greenland …

Utqiagvik
(Barrow splodge in blue - sorry!)


The phenomenon ‘polar night’  which occurs when the winter sun disappears for about two months started to reappear to give Barrow some natural light …






Inupiat child from
about 1960
The community of Barrow in December 2016 officially restored the Inupiat’s native name Utqiagvik … which referred to the indigenous Inuit’s derivation ‘a place for gathering wild roots’.



Utqiagvik has been home to the Inupiat for more than 1,500 years – about the same time that the Anglo-Saxons settled Alfriston, on the Downs in East Sussex, in the 5th century AD …



… sometime around 4,500 BC Neolithic (Stone Age) man roamed southern England, cleared the woodland and started farming …


Some of the South Downs Park notice at the
site of Long Burgh
Their funerary mounds are the oldest field monuments surviving visibly in the present landscape … Long Burgh has only relatively recently been cleared to be declared a National Monument within the new National South Downs Park …


… it overlooks the Cuckmere Valley and is 56 metres (184 feet) long, with a width of 20 metres (65 feet) … so as you can see is quite substantial.


 
Long Burgh - looking south west over
the Cuckmere Valley
Unfortunately the barrow over the centuries has been ransacked, with the finds being considered of little value – now however with our technology so much more could be ascertained from the bones, grave contents, surrounding soils and pits … but too late …



English (Welcome to Barrow) and
Inupiaq (Paglagivsigin
Utqiavigmun)


… while in Barrow, Alaska archaeological digs are going on, and as things come to light in England more archaeology is being discovered …



That is the Polar Night at Barrow and Long Burgh Barrow the ‘Ancient Guardian of Alfriston’ … so now I can skip over to concentrate on finishing my Canadian posts … before coming back to other subjects …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 26 January 2019

We are the World Blogfest # 21: Common Sense …



It’s time Common Sense prevailed … first … I need to get my act into gear and get back into the positive land of blogging …




… this month I’ll be following my own prognostications for a better future as I settle back in the UK.



I’ve never worked out why so many follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing … it seems sometimes we act or do without thought as to what is best for us and our own family and friends …

I do my own thing … but don’t help myself and follow through … now I must …

Aristotle - the first person known to
have discussed "common sense"
(see more at Wiki)

Common Sense seems such an easy thing as we’re all born with it – yet others’ influence us and we follow their lead – why not our own?


We know what is good for us … eating healthily and eating what suits our body: early on I realised I didn’t like eating breakfast … or eating before playing a squash match … which meant I ate very little during the day … I survived and it suited me …



I’ve always eaten lots of vegetables and fruits and know that they are essential to my stay on earth – whereas bread I should (and usually do) avoid … as you can see above I enjoyed ball sports, so had lots of exercise …


It is mind over matter … Common Sense in all our dealings with the world and for goodness sake read between, and behind, the lines (don’t believe the one-liners) … so follow the Three Wise Monkeys …


See no evil
Speak no evil
Hear no evil

… that way people will never forget how you make them feel … you will be leaving positivity behind you …


The three wise monkeys in brass
Good luck to us all – let’s think, be prepared to compromise – we do it all the time in life … and cheerfully chat things through … remaining friends with smiling eyes …


 
… while for us fellow #WATWB writers we will visit other contributors, to read their thoughts and stories to spread peace and humanity around the world.



Remember Common Sense:  

We are the World … In Darkness, Be Light     
         
Let us go about our 2019 lives letting light and hope in …


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Just So … life goes on …




Another year … and I feel the same as I did that January day seven decades and one ago … well perhaps not – I guess I was a squawking new born …

A few more candles needed this year!

… my uncle came to see his younger brother and the family’s first born … then constantly reminded me through the decades – whether we were in Johannesburg, Cape Town, or here in Surrey/ Sussex – how mighty cold it was that year … thankfully 2019, so far, is giving us an easy ride – not like the European blizzards …


Today starts the 11th year .... 

 Another celebration happens with this post – I’ve been blogging ten whole years … amazing … I cannot believe that I’ve kept it up, settled into a ‘way of life’ …





… teaching myself so much, opening doors to other disciplines … and before another year goes by or I get too much older I must broaden my horizons further …


So for now – the Just So exhibition at Bateman’s in the two weeks after Christmas inspired the title … ‘Just So …’ as Kipling’s daughter demanded he repeated his stories exactly … just so



That's a clear glass in the centre - looks slightly odd in the
photo - luxurious colours ... 

The National Trust had decorated the house in rich Indian colours … set out the various story lines for the children, and let us adults peruse many of his creative achievements (words and art particularly) – as too his father’s and other connections …


How the rhinoceros got his skin -
Kipling woodcut - December 1901


We are lucky to have these great story tellers to tell us about life of the past, in different countries … and to set the scenes so well for us …







Batemans glowing in the winter light

I went out with some friends, as I now don’t have a car, and they are kindly taking me over to lunch at my brother’s house at Alfriston on the edge of the Sussex Downs … sadly other friends are away or ill … it’s that time of year … but …




Camel decoration ... 
I’m off now – another year wiser mainly about Canada: those posts I will continue – and who knows what happens next as we are living history as it happens (something I thought I’d never see) …






Alfriston Clergy House - the first National Trust property -
purchased in 1896 for ten pounds sterling

Thanks for all your support through the years … I’ve loved interacting with so many of you – and feel I’ve friends around the world … and I know from the few I’ve met – that is the case …



 


Here’s to a happy, healthy year to you all …



Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday, 6 January 2019

New Beginnings ...



New Year and being able to be back in my homeland … bliss – I loved Canada and definitely would like to see more at some stage … as you’ll find out in my future posts …

New Beginnings ... the gateway
to Bateman's:
Rudyard Kipling's home

It’s a wonderful country and I was really lucky to be able to get out and meet lots of new friends round and about on Vancouver Island and briefly seeing Vancouver on the mainland – fascinating city …




I had a stopover in Calgary … not having to leave the hotel til mid-day helped – and would have been fine, but West Jet lost a computer somewhere and needed a new one before we flew on to Gatwick … 


Father bear ... totally magnificent to look at


... so an extra few hours ‘floating around’ the airport wasn’t desperately helpful … a young English engineer and I chatted for a couple of hours …




Family of bears on the concourse
Some bears were encountered on the concourse – beautiful sculptures by Stewart Steinhauer … which were hand-carved from granite, then polished, bush-hammered. Finally being placed on flamed granite bases … they were stunning to see and duly admire.





(A bush hammer is a masonry tool used to texturise stone and concrete … or in this case the igneous rock ‘granite’.)
 




Life has been a matter of adjusting to a situation I wasn’t expecting for another year … I am really grateful to my brother for finding a flat for me for the time being – it’s furnished – so that made it easy … my things are in store until November … which gives me time to make some decisions.



Sussex Downland ... Spring is on its way!


The first twelve days I spent with my brother and SIL … as there was a lot going on there … I’d come into Eastbourne when I could to acclimatise myself, get to a few University of the Third Age ‘classes’  and other meetings that were going on … and of course bump into ‘old friends’ as I was walking around.





Then settling in … life continued on – other group meetings, friends to see, parties to go to … and so on … it’s taking a while to work out where I’m at … but am getting there …



Location of Eastbourne for info ...
courtesy of Brighton University


We’re in the New Year of 2019 and this time of year two more anniversaries cross my horizons … so I’ll be up and running by the weekend … Sunday …





But thanks for all your well-wishing comments on my return to this little island … I’m glad I’m home – even turbulent times equals history in the making …


Take care and all the very best for us all as we move further into 2019 – Happy New Year …


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 3 December 2018

Up Up and Away … Goodbye to Canada …




I will have arrived back in little old England and will be back in my old home town of Eastbourne … by the time you read this …


Seven Sisters and Cuckmere cottages
... having left on Thursday 29th … overnight at Calgary, arrive back at Gatwick in the middle of the morning on Saturday 1st December … being collected – I’m glad to say with my luggage! – by my brother …




I think I have a flat to go to … need to sort that out and should be in by the middle of December … a few things are planned after that – and then I’ll be settling in to normality …

Eastbourne panorama looking east towards Hastings


Reefs seen from the float plane


… my friends, and those in the various organisations I belong to – haven’t forgotten me – and so I’ll be back going to talks etc … at least my brain won’t atrophy …




The bays - Cowichan Bay

Once I’m up and settled then I’ll be back to normal – though may just take my time til early January 2019 – oh how time flyeth …



Victoria from a float plane trip





 I will miss lots about living here – it’s been a pleasure and I look forward to coming back at some stage … views to die for, opportunities not to miss,  food and vino I've enjoyed ... 






When I was out the other day ...
My wine tour was conducted by Cheers Cowichan ... and is well worth doing - they pick you up ... from all over the show - eg Villa Eyrie ... a place I'd love to visit ... 




BlueGrouseEstate Winery … present owners have knowledge of Peruvian vineyard as they lived down there … 









Avocado and Crab salad at Cow Cafe


Zanatta – lunch here … Vinoteca restaurant ... see Monday's and Friday's posts ... 









Island Oysters 'Antoine' with pernod at Cow Cafe


Enrico Winery  ... another vineyard with a difference ... 


CherryPoint – very early vineyard, then taken over by First Nations, then bought back and now a vineyard again …




Trees, trees, old and new
One last story appropriate to this ever changing world …

I was in one of the local liquor stores ... and two, what (in England) I would call construction guys - but here ... probably loggers or similar ... I'm waiting to pay by the open door ... 

Cowichan estuary looking out from a hide


... there's a heavy smell - almost dung, tobacco, brewery extracts ... I remark on it ... the cashier looks at me and looks at them ... I'm oblivious and keeping a cheery face ... 



I never saw one of these ... but love the board
letting us know they are around - wildlife will be missed


... they are in the other queue (not to say there's a queue often in this part of Canada) buying their evening drink ... 



Cannabis



I wonder where the smell is coming from ... as do the others ... but it's a sort of 'difficult' situation - anyways I pays my way and offs I go ...






Cowichan harbour - floating homes
I go in again about a week later - and the cashier says - oh you remember those guys: yes, I say ... they came in earlier today too - and as they came through, they asked me if that English lady was here??!!






History - these plots were allocated
to the early settlers ... and I have
to tell you more about these maps -
they are on show in Cobble Hill

No - she says and they apparently all have another good laugh - which I will now join in with ... they'd been smoking cannabis ... gosh it reeks and hangs around ... 

We laugh away ... with more repartee ... and comments about these working lads - and my English accent ... then I say I'm going home and she says - oh no ... I'm so enjoying your company ... I'll miss your way with words and conversation ... 





The evening sun glistening through some
of the many trees


So for now – goodbye Canada … and yes for my blogging friends I will continue with my pioneering series, 



and other things I'd like to alert you to - an art gallery, a perfumier par excellence in my book, and lots of other subjects that I've never got round to ... so Canada will continue from the coast of little old England.


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories