What is This Life…?

W. H. Davies


WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Many times through my life I’ve thought of those first two couplets (and the last) from the poem “Leisure” by the Welsh poet W.H.Davies. (The “W.H.” stands for William Henry, the same as my son’s middle names but I didn’t know that at the time – James was named after my brothers.) I think we learnt “Leisure” at primary school, like all little Aussies who had to learn poems by heart in the Sixties, and I daresay I could recite almost every line if prompted by my sister Mary. It’s not a long poem.

Naturally, you must be at your leisure in order to think of “Leisure”, otherwise you’d be too busy to consider it. This year has been exceedingly busy for Chris and me, too busy this summer for cycling to our favourite field near Exeter Canal, where we like to take a picnic and lie “beneath the boughs”, and stare quite long at herds of cows… Too busy to cycle up to the ford of a sunny evening and sit on the wooden bridge, and dangle our hot feet into the running stream “full of stars…” Often too busy “to turn at Beauty’s glance” – this year we didn’t go to Brittany, France… Our car whizzed by many woods and, even when we did stop for a quick walk up to the Obelisk, we saw no squirrels hiding nuts in the grass as we passed. We were so “full of care” we had no time “to stand and stare”.

But earlier this week we – Mary, Henry (my brother from Australia), Chris and I – found some time and went to Cornwall. We stayed in Rosie’s charming holiday cottage set in a pretty garden with a babbling brook. We must have had sea fever for we went “down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky” (even though we live by the sea in Devon). We dallied down at Doc Martin’s Port Wenn (Port Isaac) and had a lingering lunch at The Golden Lion. We perused Padstow Harbour against a background of pink clouds, and windows reflected gold in the calm water as the sun went down; we sauntered across the sand at Mawgan Porth, then danced with joy at the edge of the running tide (“a clear call that may not be denied”). The clouds flew in the wind and the sea sprayed and spumed in a sparkling mist along the shoreline. In the evenings we impostor “vagrant gypsies” had merry yarns beside glowing fires.

And now it’s nice to be home. Back to work.


Now We’re Being Told That It’s Immoral to Have Children

For a long time I’ve hated watching the news on television, or even listening to it on the radio; I’m sensitive to the sight of dead bodies and suffering so I “turn off” – in more ways than one – and glean my news of the world from the Internet, newspapers and conversations with others who force themselves to keep up with it regardless of the personal consequences. Lately, even those people have been saying, “The news was so awful I just had to switch it off!”.

For some time now it has been hard even to read the paper without feeling worried or angry. On the same day I read about the campaign to ban the word “fireman” being used in Britain I read also that the toy manufacturer Mattel was overhauling Thomas the Tank Engine to make it become “more gender balanced” (it’s a toy train for God’s sake!); homosexual rights groups (is it alright to use that term?) want doctors to ask every patient over sixteen about his/her/it/zie/zit (or whatever pronoun) sexuality, and male students exploring their gender at Gordon’s School, Surrey, are welcome to wear skirts, use gender-neutral toilets, be known by gender-neutral pronouns, and sleep in a girls’ boarding house. Lucky boys! Surprise, surprise, one person was brave enough to speak out: Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said, “Encouraging children in their delusions is immoral and dangerous.”

In the last few days I’ve heard that we shouldn’t use the term “pregnant women” in case it offends transgender men who have kept their reproductive organs. That transgender issue again!

To cap it off I read this morning that “Having children is not life-affirming: it’s immoral”(David Benatar| Aeon Essays). That was a dreadfully negative read – Professor Benatar, philosopher at Capetown University, must be one of those nihilists that nice Professor Jordan B. Peterson (psychology lecturer,Toronto University) keeps talking about. Nihilists believe that life is meaningless. It seems that there are plenty of them around, trying to break down the values and integrity of the majority… What for? For nothing.

If you don’t agree it’s immoral to have children there’s a good chance that, like me, you believe our hopes for the future of humanity rest with our children but we have to wake up, listen, read and speak up. Some people “turn off”, or turn to drink or drugs, but if we care about the future we are going to leave behind us we must be a little brave. Jordan Peterson is the bravest man I know of. His brilliant lectures are free on YouTube. Follow the link below:

Biblical Series III: God and the Hierarchy of Authority – YouTube

6 Jun 2017 – Uploaded by Jordan B Peterson

Biblical Series III: God and the Hierarchy of Authority. Jordan B Peterson … I didn’t mind, because it is …

Strawberry is hope for the future – my granddaughter!

A Story

Before I go to sleep I’d like to tell you a true story. Actually, I am in bed writing this post on my Kindle. You see I’m staying a couple of nights with James, Jaimy and Penelope Sweet Pea (my four month old baby granddaughter) in Brighton. This afternoon I arrived bearing a few gifts, amongst which there was a lovely big book of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales. Jaimy loved the book for Penny, as did I when I found it on Saturday; like me, Jaimy used to be an avid early reader and lover of fairy tales. The mere mention of fairy tales takes me back to grade two or three. at Manly West Primary School and “Fifty Famous Fairy Tales”.

I can’t remember my teacher’s name but my mind’s eye can still see the book in her hands and the way her red varnished nails and gold rings reflected on the glossy cover as she read to us wonderful stories about a golden goose, spinners of gold and dancing princesses. How I wanted to read all fifty stories at my own faster pace.  So great was my yearning that one day I overcame my terrible shyness and plucked up the courage to ask my teacher if I could borrow her book.

“No,” she said, “you wouldn’t be able to read this at your age. The words are too big for seven year olds!”

What a cheek! I knew I could read it, if only I had it.

Some months passed and still I longed for the impossible. Occasionally our teacher would bring out the treasured book and taunt me with the words she said I couldn’t read.

Then I became sick with bronchitis and had to take time off school. My mum, who always liked to buck us up with tasty morsels and delicacies when we children were sick, asked me if there was anything I fancied. I couldn’t think of food. There was only one thing I fancied….

“Fifty Famous Fairy Tales!”

And despite it not being my birthday, and it undoubtedly being an expensive book (probably too good to lend to seven year olds), Mum made my dreams come true. I read that book so much that the spine became worn and thin in the creases, though the rest of the cover retained its glossy surface.

Then one day, years later, when the book was a cherished memory rather than reading matter, a younger child admired it and I couldn’t deny her the pleasure of owning it herself.

Now, of course, it’s not so much the wonderful stories that come to mind when I think of that book… but the heart of my devoted mother. We had so little and she loved us so much.


A Golden Sea

Because our house faces south-east we have beautiful sunrises rather than sunset skies but occasionally on summer evenings we, and our neighbours, are drawn out onto our balcony by some atmospheric magic that brings the pinks and gold of the setting sun into our skyscape. Last week there was quite a gathering of folk, either on their balconies or stood at their windows or French doors, all looking in wonder at the golden sea.

A few days later an enormous cloud, first so pretty and vivacious, became enraged before our very eyes and soon flashed and spat with vexation. It was the same night that, farther down the channel, parts of Cornwall were lashed and flooded.

This morning brought gales… and a lone windsurfer scudding, streaking and sometimes flying over the incoming waves. I took a video (a bit noisy owing to the wind). We don’t normally have windsurfers here in the sea off Dawlish – it’s not a surf beach – but we don’t usually have golden seas either.

And now it’s just raining… heavily, but I won’t have to water the flowers tonight!

1 view


Image result for chipmunks photosImage result for chipmunks cartoon photos


“How do you spell chipmunk?” I asked Chris. (At the time I was writing my blog.)

“Chipmunk?” Chris queried. “Is there any other way to spell it?” and he started to spell it out to me, “‘C-H-I-P…M….”

Suddenly, it dawned on my husband that there might indeed be another way.

“Yes? Go on,” I urged.

“M…U-N-K!” he finished.

“I thought so,” I said (not wishing to sound stupid).

The other spelling would indicate something quite different…” he said laughing, “the chip-fat friar! (fryer). We could all Tuck in!”

“Forgive me for being so bald but I thought it was patently obvious,” I chipped in (in a high-pitched voice not dissimilar to the chipmunk voice on the little video I put on my blog a few days ago).


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Friar Tuck with Robin Hood (Richard Greene – the real Robin Hood!)

Correct spelling!

A Real Chipmonk – Correct spelling!

An Hour at Cockington Village

We left Dawlish under clouds and a mist at sea but when my brother Bill and I arrived at Cockington (Torquay) the sun came out. We had a wonderful hour (dictated somewhat by the ticket we acquired in the car park) wandering through the village and walking by the lakes. We were pricked by the memory of last time we came to Cockington together – when our dad was ill near the end of his life – but we lingered not and walked on through gardens with flowers and live music. We drove home in the sunshine, with the top down on my sporty little Peugeot, and we smiled all the way; we were so glad that we went to Cockington for an hour. My neighbour Martin said it had been miserable all day in Dawlish.

Just Call Me Princess

“What’s this?” Chris asked, picking up a bookmark which must have fallen out of a book onto the top of a bookshelf.

“It’s my personalized ‘Sally’ bookmark,” I said. “I think Mary gave it to me years ago.”

Sally (3)

“Meaning Ladylike,” he said, raising his eyebrows, as he began to read down the list of meanings for the name Sally, “‘Originating from Hebrew. Elegant and refined you are often called Princess.”‘

“That’s me,” I confirmed. (It’s so good to hear nice things, no matter the source.)

“But I don’t call you Princess – who calls you Princess?”, my husband feigned jealousy.

“Well, I don’t know but I’m sure that someone has called me Princess,” I said, keeping to myself a name that sprang to mind instantly (you have to keep some things to yourself!).

“‘Comfortable in your own company or with others’, and ‘A joy to be with you are liked by everyone.’ That’s true,” Chris conceded with a smile and we went to bed.

I hasten to say it was bedtime when we had this conversation.

A short while later in bed, when Chris was reading yet another “Reader’s Digest” and I was checking my smart phone for messages before closing down for the night, I discovered a “friend request” from an unknown name. The name appeared to me to be Indian and the small profile icon was an image of a vase of flowers. I clicked on the icon to find out more before making the decision to reject or accept the request. The message read:

“Take good care of yourself Princess!”

“Look at that!” I turned to Chris excitedly, “Somebody called me Princess.”

“Funnier still,” Chris said pointing to the line he had been reading, “at that very moment I read the word Princess!” (The article was about Japanese Princes and Princesses.)

“Synchronicity!” we said together.

And if there is any meaning to this, I think that something is trying to tell Chris to call me Princess. That will be the day!

Esperanto – I Hope

“Who uses Esperanto?” I asked Chris over breakfast.

The previous night we had watched a new, and different type of film, called “Captain Fantastic” starring Viggo Mortensen, about a family going it alone in the wilds of “the North Pacific” and the underlying problems of “opting out”, especially with regard to the wishes and aspirations of the individual children; and had the mother’s disorder, leading to her premature demise, been exacerbated by their isolated natural lifestyle? Of course, the home educated children were geniuses and could even speak Esperanto, which is why Esperanto was on my mind.

Chris Googled “Esperanto” on his mobile phone and soon informed me that (reading from Wikepedia), “It is the most widely spoken constructed language in the world.[7] The Polish-Jewish ophthalmologist L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, Unua Libro, on 26 July 1887. The name of Esperanto derives from Doktoro Esperanto (“Esperanto” translates as “one who hopes”), the pseudonym under which Zamenhof published Unua Libro.[8]

“Goodness!”, I said, “I wonder why an ophthalmologist felt the need to develop Esperanto.”

“Perhaps he didn’t see eye-to-eye with his patients!”, Chris observed.

He read on for a couple more paragraphs after which I understood a good deal more than I did before about the purpose and goals of introducing a constructed language that incorporates words from several other languages (I’ll paste some of the text below).

“Do you think we should learn Esperanto? I laughed.

“So we can understand each other at last?” my husband paused and shook his head, “I don’t think it will help!”

Captain Fantastic review – thrilling and poignant | Film | The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com › Arts › Movies › Captain Fantastic

Rating: 4 – ‎Review by Mark Kermode, Observer…

11 Sep 2016 – Family fantastic: from left, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, George MacKay, Nicholas Hamilton, Samantha Isler and Annalise Basso.

Esperanto (/ˌɛspəˈrænt/ or /ˈrɑː/;[5][6] in Esperanto: [espeˈranto] About this sound listen ) is a constructed international auxiliary language. It is the most widely spoken constructed language in the world.[7] The Polish-Jewish ophthalmologist L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, Unua Libro, on 26 July 1887. The name of Esperanto derives from Doktoro Esperanto (“Esperanto” translates as “one who hopes”), the pseudonym under which Zamenhof published Unua Libro.[8]

Zamenhof had three goals, as he wrote in Unua Libro:

  1. “To render the study of the language so easy as to make its acquisition mere play to the learner.”
  2. “To enable the learner to make direct use of his knowledge with persons of any nationality, whether the language be universally accepted or not; in other words, the language is to be directly a means of international communication.”
  3. “To find some means of overcoming the natural indifference of mankind, and disposing them, in the quickest manner possible, and en masse, to learn and use the proposed language as a living one, and not only in last extremities, and with the key at hand.”[9]

Up to two million people worldwide, to varying degrees, speak Esperanto,[10] including about 1,000 to 2,000 native speakers who learned Esperanto from birth.[1]The World Esperanto Association has more than 5,500 members in 120[11] countries. Its usage is highest in Europe, East Asia, and South America.[12] lernu!, the most popular online learning platform for Esperanto, reported 150,000 registered users in 2013, and sees between 150,000 and 200,000 visitors each month.[13]With about 239,000 articles, Esperanto Wikipedia is the 32nd-largest Wikipedia as measured by the number of articles,[14] and is the largest Wikipedia in a constructed language.[15] On 22 February 2012, Google Translate added Esperanto as its 64th language.[16] On 28 May 2015, the language learning platform Duolingo launched an Esperanto course for English speakers. As of 5 April 2017, over 800,000 users had signed up,[17][18][19] with approximately 30 users completing the course every day.[20]

The first World Congress of Esperanto was organized in France in 1905. Since then, congresses have been held in various countries every year, with the exceptions of years during the world wars. Although no country has adopted Esperanto officially, “Esperantujo” is the collective name given to places where it is spoken. Esperanto was recommended by the French Academy of Sciences in 1921 and recognized by UNESCO in 1954, which recommended in 1985 that international non-governmental organizations use Esperanto. Esperanto was the 32nd language accepted as adhering to the “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages” in 2007.[21]

Esperanto is currently the language of instruction of the International Academy of Sciences in San Marino.[22]

Esperanto is seen by many of its speakers[who?] as an alternative or addition to the growing use of English throughout the world, offering a language that is easier for French speakers to learn than English.[23]

The North Wind Doth Blow

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That nasty old North wind has come back. For over a week I’ve been busy trying to get as much of the outdoors painting done as possible before the predicted change for the worse in the weather today. Our house is like the Forth Bridge, in that when you’ve finished all the maintenance works it’s time to begin again! In spite of the cold wind this morning it was quite warm in the sunshine on the sea-side of our house, where I took the paint and brushes to paint the railings by the back steps (our house is sort of back to front because the back is the architectural front and our main entrance from the roadside is really the back elevation); at the same time Chris was painting our gate on the other side – the cold side – so I had the preferable task.

I’m into philosophy at the moment and enjoy listening on YouTube to lectures on the great thinkers while I paint – of course, that’s usually painting of a different sort but if I can listen while I paint pictures then why not when there are less challenging railings to be painted? So I clicked onto a lecture – “Carl Jung’s “Synchronicity” Explained” – and began painting those seemingly endless railings. Wearing an old demoted sun-top and shorts I was surprisingly warm – even had to nip upstairs and put on sun screen – so long as the sun was out. Two huge grey clouds threatened rain and made me shiver but they they both passed over and shed their loads over the sea.

Soon Chris came down with the phone and I turned off “Synchronicity” (Synchronicity is a concept, first explained by analytical psychologist Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.)  It was my friend Rosie inviting my sister Mary and me to meet her tiny new granddaughter Senka; coincidentally, I am soon to become grandmother to a little girl (at present Penelope), and Mary became grandmother to her fifth granddaughter last year.

When our telephone conversation ended I resumed painting without feeling the need to continue listening to the lecture; I was happy just to think about the things Rosie had said to me. I smiled to myself as I considered our conversation. Rosie said I was a “young grandmother” – in attitude, if not years (Mary was thirty-eight when she first became Grandma) – and attributed her notion of youthfulness to my being from the flower power era in the late sixties and early seventies. And the more I thought about it, the more I agreed…

To Mary and I living in Australia at that time “flower power” meant wearing psychedelic flares, apple-seed necklaces and cheese-cloth tops, and we wrote words like, “Make love not war”, without really understanding that we were growing up in an age of greater freedom – because we were part of it, being too young to have actually brought about any changes. We made slave shoes out of raffia, not realising that the symbol of the flowers represented peaceful protest (at least, I didn’t think about that at twelve years old).

By happy coincidence at four o’clock, just when my “Forth Bridge railings” were finished at last, the north wind brought showers of sleet and hail. Tomorrow we’re promised more of the same so I’ll be back painting in my studio with Carl Jung or Jean-Paul Sartre in my ears. It’s so nice to be regarded a young grandmother – more aptly perhaps… a Jung grandmother.

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A Day to Remember

The year is 2011 and we are at the top of Purling Brook Falls, Springbrook National Park in the Gold Coast hinterland (Queensland). Chris and I are with my big brother Bill, his wife Lita and my nephew William. We are walking single-file on the path leading close to the cliff edge and the falls. We haven’t been here before and it’s terribly exciting, a bit frightening and exceedingly beautiful. It’s around midday and Chris is walking behind me. Suddenly he wraps his hands around my waist and whispers in my ear:

“Darling, I just thought I had better tell you that it’s my birthday today.”

“Oh no,” I said shocked, “why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well, I rather thought you might know,” he began, “considering you’re my wife!”


I’ve never lived it down. But it wasn’t such a terrible thing after all because now Chris’s expectations are so low that he is thrilled to receive a “Happy Birthday!” wish at all and is inordinately pleased when I’ve gone to a little trouble to make him a card (even if it is a tad late in the day).

This morning I remembered Chris’s birthday and we went out to lunch with my lovely sister Mary and her husband Geoff. When I recalled the tale of six years ago Mary smiled but was not at all surprised.

“What about Mum and Dad?” she said. “One night when we were kids and Mum and Dad were in bed Mum said, ‘It was my birthday today’, and Dad said, ‘Was it?'”

Oh dear, it sounds rather familiar…