Poetry Music Images

Poetry in Enfield from Henry VIII to Enfield Poets – part one, Henry VIII

Poetry fills Enfield’s air, seeps out of the ground so it is no wonder so many poets are associated with this North London Borough.  The first for me is:Henry-VIII1



Henry VIII who liked to hunt in the vast forest that was the Royal Chase.









His palace, Elsynge was located in, what are now, the grounds of Forty Hall.





[6533] Elsyng

Each year the Enfield Archaeological Society excavate the ruins but have to refill them as the masonry is of such poor quality and would deteriorate if left exposed to the atmosphere:  though current thinking is that Elsynge was every bit as grand as Hampton Court.  It was certainly his favourite palace and was probably more of a family home.  His children Edward and Elizabeth spent a lot of time there and it is where they were told of their father’s death and that Edward was to be king. It is thought that much of the planning of the Reformation was carried out here.  Nearby Waltham Abbey was the last monastery to be dissolved as the abbot was a friend of Henry.

Elsgyne site from House



Looking down towards the site of Elsynge Palace from the second floor of Forty Hall.





In Henry’s time less than 10% of the population were literate.  It was important for the monarch to be perceived as cultured as well as having physical prowess and power,  It was the time of courtly love and romance and Henry writing poetry was in keeping with the times.  Not a great poet by any means but he spent time on it and I feel that a relaxed atmosphere at Elsynge and the hunting encouraged this creative side of the monarch.  He often used his poetry as a political tool, reminding all that he was King and that his will should prevail.

When researching for this blog I was very pleased to discover a book edited by Peter C Herman “Reading Monarchs Writing” which has a series of essays and examples of the poetry of Henry VIII, Mary Stuart, Elizabeth I and James VI/I. Apart from Mary Stuart all had lived in Enfield at one time or another.  I emailed Peter Herman who gave me permission to quote from his book and here is one of Henry’s poems.  It is very political.  Though it begins in a defensive apologetic mood, it ends with an overt statement of Royal power.

Though some say that youth rules me,
I trust in age to tarry.
God and my right, and my duty,
From them shall  I never vary,
Though some say that youth rules me.

I pray you all that aged be
How well did you your youth carry?
I think some worse of each degree.
Therein a wager lay dare I,
Though some say that youth rules me.

Pastimes of youth some time among–
None can say but necessary.
I hurt no man, I do no wrong,
I love true where I did marry,
Though some say that youth rules me.

Then soon discuss that hence we must.
Pray we to God and Saint Mary
That all amend, and here an end.

Thus says the King, the eighth Harry,
Though some say that youth rules me.

Finally a poem that sums Henry up I feel.  It is rather long so I give just the first stanza.

The Kings Ballad

Pastime with good company
I love and shall until I die.
Grudge who likes, but none deny;
So God be pleased, thus live will I,
      For my pastance:
Hunt, sing, and dance.



Poetry Music Images

Lebanese Cedar in Enfield – the first in Europe

Dr Robert Uvedale planted the first Lebanese Cedar in Europe In the grounds of Enfield Palace, roughly where Pearson’s the department store now is,  somewhere between 1662 and 1670.

This is a woodcut showing the tree growing at the back of the palace in, perhaps, the late 19th century.

Enfield Manor House (palace)

Image courtesy of the Enfield Local History library

In 1920 Enfield council demolished the Palace and cut down the tree.  Lloyd George was prime Minister but I suspect it was a Conservative Council who perpetrated this deed.  Luckily he planted a second one on the grounds of Forty Hall and this is still there.

Forty Hall Feature 2

Unfortunately a large branch fell off a few years ago and the bowl in the feature image above was turned from this by a local craftsman.

To mark the spot a Silver Birch has been planted approximately where the tree grew, alongside a granite stele giving details.

Enfield site of cedar edit

It is a pioneer tree, that is to say it is one of the first to occupy land.  It spread across Britain after the last ice age so it is a native of our island which was, in those times, still connected to continental Europe.   I think it an interesting metaphor that the Silver Birch has been chosen the represent a tree as exotic as the Lebanese Cedar which did not arrive on our shores until the late 17th century.

Poetry Music Images

Amelita Galli and Shop Windows

The quality of acoustically recorded, shellac records is often quite remarkable.  Electric microphones were not introduced until 1925 and before then the soloist had to perform into a horn which carried sound to a transducer that converted it to vibrations that were then cut into a wax disc – see link for more detail.

Here is a link to a YouTube video showing the post recording disk-making  process.  They are using microphones to make the recording and the master disc is made of different material but the plating process and stamping is the same as it always has been.  It is about 5 minutes long.

What was achieved by the early record producers and artists was remarkable.  Originally sound was stamped onto just one side of the disk and these can have quite splendid graphics pressed into the back.  They are also heavier, most satisfying to handle.

Back of one sided 78

From time to time I have bought old 78s and have a small collection in boxes that I need to get  out of the junk room and go through them as I have the postcards. It will remind me of why I bought them.

Rootling around in my video files I came across one I made of playing a recording of Amelita Galli ; I had quite forgotten it.  Here are a couple of images I have of her,

She has a beautiful voice.

As it is boring to watch a disk playing I thought to add a slide show of photos of shop windows – there is one exception but it is taken through glass.  These fascinate me with their colour, designs, sometimes flamboyant sometimes plain and, of course, often with interesting reflections, even of me!  I have been trying to think of a poem but so far one has not come to me so, as I wanted to use the photos, I used them in the short video below which I hope that you will play and enjoy.

Poetry Music Images, ST Maixent l'Ecole

Memories in photos and postcards

I like the featured image above, the shapes and colours its weirdness. It is also a memory of a wonderful weekend Valerie and I spent in Berlin.  We went down into a subterranean shopping mall and the complexity of what I was seeing struck me and cried out “photograph me”.  That night we were serenaded at our dinner table under the moon and stars by a guitar and violin; the next day it was curry wurst and chips in a converted railway dining car.

The image may be around in a hundred years and someone may like it but will not be aware of what it means to me.

Looking through my collection of postcards over the last couple of days,  I was reminded of why, from time-to-time, I buy them ; I like those from between 1900 and 1920.  They are often beautiful images, sometimes  smaltzy, cheeky and carry memories in the messages on the back.  I preferred used cards as it is a link to people in the past.  How they were produced is also interesting and I hope to write about this in the near future.

Market Place


This is of the market in Enfield Town.  The post date is 1908. As the split back for both message and address did not come into effect in 1904 it may be the photo was taken between these dates.


Market Place back


The message on the back apologises for not coming that day as the writer had had an accident with their horse and would  C. Boosey bring them round on Monday -I think.


Enfield Market Nov 2017


Yesterday I took a photo of the market from about the same place.  The church is dwarfed by trees, the pine on the left is only half way up the tower on the postcard.  The cast-iron bollards are replacements though in the same place.  Pub, and the central structure are still there but mostly hidden by cars and fast food outlets.

St Mary photo back

The cards above  are of St. Mary Magdalene at the top of Windmill Hill.  The sails were taken off the windmill in 1901 and it was demolished in 1904 so the photo and the painting show the scene between these dates.  I feel the painting may be taken from the photograph.  The photo graph was posted to Hants. saying this is our church; can’t read the rest.  Here is a photo of the same scene, taken yesterday, from about the same spot yesterday.

St Mary Magdelene Nov 2017

Not a rural scene now with a farm horse but farms still form 22% of Enfield’s area though 51% is built on.  I suppose the tiled tower is a reference to the windmill though it was a smock windmill which refers to its shape I imagine.

Our French house is in St Maixent L’Ecole where the Porte Chalon is one of the notable buildings.  It is a triumphal arch built in the late 18th century.  Last month we found a postcard of the view from the road.

Porte Chalon road side


It is so busy, covered with fly posters and the writer has continued the message on the front a hangover from the time the back could only be used for an address. this changed in 1904.  the card is of about this time I think.


Porte Chalon road side back

It is impossible for me to understand much of the messages on French postcards but I enjoy just looking at the script. Some are so beautiful.  Mougon is a nearby town and was posted to someone in the same town.  Telephones were rare then.


Porte Chalon from road photo


Here is a photo taken from about the same spot.  see how clean and shiny it is.  The right hand side is now the tourist office.



Porte Chalon from Rue Chalon

And here is the view from Rue Chalon, the other side.  The yellow is hand tinting.  The clothes look about 1910 or just before.  It was much busier then,



Porte Chalon from Rue Chalon Photo




as you can see from a photo from, again, the same spot.  Behind me in Rue Chalon there are sometimes 20 empty shops in a street of about 300 metres.  There is a good food market and street market on Saturdays and it is much busier then.





I just remembered an Audio Visual I made a while ago which has a bit on St Maixent l’Ecole at the end. An early one for me but it was fun making it.


Hope you liked it.





Photographs, Poetry Music Images

Reflections and photos in France – and Torbay

Cameras today are mini computers with a lens fitted; the software is amazing and something I have not yet got to grips with.  Making taking photographs easier has created another problem of being able to use very complicated systems to fully utilise what is on offer.  During our trip to France this month, I resolved to try to get to understand some of the sytems available.  The scene options I soon discarded as they seem to ruin an image and Photoshop can reproduce the effects anyway.  The exception is perhaps the black and white setting which gives a good photo.



I used a polarising filter which organises light and this is why the reflections are dramatic.  In addition I learnt how to use manual focus which gives better control over the shot.




This is fuzzy at the edge as I used an effect but you can see how clear the colours and reflections are due the polarising filter.




The left image below is looking upstream and you can see the fish-viewing windows on the left the right hand photo looks down stream so they are on  the right.  The clarity of colour can be seen.

A polarising filter also cuts out reflections on water but, fool that I am, I did not use it for the following shots.  Some of the carp are over 50 cm. long.

Though I think that not all reflections are bad, they can add an ethereal quality to the photos such as in the one below which is of a sunken dinghy outside of the kitchen window.  You can just see one of the ten carp investigating.

2017 sunken dinghy and carp at Epron

The telephoto lens is great fun and for the following shot I used it with manual focus. The spider was only about 5mm long and I was about three metres away.  It hangs around the balcony on one of the railings.


The railing he – or she – inhabits is to the right, out of shot.  It was our coffee break.


Writing this, looking at the images made me think of how it was 15 years ago.  One of my first A/Vs, Epron,   starts and finishes at our house a decade ago and you may care to watch it.  It is not too long  and it gives an idea of how it was after a couple of years renovation.  In the beginning there were no doors, roof or windows.  Just 200 year old stone walls.

Niort is a biggish town nearby.  It has a food market and some odd shops such as this Broccante.  It must have been 75 metres long altogether.  The proprietor sat reading at a table in the entrance and was taking no notice of what was going on.  It is near the river featured in the headline image.

2017 Bricante Niort

Reflections fascinate me and I spotted a good one in the glass front of the food market.
The colours and contrasts the slight confusion caused by the reflection intrigued me.

Niort Reflections

I then noticed the figure on the left so I zoomed in.  She was about 250 metres away but the camera telephoto coped very well.

2017 Meditation Niort



I like the vertical lines and the different blues.  Even though it was a long distance photo I was able to crop it and still have a reasonable and fascinating image.



2017 Niort Meditation crop 2

Even if the image is poor good old Photoshop can transform it as this profile shot, which I cropped from the main food hall image above, demonstrates.  I used an ink outline function.  Again it is the vertical lines and blues I find interesting.

Time came to leave and we made our way to Roscoff via Quimper where we stayed the night and what a lovely town it is.  Beautiful, gentle, creative and the hotel, Best Western Hotel Kregenn was fabulous, quiet, welcoming and we both had a good nights sleep.  Quimper is well worth a visit.








Here is a night shot taken with my ever-present iPhone










and here a day shot taken with a camera.





The street with a single woman walking down seemed an evocative shot; a slope, clean and no litter with the bollards at the end.  I like roof tops as well as reflections.  The roofs were taken from our hotel window.

We set off for Roscoff but first Valerie wanted to see Brest as it was such a strategic town in World War II.  We didn’t stop so there are no photographs.  We were amazed as to how many large factories there were along the coast.  Every thing seemed new.  We then headed towards Brignogan-Plage .  The tide was out but the beach looked so interesting with rocks, the boats and trees.  I tried out the panoramic setting; I am still amazed by this feature of modern cameras.

2107 Panoramic beach Brittany Brignogan-plage

We had a picnic of bread with goose rillet, cheese and tomatoes with tea made with water from our trusty Thermos.  It is not mentioned in Wikipedia but I believe it was invented in Enfield




The bench was too wet to sit on but was a lovely blue





2017 red boat and tree Brittany




and the red boat looked very pretty.




The wind was getting up as we set off for the ferry and I was not looking forward to crossing in the tail end of hurricane Ophelia.  I sailed a lot with my Dad, in the Thames Estuary, but was never a good sailor.  Fortunately I was OK  I suspect that the hardening of the bristles in my inner ear which causes my age related deafness, afforded me protection to this dreadful condition.

After a night in a noisy hotel room in Torbay we went to hear our friend Jennifer Johnson read at the Torbay Poetry Festival.  This is one of the first such festivals in England and is a well known event on the poetry scene held in the Livermead Cliff Hotel with a wonderful view over the bay.  I like to hear Jennifer read.  Her poems have an honest, well observed quality and are sensitive and heartfelt.

Jenny Torbay

As I was listening I spotted yet an another interesting reflection with commere and organiser Patricia Oxley and one of the audience so out came the iPhone again.

Reflections Torbay

A final look at the fish at Epron.  As the wall of the house is the bank of the leat, we can watch them from our kitchen window.  As the leat or millstream, is surrounded by private land the fish are safe from fishermen so it is a form of sanctuary.  This year there were ten large carp and myriads of little fishes about 10cm long.  It is lovely to watch them, both a beautiful and calming experience.  Here is a short clip of a couple of meandering carp.





poems,, Poetry Music Images

Enfield Poem-a-Thon at the Dugdale, Enfield, October 1st 2017

Enfield has  long  nurtured poets starting with Henry VIII.  On October 1st this year 53 poets came together to voice their poems in 8 minutes slots between 10am and 7pm.  It was  the brainchild of Enfield poet Maggie Butt

Poet Maggie Butt

and organised by her and fellow poet Cheryl Moskowitz

Poet Cheryl

Not only was it  an exciting and vigorous day it finished on time!  An impressive feat of organisation; formidable.  It was held in the Dugdale Art Centre and a large part of the success of the project was due to the help and support given by both management and staff.  The readings took place in the toy and games museum and in one of the photos you can see “scrabble” which was, for a long time,made in Enfield.  The Centre is a good venue for poetry and  Enfield Poets , who are poets in residence at the Dugdale, meet in one of the rooms on the first floor.

Getting ready





Getting ready to start.








The aim was to raise money for Enfield Refugee Welcome  to enable a refugee family settle in Enfield.  The original target of £4,500 – enough to settle one family – was quickly reached and the second target of £9,000 was then over taken and I am sure more than £15,000 will be raised.  The money was channelled through the Just Giving web site which will be open until December 2017.

Here is the list of poets in the running order:

Poem-a-thon Programme

and a few of the poets: Valerie Darville, Danielle Hope, Mario Petrucci and George Szirtes.

The whole event was filmed by Ken Sabbarton, a marathon in itself.  Nine hours of video would be too much so here is the video clip of my session.  I fluffed the last verse of When There Were Gods.  If you want to read the poem please click here.

Phorographs, poems

Ode to Argentic Images – well, almost an ode!


A photograph, like a poem, can capture the moment, the essence of a person or place and take it straight to our soul bypassing the intellect.  A poem will go through many drafts and some say is never finished but with digital photography an image such as the one above can be printed or disseminated across the internet within minutes of it being taken although, after spotting the opportunity for a shot, I waited some 10 to 15 minutes before the bird spoke to me.  I used to take photos of the members of the Halliwick Penguins Swimming club, my late wife was a member and with my Nikon F fitted with telephoto lens a polarising and blue filter using a 1500 asa Fuji film, I could take great portraits with the correct colour balance and no unsightly reflections from the water.  Everyone would forget I was there as I wandered around the other side of the pool.  Nowadays I would use Photoshop instead of filters.

The image below I took with a telephoto lens on my Panasonic hybrid camera.  Again I had to be patient and wait.

Damsel Fly A4

Sometimes I have had to just point and click as the opportunity was fleeting.  One such occasion was in St Maixent L’Ecole in France when we came across some Eastern European dancers during the annual music festival.  How I managed to capture the dance in action I don’t know.  It was several years ago.  I used Photoshop to change the image and add the poem I wrote to capture the moment.

Dancer from Eastern Europe

The Daguerreotype was the first publicly available photograph and was used between 1840 to late 1850s.  A polished silver-plated copper plate was coated with a light sensitive colloid and exposed whilst still wet.  This could be tens of minutes.  The image was developed by exposing it to fumed mercury, a dangerous process indeed. The image appeared positive or negative depending on the angle of view.  The finished image was very delicate and had to be kept between glass plates.  Unfortunately I have yet to acquire a daguerreotype.

The Ambrotype , introduced in the mid 1850s, replaced the Daguerreotype.  A wet solution of Silver nitrate was applied to a glass plate which was exposed in the camera.  The exposure time was less and the image was developed and fixed in a much safer way and a black lacquer painted over it.  When viewed through the glass it looked like a positive and was the right way round, as the side with the image was at the back under the black lacquer.  A Daguerreotype is a mirror image.


Ambrotype from about 1860




Tintype hand tinted



The image quality is excellent and sometimes hand tinted as in this image where blue flowers, I believe, have been added to the woman’s hair



Pressed resin case for the Ambrotype




Often the Ambrotype was kept in a small mass-produced, pressed resin case and America supplied most I think.   This means that the images must have been a standard size.





Then came the Tintype introduced in 1860 and used up to the 1930s though I saw a reference to the process not dying out until the early 1950s. An steel sheet is painted with a glossy black lacquer and coated with a solution of silver nitrate and exposed in the camera whilst still  wet.  There was also a dry process with the light sensitive salt held in a thin film of gelatine.  The image was developed and fixed using potassium cyanide, deadly, deadly, but later with thiosulphate or “hypo”.  The image is a negative and a mirror image so left is right and right left.  The black lacquer causes the image to appear as a positive.   It is a robust medium and so many have survived.

Tintypes are perhaps the beginning of what became snapshot photography aimed at ordinary, every-day people and I find them extremely interesting  and have several; they are inexpensive and a valuable social record.  It is absolutely fascinating wondering who they are, why are they having the picture taken.  What was their relationship with each other, what is the story?

Tintype Edwardian




Here an Edwardian couple, seeking a souvenir of their holiday or day out,  posing in a Studio in Ramsgate.



An image could be produced in minutes and were popular in fairgrounds.  The instant photo booth is not new!  Here is one from the USA sent to me by the artist husband of a family friend.

Tintype USA family




It is damaged and a bit crumpled but I like the serious family group and the magnificent beard.  I imagine it being a treasured procession  to be taken out on special occasions or perhaps displayed on a rough log mantle piece; a family heirloom in fact.




The following image is faint and probably means it was taken using the wet process.  Which would have produced a thin film.

Tin type perhaps Edit

It looks a happy group, unusually all are smiling and I love the joy shining out.  It is a mystery as I cannot decide what is nationality of the sitters nor why it has been cut in to the shape it is.

Some Tinplate cameras had up to 12 lenses so could take 12 images at a time.  Here is a photo of one with 4 lenses.


One use for the multi lens cameras is that tiny tintypes, sometimes called “gems” can be produced and these could be incorporated into visiting cards, Carte de Visite.  Below are the front and back of such a card.  On the back is written  an address in Bristol.  I can’t read the rest.  Printed on the card is “9 portraits for 7 1/2” about 15 pence. I suppose this means that the camera had 9 lenses.


Tintype 1920s



When I first saw this I thought “Ah!” 1950s but, on enlarging the photograph I took, I could see that the shoes of the girls in the foreground are pure 1920s.  Another souvenir from beside the sea taken  perhaps by a journeyman photographer.



One of the great functions of my iPhone and Panasonic cameras is that of the panoramic photo.  I have yet to explore it fully but it is great fun.  The image below is of the shrimp fishing structures in Angoulins just south of La Rochelle on the West Coast of France.

Shrimp fishing Angoulins

It was one of the first panoramic photos I took and I was using my iPhone 5.  I am amazed at the detail. Even when printed out 1 metre wide it looked good.

A panoramic camera must have been used for our school photos but I do not have any prints of these.  There is one of me at Pre-medical school in University College London, I wanted to become a psychiatrist but needed to qualify as a doctor first.  I was there for a year after working for one year as an operating theatre technician in a local hospital.  I soon realised that my memory was just not good enough to continue my studies.

UCH Medical school 1962 or 3152 larger

What a year!  Andrew Huxley was professor of physiology – my favourite subject – and he was awarded a Nobel prize for his work on the giant squid neuron.  Boy, was there cheering and hollering as he walked across the quadrangle; it was one of the occasions I will never forget.  If you want to find me, follow the left hand corner of the masonry wall down and I am in the third row up, slightly right of centre.

A panoramic camera was an early development.  Kodak introduced the Panoram No 1 in 1900 just a few years after the development of the first roll film.  I am trying to find one but they are too costly at present so here is a photo of one I captured from the web.

Kodak Panoram No 1

There is no shutter the lens is cocked by pulling to the left or right and it swings in a 120 degree arc projecting the light onto the film held against a curve.  Using 120 film 4 images could be produced.  I found 5 prints produced by the Panoram on a postcard stall and they fascinated me and for £1 were  a bargain!  Here is a couple of them.

Kodak Panoram 1 146

Kodak Panoram 1 145

The poem mentions old postcards from the First World War but they are for another blog; this has gone on long enough.


Poetry Music Images

Red Admiral and Michaelmas Daisies in Hadley Wood


For our Sunday morning walk we went to Hadley Wood to see the Michaelmas Daises.  We have a few in our front Garden and they are lovely but there is nothing like seeing them en masse.

Hadley Wood Michaelmas Daises

Valerie wandered off as I was taking this photograph.  She often does this.

Hadley Wood Michaelmas Daises 3

She came back and as we were chatting Valerie spotted a Red Admiral.  Once so common but now it is even more special to see one.

Hadley Wood Michaelmas Daises 5

We also spotted a bay tree someone had sneaked in since our last visit.

Hadley Wood Michaelmas Daises 7

Bay is so tasty with its mystery and allure in food but I am not sure if this will be allowed to flourish here.

We headed home through trees that are always so beautiful I must photograph them.


Hadley Wood 4


Poetry Music Images

Londinium – Its Genesis


Over the last 50 years, I  have tried to learn several languages and though my French is passable and I once spoke reasonable Italian, “frustrated linguist” describes me well.  Even at an early stage, I noticed that with each language I was a different person.  This gives rise to the intriguing notion that there are many ideas, thoughts and concepts, feelings lurking within me that I cannot express as I do not pocess the appropriate language.  What would the Twi me say, how would I feel in Hindi, how would I write poetry  in Finnish?  This difference alone makes it important, I feel, for our communities to have several languages.  English yes for day-to-day and to maintain social cohesiveness but other languages to bring difference, strength and beauty.

Planning or conscious action is not my strong point, as Valerie would tell you, but in April last year I mounted an exhibition that is a metaphor for the benefit of difference.  My poem, Londinium, in 28 languages  printed on A1 posters, designed by Jools Barrett, at the Dugdale Centre, Enfield.  A link to the index of all the poems is at the bottom of this blog or you can click here.


Here is the English version

I wanted to celebrate the 300 languages currently spoken in London and the 450 English is derived from.  Here is a list of the top 40 languages spoken in London

Top 40 Languages of London

Top 40, of 300, languages spoken in London


The fact that London’s population consists of people from such a variety of nations gives it great strength and vitality and, of course, London has, from the beginning been full of people from all over.



Pigeons and people flattened SH






Even Pigeons






Nelson's Column spiders flattened SH



It was first built by the Romans in the early 40s CE and the legions and administrators were from all nations across the Roman Empire so right from the start London’s population has been diverse. This particular spot for Londinium was chosen as the Thames narrows here yet is still tidal so sea going vessels could sail or row upstream to dock and unload.  It is still used to transport goods.

Barges on the Thames

Though I am not sure how this yacht managed to berth in Trafalgar Square!

NAtional GAlery

English owes its origins to migrants, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who came to England in about 450 CE pushing the Britons west into Wales and Cornwall.   The latter’s Celtic language is now mainly found in place names or geographic terms in modern English but is still alive as modern Welsh and Cornish.  The early English language was pushed into the background by the Norman Conquest in 1066 when Norman French became the language of power although Norman French was spoken in the Royal courts before the conquest due to the somewhat complicated relationship of the rulers either side of the Channel.

Post Conquest, English was the least important of the three languages mainly spoken in England namely Latin, Norman French and English.   Welsh and Gaelic would also have been spoken to a degree and, no doubt, there were pockets of Saxon.  It was Chaucer writing in the 14th CE who started us along the path that has led to the dominance of English today; or at least, English and American.

I find thinking on the origins of language fascinating.  When one of the proto human species became omnivore its teeth and jaw became smaller as it did not need to munch on seeds and roots.  The reduction in size made the lips and tongue nimble enough to articulate sounds.  Becoming bipedal caused a section of the brain to develop so as to enable this and also find the rhythm to walk  This same section is used for music which led to vocal communication.  The first Homo Sapiens in Africa about 200,000 years ago acquired a gene that enabled their brain to break holistic sounds of communication, to segment a stream of sound, into chunks which led to words.  Speech is thought to have started to develop  around 170,000 years ago and became embedded in Homo Sapiens around 50,000 years ago.  It enabled co-operation and thinking which caused the Neanderthals to become extinct as Homo Sapiens were just too efficient at living.  This can be deduced from the explosion of art, decoration and ritual which needs social interaction and good communication  For detailed information I suggest the fascinating book, the Singing Neanderthals by Steven Mithen

The poem Londinium floated into my head as I was reading about London and I can recommend Peter Ackroyd’s books, London, the Biography and London Under. There are others on my shelf but I particularly liked these.  Boudicca burnt Londinium in 50 CE and there is still a line of burnt ash and iron between all the buried history of London and where we walk today.  I love the idea of all the archaeology of London cupped in the line of ash from Boudicca’s burning and the pavements on which stroll and London has always been noisy.  In the 17th Century the vigorous ringing of hand bells became a fashionable way to exercise adding to the noise of the smiths, wheelwrights, carpenters all hammering and crashing.  Think of it, thousands of bells sounding  everywhere in London all day and night.  London has always been stinking, smoke laden, busy with tanners, burning rubbish ,the soap makers, human and animal excrement in the street, urine being collected and used to wash clothes in public laundries and all those unwashed bodies and bad teeth!  

In its beginning the River Thames was very wide and dotted with islands or eyots.  Building over the centuries has narrowed it to where it is today and the rivers feeding it covered over.  You can see in these two photographs  looking taken from The Eye, that the Thames basin is huge giving some idea as to how wide the Thames would have been.


Last year a French mother and daughter, friends of our grandson, stayed with us for their first visit to England.  They were overwhelmed at how friendly and helpful Londoners were.  London is friendly and accepting, this is its great strength which is why I ended my poem as I did. 


Kinder childernThis statue at Liverpool Street station is in memory of the Kindertransport which enabled Jewish children to escape Nazi Germany  They were given homes all over Britain.



A friend, who is an Israeli poet, translated Londinium into Hebrew.  I was very excited, a poem of mine in Hebrew!  I then began to wonder, what could I do with it?  I do not speak Hebrew so cannot perform it.  If, I said to myself, I had a few other translations I could print them and put them on a wall.  Well this thought led to another and another and 27 languages later I had the basis for an exhibition.  Paul Everitt Head of Culture for Enfield, introduced me to the designer Jools Barret who produced some magnificent designs.

Posters Photo

The translation process was interesting as metaphor and ideas are different in each language and I had many illuminating conversations with the translators.  For the language notes I had with each poster I used two interesting and useful books; Dictionary of Languages by Andrew Dalby and The World’s Major Languages edited by Bernard Comrie and, of course good old Wikipedia.

All the translations, including English, can be found by clicking here.  Just click on the language in the list and you will find the poem on the page and with an audio recording of the poem being read in that language and if you scroll down, the poster and language notes from the exhibition.  Before you visit these pages please view the video below.  The idea came to me whilst travelling on the train to Liverpool Street Station.  The carriage was full of people speaking in a multitude of languages at the top of their voices.  I could not understand any of them but it sounded fun, was exciting.



Poetry Music Images

Whitewebbs – a Quickie with a Question

Thisatles - Copy

We visited Whitewebbs Park again last weekend past this “Old Man’s Beard” and into the woods…







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past the beautiful river.




There was a man shovelling mud in the cast iron aqueduct and, he didn’t see us and I did not want to disturb him.  We were looking for the dam but some chain link fence had appeared so maybe the route is blocked now.

Not far from a fallen beech Valerie spotted an enormous toadstool; she is much better at spotting things than I am as I tend to stride ahead into the tunnel before me.





Does any one know what it is?  It was just magnificent.




As we made our way uphill to the lake we discovered a stone memorial to Ranger, who we assume to be a dog. It looked a costly monument but there was a big house where there is now a restaurant.


Memorial to Ranger - Copy

The ducks were friendly and unafraid and I was able to take better shots of the turtles who were sunning them selves on half-submerged logs…

and one of a rather lovely water lily.

Water Lily

It was then home and here is photograph of me in my untidy corner gazing at you all wondering what to write.

Me in my untidy corner