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Monday, 31 January 2011

Dorchester, Charles Street Council Offices Controversy

The Dorchester controversy concerning the new Council Offices planned for the Charles Street development has finally become a national issue: it was featured in The Sunday Times on 30 January 2011.

The Sunday Times is running a Cuts Watch Campaign, inviting readers to speak out when they "spot examples of council profligacy or reckless and outrageous cuts".

It was the turn of Dorchester's West Dorset District Council to be under the spotlight.

"A modern version of the mayor of Casterbridge is facing a people's revolt over a £13.1m plan to build new council offices and a library in the heart of Dorchester..." Read on:

Kardaki Spring, Corfu

I've written about the Kardaki Spring at Mon Repos/Analipsis in Corfu on a number of occasions in the past and about the Mavilis sonnet on the subject (including in my book "Corfu Blues", 2006).

I first drank from the spring in 1967, so it was my fate to keep returning to Corfu.

Good to see an item about the spring on John's Corfu World.

I wonder if there is still a sign saying the water is polluted and not safe to drink? I have a photo of the warning sign on page 89 of my book. Here are two verses from the song "Corfu Blues" I wrote many years ago (someone else has a quite different song with the same title on YouTube):

"I once drank the crystal water from that famed Kardaki Spring,
(It) made us want to stay forever, where nymphs and poets used to sing.

Now the water is polluted, "DO NOT DRINK!"- so warns the sign,
Yes the water-source is poisoned; let's forget and drink more wine".

Events in Egypt on Al Jazeera

Maybe Al Jazeera is the place to go for reports on events in Egypt? It's an additional source of information and insight, such as this item on a Tunisian poem which has apparently become a source of inspiration for the protesters.

Muddy Waters' Early Repertoire

A fascinating posting about Muddy Waters and his early pop song repertoire.

You're Gonna Miss Me

Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Laughing Policeman and other childhood 78s

"The Laughing Policeman" - one of my favourite songs as a kid. I used to play the old 78 rpm record over and over on a wind-up gramophone.

I wonder if grandchildren would still see the funny side?

No. 2 in my 78rpm hit parade at 6 years old was "Tain't no sin to take off your skin (and to dance around in your bones"). This wasn't the version we had, but it's close.

No. 3 was "The Teddy Bears' Picnic".

No. 4 was "The Runaway Train".

Those were in the days before my No. 5, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett", but then came skiffle and rock 'n' roll. Farewell childhood.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Corfu Kantounistas

Kantounistas! This could beat the Corfu Blues

A couple of other Corfu community items from The Corfu Blog

Olympic Airways and Aegean Air

Blood Bank

Henry Denander, Swedish Poet, A testimony by Norbert Blei

I was glad to read this warm-hearted appreciation of Henry Denander's poetry, by Norbert Blei.

I have always appreciated Henry's poems, written in English, and his art. He has a huge underground following.

He shares a love of Greek islands and jazz.

George Soros on UK Economic Policies and Prospects

George Soros knows a thing or two.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Osbert Lancaster, On Not Going to Greece, Easter 1968

Easter 1968; I was in Greece. I remember it well.

 I remember cutting out this poem by Osbert Lancaster, from a copy of The Sunday Times, I think.

The paste made it illegible in places. So here's a clearer version:

EASTER 1968.

The mike behind the architrave
Consolidates Athene's loss
And Agamemnon's mask must save
The face of Colonel Pattakos.

Of no avail to ask just now
The barman at the Grande Bretagne
For news of friend, or why and how...
His lips are sealed, and so are mine.

The Pythian rocks are slogan-scrawled,
"The army's backing Greece and so
Must you!" The guides are too enthralled
To hear the Sibyl answer "No!"

                   But I would not care
To greet my Lord in Constitution Square.

Osbert Lancaster

Roy Fuller wrote an autumnal poem on the topic of the Junta, during that period:


From the Tin Islands' autumn where the foliage hangs
In green and yellow tatters like an old
Set on a provincial stage, you go
To burgundy seas, white harbours, empty skies-

The last stanza:

You visit a country where the unclean being
Who brought disaster has already been expelled,
And far back in its history the gloomy date:
'Twenty-eighth year of the War. Blockade of Athens'.
Will you return with hopeful messages
For the new victims of the Theban king
And of the destroyers of democracy?

Listen to George Seferis breaking his silence and making his statement on the Junta in 1969, on the BBC's Greek Service (fourth item down on right)

A satirical song, Martial Law

There's even a blog on Britain and the Colonels

You Can't Eat the View

There was a documentary on "Terry Wogan's Ireland" on TV last night. At one point he quotes his father's saying (concerning the Potato Famine and the period of mass emigration), "You can't eat the scenery".

Cornwall Council also has this stark (and saddening) message on a similar topic:

"What is it like to live in Cornwall? You can't eat the view".

I hope that in future  it won't be necessary for the Corfiot authorities to start issuing similar warnings and reality checks  to potential expatriate settlers/incomers, and to people thinking of going to live and work in Corfu.

Relocation or residential tourism may not be the best economic solutions for everybody, whether in Cornwall or in Corfu.

You can't eat the view.

But maybe life is more tolerable, even without a good income and a satisfactory standard of living, if one does enjoy a good view or  beautiful natural surroundings?

Greece, The Diaspora Bond

Help the country avoid debt restructuring. Buy your Diaspora Bonds soon

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey, by J M W Turner

Key turning points in the history of poetry and painting.

Tennyson's Ulysses

I was never a great Tennyson fan.

Time for a revaluation?

Listen to "Ulysses".

Some great lines:

"I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees...

For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least...

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!

                                  Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world...
                                    my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset...

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Update, 5 March 2011: Tennyson's line chosen for the Olympics, 2012

Another poem on the Ulysses theme, by John Holloway:

From The Minute and Longer Poems, The Marvell Press, 1956

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Friday, 21 January 2011

Modern British Sculpture, The Royal Academy

Having just begun an evening class in stone-carving, I must go and check out the competition at The Royal Academy.

It sounds like a great exhibition. Modern British Sculpture, from 22 January until 7 April.

NB Waldemar Januszczak was NOT impressed

Britain and the Nordics

Bagehot again, with some interesting observations on Britain and the Nordic Countries.

It was an eye-opener, living and working in Sweden, I wish that many aspects of their successful system could be made to work here.

We used to scoff at their professional social-democratic futurologists back in the 1970s. They may have been a bit too much "holier-than-you", but they got a lot of things right.

Greece: Opening Closed Professions, at Long Last?

Reuters reports on legislation concerning the opening of closed professions in Greece.

Having had to wait several years to obtain an ACTT Film and Television Union ticket in the UK in the 1970s, without which I could not have practised as a film maker or film director in the UK (it was a "closed shop" union) - even though I had been to postgraduate film school-, I firmly believe in the importance of access and open professions.

It used to be said: "You can't make a film until you have a union ticket. You can't get a union ticket until you've made a film."

I eventually obtained my almost priceless ACTT film director's ticket, and faithfully paid my subs for years and years. As it turned out I had no need of it when I was filming in Africa. I was obliged to do any or all of  the jobs that specialised individual members of a typical UK film unit would do, directing, scripting, sound, lighting, camera and editing.

We should be thankful that we don't need a Bloggers' Union membership ticket! Some might say it would be a good idea to restrict access to this noble, altruistic but much-abused profession.

Update: Since posting the above, I find that Richard Pine has also addressed the topic in an article in today's issue of The Irish Times.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Greece: Debt Restructuring Scheme? Buy Back Your Own Debt!

Eurointelligence reports the article from FT Deutschland

Update, 30 January

Australia, Diplomatic Neglect?

Reading Nick Bryant's blog on this topic I recall the massive and successful New Images (newIMAGES) project which ran throughout 1997, and involved about 200 events throughout Australia.

If I find some of the extensive evaluation reports of the project, I may blog on this topic again. There are still lessons to be learned. newIMAGES succeeded in changing and modernising mutual perceptions between Australia and the UK, but for how long, without adequate follow-up activity?

Update, 24 January: another good blog from Nick Bryant today, on Australian Identity. 

And another! 25 January.

On Prince Charles and Australia , 28 January

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


This is a long posting! It's the short version of a much longer paper I wrote last year, which was given, in Greek translation, at the Elytis Conference at the Society of Corfiot Studies in the Solomos Museum, on 20 November 2010. I believe the paper will be published eventually, as part of the proceedings, but as the Centenary is this year (in November, to be precise), I am posting it here for anyone who may be interested, and whilst it is still topical.

If you are interested, take a deep breath and read on!

Commemorating ΕΠΕΤΕΙΟΣ (Anniversary) and the Elytis Centenary.
Another look at the reception of his early poetry in the English speaking world.

Jim Potts

Odysseas Elytis was born in 1911. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1979 "for his poetry, which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts with sensuous strength and intellectual clear-sightedness modern man's struggle for freedom and creativeness".

So why have I found some of Elytis’ poetry lacking in the diaphanous clarity he and others claim for it?
One of his greatest admirers, Professor George Savidis, once wrote of the poem Maria Nepheli that it “seems to prove Elytis’ perennial ability to feel the heart-beat of every new generation of nubile girls (sic) and his will to respond to it, as well as his ear for the slogans and the vernacular of the Parisian May of 1968” (George Savidis, lecture given at Harvard, 4 December 1979; Athens 1980).

I’m not in a position to comment on this or, for instance, on Roderick Beaton’s observation (“An Introduction to Modern Greek Literature”, 2nd. Ed. 1999) about Elytis’ early poems:
“Physical health and vigour play a prominent part in these poems, to the point that they have even been linked to the quasi-fascist propaganda of the Metaxas regime under which most of them were written.”
Savidis reminds us (1980) that “After all, since August 1936, Greece was  under a fascist dictatorship, which exiled its milder opponents to the Aegean islands”.

Peter Levi reminds us of the “sensory vigour of his earliest lyrics…the early lyrics were unforgettable for their musical phrasing. They had the freshness of summer waves and the perfect motionabilty of the sea” (introduction to The Axion Esti, 1979); but in an earlier work (“The Hill of Kronos”, 1980) he writes of his first discovery of Elytis and the poem “Tou Aegaio”: “The best modern Greek writing is as pure as lemon juice. It is also highly critical. I was not able to isolate all that was best at once. The language was still difficult, so I liked simple lyric poems, not all of which look so wonderful today.”

Another challenging comments comes from David Ricks:

“In his late poems, Elytis becomes increasingly (and sometimes irritatingly) preoccupied with the poetic pantheon in which he seeks enshrinement”.

In this article I wish to discuss some of Elytis’s early poems.

One of Elytis’s most enduringly popular and accessible poems (and my personal favourite) is ΕΠΕΤΕΙΟΣ  (“Anniversary), first published as part of Orientations in Nea Grammata, July-August 1936 (cf. D. Daskalopoulos, Bibliografia Odysea Elyti (1971-1992), Athens, 1993), not long before Elytis came to Corfu’s National Officer Cadet School in the Old Fortress (for eight months in 1937). It first appeared in book form in 1940 (December 1939). Since then it has been much translated, much anthologised. Robert Levesque selected it as the first poem to appear in his French translation of Elytis (Poèmes, 1945), under the slightly misleading title Commémoration. Misleading, according to Saltapidas, because it lends the poem a morbid tone and atmosphere, with its association of the commemoration of the death of a person in the past. It is interesting to note that in “Six Poets of Modern Greece” (1960) and “Four Greek Poets” (1966), Keeley and Sherrard follow Levesque, entitling their English translation “Commemoration”, but that the title has been changed to “Anniversary” by the time of the publication of “Odysseus Elytis, Selected Poems”, 1981. Saltapidas describes it as “not the most representative” of Elytis, being the most Seferis-like of his poems. If this is the case, it is not surprising that Seferis picked out this poem as “a good one” and read it aloud when Elytis first went to his house (according to the poet himself, this was some time before November 1935 when Elytis’ first efforts were published in Nea Grammata). So we are also celebrating the 75th anniversary of the writing of “Anniversary”.

But here are some dilemmas:

Does this poem tend more towards the Apollonian or the Dionysian (whatever that distinction might mean to you, notwithstanding Nietzsche’s definitions)? Is it about Life or about Death? Or is it about something in between, about reaching a significant milestone or stage in life (e.g. a birthday)? Is it in fact a melancholic poem, or a contrapuntal interplay between the poles of hope and despair, happiness and remorse? I’ve never read it as overly melancholic, in spite of lines like “Bitter furrow in the sand that will vanish”. Maybe I was just projecting my own experiences and perceptions following my first joyful, if bittersweet, discovery of a Greek island, especially in relation to the first stanza (I was almost the same age as Elytis was when he wrote the poem).

 According to Christos Saltapidas (Oi Gallikes Metafraseis tou Ergou tou Odyssea Elyti, Corfu, 2001), it was probably written in the Autumn of 1935, around the time of his birthday in November 1935, but the poet himself, in “Cards on the Table” (Anoichta Hartia), makes it clear that Seferis read the manuscript before the publication and circulation of Elytis’ first poems in Nea Grammata on 1st November 1935.
In the UK, Anniversary appeared in Greek in Trypanis’ “Medieval and Modern Greek Poetry, An Anthology”, 1951, at the time that Edmund Keeley was discovering Greek poetry while studying at Oxford.
It’s strange that I’ve never read it as “an Apollonian meditation on death” as Jeffrey Carson describes it, “with eros and thanatos as his theme”. Andreas Karantonis once commented that “a desire for life… springs up from every moment of  Elytis’s verses” (1971).

Elytis might later have been ready to criticise his own early poems as “touristic” (cf Edmund Keeley’s obituary, 19.3.1996: “ in his late years he became rather sarcastic about some of his finest early verse, calling it “touristic" and he was especially critical of what is perhaps his best known early poem, “The Mad Pomegranate Tree”, which in fact still remains among his most popular celebrations of the light-rich landscape and hedonistic spirit of contemporary Greece”. NB the obituary also contained a section from the poem “Anniversary”).”

In “Cards on the Table” (p. 302) Elytis admits that in his first two books he was trying to revolutionise poetry and to escape from thematic subjects, and seems to regret that the poems that survived, such as “Anniversary”, “Marina of the Rocks” and “Form of Boeotia”, stick to the more traditional poetic format of a central inspirational motif.

Elytis defended himself against charges that he was a Dionysian poet:

“It has been said that I am a Dionysian poet, particularly in my first poems. I do not think this is correct. I am for clarity. As I wrote in one of my poems, “I have sold myself for clearness”.

Nevertheless, it can be difficult to orientate oneself when reading and trying to interpret Elytis, because of an element of obscurity attributable to the influence of French surrealism, as well as his own unwillingness to explain his poems (although Anthony Hirst, 2004, cites the notes that Elytis made about The Axion Esti and circulated privately; subsequently published by Yorgos Kechiagioglou, 1995).

Maybe I have an Anglo-Saxon taste for a relatively rational and accessible mode of expression, which Elytis rejected. Edmund Keeley, in Elytis and the Greek Tradition (“Modern Greek Poetry, Voice and Myth”, Princeton, 1983) suggests that England is “the Western country that has been slowest to appreciate Elytis” because of our distorted presupposition that Elytis is more French than Greek. “Robert Graves is reported to have said some years ago: “Elytis is just Eluard pronounced with a Greek accent. Just another French surrealist really”.

To be fair, he stated elsewhere:

“Many facets of surrealism I cannot accept, such as its paradoxical side, its championing of automatic writing” (interview with Ivar Ivask, Autumn 1975, quoted by George Savidis, 1980).

 In Greece, Elytis is considered a poet of the 1930s Generation; but for the English-speaking world, he’s a poet of the 40s, or even of the 1960s (Four Greek Poets, Penguin Modern European Poets, 1966: belated translations and popular anthologies can play havoc with generational classifications and concepts of modernity!). Maybe I am as guilty as Keeley holds one of my favourite English poets to be (Bernard Spencer, also a translator of some Elytis poems). Keeley mentions the ‘distorted image’ of Elytis and of Greece that some nostalgic Philhellenes held in their hearts and which may indeed have misrepresented both Elytis and Greece:

“….upon this table
Elytis’s poems lie
Uttering the tangle of sea, the ‘breathing caves’
And the fling of Aegean waves.”

(“A Spring Wind”, first published in The Windmill, vol. 1, no.1 (1946).

Translations of Elytis first appeared in England in the 1940s, in New Writing and in Orpheus (both of which I have in front of me) and in Daylight. Nanos Valaoritis did much to make his name known (he also collaborated with Bernard Spencer, whom he calls “ a dear friend and collaborator” in his online memoir). In France, Robert Levesque’s bilingual selection, “ Poèmes” (1945), marked a similar turning point, although Christos Saltapidas has his criticisms of the selection, which he feels was influenced by the tastes of Katsimbalis and Karantonis.

The Anglo-Hellenic Review (Anglo-Elliniki Epitheorisi, edited by George Katsimbalis until c. 1953, was supported by The British Council, Athens and launched in March 1945) also helped to make Elytis’ name better known.

The Review’s office was in the same building as the British Council, Plateia Filikis Etairias 17. Series 1 (1945) contained an articles by Odysseas Elytis (on “The 28th of October”), Series 2 (1946) featured an article by Elytis on the paintings of General Makryjannis by P. Zografos), Volume 3 (1947) featured George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis on Theophilos (May). Elytis also contributed an article about the artist, Nikos Hatzikyriakos-Ghikas.

Translators of Elytis’ poetry into English have included Nanos Valaoritis; Bernard Spencer; Philip Sherrard and Edmund Keeley (Six Poets of Modern Greece,1960; Four Greek Poets, 1966; Selected Poems of Odysseus Elytis, 1981); Kimon Friar (Modern Greek Poetry from Cavafis to Elytis, 1973; The Sovereign Sun, 1974); Constantine Trypanis; John Stathatos; George Savidis; Olga Broumas; Rae Delven; David Connolly; Stuart Montgomery; Athan Anagnostopoulos; Martin Johnston; Jeffrey Carson and Nikos Sarris (Collected Poems of Odysseus Elytis, 2004. Others have made their contributions too: Amy Mims & George Niketas (cited by Keeley and Savidis); Marios Dikaiakos; G. A. Stathis.

Andonis Decavelles, reviewing Olga Broumas’s selection, “What I Love, Selected Poems of Odysseas Elytis” (1986) in Journal of Modern Greek Studies, October 1987, writes:

“There is presently no point for attempting comparisons with precedents, though those will certainly be undertaken by interested bilingual readers and previous translators. Such comparisons did in the past show Friar’s translations as being more conservative in their style while Keeley’s has been more modernistically Americanized, while both have been remarkably faithful and accurate and masterful.”

Broumas, in her Translator’s Note, claims to give Elytis’s voice in English, “true to the man whose sensibility is born of and flowers in a cultural and syntactical grammar foreign to a world shaped and expressed by English.”

But it was the translations of Sherrard, Keeley and Friar between them that certainly helped Elytis to secure the Nobel Prize (1979).

Is it true, as David Ricks comments (quoted above), that “In his late poems, Elytis becomes increasingly (and sometimes irritatingly) preoccupied with the poetic pantheon in which he seeks enshrinement”?

Elytis certainly saw himself as part of the great tradition from Sappho to Solomos (his “master” – although of the Ionian rather than the Aegean Sea).

Edmund Keeley writes of the suggestion of “pagan mysticism, a pantheism, a worship of the gods of water and light”.

What better way to end this “anniversary” article than to quote Odysseus Elytis' speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1979 (in French)

“En me consacrant, à mon tour, pendant plus de quarante ans, à la poésie, je n'ai rien fait d'autre. Je parcours des mers fabuleuses, je m'instruis en diverses haltes. Et me voici, aujourd'hui, à l'escale de Stockholm avec pour seul capital, dans mes mains, quelques mots helléniques. Ils sont modestes, mais vivants puisqu'ils se trouvent sur les lèvres de tout un peuple.

Ils sont âgés de trois mille ans, mais aussi frais que si l'on venait de les tirer de la mer. Parmi les galets et les algues des rives de l'Egée. Dans les bleus vifs et l'absolue transparence de l'éther. C'est le mot "ciel", c'est le mot "mer", c'est le mot "soleil", c'est le mot "liberté". Je les dépose respectueusement à vos pieds...”

("Odysseus Elytis - Banquet Speech". 9 Sep 2010


I sometimes go to a small local post-office in this West Country county town, to avoid the queues at the main post office.

The one I like is in a little row of suburban shops, close to a baker's shop called The Crusty Cob. They're all very traditional. I find this quite heartening. It reminds me of the part of Bristol where we used to live in the 1950s (before I was eight). Some things don't change.

Having posted my parcel, I went to buy a loaf of bread. When I was inside the baker's shop, I glanced with some nostalgia for times past at the window display of enticingly sweet iced buns.

I wasn't the only one. Suddenly there were twenty little faces outside the shop, all pressed against the window pane, children of around six years old, squealing with delight and hungry anticipation.

They were all shouting and gesticulating at once, pointing out their favourite sticky buns, jam doughnuts and other mouth-watering  concoctions.

Sadly, they weren't allowed inside (much better for their teeth and health, no doubt); they were on a school project, taking photos of  their neighbourhood.

I wish a teacher had brought a few of the young photographers inside the shop, to  take a shot of the rows of  cakes and all the hungry and excited faces peering in, but all three accompanying teachers soon had them lined up in crocodile formation, and off they marched.

It was a bit like seeing myself as a child in Bristol all those years ago. Which reminds me, I must go to the dentist.

Projects for 2011-2012

I'm always happy when I get started on a new project.

Yesterday I had a positive discussion with a new publisher about two or three projects which should keep me busy for the next year or two. More anon.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

On His Master's Voice

Sad news from Robert Peston.

I dread to think how much money I've spent at HMV record shops over the years.

Europe's Crisis Continues

EuroIntelligence article

Palgrave on Lyme Regis

Francis Turner Palgrave (1824-1897), of "Golden Treasury" fame, was very attached to Lyme Regis, where he made his first visit in 1867. In September 1878 he wrote a long poem "A Dorset Idyl, Harcombe near Lyme". Harcombe is a hamlet a few miles from Lyme Regis.

Here are a few extracts:

"Before me with one happy heave

Of golden green the hillside curves...

This fair Vergilian life,

Where heaven and we and nature are at one!

...Dear land, where new is one with old:

Land of green hillside and of plain...

Wild wood and ruin bold,

And this repose of beauty at my feet...

And from the heighest height we view

Our island-girdling sea

Bar the green valley with a wall of blue."

As Palgrave notes, his descriptions of green Dorset scenery are often contrasted with the landscape-pictures of Homer, Pindar, Sophocles, Theocritus and Vergil. He makes mention of Nausicaa, and  of that fertile garden of King Alcinous described in The Odyssey (supposedly in Corfu), "where summer link'd to summer glows/ Grapes ever ripe, and rose on rose".

He writes, as a patriotic, proud and optimistic Victorian, of his faith in the adaptability of the free, law-abiding British people:

"Should changeful commerce shun the shore,

And newer mightier races meet

To push us from our empire-seat,

England will round her call her own,

As in the days of yore

The sea-girt Isle be Freedom's central throne.

Freedom, fair daughter-wife of Law."

Palgrave wrote other poems about Lyme, published in a rare pamphlet of poems:

 "A Lyme garland; being verses, mainly written at Lyme Regis, or upon the scenery of the neighbourhood", printed Lyme: Dunster, 1874, limited to 150 copies for The School Fund (32 pages).

This poem is also of interest:

At Lyme Regis

Calm, azure, marble sea,
As a fair palace pavement largely spread,
Where the grey bastions of the eternal hills
Lean over languidly.
Bosomed with leafy trees, and garlanded!

Peace is on all I view;
Sunshine and peace; earth clear as heaven one hour;
Save where the sailing cloud its dusky line
Ruffles along the blue.
Brushed by the soft wing of the silent shower.

In no profounder calm
Did the great Spirit over ocean brood,
Ere the first hill his yet unclouded crest
Reared, or the first fair palm
Doubled her maiden beauty in the flood.

Christopher Pitt, Dorset Poet; Sir James Thornhill, Dorset Painter

Christopher Pitt (1699-1748) born Blandford, Dorset.

"How are deluded humankind
By empty shows betray'd!
In all their hopes and schemes they find
A nothing or a Shade."

( from On a Shadow, An Ode)

From Invitation to a Friend at Court

"To these sweet solitudes without delay
Break from the world's impertinence away.
Soon as the sun the face of Nature gilds
For health and pleasure will we range the fields,
O'er her gay scenes and op'ning beauties run,
While all the vast creation is our own".

Sir James Thornhill At Work
(Sir James Thornhill, Dorset painter, born Stalbridge, Dorset; 1675/6-1734)
To Sir James Thornhill (1718)

"While thy swift art unravels Nature's maze,
And imitates her works and treads her ways,
Nature with wonder sees herself outdone,
And claims thy fair creation for her own:
Thy figures in such lively strokes excel
They give those passions which they seem to feel;
Each various feature some strong impulse hears,
Wraps us in joy or melts us all to tears;
Each piece with such transcendent art is wrought
That we could almost say thy pictures thought."

In memory of
CHR. PITT, Clerk, M. A.
Very eminent for his talents in poetry, and yet more for the universal candour of his mind, and the primitive simplicity of his manners. He lived innocent, and died beloved. Apr. 13- 1748. aged 48.

Sherborne House Thornhill Mural
Charborough House (Staircase murals and The Judgement of Paris)

Greek antiquities- a source of income?

Should museum duplicates be sold?

It seems a very dodgy proposal to me.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Burning Hell! The Other Tom Jones

Tom Jones' convincing cover, or re-interpretation rather, of John Lee Hooker's "Burning Hell".

Live on Letterman

What good am I?  Tom Jones sings Bob Dylan.

Compare with the younger Tom Jones.

Crazy Arms (a great cover of the Jerry Lee Lewis version)

'King Monmouth', From Lyme Regis to Tower Hill

Choruses from The Ballad of King Monmouth, by Francis Turner Palgrave (1871).

Fear not, my child, though the days be dark,
  Never fear, he will come again,
With the long brown hair, and the banner blue,
  King Monmouth and all his men!

Fear not, my child, though he come with few,
  Alone will he come again;
God with him, and his right hand more strong
  Than a thousand thousand men!

Yet weep not, my child, though the dead be dead,
  And the wounded rise not again!
For they are with God who for England fought,
  And they bore them as Englishmen.

Then weep not, my child, though the days be dark,
  Fear not; He will come again,
With Arthur and Harold and good Saint George,
  King Monmouth and all his men!

Palgrave comments in his notes: "The belief, which this poem represents, that 'King Monmouth', as he was called in the West, would return, lasted long. He landed in Lyme Bay, June 11, 1685, between the Cobb (Harbour-pier) and the beginning of the Ware cliffs".

Map of Monmouth Rebellion 

Judge Jeffreys and the Bloody Assizes

Susannah York

Very sad to learn that Susannah York died yesterday, aged 72. Tributes are pouring in.

I will always remember her in Tom Jones, playing opposite Albert Finney.

Both the Tony Richardson film (screenplay by John Osborne) and the Henry Fielding novel have retained their immense appeal. The novel is set in Somerset.

Henry Fielding, born at Sharpham Park, Somerset, also lived at East Stour, Dorset.

Susannah York was perfectly cast as Sophie Western, daughter of Squire Western.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Ben Waters, Boogie for Stu

This sounds like a great evening and a fitting tribute to Ian Stewart (Stu):

Ben Waters, Boogie for Stu,  at The Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton on 18 March, and The Lighthouse at Poole on 16 April.

Apparently Ben is based in Bridport.

Ian Stewart (Stu) played piano with The Rolling Stones (he was a co-founder). And he even played at Eype!

News on the Boogie for Stu CD.

Bohemian Folk-Song (Rilke)

A Bohemian folk-song
Touches me deeply;
Comes to me softly,
Makes my heart blue.

When a child quietly sings
In the field or allotment
His song lingers with me,
It haunts me at night.

If you plan to go travelling
To far-away places,
It'll come to you often;
Again and again.

(Rilke; translation JRP)

The Music of The Stourbridge Lion

Things were never to be the same once the locomotive, The Stourbridge Lion, arrived in the USA, although it was heavy for the American tracks, and apparently wasn't used as often as I'd imagined.

The test trial of the British-built Lion down a US railroad line took place on August 8, 1829.

The sound of honky-tonk, boogie-woogie, train and harmonica blues and country music were all influenced by the rhythm of the railroad, the 'lonesome' sound of the steam-whistle, the clickety-clack of the steam train.

Three cheers for Foster, Rastrick and Co who built the Stourbridge Lion, the Delaware and Hudson!

Long live the name of Stephenson too. Remember the Rocket, the John Bull, the America?

Horatio Allen came over to England in 1828 and signed a contract for four locomotives, which were delivered in New York in 1829.

British smokestacks made it happen! That’s my theory. I've written two train songs in my time, "The Stourbridge Lion" and "The Kenyan Cannonball".  Maybe I'll get round to recording them one day.

Bagehot and Nick Bryant on "The King's Speech"

I am going to see "The King's Speech" tonight. It's finally got down here to this neck of the woods.

This is Bagehot's take on the film.

It's a fascinating and original analysis of the film and the reasons for its success in Great Britain.

Update, 16.1.2011:

Having now seen the film in a packed provincial cinema, I would say that I didn't find the film unduly "flattering" to the British self-image, in the way Bagehot suggests it is, but strangely moving, on account of the very fine and convincing acting. As for anachronisms and absurdities, I let them go by, being quite willing to 'suspend my disbelief'. In fact, I didn't notice; I was too involved in the storyline and performances. I enjoyed the time-warp.

But I am grateful for the more thoughtful and considered analysis offered by Bagehot in The Economist and on his blog. I was just a typical Saturday night customer at the flicks, by comparison. It's great to get out and to see a good film on the big screen. Very satisfying!

Aljazeera comments too.

Update 3 March 2011: Nick Bryant on The King's Speech, Aussies and Brits.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

White Gold

No wonder the streets are soon cleared of snow in Scandinavian countries.

Vita Guld

White gold”,

The working men of Sweden call it

When the streets are paved with snow.

Good overtime and extra earnings,

So many hands and shovels needed

To clear the paths, the treacherous steps.

White gold, high wages!

Let it fall,

Let it snow some more!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Brave Words: Δεν ελπίζω τίποτα, δεν φοβάμαι τίποτα, ειμαι ελεύθερος

I hope for nothing,

I fear nothing,

I’m free.

Δεν ελπίζω τίποτα, δεν φοβάμαι τίποτα, ειμαι ελεύθερος .

(Nikos Kazantzakis, Letter to Börje Knös, 12.12.1947).

More appropriate as the epitaph for Kazantzakis' tombstone than as a slogan for a million tourists' T-shirts?  

I used to wear one in bed. Now I know better.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Eype Beach for sale!?


I've heard unfounded rumours in the past year about the Greek government planning to sell off some islands to raise money, but this Yahoo story about the sale of Eype Beach is a little too close to home.

I hope the National Trust steps in pronto. Maybe West Dorset District Council needs the money to pay for the building of its extravagant new offices in Charles Street?

I called in at the Council office today (12 Jan) to obtain further information, and was directed to this statement  (


Do you think someone is winding us up?

"Let not poor Nelly starve"; Nell Gwyn; Eleanor Gwynne; Nell Gwynn.

"Let not poor Nelly starve" - King Charles II, on his deathbed, to his brother James, Duke of York. Nell Gwynn (born 2 February, 1650) had just turned 35.

Nell Gwyn, Country Dance (1925)

Restoration Women (BBC 4)

She was also affectionately known as "Cinder Nell", "the darling strumpet of the crowd" , and was said to be the most popular of the King's mistresses. "Pray, good people, be civil; I am the Protestant whore", she reportedly called out when mistaken for Louise de Keroualle. "Capricious blossom of the London gutters", a Time magazine article called her.

In a book review in the TLS (11.2.2011) Lisa Hulton writes: "Nell Gwyn might have been reduced to the "gutter tactics"...of lacing a rival's supper with laxatives, but at least she got to be the ancestress of five of Britain's current twenty-six dukes".

King Charles II died on 6 February 1685. He came to a better end than his father, Charles Ist.

"Pretty, witty Nell"

Charles II:

Children of Charles I:

Nell Gywnn was buried within the Vicar's Vault at St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
Her bones were moved, unceremoniously cleared out. Now nothing marks the spot.

"If I were the Duke of St. Albans
What would I think of Nell Gwynn?
I'd wonder how she won me the title
And whether it involved any sin."

Royal mistress,
People's goddess:
Bravo, Encore!
We can't replay your greatest scenes;
But I think I recognise the genes."

(1st January, 2000)

Kitty Shannon, illustrations:

More Famous Last Words: Johnny Ace

Johnny Ace Haiku

The late Johnny Ace
Played Russian roulette.
Last words: “The gun’s not loaded!”

Johnny Ace, Pledging My Love

Wikipedia reports it like this:  

After touring for a year, Ace had been performing at the City Auditorium in Houston, Texas, Christmas 1954. During a break between sets, he was playing with a .22 calibre revolver. Members of his band said he did this often, sometimes shooting at roadside signs from their car.
It was widely reported that Ace killed himself playing  Russian roulette. Big Mama Thornton's bass player, Curtis Tillman, however, who witnessed the event, said, "I will tell you exactly what happened! Johnny Ace had been drinking and he had this little pistol he was waving around the table and someone said ‘Be careful with that thing…’ and he said ‘It’s okay! Gun’s not loaded…see?’ and pointed it at himself with a smile on his face and ‘Bang!’ – sad, sad thing. Big Mama ran outta that dressing room yelling ‘Johnny Ace just killed hisself!"
Thornton said in a written statement (included in the book The Late Great Johnny Ace) that Ace had been playing with the gun, but not playing Russian roulette. According to Thornton, Ace pointed the gun at his girlfriend and another woman who were sitting nearby, but did not fire. He then pointed the gun towards himself. The gun went off, shooting him in the side of the head".

Monday, 10 January 2011

That New Orleans sound!

"Those lonely, lonely nights" is a song I first heard in the New Orleans version by Dr. John.

Earl King with Dr John

It was a hit for Johnny "Guitar" Watson.

According to eyewitness reports (and Wikipedia), when Johnny "Guitar" Watson died on stage on May 17, 1996, while on tour in Japan, he actually collapsed in the middle of a guitar solo; his last words were "ain't that a bitch".

The song is reminiscent of  that New Orleans classic, Fats Domino's timeless "Blueberry Hill".

It didn't sound so soulful when Mr. Putin sang it, and the piano triplets didn't roll so well.  I wonder when the Fats Domino recording was first released in Russia?

Mr. Obama should take him on a little trip down to Bourbon Street and Basin Street. That would put the world to rights. He might find his mojo (or John the Conqueror root) there. Start the tour with Louis's West End Blues? Followed by a blues by Jelly Roll Morton and his swinging Dr. Jazz?

I once followed the advice of Gary 'US' Bonds, and took a little trip down the Mississippi myself. But that's another story.

New Orleans - The Blues Brothers and The Louisiana Gator Boys

Chris Kenner, I Like It Like That

Champion Jack Dupree 1969

Corfu, New Hospital

Very encouraging news about the efficiency of the new hospital.

A further comment. 

Follow-up appointments , a warning.

Open Democracy, the Outlook for 2011

Open Democracy has gathered the views of a variety of writers and academics.

Musical Tastes

The Independent (7/1/2011) picked up this Twitter comment by Lizzie Wurtzel:

"Neurologists say that musical taste freezes @ about age 26"

An interesting observation. I'd like to read more. Is there any hard evidence for this?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Tolpuddle Martyrs and Transportation

Whether or not you believe in Trade Unions or the TUC, you can't fail to be moved by the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Some may take the side of  James Frampton, and find a few of the songs at the Festival (17 July 2011) not to their taste, too politicised or potentially divisive.

William Burgess paintings: "Oh God, that bread should be so dear and flesh and blood so cheap"

I'm interested in the social history of Dorset at the time, and in the experiences of the transportees in Australia.

The booklet, "The Horrors of Transportation" (available at the Museum) is of particular interest, a publication to have alongside Robert Hughes' "The Fatal Shore" in order to gain greater insight into the cruel punishments convicted men had to endure in New South Wales and in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land).

George Loveless, one of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, has a short (4 page) description of New South Wales in this reprinted publication. He describes the beauty of New South Wales and its healthy climate. His description (pp 18-19) of Aboriginal people, their marriage  and eating customs and other aspects of their way of life is less sympathetic. That is perhaps normal for the period, but it does serve to remind us that solidarity only went so far. In expressing our compassion for the Tolpuddle Martyrs, let us not forget the sufferings of the Aboriginal people.

George Bernard Shaw on the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and Australia.

It would be good to see a group like Yothu Yindi at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival; or a singer like Christine Anu, singing "My Island Home". We all miss our island homes.

Belmont House, Lyme Regis, home of John Fowles

I understand that there is some controversy surrounding the conservation and future of Belmont House, where the author John Fowles lived in Lyme Regis.

Many years ago I remember that John Fowles explicitly wanted it to become a writers' centre, or even an international young writers' centre. That plan seems to have been shelved. I am sure he would not have wanted it to be converted into holiday accommodation. It is equivalent in importance to Max Gate or Hardy's birthplace. In matters of literary reputation one has to take the long view.

In his book "A Short History of Lyme Regis" (1991). John Fowles remarks: "Local politics tend to become a matter of  a party of conservation facing a party of development." He goes on to say that "there is a cruel but sadly accurate phrase describing Westcountry seaside towns like Lyme: 'Summer, grockles; winter, death'". In the same year (1991) Fowles upset his fellow townspeople, including the Town Crier, by writing an article in the Daily Telegraph (15/8/1991), with the unfortunate headline, "Stupid grockles - curse of the coastal resort", which I am sure was not his phrase. The article was provocative: "It is not only the sewage that stinks here these days....When to that you add the present unhappy economic state of this country, it is perhaps no surprise that the most rudimentary environmental common sense suffers."

Perhaps local people don't care about the fate of Belmont? The Town Crier published an angry (but quite unfair) open letter to John Fowles on 16/8/1991, in the Bridport and Lyme Regis News. He accused the author of irresponsibility and of causing irreparable damage, of destoying the hard work of generations,: "You sit up in your ebony tower at Belmont in Pound Street, hoping to remain isolated from our reality".

John Fowles cared passionately about Lyme Regis. In "The French Lieutenant's Woman" he suggests that for Lymers, familiarity has bred contempt, even for the Cob, a degree of resentment being justified in part because of the cost of repairs for over seven hundred years:

"Real Lymers will never see much more to it than a long claw of old grey wall that flexes itself into the sea...they seem almost to turn their backs on it...But to a less tax-paying, or more discriminating, eye it is quite simply the most beautiful sea-rampart on the south coast of England...Primitive yet complex, elephantine but delicate; as full of subtle curves and volumes as a Henry Moore or a Michelangelo; and pure, clean, salt, a paragon of mass...a superb fragment of folk-art."

Yesterday was a halcyon day in Lyme. A sunny January Sunday with lots of people about (not too many). Some things in Lyme do change for the better. Like other grateful grockles, I have to agree with Valentine Warner about the good value for money at Herbies Dino Fish Bar on Marine Parade!

Later I consulted Eileen Warburton's excellent biography of John Fowles, "A Life in Two Worlds" (2004). On the question of the ultimate fate of Belmont House, she writes:

"He had been concerned since at least 1995 lest after his death it would be sold and converted into yet another Lyme Regis hotel. He feared that his beloved garden would be destroyed. He looked for ways to create a trust that would establish Belmont as a student writing centre, nature research centre, and conference facility, under the aegis of an institution of higher learning...A registered John Fowles Literary Trust was planned in 1998 to map out Belmont's future and secure funding."

Whatever happened to that Trust and its plans?

This is the latest plan from the Landmark Trust.

It is opposed by the Victorian Society.

More about the controversy.

See also my posting on John Fowles and the Aegean Blues 

View the trailer from The French Lieutenant's Woman 

Thanks in part to the film and to John Fowles' novel, the Cobb harbour wall has become one of the most romantic spots in this part of the country. Jane Austen also helped. Alfred Lord Tennyson walked on the Cobb with his friend, another poet, William Allingham, who wrote "We go down to the Cobb, enjoying the sea, the breeze, the coast-view of Portland, etc., and while we sit on the wall I read to him, out of Persuasion, the passage where Louisa Musgrave hurts her ankle."

The good people of Lyme Regis should be proud of John Fowles and of Belmont House, as much as they are of the Cobb. The names John Fowles and Belmont House still have the power to attract cultural tourists, writers, academics, students and lovers of literature from all over the world, especially from the USA and Greece.

"Kerkyra, Kerkyra", George Katsaros, Rena Vlachopoulou

A Greek editor, Yiannis Kalaitzoglou, once included this song about Corfu in an anthology of traditional Corfiot folk-songs!

I translated one stanza for my book, The Ionian Islands and Epirus (pp. 66-67):

"The tastiest young girls
I saw in Palaiokastritsa

And the freshest fish are found
Only in Benitsa".

Get the picture?

It's a novelty song from the Rena Vlachopoulo film, The Countess of Corfu (1972). It seems to symbolise the dominant imaginative landscape of Corfu and Greece in the 1960s and 1970s. They hadn't heard of feminism then.

The song features the once iconic landmark views like Pontikonisi and Palaiokastritsa.

Here's another piece of selective nostalgia. Would it were always like that!

When you hear something different: Koop may not be a scoop, but...

However eclectic one's musical tastes (I tend to identify myself as a somewhat obsessive bluesman with my head in the 1920s, but that's only part of the picture), it's always a pleasure to be introduced to something different, as I am certainly not systematic about keeping up with modern trends.

Some years ago I was glad to be introduced to an album of songs by Pink Martini, with Hey Eugene

Not my normal "cup of tea", but a fantastic voice and lyrics.

I've only just discovered a Swedish group called Koop- and the phenomenal Swedish singer from Gothenburg Yukimi Nagano. I'd never heard of them until I watched someone's Corfu holiday YouTube video which uses Koop's "Island Blues" as the soundtrack. Thanks petethemeat69, whoever you are. A great jazz vocal, even if the song is not about Corfu.

I should also refer you to Koop's official videos. Here's Island Blues again. I prefer the video for "Come to Me". There may be more. Worth exploring. Yukimi's vocals are great in both.

Nick Papandreou's Weblog

I've just discovered Nick Papandreou's weblog, which should be of interest to some readers.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Keith Richards: what a life!

I was surprised, but pleased, to read Boris Johnson's article suggesting that Keith Richards should receive the honour of a knighthood. "But he's rock 'n' roll", I hear you say.

His autobiography, "Life" (written with James Fox) may yet qualify as my book of the year (2010), partly because I have a fascination for biographies and autobiographies by and about good musicians. I could change my mind, as I'm only half way through, and Keith does reveal some attitudes and habits which are not so appealing or commendable. But the music, and those riffs!

To mention only a couple of "local"  anecdotes, the story of him and John Lennon completely "out of it" on a confused acid trip in and out of Lyme Regis (according to which fellow traveller claims to remember a half of what happened; pp 206-207) is not very uplifting. This, and revelations about similar episodes and adventures, although of very minor importance in the scheme of things (eg at Stonehenge, with Mick, Marianne and others; pp 249-250) may have damaged his chances, in spite of his enormous contribution to our personal and national cultural lives and to Britain's international influence.

I first saw The Rolling Stones perform live in Bournemouth in 1964. It was at the Gaumont in August 1964 (not the Winter Gardens in February 1964). I can't even remember the names of the two young ladies my friend and I took to see the show. It could have been the first, and the last time.

Rolling Stones in the USA, 1964, Around and around.

I shall read on. Concerning a knighthood, do you think Boris Johnson was right?

Update, 15 January: Finished the book! I found the answer on pages 534-555, when Keith discusses Mick Jagger's knighthood. Mick had phoned him to tell him that Tony Blair was insisting that he (Mick) should accept a knighthood. Keith's response: "You can turn down anything you like, pal". Keith comments further, "It was incomprehensible for Mick to do it; he'd blown his credibility...It's a demeaning thing to do. It's called the honours list, but we've been honoured enough...It may have been another attack of LVS".

LVS= Lead Vocalist Syndrome.

On Scotland and Montenegro

One can rely on The Economist to provoke discussion!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Bagehot on Cricket and British Culture

I wish I'd been in Melbourne or Sydney!

Dorset Life Magazine Articles

For anyone who may be interested, I have an article in the latest (January 2011) issue of Dorset Life.

The next issue (February 2011) may be of interest to Corfiots, as my second article is entitled "From Corfe to Corfu" and I explore (and celebrate) some connections between Dorset and Corfu, including the Durrell Family and its members, and I also speculate about possible etymological connections between the names Corfe and Corfu (and yes I do know that one comes from the Anglo-Saxon, the other from the Greek!)


Nearly fifty years ago I started to make a rough translation of this Hugo v. Hofmannsthal poem on transience/evanescence/the transitory nature of life. I couldn't  find that old draft version, so I started again. I suppose I have become much more aware of the significance of the topic than I could have been then.


"How can it be that these recent days are gone,
For I can still feel their breath on my cheeks?
Yet they are gone for good and lost for always".

The poet finds it hard to come to terms with the fact that everything goes gliding by; with the speed of change and with the curious observation-

"That my own self developed, unconstrained,
Evolved from that small, alien child,
As strange to me as some mute, stray dog".

Ah well, that's life!
Rock on!