Categories
Art and Photographic History Poetry West Cornwall (and local history)

Some thoughts on “resilience”

The splendid Penzance Literary Festival has chosen this topic as the inspiration for this year’s event. I have taken out my larger dictionaries and looked a little at its usage and etymology. The latter is not difficult as it derives directly from Latin and basically means something like the capacity to jump back.

The term resilience was introduced into the English language in the early 17th Century from the Latin verb resilire, meaning to rebound or recoil (Concise Oxford Dictionary, Tenth Edition).

resilience (n.) … 1620s, “act of rebounding or springing back,” often of immaterial things, from Latin resiliens, present participle of resilire “to rebound, 

From Ovid we read  “saepein gelidos resilire lacus, sed nunc quoque turpes” which Loeb gives as  meaning in Metamorphoses Book VI as Often they sit upon the sedgy bank and often leap back into the cool lake. This comes from a rather beautifully poetic passage at https://www.loebclassics.com/view/ovid-metamorphoses/1916/pb_LCL042.315.xml

We get the English expressions ‘Salient’ and ‘To sally forth’ from the Latin verb Salio -to jump. In Cassell’s Latin Dictionary we learn of the Salii who were apparently a college of priests who jumped and leapt about worshipping Mars in a procession accompanied by singers and armed dancers. Instituted bt Numa Pompilius apparently.

Returning to the concept of Resilience we can distinguish its meaning from something like Endurance or Durability; it is more springy, elastic and perhaps energetic. Principally, of course, the concern around the concept relates to the inner resources for coping with Covid and the restrictions consequent upon it. It is the psychology of resilience which makes it a concept current in the zeitgeist. Without much prompting Google asks –

What are the 5 skills of resilience?

Five Key Stress Resilience Skills

  • Self-awareness.
  • Attention – flexibility & stability of focus.
  • Letting go (1) – physical.
  • Letting go (2) – mental.
  • Accessing & sustaining positive emotion.

Additionally it further questions-

What are the 7 C’s of resilience?

Dr Ginsburg, child paediatrician and human development expert, proposes that there are 7 integral and interrelated components that make up being resilient – competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control.

Also from the Mayo Clinic-https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/resilience-training/in-depth/resilience/art-20046311

Whilst thinking about this topic, I came across these lines from a poem entitled Women Running, based upon Picasso’s painting entitled Deux femmes courant sur la plage which seem apposite and uplifting-

That arm laid across the horizon,

the racing legs, an unstoppable quartet, pull

me from my skin and I become one of them,

believe I’m agile enough to run a mile,


believe I’m young again, believe age

has been stamped out. No wonder, I worship

at the altar of energy, not the energy

huge with hate which revels in tearing apart,


in crushing to dust but the momentum

which carries blood to the brain, these women

across the plage, lovers as they couple

and tugs at the future till it breaks into bloom.
Myra Schneider

Categories
Art and Photographic History Book Reviews Penwith St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

“Women to the Rescue” by Jenny Dearlove-A Review

Madron Workhouse

Women to the Rescue by Jenny Dearlove

Memories of the recent past may not always be resurrected with pride. Indeed, they may be suppressed in an attempt to avoid guilt and pain. When it comes to the rough treatment of young women, unmarried and with child, in the years before the establishment of the Welfare State, recalling matters grows still more uncomfortable. The recognition of the catalogue of penury, ignorance and pain which led to unwanted babies, abortion and infanticide in the not so very distant past is not  easy to absorb. However, there are advantages in looking over such painful  issues. Firstly to discover that other brave women, in the form of a local society whose members responded to give succour at a time while others simply condemned “moral weakness”. Secondly, some such misfortunes; broken relationships, fear of infection and addictions  plaguing  our Grandparent’s generation remain today. What then can be usefully learnt from the records of the “Refuge for Girls in Trouble” set up in 1907 in Penzance?

In assembling an overview of the work of the Penwith Rescue and Preventative Society, Jenny Dearlove clearly demonstrates the often makeshift approach to the social care of young women in dire distress through unwanted pregnancy. It outlines one solution by the good folk of one Cornish town. This story contains an interesting medley of personal statements from care workers, committee members and others attempting to relieve distress. In giving a panorama of these dark times, it is necessary to deal with the uncomfortable details of dire distress; abortion, drunkeness, severe poverty, prejudice, dirt and disease. However, without such charitable interventions how much worse would the situation of these girls and babies have been?

It seems that often the young women were moved out of the area, quite often separated from their babies. Many alternative institutions beside the Penzance Rescue Society appear somewhat dire. The photograph of Madron Workhouse ( the text is liberally illustrated) in particular looks like the forlorn last hope that it undoubtedly was. In addition to illustrations there are several appendices with a very useful timeline that conveys the benefits of the development of the Welfare State and changing regulations toward contraception. Material inventions such as effective plumbing, electric cookers and later still, the washing machine were an obvious boon even when relationships between the occupants of the care homes and hostels were not always as they might be.

Doubtless, one  beneficial aspect of this book are  the questions which it raises. For certain men do not come out of the account with any credit.Not only those who left their girlfriends with unsought pregnancies but those who had forced their attentions on vulnerable women. Women’s suffrage and following campaigns, although limited at first, helped create a climate for change which went on to benefit children. Additionally, the book encourages thought about the difference between un helpful moralistic stances and more  neighborly generosity expressed by giving practical assistance. 

Some of the most interesting issues concern the differences between the organisers and what would nowadays be called, front line staff. There is early evidence of multi[ple pressures on the latter. Professional Social Work really only took off in the 1960s and its resourcing remains subject to political control and financial cuts. Currently, bearing in mind  profound lapses in child care and paucity of welfare provision we might do well to acknowledge rather forgotten  women who got down to the task of sustaining others who, in the parlance of the time, were considered to have “fallen”……..

All are one now, roses and lovers,

    Not known of the cliffs and the fields and the sea

Women to the Rescue

A Penzance Refuge for Girls in Trouble

Available from The Hypatia Trust https://hypatia-trust.org.uk/contact

ISBN 978-1-872229-76-8

Categories
Penwith Poetry West Cornwall (and local history)

In memory of J.M.

A tall donnish schoolmaster enters the gate

only a little late, dismounts

with a certain characteristic style

steering between the other master’s cars

He holds both bars and stomps,

observed by some third form boys, behind

the staffroom, past the prefect’s den

and parks his velociped in the cycle shed.

Allons enfants! We foregather before him

in serried desks- pupils in pupitres.

and listen to his high voice entreating us

to sing a folk song about a peasant soup.

Pacing the long dias by the grand piano

he encouraged us to belt ’em out. Pronunciation

rather than grammar was his choice forte.

We embraced “Auprès de ma blonde

Qu’il fait bon, fait bon, fait bon.“, the

Marseillaise and Sous le pont d’avignon

The lyrics he swiftly chalked above

the staves on the board in the Music Room.

Thinking back, he may have been batered

by the War and tough times along

with the Chinese Inland Mission.

Appearing himself like a cross between Ho Chi Min

and Ezra Pound.

Even then I thought he may not

have fitted in with the other masters

being deemed eccentric he would not have minded

entirely blinded to such bourgeois mores.

“China Reconstructs” tucked under his arm

and head full of ideograms, I wonder

just what I might still learn from him now.

Humphry Davy School - Marnick Builders

https://studycli.org/chinese-characters/types-of-chinese-characters/

Categories
Art and Photographic History Penwith West Cornwall (and local history)

The Discrete Charm of Temporary Huts

Two schoolmasters sat shredding their gowns in the late afternoon in the hut and during the urbane conversation fed the torn off pieces into the gap at the top of the stove. In such a manner, a little more warmth was afforded to extend their discourse for another few minutes. Their talk was conducted with epigrams in various European languages and spiced with the odd Latin tag. The stove added to the convivial ambience and the prevailing gemutlichkeit.

Let us move on from this staffroom tale, occasioned as it was by a copy I had made of some features of a well-known painting by Braque. Here it is:-

Here is the small sketch that I made several years ago:-

The painting with its lovely colours may be found in Yale University Art Gallery and is discussed at https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/50855

I wondered why this painting held my interest and began to recall that a good number of my lessons at Grammar School were delivered in the damp but sometimes warm and cosy Temporary Huts. In my memory these seem to have been in the late afternoon and within the sound of the games field outside. One of these was the so-called Prefect’s Hut which I cannot ever remember actually entering. A good deal of R.E. seems to have taken place in such huts which were on raised piles of concrete blocks. There may have been a coloured oil map of Paul’s Journeys or the Middle East on a roller above the blackboard. Then there was German that I was supposed to be cramming for Oxbridge Entrance. All of which was rather a failure although I was quite interested in Scientific Terms like Bremstrahlung-(German: “braking radiation”; electromagnetic radiation produced by a sudden slowing down or deflection of charged particles (especially electrons) passing through matter in the vicinity of the strong electric fields of atomic nuclei. Nowadays my German has somewhat improved and in particular psychoanalytic words like durcharbeiten hold greater appeal.

In recalling particular lessons in cosy atmospheres, one in particular springs to mind taught my my own Form Master- a retired Wing Commander who had an intriguing time in Special Operations and would frequently preface remarks with “As my old friend, Bill Penny used to say…….” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Penney,_Baron_Penney Anyway, this lesson was an attempt to demonstrate measuring the acceleration due to gravity. It involved a swinging lath on a pin supported by a retort stand and a falling lead ball which left a mark on said lath when released using a string mechanism. A pipe smoker and hence possessing a lighter to burn through the thread, his use of the rather ersatz apparatus combined the master’s cricketing interests effectively. It produced a reasonable estimate of “g”.in those days in centimetre- gram-second units and we proceeded to consider some of the sources of error in the value we obtained.

Humphry Davy Grammar School, pre 1980 | Picture Penzance archives

The huts may be seen in the bottom left hand corner of the pre 1980 view of my Grammar School. Whilst not actually Nissen Huts these rather shabby buildings brought to mind the many black and white Second World War films that were much in vogue in the Sixties.

Categories
Penwith Poetry St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Lament for Cornish Cafe Society

Perhaps it exists only in the imagination. I remember visiting the Cafe Central in Vienna with its wide variety of journals and literary magazines, gorgeous variety of coffees and its habitués. Mostly tourists when I visited but there were the ghosts of writers and revolutionists from Krauss to Trotsky. Then naturally the confectionary of all types and colours. Not quite Penzance but in its many transformations at lest one or two establishments have provided an atmosphere conducive to reading, talking and day-dreaming. The creative aspect of the latter sometimes under-rated.

In my youth it was a pasty on the beach with a towel before large bath towels were in vogue. Before we began to worry about the depletion of the ozone layer and the St Ives Times and Echo would boast about the town’s high monthly U.V Index statistics.

Sweet pastries filled the mouths
of those who sat beside us
and stayed for a while.

How the hours went by,
people just passing through
The descending sun ending
a forever with you.

(See Lily at https://hellopoetry.com/words/cafe/

The décor seems to change frequently. Decorators and interior designers must make considerable profit with properties so frquently changing hands. Different styles come into vogue, multiple mixes of gin followed by martinis with names as hot and suggestive to suit. The patrons change as does the topics loudly conversed. The rate of change changes until suddenly they become silent, empty and inaccessible. No more ladies who lunch with sleeping babies in stylish prams.

Their salads come and their forks they deploy
you can tell this is a luncheon they will enjoy.

They catch up on all the news
Sharing with one another their views.

No gossip here – they are not that type
But occasionally you will hear a gripe.

About a husband , son or some other man
Someone who should be hit over the head with a pan.

http://jsimser.blogspot.com/2007/10/ladies-who-lunch.html

Elections come and go and it seems the wrong people get elected over and over. Those who don’t enjoy cafes or approve of culture and provide illusions about taking back control, whose egos are inflated by a sterile nationalism that was out of date at least a hundred years ago.

There are some animals whose presence seems to fit in with the soporific state of the nation. They represent perhaps the affectionate tranquillity which is more English than the butcher’s dogs and greased pigs of the contemporary age.

Categories
Art and Photographic History Penwith Uncategorized West Cornwall (and local history)

Sketches from Windows

When I think of paintings from interiors of the scene beyond, I tend to think of the South of France,of Dufy or perhaps Matisse. There is something too which reminds me of looking out from a safe place to the activity beyond. It recalls hours in childhood, perhaps when bored watching the summer visitors who looking lost were exploring the cobbled hill outside, often looking somewhat lost themselves.

The above is a view in an Oxford suburb into the garden with trees and a bird-feeder beyond.

This is a view from an upstairs window in Cornwall. The rubber plant has not survived my feckless care unfortunately.

This is a view from the Newlyn Art Gallery cafe which has a splendid large window overlooking the Mount and Bay.

A sea view at Christmas 

A friend has sent me this useful link-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Man_at_His_Window

Categories
Art and Photographic History Literature Penwith St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Remembering Red Barnaloft

I have previously posted about Red Vienna – the time in the 1930s when an attempt was made to establish a form of social security system in the elegant city and when worker’s flats were built to ease the conditions of poorer citizens. Notoriously, they were shelled by nationalists in the dark period leading up to the Anschluss when the Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany. https://jacobinmag.com/2017/02/red-vienna-austria-housing-urban-planning

Karl Polanyi wrote: “Vienna achieved one of the most spectacular cultural triumphs of Western history … an unexampled moral and intellectual rise in the condition of a highly developed industrial working class which, protected by the Vienna system, withstood the degrading effects of grave economic dislocation and achieved a level never reached before by the masses of the people in any industrial society.”

In my personal psychogeography towns and cities remind me of St Ives where I spent many years of my early life. After the gas works was deconstructed and I think, before the Tate arrived many of the fisherman’s lofts and artist studios next to Porthmeor Beach were replaced by the Barnaloft and then the Piazza flats. They seemed to stand out as a statement of the modernism with which the town had been associated. The interior courtyard of the latter had an interesting Hepworth sculpture. They were not by any means worker’s flats but were frequently occupied by what has since been called champagne socialists.

Properties for Sale in St. Ives, Barnaloft St. Ives Cornwall | Nethouseprices.com

Before the flats were constructed there was the beach cafe occupied by the Val Baker family. This was a homely venue offering a superb view of the sea and marvellous sunsets over it to the West. Little was seen of Denys himself whom I assumed was upstairs with leonine head bent over the typewriter. Denys may be somewhat forgotten but represented the spirit of bohemian values to the locals. He had been active in promoting the celtic culture as a Welshman intrigued by Cornwall and St Ives in particular. He and his wife were committed to pacifism and had been active in the committee of 100. https://www.rainydaygallery.co.uk/denysvalbaker.html

100 years of Red Vienna - VIENNA – Now. Forever

The Foot family has been long associated with St Ives. Issac Foot, bibliophile and liberal politician as well as a staunch Methodist stood in the town for Parliament. That by-election was rather interesting in the troubled atmosphere of 1937 and very narrow indeed. Isaac Foot went on to become Mayor of Plymouth.

Left Foot Forward | The Isis

Paul Foot his grandson and active contributor to Private Eye was often to be seen around the town. He was an active and intelligent member of the Socialist Worker’s Party as well as a campaigning journalist with a splendid sense of humour. He died rather young and was a notable loss to radical progress in this country. His book on Red Shelley is a moving introduction to that committed poet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Foot_(journalist)

 

Also some years ago spontaneous outdoor performances were given by another group associated with the Foot family-The Footsbarn Theatre Group. These were jolly and musical. Particularly memorable was a performance in St Ives Guildhall of Around the World in Eighty Days with a scence at the Old Bore’s Club which was gloriously funny -a tour de force.

Which leaves us with the intriguing figure of Peter Shore. Any Freudian would not be surprised that given his name he might have been strongly attracted by the glorious beach at Porthmeor. I used to see him taking his morning beverage be-shorted high above the sands at Barnaloft. These buildings were designed by the St Ives Architect, Cyril Gilbert- a shy charming gentleman who later ran the superb Wills Street Gallery near the Police Station. I digress- Shore was a fascinating figure who it seems travelled from the intellectual left of the party to total opposition to what was then called the Common Market. He was for some time an active M.P. for Stepney. Apparently he acted in a sort of Alistair Campbell role in that he advised on media promotion. I well remember how he responded when interviewed later in his career by someone like Robin Day or Brian Walden. He would begin by rephrasing the question and pointing out the precise strength of the case to which he was opposed. It was about then to be devastated by the power of his retort. However, in the questioning this just didn’t happen due to the interviewer’s interruption.  You were left with the impression of his honesty and rather sad disappointment. And yet now I feel a little more straight honesty in political matters is crucial- a Balm of Gilead.

Sometimes it is salutary to hear what the opposite case – this clip exudes English chauvinism which is deeply misguided.

Categories
Penwith West Cornwall (and local history)

Mousehole on a Summer Evening -A Guest Posting

Many tangential thoughts on Mousehole on a summer evening –

I went to Mousehole this evening – it is of course an enclave and playground for the rich, consisting now almost entirely of holiday and second homes, which I noticed more than ever before. Still, I’ve always loved it there – perhaps the way and reasons I do are part of the problem.

The atmosphere is all loveliness and lingering warmth. The ice cream shop is still open. It’s crowded but there’s no hurry. Doors and windows are left open – cars left parked in the middle of the street. It’s not full of any old tourists either (this isn’t Penzance we’re talking about) and as it was late many of them will have been staying there. Wealth and the ease that comes with it was everywhere. An endless leisurely parade passed by, whilst their manner and the cut of their clothes silently shouted at me.

I watched, in what felt like slow-motion, as a thin woman in the whitest white jeans (clearly so expensive they managed not to look tacky, a feat) hesitantly starts to lower herself onto the harbour steps before realising she has a blanket in the house – no don’t worry, it’s literally 30 seconds away. A balding man carries a full glass of red wine out of a house further down the cobbled street to better enjoy the view, another follows with the bottle.

And all at once I realised I was feeling a discomfort that wasn’t only coming from insecurity to jealousy or general misanthropy. I mean I expected all this, it’s bloody August and I took the bus to bloody Mousehole. I went because I thought it would be beautiful on a summer evening. And really – awful realities aside – how can I fault others for wanting to see beauty?

But – that beauty is somehow flattened and now it doesn’t stand up on its own.

(I had a similar feeling when I was young on holidays in France – some of the places we went to felt curiously empty, though full of people. I’d tell myself – this is so beautiful – you should be feeling something here, finding something here. But some substance or context had gone. And I felt a guilt I couldn’t define, as though I was the reason. It was like visiting a model town, a perfect replica in every way but still a replica. And we would think – what a lovely change, to travel, to go away – what might we learn from this place, how might it change us. Still, we have paid to be here, this room was built for us to stay in – so, how lovely is the view we see, how good is the food we eat. Was it disappointing or would you recommend it to a friend? And there again was the emptiness that we’d brought).

So, this evening in Mousehole that valuable sea-view felt like something that was owned and hollowed. And I was colluding in it, and had to look away.

I’d never felt more strongly a ghost of somewhere with an identity, with continuity, the ghosts of lives lived and shaped by place, of real homes and a strong landscape with a beauty that’s incidental, of a sea that defines and encloses rather than being set back and seen. I’ve never felt more intensely that the place I was visiting was not that – because of us it was something and somewhere else.

And all I could do was sit on a bench, wearing clothes that until then I’d thought were smart, eating a pasty in a manner that would make a dog excuse himself from the table – pausing only to angrily brush chunks of potato off my jumper – and stare inland. Thinking about a place that loses itself over and over again, a summer at a time – and wondering how long even a ghost would be able to stay.

( Post from I V-W with thanks)

 

Categories
Literature Penwith Poetry West Cornwall (and local history)

Reading Padraic Fallon

  1. Fallon (1905-1974) came from lovely County Galway and was drawn to Dublin by George Russell (AE) to take part in the Irish Literary Revival. Heaney wrote of him “His sensibility has weathered in Galway the rainy light that was familiar to both Rafferty and Yeats; it has been tutored by a landscape at once elemental and historical; a landscape that holds the walled demesne and the tower as well as the bog-face and the stone wall…”

I came across this poem entitled YESTERDAY’S MAN which contained the following lovely and intriguing stanzas:-

Lines of verse too left littering

After poems that never got away,

A pen drawing, very odd, the storm God Zu

Trusses in his fowl form to a carrying pole;

(From him the wren-walk on St Stephen’s Day)

 

Copied I suppose, to prove a point,

(Akkadian seal, Babylonian cylinder?) How

Much at home I am in this mad world

Suddenly and again! And here somewhere

You the girl enter

 

Anonymously, in two wooden stanzas, into which

You have entirely disappeared. Words, words,

That’s all you are, girl who never

Was a lover. And I likened you,

Body I could see through, to a catapult

The poem concerns itself with writing poetry and the poet looking through his notebooks and considering lost loves, regret and all in a stormy atmosphere. I like the variation between detail , here about the paraphernalia of writing and the vagueness…”here somewhere”. The latter representing ageing disorientation.

More on Fallon may be found at preview.co.uk where Seamus Heaney has written an appreciation and quotes some lines about Lands End.

 

 

 

 

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Poetry West Cornwall (and local history)

Arthur Symons- Cornish Connections

Arthur Symons biography > My poetic side

Cornish Wind

There is a wind in Cornwall that I know
From any other wind, because it smells
Of the warm honey breath of heather-bells
And of the sea’s salt; and these meet and flow
With such sweet savour in such sharpness met
That the astonished sense in ecstasy
Tastes the ripe earth and the unvintaged sea.
Wind out of Cornwall, wind, if I forget :
Not in the tunnelled Streets where scarce men breathe
The air they live by, but wherever seas
Blossom in foam, wherever merchant bees
Volubly traffic upon any heath:
If I forget, shame me! or if I find
A wind in England like my Cornish wind.
This poem by Symons is perhaps a reminder that his parents were Cornish Methodists, his father, a preacher who once was a Minister at St Ives as well as at other parishes in the Duchy. I particularly like the line about “the ripe earth and the unvintaged sea” which by contrast brings evokes Homer’s Wine Dark Sea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine-dark_sea_(Homer). Then there is the a reference to merchant bees, perhaps because they transport pollen but then there are robust Cornish nlack bees (https://www.merchantsmanor.com/cornish-black-bees/).

There is an interesting review in the TLS of his Selected Early Poems and also his Spiritual Adventures by Kate Hext (January 12 2018) which begins with a poem which describes  the poet in sad old age at dinner. It was published by John Betjeman in 1940.


ON SEEING AN OLD POET IN THE CAFE ROYAL, by JOHN BETJEMAN

 

I saw him in the Café Royal,
Very old and very grand.
Modernistic shone the lamplight
There in London’s fairyland.
‘Devilled chicken. Devilled whitebait.
Devil if I understand.

‘Where is Oscar? Where is Bosie?
Have I seen that man before?
And the old one in the corner,
Is it really Wratislaw?’
Scent of Tutti-Frutti-Sen-Sen
And cheroots upon the floor.

There is a delightful exposition of Tutti Frutti Sen Sen and other commercial items in poetry by the late Clive James at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/69678/product-placement-in-modern-poetry