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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Aristeidis Metallinos, Greek Sculptor from Corfu

Visit the new website and online archive of this important sculptor from Ano Korakiana

Thanks to Simon Baddeley for the information and link, and for his continuing commitment to the cause of making Metallinos' work better known.

Monday, 18 September 2017

BBC Daily Politics: Jo Coburn versus Iain Duncan Smith; Hostile Interview, 18 September 2017

Jo Coburn is joined by Conservative MP Lucy Frazer and Labour MP Catherine West to discuss Boris Johnson's intervention on the Brexit debate.  BBC2, on BBC iPlayer.

Worth watching from from 24.40 point. Iain Duncan Smith keeps his cool. Jo Coburn manifestly does not (whatever your views on Brexit, Boris and statistics). BBC impartiality? Not an edifying spectacle. Much heat and rudeness, all round.

Dorchester, Dorset: Which Square? Brewery Square or Queen Mother Square?

Some very expensive apartments overlooking the fountain in Brewery Square, and in Queen Mother Square.

The choice of views: a car park in the main Poundbury square, a multi-jet fountain in Brewery Square.

In Brewery Square there is a large digital screen, with intermittent warnings about some of the rules of behaviour - "no dogs in the fountains", "refrain from urinating in fountains"....

Brewery Square events

Children, it's OK to laugh - but not to scream!

William Barnes and Robert Young ('Rabin Hill') on the Railroad/Railway; Train Poems; Train Songs; The Iron Horse

William Barnes, The Railroad, I and II (Hwomely Rhymes: A Second Collection of Poems in the Dorset Dialect, 1859)

From the poem by Robert Young/('Rabin Hill') : Rabin Hill's Visit to the Railway, What he Zeed and Done and What he Zed About It (1861; first published in two parts, Sturminster Newton,1864, 1865)

In the USA, the sound of honky-tonk, boogie-woogie, train, and harmonica blues, gospel and country music were all influenced by the rhythm of the railroad, the 'lwonesome' sound of the steam-whistle, the clickety-clack of the steam train - a very different kind of nostalgia from that found in the poems of John Betjeman. But British smokestacks made it happen! That’s my theory. I've written two train songs in my time, "The Stourbridge Lion" and "The Kenyan Cannonball".

Three cheers for Foster, Rastrick and Co who built the Stourbridge Lion, the Delaware and Hudson!

Horatio Allen came over to England in 1828 and signed a contract for four locomotives, which were delivered in New York in 1829.

About The Stourbridge Lion

 "Much has been written about this locomotive, largely because of its claim to fame - that it was the first steam locomotive to run on a commercial line in the United States. Built by Foster, Rastrick and Co. in 1829, the Stourbridge Lion's historic first run took place on August 8th of that year." See  

Things were never to be the same once the locomotive, The Stourbridge Lion, arrived in the USA, although it was heavy for the American tracks, and apparently wasn't used as often as I'd imagined.

The test trial of the British-built Lion down a US railroad line took place on August 8, 1829.

My own effort at a humorous railway country song, written in Kenya in the 1970s:

The Kenyan Cannonball 

I've heard of all your Cannonballs
rattling down the line;
they're always heading southwards,
they all pull in on time.
The wheels keep on a-turning
and the smokestacks always shine -
but if you want to see God's country
then try this train of mine.


The Kenyan Cannonball, the Kenyan Cannonball,
The steam comes from the chimney, oh hear the whistle call.
It chugs across the sleepers, it seems ten miles a day,
If you want to get there faster, you can push or you can pray.

Some folks talk of walking down that lonesome railroad track,
they're forever counting cross-ties, with a sack upon their back.
I'm not saying that they romanticise
the freight-train or hobo-
but they're not the only ones
who've heard steam whistles blow.


The trains all start rolling from the East towards the West,
And way out here in Kenya, they still think steam's the best.
They send goods to Uganda, and back towards the Coast,
And though I've never hopped a freight, I'm quite prepared to boast:

From the wide old Indian Ocean across to that great Lake,
Over rivers and Rift Valley
runs the Iron Snake.
Yes, the mean man-eating lions once made an awful mess,
But none of them could speed it up, the lunatic express.


From Mombasa to Kisumu, and to Kampala too,
You can pay or ride the box-car, you can yodel till you're blue.
You can use the rails for bracelets, you can twist them round your arm,
But if you want to get there quicker, ride a tractor from your farm


List of train songs

1923 - Henry Whitter - "Wreck of the Old 97"

Long Steel Rail, The Railroad in American Folksong, Norm Cohen

Some more English poems

On The Projected Kendal And Windermere Railway
Is then no nook of English ground secure
From rash assault? Schemes of retirement sown
In youth, and 'mid the busy world kept pure
As when their earliest flowers of hope were blown,
Must perish; how can they this blight endure?
And must he too the ruthless change bemoan
Who scorns a false utilitarian lure
'Mid his paternal fields at random thrown?
Baffle the threat, bright Scene, from Orresthead
Given to the pausing traveler's rapturous glance:
Plead for thy peace, thou beautiful romance
Of nature; and, if human hearts be dead,
Speak, passing winds; ye torrents, with your strong
And constant voice, protest against the wrong.

William Wordsworth (1844)

From On the Departure Platform

We kissed at the barrier; and passing through
She left me, and moment by moment got
Smaller and smaller, until to my view
        She was but a spot;

A wee white spot of muslin fluff
That down the diminishing platform bore
Through hustling crowds of gentle and rough
        To the carriage door.

Under the lamplight's fitful glowers,
Behind dark groups from far and near,
Whose interests were apart from ours
        She would disappear...

Thomas Hardy (Time's Laughingstocks and Other Verses, 1909)

This is the Night Mail, W. H. Auden (from the film)

The Express

After the first powerful, plain manifesto
The black statement of pistons, without more fuss
But gliding like a queen, she leaves the station.
Without bowing and with restrained unconcern
She passes the houses which humbly crowd outside,
The gasworks, and at last the heavy page
Of death, printed by gravestones in the cemetery.
Beyond the town, there lies the open country
Where, gathering speed, she acquires mystery,
The luminous self-possession of ships on ocean.
It is now she begins to sing - at first quite low
Then loud, and at last with a jazzy madness -
The song of her whistle screaming at curves,
Of deafening tunnels, brakes, innumerable bolts.
And always light, aerial, underneath,
Retreats the elate metre of her wheels.
Streaming through metal landscapes on her lines,
She plunges new eras of white happiness,
Where speed throws up strange shapes, broad curves
And parallels clean like trajectories from guns.
At last, further than Edinburgh or Rome,
Beyond the crest of the world, she reaches night
Where only a low stream-line brightness
Of phosphorus on the tossing hills is light.
Ah, like a comet through flame, she moves entranced,
Wrapt in her music no bird song, no, nor bough
Breaking with honey buds, shall ever equal.

Stephen Spender

From Summoned by Bells

Attend the long express from Waterloo
That takes us down to Cornwall. Tea-time shows
The small fields waiting, every blackthorn hedge
Straining inland before the south-west gale.
The emptying train, wind in the ventilators,
Puffs out of Egloskerry to Tresmeer
Through minty meadows, under bearded trees
And hills upon whose sides the clinging farms
Hold Bible Christians. Can it really be
That this same carriage came from Waterloo?
On Wadebridge station what a breath of sea
Scented the Camel valley! Cornish air,
Soft Cornish rains, and silence after steam......
As out of Derry's stable came the brake
To drag us up those long, familiar hills,
Past haunted woods, and oil lit farms and on
To far Trebetherick by the sounding sea.

John Betjeman

Literature of the British Virgin Islands

"Poet, editor and academic Richard Georges introduces the literature scene in his home in the British Virgin Islands" (BC Literature blog, published 30 August, 2017).

In pictures: Irma devastates British Virgin Islands, BBC - The British overseas territory in the Caribbean is reeling from the deadly hurricane. Still current at:18 September 2017 Updated:17 September 2017

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is currently advising against all travel to the British Virgin Islands; tropical storm Maria is expected to develop into a hurricane and make landfall on the BVI on Tuesday 19 or Wednesday 20 September; following the extensive damage caused by hurricane Irma, there is a high risk of further severe damage; coastal flooding is also highly likely; if you are in the British Virgin Islands, you should identify shelter immediately and be ready to take cover when the hurricane approaches; if you are currently outside BVI, you should not return to the territory at this time; the local authorities have introduced a curfew from 6pm to 9am until further notice; you should continue to follow the advice of the local authorities; the hotline for British people affected or concerned about others is +44(0)20 7008 0000; you should use whatever means you can to confirm to family that you are safe".

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Monica Ali on Authenticity

BBC Radio 4, iPlayer, A Point of View (ten minute programme): 

"Authenticity, writes Monica Ali, has become the yardstick by which we measure the value of much of our day-to-day lives. 'In this hyper-mobile, hyper-connected world' she says, 'the cult of authenticity is flourishing'. But what does it mean to be 'authentic'?"