You know when you’re driving along in the rain—the kind that your wipers can’t really cope with, and they go into a sort of frantic ineffectual fastwipe which is slightly silly, somehow, in the way that a powerwalk is—and you see walkers trudging along the verge, heads bowed, sheathed almost entirely in rustling nylon, their huge packs, also nylon-sheathed, rearing behind them like a doom they can’t shake; and you think casually, in passing, ‘Poor bastards’? Well. On day three of the pilgrimage, those poor bastards were us. (read more…)
It was one of those days Messrs Ordnance & Survey tend to put on the covers of their 1:25,000s: deep green hills, and water sparkling under a sky whose few meringues of cloud only emphasised the depth of the blue.
Usually, stopping for a squint at the map during a trudge across the rain-wreathed landscape, your cag hood rustling about your ears and your face screwed up against the wind, you regard these images with a sort of resentful disbelief. (I call this look ‘the (read more…)
“This is a magnificent piece of walling which shows off the expertise of the men who built them. Note that the wall has horizontal courses, while the top stones slope with the hill and are built with the wall rather than simply sitting on top. There is a strong wall end above the gorge”. Well, who knew? She who hath eyes to see, and all that.
The wall thus celebrated features in a walk round Coniston and the Old Man, given in a booklet produced by the Cumbria Dry Stone Walling Association (from which that description is taken). My friend Jenny suggested (read more…)
‘They are not long, the days of wine and roses.’* This is, unfortunately, true. The hours of wine and rowdies, however, can feel very long indeed. Welcome to Coach A, the Quiet Zone.
I was sharing the carriage with approximately 743 On-Train Revellers—memory may have distorted this slightly—and was feeling hot-flushy, claustrophobic and overwhelmed. All the usual signs were there: a commitment to noise and Having A Good Time, standing in the aisle, heavy daytime drinking coz-we’re-on-holiday, a lot of very loud laughing (often with a (read more…)
‘The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long’ or ‘the shortness of life forbids us long hopes’ —Horace
They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
Although this poem is about a great deal more than lost youth, still, the opening of stanza two is what was running round and round in my head while I was in Oxford, and when I contemplated my time there afterwards. For me, the lines chimed with a melancholy note; but I can equally see that there can be some comfort—if perhaps a coolish comfort!—in its reminder that everything passes. I love how that “everything” is so economically and powerfully evoked in the poem’s images: ‘the weeping and the laughter/ Love and desire and hate’, ‘the days of wine and roses’. However this poem hits you—and I think that can vary from moment to moment as well as from person to person—there is a plangent beauty in this brief, apparently-simple poem which makes it one to return to, whatever your current mood.