|Church Going |
by Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,
Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new-
Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don’t.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
“Here endeth” much more loudly than I’d meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.
Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?
Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,
A shape less recognizable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,
Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation – marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these – for whom was built
This special shell? For, though I’ve no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;
A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.
Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes.
“Out of my mind’s eye
Out of memory”
‘Ear all, see all, say nowt;
Eyt all, sup all, pay nowt;
And if ivver tha does owt fer nowt
–Allus do it fer thissen
Old Nol drank here!
The Soup Dragon and the Clangers
Madeleine the rag doll, Gabriel the Toad
The Iron Chicken
Dai Station, Idris the Dragon, Jones the Steam
Noggin the Nog, Thor Nogson, Olaf the Lofty, Graculus, Nogbad the Bad
Pippin, Tog, Mr & Mrs Pogle
“Peter Firmin did more to influence British children in the late 20th century than anyone else.”
Leeds Bridge June 2018
Leeds Bridge June 1888
Image by Louis Le Prince. It is claimed Le Prince filmed the first ever moving images on Leeds Bridge in 1888.
12th century bridge across the River Wear
Taken at the Liverpool Maritime Museum
Tonight the wind gnaws
With teeth of glass,
The jackdaw shivers
In caged branches of iron,
The stars have talons.
There is hunger in the mouth
Of vole and badger,
Silver agonies of breath
In the nostril of the fox,
Ice on the rabbit’s paw.
Tonight has no moon,
No food for the pilgrim;
The fruit tree is bare,
The rose bush a thorn
And the ground is bitter with stones.
But the mole sleeps, and the hedgehog
Lies curled in a womb of leaves,
The bean and the wheat-seed
Hug their germs in the earth
And the stream moves under the ice.
Tonight there is no moon,
But a new star opens
Like a silver trumpet over the dead.
Tonight in a nest of ruins
The blessed babe is laid.
And the fir tree warms to a bloom of candles,
And the child lights his lantern,
Stares at his tinselled toy;
And our hearts and hearths
Smoulder with live ashes.
In the blood of our grief
The cold earth is suckled,
In our agony the womb
Convulses its seed;
In the first cry of anguish
The child’s first breath is born.
View the Ultimate Interactive Map of Great British Grub in a larger format and suggest additional locations
Please can I have an Electrical Lab 3 for £5.95.
Ode to Autumn
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells”
Aunt Sally is a traditional Cotswolds/Oxfordshire summer game, still played in many pubs in the area.
The dolly (a 10cm high ball or skittle) is placed on a metal spike normally around 3 foot tall. Players (typically two teams of 6) take it in turns to throw 6 sticks at the dolly. The aim is to knock the dolly off the spike, without hitting the spike.
It is a fun way to spend a lunchtime or an evening outside at a pub, as you discover just how hard it is! Well worth trying if you’re in a pub with a court.
The game of Aunt Sally goes back at least as far as the 17th Century. It may have been introduced by Royalist soldiers during the English Civil War when Charles set up court in Oxford.
Two teams of eight players throw six sticks each per leg. The game is played over three legs. The largest number of dolls scored per team wins each leg. If there is a tie in the decisive leg, each team can throw three sticks and then one until there is a decisive result. In the league system, however these days legs can be tied, with two points being awarded for a leg win and one for a draw. If a player fails to score in a leg, it is called a blob with the ultimate embarrassment of a three blob game often being published in the local newspapers sports section. It is a custom that the winner of the fourth (beer) leg is bought a drink of their choice by a member of the opposing team.