Thursday 23 November 2023

Diaghilev – pared down …


Poor chap – his story here on my blog keeps getting shorter – too much going … while Diaghilev (1872 - 1929), the impresario, deserves serious treatment – bearing in mind the influence he had on Russian and ultimately Western culture …

His mother died in childbirth, but he was lucky and had a very rewarding relationship with his step-mother … he confided in her and wrote to her throughout her life … in the biography by Sjeng Scheijen we are privy to a great many snippets of these eye-opening communications.

His early life was surrounded by a large family and friends in Perm, near the Ural mountains … where they'd created a local cultural centre – and where he sang, composed and read voraciously. Also he was always surrounded by dictionaries and maps – constantly curious and wanting more knowledge.

Perm was near Yekaterinburg, where the family of Tsar Nicholas was executed in 1918.

Siberian route across Russia into China

The town was founded in 1723 by Peter the Great (1672 - 1725), and is named after his wife. The city has two important connections … it served as the mining capital of the Russian Empire (1721 - 1917), as well as a strategic connection between Europe and Asia.

In 1781, Catherine the Great (1729 - 1796), continued the important Siberian Route through Perm. (The route ran from Moscow, via Mongolia, into China, west of Beijing).

Diaghilev by Rostislav Doboujinsky
(1903 - 2000) - showing his shock
of white hair

So this mercurial man with his overflowing confidence, many mood swings, was ready for a life of distinction … taking creativity to new horizons at the start of the 20th century … particularly his inherent ability to perceive the genius of others.

It was during his University years in St Petersburg that he was able to look around to find his true interests in life - particularly Russian and Western art, as well as his literary knowledge … he came to be respected as one of the most learned men in the group.

He promoted talented youngsters … one of these was the Ballets Russes' star dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky (1889 – 1950) … who became one of his lovers.

Nijinsky by Valentin Serov
(1865 - 1911)

Sadly Nijinsky was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a very young age and for nearly 30 years was in and out of psychiatric hospitals and asylums …

Diaghilev, who lived the high life, lived from pay-check to pay-check, but always ensuring the needs of his dancers and company were met. In his latter years his passion turned to collecting rare books - of which there were many significant ones.

He had developed diabetes … refusing to change his life-style … however one thing he feared was dying in water, and as far as possible avoided travelling by boat.

Isola San Michele, Venice

He loved Venice managing to reach there just before his death in 1929.  At the end he was broke, broke … but his debts were settled by friends … including Coco Chanel … however he had reached his beloved Venice.

As you can see my notes - ran to 
14 pages of scruffiness!

His tomb is on the nearby island of San Michele – the island has served as the principal cemetery of Venice since 1807.

Diaghilev continues to influence and be remembered both here in the west and in Russia – one hopes that will continue.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday 12 November 2023

Remembrance … Nothing Changes …


We need Peace for all humans who live on this earth, and then hope that all those humans respect each other … while considering, appreciating and giving due regard to our world as our lives unfold …

The Peace Poppy

The 'Tower Hill Madonna' sculpture by Jacquie Binns – artist, embroiderer and sculptor - expresses opposites, inspiring the themes of peace and pain.

The Tower Hill Madonna

Jacquie used these for her reflective sculpture which the commemorative plaque at All Hallows-by-the-Tower, London explains.

Photo credit: Anabel of
The Glasgow Gallivanter

c/o Jacquie Binns' Church Textiles site … 'The Tower Hill Madonna' …

c/o Anabel as the Glasgow Gallivanter blogger – posted about the church on the Footsteps of Pepys …

With thoughts on this Remembrance Sunday

Peace Lily

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday 6 November 2023

Brief Update … Diaghilev and Eastbourne's contemporary art …


Life's been a bit more obtuse than it need have been recently … so I'm way behind and have been happily procrastinating … not helped with the Middle East developments.

Diaghilev with his
beloved nanny 1905
by Leon Bakst

I've been reading about Sergei Diaghilev (1872 - 1929) (Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and more)– which I found far more fascinating than I thought I would – and again those rabbit holes appeared!

Life's always interesting … the Turner Prize Exhibition is up and running at our amazing local Towner Art Gallery …

This is a guide for young
people engaging with
galleries and contemporary
art (produced earlier in 2023)

contemporary art – which was mostly unfathomable - ?!, so I need to go back and quietly spend time working out what's what … yet oddly the first exhibitions Diaghilev put on in St Petersburg in the late 1890s were intended to introduce contemporary artists to the local public, and later, to the Europeans.

One of the advertising banners around town

while within the town Eastbourne ALIVE – is a separate ambitious project working with young cultural partners in and around the resort's landscape orbit … 

This is an excellent society
in our town - very professional

... I need to explore. Obviously linked to the Turner Prize … we're awash with art around here … fortunately not washed away in the storms.

Beachy Head, Sussex - tree 'well mangled'
by many storms over the years

This was meant to be very short … but I obviously don't do that … rabbit holes abound …

Boiler didn't much like the stormy gales -
this is Newlyn pier in Cornwall - where
my mother lived for 40+ years

I will catch up … boiler withstanding – that's been bad again – it'd be nice if things would behave!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday 26 October 2023

Lenny Lee's turned 24 …


I expect and hope many of you remember Lenny from days of yore … he and I keep in touch …

Lenny Lee's world
He was always brilliant for my mother – she loved all the prezzies he sent her … and enjoyed the repartee he gave us …

It was back in 2011 that many of us wrote a cheering post for him … as he was at the start of a loooong journey – still continuing today …

Hardwick, Muddy Hippo, Zdena

and from me came, in 2012, another earworm (after my Phantom earworm) … Mud, Mud Glorious Mud by Flanders and Swann ...

he then sent us Muddy Hippo, while later in 2012, after my mother had died, Hardwick joined in for Lenny's 13th birthday …

Lots of choice

then Zdena joined the party at the end of my Aspects of British Cookery …

Cheese and Wine

So please from all around the world wish Lenny an easier time ahead … apparently a friend came round for (what I call supper!) dinner, with some Chinese dishes, together with some vino … I'm sure they enjoyed themselves ... 

Damyanti's book arrived a day early ... 
Diaghilev's post still being worked on ... there's
a Finnish connection

My next post will not contain an earworm … and will be on Diaghilev … all things being considered …

Z is for Zdena … the follower of Bacchus, the wine god …

Lenny Lee – Fest … Spreading sunshine for him …

Hardwick's Nose … he smelt a Birthday Party – Hardwick doesn't miss much! …

Zdena - very cheerful, Hardwick ... really
wanting to sleep - he's a very old boy now -
getting on for 100 I think ... while
Muddy Hippo just makes a mess!!

I just remembered - Lenny won a WEP prompt back in June 2022 - which explains his situation a little ... a boy who grieves for the sudden loss of his mother ... a poignant letter ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday 20 October 2023

Write … Edit … Publish … Bloghop /IWSG hop: Phantom of the Opera …


The poor Phantom has been forced to reappear in the 21st century with the most irreverent production he could possibly be in …

Lon Chaney as Erik, The Phantom,
in Universal's 1925 silent film version

an advert for Bile Beans … now where did she get that idea from? Bile Beans …

Bile Beans … c/o Edward Lear … no, no, poor dear would not go near Edward Lear with her Bile Beans ad, even if he did craft this first limerick,    but not the second ...

There was an Old Man of the Nile,

Who sharpened his nails with a file,

Till he cut out his thumbs,

And said calmly, 'This comes

Of sharpening one's nails with a file!

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit

Beans, beans, the musical fruit

The more you eat, the more you toot

The more you toot, the better you feel.

So let's have beans with every meal!

Now the poor Phantom was totally bemused, also worried about this query …


Phantom – can I come in?

I don't know, can you?

Cursing quietly, the vampire backed away, foiled yet again by the English teacher's pedantry.

Another … 'scathingly brilliant idea' …

Bile on the Nile … File on Dial …

Beans Need … Jean Cleats …

She now Weeps, the Phantom Sleeps

Is she a vampile, or a phantomile ...?

Frontispiece to the sheet music
for the 'Bile Bean March'

Phantom you'd better enrol this strange dribbling living being into an English class … so she can put those grey cells to work on something sensible, rather than how to toot musical fruit

She's a little older now - but
back then the Phantom was
interested .....

Surely Phantom in all your one hundred and twenty four years of being published you'd have something sensible to help this poor lady write about you … please come out of the woodwork, or slither down the ghostly advert for Bile Beans … Vile Beans …

Found in York, England

Tag line: Who But Me Could Come Up with This Post for the poor Phantom (of the Opera) prompt – I feel for him … I wonder if they had Bile Beans on the Nile …

Bile Beans information! - a crossing continents fraudulent concoction ... 

Edward Lear Nile limerick ... - there are some other limericks following on - which all make interesting reads ... no Phantoms though ... 

Apologies to all who read this … especially to Gordon Leroux, who penned the novel Le Fantome de l'Opera in 1909

Gordon Leroux c/ Wiki

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 17 October 2023

Brief Update ... Diaghilev and WEP Phantom of the Opera


Life's been a bit more obtuse than it need have been recently … so I'm way behind and have been happily procrastinating … not helped with the Middle East developments.

Diaghilev with his nanny in
1905 by Leon Bakst
I've been reading about Sergei Diaghilev (1872 - 1929) (Russian art critic, patron, ballet impressario and more) – which I found far more fascinating than I thought I would – and again those rabbit holes appeared! So an interesting, I hope, post will appear after WEP … WEP will be 'odd' too …

Life's always interesting … the Turner Prize Exhibition is up and running at our amazing local Towner Art Gallery …

This is part of the adjunct exhibitions
happening in conjunction with the
Turner Prize at the Towner Art Gallery

while within the town is Eastbourne ALIVE – an ambitious project (an adjunct to the Turner Prize) working with cultural partners in and around the resort's landscape orbit … I need to explore.

This was meant to be very short … but I obviously don't do that … rabbit holes abound …

Palais Garnier Opera House - by
Louis Beroud (1877)

So next (this week) comes Write Edit Publish – Phantom of the Opera … another quirky tale from me …

I will catch up … boiler withstanding – that's been bad again – it'd be nice if things would behave!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Postive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Poly-Olbion ... colouring-in books ...


Poly-Olbion is a topographic poem depicting the counties in England and Wales, written by Michael Drayton (1563 – 1631) and published in 1612, with a reprint in 1622.

Part of Cornwall - showing 
St Michael's Mount and the Scilly Isles
Drayton was an English poet, specialising in historical poetry, who came to prominence in the Elizabethan era. Every poem was anthropomorphised … then brought to artistic life by William Hole, a skilled engraver, who died in 1624 (his d.o.b.) is uncertain.

Poly-Olbion came to my notice (somehow) as colouring books– so guess who had to investigate...

Drayton had adopted the concept of celebrating all the points of topographical or antiquarian interest in his homeland …

Title page of Poly-Olbion -
as engraved on copper
plate by William Hole
in 1624

Albion's Glorious Ile – 'Of Albion's glorious Ile – I write.' - Drayton's used the rhetorical device of prosopopoeia throughout his song-poems.

As I didn't understand it – for elucidation: to remind me and let you know … prosopopoeia is when (in this case) an abstract thing is personified

River Severn - showing south Wales, with
the English of St George on the pennant,
on the opposite shore
England in the 1500s had very few roads, when the rivers were an important and mythologised natural feature – which the poem eulogises …

Part of the blurb 'as we move from place to place: an extraordinary textual repository of English and Welsh history, topography, legends, wildlife and traditions is amassed'.

Possibly depicting Boudica - Queen of
the Iceni tribe - which resided in
Norfolk, by the city of Norwich

Every subject imaginable is considered: Roman builders, English saints, the birds of Arden Forest, Dutch settlers, the great sheep of the Cotswolds, falconry, Robin Hood, sea monsters, Druidry, civil wars, herbal cures.

Quite honestly – that's even more than my brain carries! - it has been boggling at these songs/ poems …

Well I think perhaps I'd better just get to why I'm writing this post … when I was out in Canada I came across adults' colouring art pages … but quite honestly they didn't do anything for me …

Cover for one of the volumes

Then these colouring books appeared and I was entranced – whether I actually sit and colour them in is another matter – being somewhat incompetent in that area …

Who'd have thought the art of colouring was popular during the 17th century and beyond – when many of the original monochrome copies of these maps would be hand-coloured by both amateur and professional colourists.

Showing a coloured version
from earlier times - this is
part of Worcestershire

If you feel another post could enhance this one to add a bit more information – then I'll give it a go next time …

A few links: The University of Exeter's takes you to the others, with some explanatory details set out … particularly relevant are that the workshops were delivered for children, with Special Education Needs, mainly in the South-West region of England … the Royal Geographical Society was also involved.

Flash of Splendour's logo

The University of Exeter's involvement

Flash of Splendour Arts

The Poly-Olbion Project/s … the children's project ran concurrently with the scholarly version …

Michael Drayton c/o Wikipedia

PS - the books are now out of print ... so I was lucky to have found some ... publication was in 2015 ... so time has passed.

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Society

Thursday 21 September 2023

The Cornish are a Nation …


This was not the intended post … that's coming … but this intrigued me … being a committed Cornishlady …

The three ancient
continental land masses

I must have been looking for something (understatement) but came across this Facebook post from the University of Plymouth … at the boundary of Cornwall and Devon …

it was subtitled: Cornwall – a different people, a different land! - though I wasn't born there (my mother's family is from St Ives) … this could so easily apply to me.

I've plagiarised/ summarised /messed with their 2019 FB post – but linked back so you can see the whole …

World Heritage Mining Walk
(Botallack is marked -
part of 'The Crown Mine' estate)

Geology has always fascinated me … and coming from the land of the tin mines, it makes sense – in fact my disastrous marriage was celebrated in a tin mine counting house at Botallack … the culinary celebration was very good – the rest: not so …

I wrote about Bewitching Breeches at Botallack for my 'B' post in the 2015 A-Z challenge 'Aspects of British Cornish.


The University of Plymouth believe that a third ancient continental land mass melded this Albion isle … as shown in the image posted above …

It's been known that Avalonia formed most of England, which then formed an attachment to Laurasia … part of the Laurentian land mass, which at one stage formed part of the ancient continent of Euramerica/Laurussia …

It always amazes me that these continental plates 'moved around' so much, and at one stage (long, long ago) we could have walked to north America …

Folded old red sandstone rock formation
at St Anne's, Wales

...the Old Red Sandstone is an assemblage of rocks in the North Atlantic region – which extends from Great Britain, Ireland and Norway across to Greenland and northern eastern Canada and the USA …

Another A – Z post on Aspects of British Coasts – the 'G' post: G is for Geology, Gneiss, Groynes, 'Grippers' … gives another view …

Geology of Great Britain (see Wiki)

I think I've probably almost ruined the idea about the world and its tectonic plates … but there is a link – to my next incredible story … colouring books from the 1600s – who'd have thought?!

Patience is a virtue … thanks for reading though …

The ancient Celtic tribes of southern
England (Dumnonii - Cornwall and Devon)

University of Plymouth Facebook post September 2019;

Avalonia – c/o Wikipedia

Laurasia – c/o Wikipedia

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories