Wednesday, 29 July 2009

How To Handle A Problem Neighbour

Poem -The Dawn Of Guilt (John Betjeman)

Today's poem is an extract from John Betjeman's 'The Dawn Of Guilt' and relates his visits to his fathers London factory in Pentonville. Betjeman's father had great expectations of him taking over the company "fourth generation - yes, this is the boy." However, Betjeman had no interest in the business whatsoever, a fact that filled him with guilt for the rest of his life. Again, the poem has been written in blank verse and should be read as prose, following the punctuation.

Extract from The Dawn Of Guilt

My dear deaf father, how I loved him then
Before the years of our estrangement came!
The long calm walks on twilit evenings
Through Highgate New Town to the cinema:
The expeditions by North London trains
To dim forgotten stations, wooden shacks
On oil-lit flimsy platforms among fields
As yet unbuilt-on, deep in Middlesex ...
We'd stand in dark antique shops while he talked,
Holding his deaf-appliance to his ear,
Lifting the ugly mouthpiece with a smile
Towards the flattered shopman. Most of all
I think my father loved me when we went
In early-morning pipe-smoke on the tram
Down to the Angel, visiting the Works.
"Fourth generation - yes, this is the boy."
The smell of sawdust still brings back to me
The rambling workshops high on Pentonville,
Built over gardens to White Lion Street,
Clicking with patents of the family firm
Founded in 1820. When you rang
The front-door bell a watchful packer pulled
A polished lever twenty yards away,
And this released the catch into a world
Of shining showrooms full of secret drawers
And Maharajah's dressing-cases.
Hushed be thy green hilltop, handsome Highbury!
Stilled by the traffic roar of Upper Street!
Flash shop-fronts, masts and neon signs, drop off
The now-encumbered houses! O return,
Straw-smelling mornings, to old Islington!
A hint of them still hung about the Works
From the past days of our prosperity-
A hint of them in medals, photographs
And stockrooms heavy with the Tantalus
On which the family fortune had been made.
The Alexandra Palace patent lock,
The Betjemann device for hansom cabs,
Patents exhibited in '51,
Improvements on them shown in '62,
The Betjemann trolley used in coffee-rooms,
The inlaid brass, the figured rosewood box,
The yellow satinwood, the silverware-
What wealth the money from them once had brought
To fill the hot-house half-way up the stairs
With red begonias; what servants' halls;
What terrace houses and what carriage-drives!
Bang through the packing-room! Then up the step:
"Be careful , Maser John," old William called.
Over the silversmiths' uneven floor
I thought myself a fast electric train,
First stop the silver-plating shop (no time
To watch the locksmiths' and engravers work):
For there in silence Buckland used to drop
Dull bits of metal into frothing tanks
And bring them out all gold or silver bright-
He'd turn a penny into half-a-crown.
Though he but seldom spoke, yet he and I
Worked there as one. He let me seem to work.
The cabinet-makers' shop, all belts and wheels
And whining saws, would thrill me with the scream
Of tortured wood, starting a blackened plank
Under the cruel plane and coming out
Sweet-scented, pink and smooth and richly grained;
While in a far-off shed, caressingly,
French-polishers, all whistling different tunes,
With reeking swabs would rub the coloured woods,
Bringing the figured surfaces to light;
Dark whirling walnut, deep and deeper brown,
And rare mahogany's pressed butterflies.
Beside the timber yard, a favourite hut
Encased the thumping heartbeat of the Works,
An old gas-engine smelling strong of oil.
Its mighty wheel revolved a leather belt
Which, turning lesser wheels and lesser belts,
Spread like a drawing by Heath Robinson
Through all the rambling length of wooden sheds.
When lunch-time brought me hopes of ginger-beer
I'd meet my father's smile as there he stood
Among his clerks, with pens behind their ears,
In the stern silence of the counting house;
And he, perhaps not ready to go out,
Would leave me to explore some upper rooms-
One full of ticking clocks, one full of books;
And once I found a dusty drawing-room,
Completely furnished, where long years ago
My great-grandfather lived above his work
Before he moved to sylvan Highbury.
But in the downstairs showrooms I could find
No link between the finished articles
And all the clatter of the factory.
The Works in Birmingham, I knew made glass;
The stoneworks in Torquay made other things ...
But what did we do? This I did not know,
Nor ever wished to-to my father's grief.
O Mappin, Webb, Asprey and Finnigan!
You polished persons on the retail side-
Old Mag Tags, Paulines and Old Westminsters-
Why did I never take to you? Why now
When, staying in a quiet country house,
I see an onyx ashtray of the firm,
Or in my bedroom, find the figured wood
Of my smooth-sliding dressing-table drawers
Has got a look about it of the Works,
Does my mind flinch so?
Partly it is guilt:
'Following in Father's footsteps was the theme
Of all my early childhood. With what pride
He introduced me to old gentlemen,
Pin-striped commercial travellers of the firm
And tall proprietors of Bond Street shops.
With joy he showed me old George Betjeman's book.
(He was a one-'n' man before the craze
For all things German tacked another 'n'):
'December eighteen seven. Twelve and six-
For helping brother William with his desk.'
Uninteresting then it seemed to me,
Uninteresting still. Slow walks we took
On sunny afternoons to great-great-aunts
In tall Italinate houses: Aberdeen Park,
Hillmarton Road and upper Pooter-land,
Short gravel drives to steepish flights of steps
And stained-glass windows in a purple hall,
A drawing-room with stands of potted plants,
Lace curtains screening other plants beyond.
"Fourth generation-yes, this is the boy."

John Betjeman
Extract from: Summoned By Bells

Black Bear Quintuplets

Black bears typically have two cubs; rarely, one or three. In 2007, in northern New Hampshire a black bear Sow gave birth to a family of five healthy young.
A guy named Tom Sears learned of them shortly after they emerged from their den, and set himself the goal of photographing all five cubs with their mom.
After spend nearly four hours a day, seven days a week, for more than six weeks, he managed to get this fantastic photograph:
He stayed in touch with the family throughout the summer, but after Halloween received no further reports the bears survived until hibernation.
Then in the Spring of 2008, just before the snow disappeared, all six bears came out of their den and wandered all over the same familiar territory they trekked in the Spring of 2007.
Tom dreamed of taking another family portrait. On 25 April 2008, he achieved that dream. The result is this second picture of the family.
When something as magical as this happens between man and animal, Native Americans say, "We have walked together in the shadow of a rainbow."
It is Tom's wish that his exhilarating photos are passed on. I am very happy to do this through the pages of the Blankney Journal.


Another brainteaser for all you Journal wordsmiths. Today's challenge is to complete a set of words from which some of the letters have been removed. Good luck!

Five words that contain YM as a letter-pair have had all their other letters removed. Can you work out what the original words were?

01 *YM**

02 **YM*

03 *YM***

04 *YM****

05 ***YM**

Um, I think these are tricky, see how you get on.

Office Essentials

Thought For Today

The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents, and the seond half by our children.
Clarence Darrow

The Ages Of Taking A Woman To Bed

You take her to bed and tell her a story.
AGE 18
You tell her a story and take her to bed.

AGE 28
You don't need to tell her
a story to take her to bed.

AGE 38
She tells you a story and
takes you to bed.

AGE 48
She tells you a story to avoid
going to bed.

AGE 58
You stay in bed to avoid
her story.

AGE 68
If you take her to bed, that will be some story.

AGE 78
Story, what story! Bed, what bed!
Anyway, Who are you!