Haiku #5: Old Father Thames, London

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As you know, I’m fascinated by the traditional haiku – short poems consisting of three lines, and the lines containing firstly five syllables, then seven, then five; and somewhere in the haiku there is a seasonal reference, however oblique.

I’m in London at the moment, and am lucky enough to live just 1oo yards/metres from the River Thames. I love London, and especially this part – I know, I’m biased.

So, I got up early this morning, and wandered along the banks of the River Thames to ‘greet the sun’, as a light, cold, grey fog ‘rolled’ along the river – the idea of ‘pea-souper’ London fogs is, essentially, a thing of the past, but especially at times of seasonal transition, this time of the year, when the weather changes and the temperature drops,  fog abounds along the banks of the river, nearby streets and ‘hangs’ over local parks and tumbles into the street(s).

Here’s a few haiku (or should that be haikus) about my early morning encounter.

1

Old Father Thames wakes.
His cold, grey breath moves onward.
So ‘menacingly’.

2

London dressed in grey.
Little seen, for much is lost.
Damp, rime, autumn frost.

3

Unseeing, I walk.
Faith-steps, slowly, taken now.
A ‘leap in the dark’?

4

Easterly winds blow.
Invisible is seen, now.
Old Father Thames wakes.

Poem: Become The Duet

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If we were to travel from the wild, ruggedness of Capel Curig,
near the foothills of Yr Wyddfa,
that place of green, of open-space, of dragons, myth and power;
Myrddin’s lair.

If we were to travel to the busy-ness of Old London,
that place of the ancient river of the Celts,
of crowded streets, of neon lights, Druid-energy and oh-so many people,
the Voice can be heard.

If we were to pause,
wherever we are, just for one moment,
to revel in life that is happening around us, to us, in us, through us,
we would hear the Voice.

Distractions come,
and a distancing from all that is natural seems to happen.
But, only seemingly, so.
The Voice that spoke creation into being,
thunders in the wilderness,  whispers in built-up places,
but speaks, still.
The Voice can be heard, if….
…if we have ears to hear.

If we would but listen to the music of our life,
our body would sway in time to the primal beat of times of old.

If we would but gaze at beauty around us,
our mind would laugh crazily with delight at the colours seen.

If we would but ponder, and feel deep within our soul
the love-song of the Friend,
then we would know the reason why we are here.
Become the duet.

Tadhg’s Journal: Of Celts, Giants & And Angels…

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Excerpt from Tadhg’s Journal: I’m back at my London place now, at least for a short while, and it’s great to be back. I do love wild and rugged north Wales and my place at Capel Curig, but I also love London for all its busyness, and especially this part, Fulham.

As I sit here, having put down a great book for a while, and in the cool twilight of the day, I’m now journaling just a few thoughts, by way of an introduction to where I am now, to this geographical area. A place of history, intrigued and mystery.

putney_bridge_-wiki-copyrightfree-723-5I love stories, and here’s a local myth that I came across some time ago. It is said that many years before the bridge was built, there lived in these parts two giant sisters on either side of the River Thames. One lived in, what is now called Fulham, the other, in what is now called Putney. Without a bridge times were difficult – especially as the pair of them had set about building a church in their respective villages (as they were then), on the banks on the River Thames.

And so they worked hard, fashioning huge bricks out of stone, and building a church, each. But, with only one hammer between them, thee work was slow.

How did they share that one hammer? When the giant sister on this side of the River Thames (I live in Fulham), wanted the hammer, she would shout to her sister to throw it across the river by shouting ‘full home’. When the other sister, on the other side of the river wanted the hammer, she would shout ‘Put nigh’. And it was from their cries to each other that the respective villages (and now boroughs of London) became known as Fulham, and Putney. [View is of Putney Bridge, looking towards All Saints Church, and Fulham]

284-river-thamesThis area of London has had a long Celtic influence. Indeed, the River Thames (pronounced ‘temz’) is so called because originally it was called Tamesas, a Celt word which meant dark. An apt description of the river’s water.

The Romans, later, called it the Tamesis, and then the “Th” was put added during the Renaissance period as they thought the Celts originated from Greece  possibly to reflect a belief that the name was derived from River Thyamis in Greece. The ‘th’ was, allegedly, then dropped for the ‘t’ pronunciation that we stress today, as one of the Kings couldn’t say his ‘th’s. [View of the River Thames, Fulham at twilight]

Did you know that the River Thames, it is alleged, has its own angel, and has been seen recently. A tv/film crew spotted an angel, and their reaction can be seen here.

261-fulham-palaceI also like history, too, and one of my special places to visit is Fulham Palace. From around AD700,  the site was acquired by Bishop Waldhere, and it served as a Bishop’s residence for over 12 centuries.

There is evidence of much earlier occupation of the site. Excavations from 1972 to 1986 by an archaeological group revealed Neolithic (3000BC), Iron Age (800BC-43AD) and Roman (200AD-500AD) artefacts.

Edmund Bonner (c.1500 – 5 September 1569), who later became Bishop Bonner lived at the Fulham Palace in the sixteenth century. Depending on which side of the Reformation you were on, it was probably undesirable to go to tea with the man. He was known as ‘Bloody Bonner’ for his role in the persecution of what he called heretics. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs sums up Bonner by saying: ‘This cannibal in three years space three hundred martyrs slew. They were his food, he loved so blood, he sparèd none he knew.’ [Photo: Part of Fulham Palace]

Just a few thoughts.

Did you know #3

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Did you know #3. This ‘Did you know’ has a decidedly mythical tone to it. So, did you know…

…the Boggart, a mythical UK ‘household spirit’, of old, that indulges in playful pranks in the house (like moving your keys, pulling the blankets off your bed as you sleep and so, is active, even today), can change and become malevolent if you don’t feed it, and

…the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland was first ever recorded when St Columba commanded it to stop pursuing  a swimmer in AD 565, and

…there is a church in Chesterfield, the church of St Mary and AllSaints, with a twisted spire. It is said that when it was built wooden beams, which had not dried out, were hastily used, and as they dried the spire twisted. However, others say that when the church was completed, a young couple of virgins got married, and the devil who was flying by was so shocked to see such a pure couple in church, that he stopped, rested on the spire and his weight twisted the spire, and

…in the 13th Century, the king of England, Henry III, used to let his pet polar bear go fishing in the Thames, and

…the lakes of Llydaw, Dinas and Ogwen in Wales, are amongst those that claim to contain the magical sword of King Arthur, Excalibur, and

…the afanc was a monstrous creature that, like most lake monsters, was said to prey upon anyone foolish enough to fall into or swim in its lake. One of the earliest descriptions was given by the 15th-century poet Lewys Glyn Cothi, and

…in the 1830’s, in the smog-filled streets of Victorian London a man or ‘monster’ roamed about attacking ladies. He was described as a fearsome man, with clawed hands, eyes that resembled ‘red balls of fire’, resembled the devil, and was said to be able to escape pursuit by jumping to ridiculous heights, and was known as Spring-Heeled Jack, and

…that it was reported in several London newspapers around 1859, that the sewers of London were full of monstrous pigs that would one day free themselves from their subterranean home and run riot through the city, and

…that Scotland has its own yeti, ‘bigfoot’? The Am Fear Liath Mòr, that is the Big Grey Man, is said to be extremely tall, is covered in short hair, and in the fifteenth century was called Wudewas, the ‘wood men’. So, do avoid Scottish summits after dark, and

…the Ceffyl Dŵr, water horse in Welsh folklore, appears and offers walkers a ride, but jumps back into the water and drowns the rider. Don’t climb on the back of a stray horse – especially one that appears to be soaking wet even when it’s not raining, and

…there is an urban myth that should  Big Ben, in London, ever strike thirteen, then the four vast lions at the foot of Nelson’s Column will come to life, and

…there is a London superstition about the famous ravens at the Tower of London. If the ravens ever fly away, it is said the Monarchy will fall, and with it, England itself. Interestingly, someone in authority takes this seriously, as the ravens wings are ‘clipped’ so they cannot fly, but only hop, and finally

…it is said that it is (still) illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament, London, in a suit of armour.

Rain in the City

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A raindrop falls on the chimney stack,
another two on the window-pane.
And then a torrent; and driving along, I’m taken aback
as the sky ‘opens up’, with no refrain.

Like a demented drummer, is the sound of rain on the roof of the car.

Around me, rolling ‘hills’ of bricks and mortar
are pelted with heaven-sent precipitation.
And granite gullies of streams of rain-water,
receive endlessly from the sky, down ‘open mouthed’ drains; a watery damnation.

Mighty mountains of steel and glass are overcome by nature’s blessing.

Passers-by run for cover,
except the dog that wants to ‘mark’ a tree,
except people already soaked, or the ‘odd’ rain-lover,
and those who are still dry, and warm, and comfortable, like me.

Rugged nature, best viewed from the inside is so wonderful.

Red gives way to green,
and green gives way to grey, and more grey, and even more.
Here to stay, it seems. Ubiquitous rain.
And, then it stops. [Oh well!]

Such is rain in the city, that is London.

Afterthought: People appear, as dry as a bone.
Where have all the soaked people gone?

Bestiary: C is for Ceffyl Dŵr

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Stop press! There is a monster in London!

London, it seems, has its very own monster, or rather the River Thames does. At this moment in time I should point out that when I’m in London, I live just 200 yards/metres from the river.

Seen breaking the surface water and floating for a few seconds here and there in the river, over the last few days, has been a mysterious grey, humped, rather illusive creature. Not quite as big as the much sought-after Loch Ness monster in Scotland, but maybe just as real.

Could this be the Beast of the Thames? BBC News

Speculation in the newspapers is high about the River Thames’ monster. Could it be a dolphin? True, these do sometimes find their way along the River Thames as far as the city, albeit an extremely rare occurrence.

River Thames Monster: Fresh sightings fuel speculation of creature lurking in the depths. London Evening Standard

Could it be a seal? Rarer than a dolphin, they have been known to lose their way and swim the River Thames and pop up near the Houses of Parliament, which nestles the river bank in central London, with a perplexed look. Could it be driftwood? A small whale?

‘Mysterious creature’ spotted swimming in the River Thames. ITV News

Having discounted the aforementioned, it is clear to me that London now has its own ceffyl dŵr [pronounced ‘keff-all door’].

Usually found in Wales (in Scotland they’re known as kelpie), they have been known to move over great distances. Ceffyl dŵr are, literally, ‘water horses’, and usually frequent lakes or waterfalls, but why not rivers?

They are easily recognised as they appear usually as large grey shire horses, with fiery red eyes, and can appear from the water or a thick mist, and disappear back into it in an instant. Some say the ceffyl dŵr have wings, but any anamcara or even a self-respecting a cryptozoologist would question this. However, regardless of the weather, they will always be sopping wet.

Do not try to ride one.

They may look friendly and inviting, but they are, infact, very violent creatures. It is said they have a habit of trampling hapless victims to death or taking the unsuspecting rider back into the water, where the victim is drowned and never seen again.

Meanwhile, the search for the monster goes on, with crowds armed with mobile phone cameras lining the riverbank and animal ‘expert’s taking to boats to catch sight of the creature. If only they knew how elusive, clever and dangerous ceffyl dŵr really are.

Dear Clerk Of The Weather…

 

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Excerpt from Tadhg’s Journal: For most of December, having spent a lot of time in the city (of London, UK), the temperature had been very  mild, averaging about 15c during the day and 9c at night.

I loved it. So mild. And, yet there was part of me that was hoping that the temperature would drop, and that we wouldn’t have ended 2015 with a prolonged autumn that went  straight into spring, and skipped winter altogether.

Today, winter arrived.

Sunrise today was 8am, but an hour before that, I was strolling along the River Thames, having wrapped up warm with multiple layers and wearing my ‘bank-robbers’ knitted hat, and I ‘discovered’ two things.

The air temperature was, literally, freezing, zero (0c) Celsius. And, as I left through the garden I noticed the frost that ‘caked’ the top of the weather-worn, wooden picnic table, and more so, the trees along the Thames embankment, just a few minutes later.

Ah, the River, I love it.

As I inhaled I could feel the cold air sting my nostrils, and a deep ‘freshness’ ‘hit’ my lungs. Totally unexpected, bearing in mind the previously mild weather, but welcome. Welcome?

It didn’t hurt, but it was rather uncomfortable. It was a ‘shock’ that cleared off any lingering ‘slumberiness’. And, I found myself wishing for warm weather. ‘Dear Clerk of the Weather’, Nathaniel Hawthorne might have written almost two hundred years ago. He wrote a fictional story that centered on a 6000-year-old man living on another planet, who had a stock of thunderbolts, rainbows, hailstones, and companions such as Jack Frost, which he would unleash occasionally on the Earth. ‘Dear Clerk of the Weather, please take Jack Frost back, and make the weather warmer, please. I’m finding it rather inconvenient’. There, I’ve said it, and yet the frost, the chill in the air, and now a slight breeze blowing in off the River Thames, continued. Had I really expected any change?

It seems, sometimes God does answer prayer, but at other times God doesn’t appear to, and I don’t know why. God certainly ignored my petition to the Clerk of the Weather. But, the first ‘discovery’ was why I should think that God would answer to me! If God is good, and God is; if God knows everything, and God does; if God acts in the interests of all, and God certainly loves all, then perhaps, for some, this freezing weather was a Godsend, and my ‘job’ was to trust God. After all, a slight frost isn’t really anything more than a minor inconvenience to me, and I pinched myself, metaphorically, not to be so negative and controlling. So, it was cold! So what? I then corrected my thought-letter to the Clerk to conclude, ‘…but as you know best, may your will be done.’

My second ‘discovery’, as soon as that negativity had ‘evaporated’, was one of a feeling of immense gratitude ‘bubbling up’ within me. It was cold, my nostrils and lungs evidenced that, but I was alive, and it felt good! I could feel the freshness not only on my skin, but inside me, too! How about that for being part of nature? I could see the River flow and it looked amazing. I detected the slight breeze coming in off the Thames and it smelled ‘rivery’, but I really did enjoy just the slightest hint of seaweed that enveloped me. Okay, that smell may not make the perfume counter of my local Pharmacy, but it was heaven-scent [sic]. The clouds were fast-moving, like wispy smoke that you might see in rural areas and coming out of chimney, and so low it seemed I could have almost reached up and touched them.  How then could I not be grateful for being part of all that was going on?

I’m told, that it might snow tonight. I hope so. I have a feeling I might be in for a third discovery of some kind.