Once upon a time, or olim as our scholarly protagonist Jacob Really-Smug was prone to say, there was a young country boy living on one side of a large river. From his countryside home he could dimly see in the distance the Big School across the estuary.
Each day he’d walk to his small country school, only to be bullied by the bigger boys because he was a bright teacher’s pet and he wore glasses. He hated games the most. Fearful of getting his knees dirty and scared of being kicked below the belt, he detested football with a passion which far exceeded that with which his classmates supported Rovers or United or Hotspur, the teams on the other side of the river. Worst of all he had to take off his glasses to play, so he was even more disadvantaged in the game. He hated football. Continue reading “A Really-Smug Story”
Francis’ Family in Tianamen Square
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu.
Our journey nearly faltered at the first step. In the comfortable Titan chauffeur-driven Mercedes beside Ioan and Anita, we sat in a motorway jam. We were going to miss our flight. However, thanks to the mobile phone and the responsive Titan employee, Jo Kavanagh, we were re-booked on an Emirates flight via Dubai and we would arrive only a few hours later than originally planned.
During the trip, I was about to experience so many new superlatives, greatest, biggest, longest and the door to door journey time of 32.5 hours was the longest I had ever undertaken. We arrived in the Landmark hotel at 00.30 on Saturday 13 October in the company of the most helpful guide, Yang Zhen Xiong, who preferred his “English” name of Francis. Continue reading “Beijing to Chongqing”
A few patches of blue, snatches of a flowery design and plain white triangular pennants fluttered and flew in the light breeze, transforming the garden into an oasis of happiness.
As the English summer climbs to the August Bank Holiday it’s high water mark, families up and down the land prepare for a final outdoor celebration, a christening party, a twenty-first, a silly dressing-up party, a wild music rave and in this case, a premature 40th birthday party. Daily examinations of the weather forecast had pointed to a sunny and calm day, but it was only a window in an otherwise dull, cool and wet jet stream.
Continue reading “A Birthday Party”
Natalie Portman or Sarah Lane?
It’s all about perception, so they say.
We installed French windows in the downstairs lounge below our bedroom. But each morning, since early April, we have been awoken by loud tapping noises. What was it? The cat demanding that we should feed him now that the sun had risen. Someone throwing stones at our windows? Or was I hearing things? The repeated tapping annoyed and disturbed me and, worse, my wife. I couldn’t ignore it. Reluctantly, for now in retirement I am never one to rise early, I knew I had to find out the reason and that would involve getting up. At first, I was confused and could not understand what was happening. I got up and put on my dressing gown in a semi-comatose state without a clear or definite idea of how to solve the problem. I had a vague idea that somehow I must stop that damn noise. No sooner had I opened the door to the lounge than the explanation was clear. It was a case of double standards. Continue reading “Double Standards”
Cycling home on my red Cannondale racing bike, at least the bike frame said “Racing”, as I struggled into the headwind, a thought hit me and it wouldn’t go away.
It was the kind of thought which seemed so clear as I pushed on the pedals but now I sit and push on the computer keys it seems somehow incomplete…
We are the bole of the tree of life, my wife and I. Our roots were nourished by the fertile soil of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, who gave us values and standards and love and our branches are surrounded by the burgeoning spring leaves of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
We are the trunk that links the past to the future.
We are the guardians of the past, who pass on family messages, stories, traits, values and mores in an uncertain world to the coming generations.
We are the trunk of a bountiful tree, a healthy and still growing tree, but we know when the time comes another tree will replace ours just as we replaced those trees which grew before us.
Just a thought.
We are used to beaches being happy places, sandy havens of fun amid gentle waves on hot sunny days, places where children play with sand and spades and splash in the sea.
Not so on a Turkish beach last week as a dead Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, aged just three, lay face down on the wet sand at the water’s edge. In another picture a grim faced policeman in a green beret and short sleeved khaki shirt carried the little bundle gently, carefully, as if it were alive to his final sanctuary.
So sad, so moving.
We are all humans, even David Cameron changed his policy on refugees as a result, a small gesture to the tragic image.
It got me to thinking about The Power of Pictures and Words
Yet even better is Brian Smith’s (SEH 1965) contribution in the form of a Christmas carol, sung to the Kirkpatrick’s 1895 tune for “Away in a manger”.
Away from his mother , just stones for his bed
The three -year-old Aylan lies on a beach, dead.
The stars in the bright sky look down where he lies
A drowned refugee boy attracting the flies.
A camera is waiting , the media awake:
This poor little Syrian no percentage will take.
A scoop for the papers, more drama for Sky —
They’ll stay by his side till the deadline is nigh.
Remember his family. I ask you to keep
Their pain in your memory whenever you weep.
Bless all these dear children in our tender care
And bring them to Europe to live with us here.
An old tradition preserved.
Wonderful sunny evening down by the Bristol Trader in Quay Street with the Cleddau at its highest. A dozen boats arrive to help the Mayor beat the bounds….
Ilya Repin caught it just right.
It looked like the crowd at Kursk, at once both well-dressed and tattered, haughty and humble, ugly and handsome, limp and athletic, heads held high and others downward looking in slight embarrassment. A young man on stilts with a long bamboo pole, which he tapped repeatedly on the ground both for stability and attention, wore a brown frock coat and a three-corned hat…. Continue reading “Beating the Bounds at Haverfordwest”