Sunday, 30 September 2012

Burnt Norton, the first of Four Quartets by T S Eliot

I still have my copy of the Collected Poems of TS Eliot, bought whilst studying English Literature  years ago.  I needed it last week.  You will see why.

Elder daughter and I were spending a few days' quality time together.  We went for a walk.  Normally, we have her Dad with us, and we just follow him blindly, chatting away effortlessly while he holds the map and navigates.

This time we had to work it out for ourselves.  We got lost.  We passed the most beautiful house, set in the middle of nowhere.  High up overlooking a beautiful view, lovely 17th century proportions.  Golden Cotswold stone.

I wondered what the name of the house could be, thinking that perhaps we could then identify it on our map.  Gazing about, I noticed a figure emerging from behind a hedgerow.

This was the helpful head groundsman, who told us we were trespassing.  He also told us the name of the house - "Burnt Norton".  Of course I asked if it was connected to the poem by TS Eliot, and he confirmed that it was, and that Eliot had also been trespassing when he roamed around the garden and found some dry ponds which appear in the first section of the poem.

It was rather exciting to feel that we were following in the footsteps, quite literally, of one of the most famous writers of the 20th century.

Now my experience of TS Eliot whilst a student was mixed.  I found some of it amusing and easy to remember .

"The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock", for example, still springs to mind from time to time when one is eating a peach, or feeling one's age ("I grow old,  I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled...").

"The Waste Land" is harder, but stuffed like a plum pudding full of quotations which other authors have purloined for their later work.  ("The Grass is Singing" to name but one).

I remember thinking how difficult the Four Quartets were, and I feel no different now.  Inaccessible, repetitive in beat, emotion and thought process, and depressing.

But I am glad I have the book, and could look up the reference to the dry pools the gardener told us about.  Here it is:

"So we moved ....
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool".

The gardener gave us permission to go and look into the drained pools likewise, but we felt that we had pushed our luck in trespassing quite enough already, and progressed on our way instead.


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Running Out of Time - the Advice of Marcus Aurelius

There just doesn't seem to be enough time, and what there is, redefines itself with an elastic stretch and contraction according to how much one has to do.

When did I ever find time to see friends, write blog posts, and enjoy relaxation, when I had two jobs?

One of them has come to an end.  You would have thought that I would be feeling great.  (Well, aside from the humiliation, the anger and the loss of income stream, that is).


Thinking that I would have all the time I need to take up a creative hobby, or work towards a goal, instead I find that I am wasting most of it.

I take longer to eat my breakfast, do the washing, read the paper.  I now watch more than one hour of television a week (my previous allocation).  I am doing all the cooking, instead of only half of it.

This is no good.  I must get on with something.  Otherwise, what will I have to show for the extra three days a week now at my disposal?

Searching amongst the Ordinance Survey Maps in the bookcase, I came upon my ancient copy of "The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius".  (Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD) .  The inscription on the flyleaf merely states "1917".  It is nearly one hundred years old.

Did this book accompany anyone into the trenches, I wonder?  This Emperor looked too good to be true, a soldier and  philosopher king - did he have the recipe for peace and the end to all wars?

Sadly not.  He was called upon to attend to war, and died after winning a victory.

However, he has this piece of advice:

"Wander at random no longer.  Alas! you have no time to peruse your diary, to read over Greek and Roman hisory, or so much as your own commonplace book, which you collected to serve you when you were old."  [Note to self - could this be an early version of a blog?]

"Hasten then towards the goal."

Sunday, 9 September 2012

On Top Of the World

So at last we had a full week of holiday, the first hubby has had in 12 months.  Both our darling daughters came with us for part of the time.  As one is soon to go to Brussels for a year and the other to a ski season in France for a season, this could well be the last time we are all together until next summer.


We went up Mount Snowdon on the miniature steam railway, and this is what we saw at the top.   We were really on top of the world.