Swans out of the north,

pushed by wind, sweep in like caped cavalry;

lanced uhlans in flight from a broken field.

A litter of sudden grey stones creep

across the pasture – another drop

of fieldfares late last night.

Smoke columns lean along the moor,

crackles and flying embers at their feet,

attended by bent figures – swaddled keepers.

It is the autumn burning – new shoots

for next year’s grouse – while emperors

and northern eggars roast in silken shrouds.

The glow of berried rowans on the heathered edge,

start memories  like snipe from a bog –

the lips of kissed and long-forgotten girls.

Harry Nicholson 

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A Painted Lady Year

It’s a painted lady year in Eskdale. She’s arrived from the fringe of the Sahara in large numbers. She’ll breed here, then her children will return to North Africa without map or satnav. Had a stroll around our small garden and counted ten, fuelling up on valerian flowers. Also two Red Admirals stayed a while.

Not to be outdone by the lepidoptera, a French Partridge spent a half hour on the lawn. They’re bred for shooting, but three have found sanctuary with us since last autumn. They pick around beneath the bird feeders when the goldfinches are feasting and throwing sunflower seed around as if it came free.

                                           Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui).
                                            Red Admiral
                                            French Partridge

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Actions have Consequences

The Garden of Karma

Rain tomorrow they say, but sun today.
Set the courgette plants out, four in a row.
Cherish the exercise, bend and stoop,
Ease them in, add a copper loop
To baffle the molluscs. Then splat . . .
A slap on the neck like a wet dish cloth
Some malevolent bird, out of spite
Has voided its bowels from a great height,
Down my shirt runs a river of (insert suitable rhyme).
I’ve fed them through hard times for years,
Subscribed to the RSPB, donated to clear
Bird islands of the shipwrecked rat.
Be this a karmic consequence of that?
It must be some older sin that stalks
Down the years, from a former life:
When I slew the last dodo with my knife,
Or when, from the deck of the Dutchman,
I shot the wanderer down.
This voided white dross
Is neither robin nor thrush,
But the final salute of the albatross.

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Black Hole

I’m concerned about the black hole recently photographed – I’ve just planted my first early potatoes. I’m always anxious about singularities and such. Some years ago I was moved to compose this:

How would it be if all this collapsed into a singularity?
Will W.B. Yeats’ tombstone be ripped from the Sligo earth to whirl through time into unspeakably compressed blackness, calling out as it goes:
“Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman pass by.”

The lines of migrating geese, where would they go in Autumn?

And Carlos Williams’ white chickens finally bereft of the red wheelbarrow……

Will there be puffs of smoke from the Vatican? And what colour will they be?

When God rings up, who will answer the phone?

Will it ring in the Vatican or on the Rabbi’s desk in Jerusalem?
Or will some mullah break off in mid rant to grab his mobile?

Will that funny black thing in Mecca begin to speak and will it say:
“I’ve been out to lunch, is something happening?”

What would happen to the Queen’s underclothes, hung out to dry, on lines, in secret places?

Should we put the jam in the fridge and give a final check to the humane mouse traps?

Should we have a bell five minutes beforehand, and after we have eaten all the chocolate?

Would Tony Blair speak unto us one last sound-bite, telling us “it will all turn out for the best“?

Would the Americans switch off the lights?

Will we be interested when the missing weapons of mass destruction start going off, deep in caves in the Hindu Kush?

What will be the last poem? Will it be any good?

And how will the ewe, down by the loch, find her lamb?
Harry Nicholson June 2004 Loch Voil

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While the sun shines

Lots of sun of late, which means our solar panels fuel the electric enamelling kiln. Here’s a few things the sun has made:

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What I did at the weekend.

I was called from retirement to be one of four judges at the Beveren rabbit club Centenary Show at Thirsk, North Yorkshire.

Here we are again. Last time was at Leamington Spa about 28 years ago. A table of White Beverens . Note the blue eyes.

And the original Blue Beveren. It came to the UK about 1918 from the town of Beveren in Belgian Flanders

Handing out the awards. Derek Medlock receives the rosettes.

Cutting the cake with a grand old judge of the Fancy, Alfred Aldridge. I could listen to his Lancashire dialect for hours, and not tire. I’d wondered what I was doing here at my age . .  then Albert donned a judging coat, and brought a lifetime’s experience.

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Recent enamels from the kiln

Bowl with acer leaf stencil, threads and chips.

Bowl with fire scale embedded

Trees: unleaded blue, painted onto leaded white.

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The Best of Days

The Blurb:

Here is a memoir of journeys into deep waters on merchant ships. There are tranquil tropical harbours and violent storms far from shore. We are in the wireless room when ships are calling for help. The story begins with humble origins on the coast of County Durham surrounded by family still coming to terms with the Great War. The author’s father went to war on horseback, yet in this story we are on the brink of the modern world. The writer was fortunate to join the Merchant Navy in the 1950s, and know its most glorious days. Harry Nicholson now lives near Whitby, on the Yorkshire coast. His other books are Tom Fleck, a Tudor novel of Cleveland and Flodden, and its sequel The Black Caravel. His collected poetry is suitably titled, Wandering About.
There it is. Taking a respite from historical novels, I’ve had a go at memoir. I’m cheered to find my first attempt has raised its first review – and from a lady in the USA.
on May 17, 2018
A captivating account of the life of a young man raised in Hartlepool England, who goes to sea in the Merchant Navy as a radio operator and returns home a master of Morse code. He’s witnessed strange and intriguing places that I will probably never see, but thanks to this author’s poetic descriptions and vivid imagery, I feel as though I’ve been there. For us history buffs, Mr. Nicholson offers insight into the history and legends of the places he visited. This memoir is a must-read.


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A certain barn in North Yorkshire

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Hanging on to the past

From birthing’s washbowl,
To the washbowl of the Dead,
Blathering nonsense.
Kobayashi Issa


Re-blogged from Dayamati:

Out of a living silence

“The world of dew
is the world of dew.
And yet, and yet–”
― Kobayashi Issa

When I lived in Hiroshima from the autumn of 1977 until the spring of 1979, I often passed by the iconic A-bomb dome, the ruined remains of the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Someone pointed out to me that the infrastructure of the building was so compromised that it would collapse if measures were not taken to keep it standing. While fully aware of and sympathethic to the purpose of keeping a visual reminder of the devastation wrought by an atomic bomb, I also reflected on the irony of putting effort into keeping something perpetually in a state of being on the verge of collapse. How does that differ from, say, putting a brain-dead person on life support on display for no other reason than to serve as a reminder that life ends…

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