I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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Monday, 2 June 2014

Time travel by fire engine

The smallest unit in British local government is the parish council (nothing to do with churches). Once VR was the autocratic chairman of Belmont Rural PC, cutting bucolic blether down to ten seconds at most. I edited the PC's quarterly Belmont Voice.

Neither of us wishes to resurrect those bureaucratic futilities but odd memories float back.

At a PC Fun Day we had a bouncy castle, a soccer shoot-out and a local fire engine. That latter item sticks.

Half an hour before the opening, a five-year-old lad asked when the fire engine would arrive. I told him. Thirty minutes later - to the second - he noted the fire engine's continued  absence. Using adultspeak I held him off for ten minutes. Time slipped by, the lad asked again. And again. My excuses got longer ("Perhaps a house is burning down."). Eventually the vehicle arrived and a queue of five-year-olds formed.

Fire engines hypnotise young boys. A lesson too late for me interviewing graduates for journalistic jobs: "Have you got the persistence?" I might have asked, magically pre-imagining the above. The 2:2 sociology applicant would have looked blank - a characteristic of sociological study. OK, send in medieval history.

Don’t know for sure but…

Leaves, summer’s coinage spent, golden are all together whirled,
sent spinning, dipping, skipping, shuffled by heavy-handed wind,
shifted sideways, sifted, lifted, and in swarms made to fly
spent sun-flies, gorgeous tatters, airdrift, pinions of trees.

Reasons why. Words carry meanings (ie, codes). But words are also sounds, independent of meaning; bring several word-sounds together (“spinning, dipping, slipping”) to create a new sound and – if you’re lucky – a new meaning. This poet understands: “spent sun-flies, gorgeous tatters”.

Possibly Manley Hopkins, but too modern. Actually R. E. Warner, b. 1905


  1. Fire engines...the size, the redness, the polish, the ladders and hoses, the many stations for riders, the valves, lights, sirens. The heroes astride, the connection with fire itself. Probably better than an F1 car for younger boys. As for the poem, I'd have saved the opening line by cutting "are", then junked the last three lines as well.

  2. The poetry reminds me of a painting I once saw (hanging in a hotel? ) which stopped me in my tracks. Orange, red, persimmon leaves spinning, dripping, skipping, shuffling, lifting and drifting........a clever trick of perspective and very nicely done. Just as startling as the blood-curdling scream of a fire truck as it comes barrelling through; that strong.

  3. Oh! I really like tonal poems such as this one. Had to read it out loud several times ... beautiful!

  4. I fully agree with your selection of "spent sun-flies, georgeous tatters" which seem to be the best images from here. I think the over-precision of shifted and sifted is too much, and of course the fatal employment of "golden," even in 1905 a mistake.

  5. MikeM: You've missed out the middle-class embarrassment bit: when the engine stops outside your house (which isn't on fire) and a man carrying a bucket knocks on your door and says "Five for five." Hard to withstand that kind of appeal.

    One out of four, eh? Not too good. I shoulda stood in bed.

    Stella: Thanks for that in my hour of need (See MikeM's comment above).

    RW (sZ): A tonal poem! Not just tony, then?

    Lucas: Thanks for the techno stuff. I didn't know that that failing (which would be otherwise hard to identify) is known as over-precision. Useful.

    Your other comment sent me scurrying for the sonnet I wrote about being married to VR for fifty years. Am I forgiven for:

    A golden day but let’s forsake fool’s gold
    And go in search of useful tolerance.
    For there’s no credit, dear, in growing old...

    I only erected it to knock it down, as it were.

  6. I guess "Five for five" means raffle tickets or some such for dollars - pounds in your case. Here they've taken to standing on the center line of the highway demanding that traffic slow, and holding out an empty fireman's boot to receive offerings. No objection to golden from me, in either case. Assonance flood in the Warner, I nearly drowned.

  7. For entirely different reasons, Blondes are hypnotised by fire engines too!.

  8. I really like the first three lines of your sonnet, which starts off by subverting the "golden" adjective with the noun "fool's gold."
    I would love to see the rest of the sonnet if it is for sharing.

  9. Lucas. You've commented on my stuff before and been very kind, even over-kind. But what I really appreciate are your poetic diagnostic tools. I was pleased with those you wheeled out to deal with Warner and here's another - your concise use of "subvert". It's always pleasing when someone picks up an allusion and you do this unerringly. Speaking of which the full version of the sonnet is to be found via the following link back to the days when I was Barrett Bonden


    I provide the link since it offers two further features, one dubiously beneficial, the other wholly beneficial. The first is an opportunity to hear the author read his own sonnet (more in the TSE mode than the Donald Wolfit), the second is the informed comment this piece generated, especially from Joe and Lucy, both of whom share your knack already mentioned.

  10. Lucas: Sorry the link isn't a direct click. Simply copy and paste to the upper slot on the Google home page.

  11. Or simply highlight and drag to the address bar, then "enter".

  12. Many thanks for the link to Works Well. I soon tracked down the 2010 posts on translation, which were in themselves a good study. Some of the lines of your sonnet translate well. I like "Une blague qui vaut mieux qu'une alliance. And later "banalite" is one of those French words that sounds untranslatably brilliant to an English ear.
    The original sonnet that you wrote in English, fulfils the expectation of the first three lines and more so. The well-tempered grumpiness of the first eight lines is matched by the "turn" which I think occurs as the last six lines start. Here the real supplants the overturned clichés, "a hand outsretched to aid a swollen knee."
    The conjuring up of wine and complicity together with the excellent last line knocks out any lingering regrets the reader may have about having to distrust "old facile love." I am pleased and grateful to have been able to read this.