Now is the time for the burning of the leaves,

They go to the fire; the nostrils prick with smoke

Wandering slowly into the weeping mist.

Brittle and blotched, ragged and rotten sheaves!

A flame seizes the smouldering ruin, and bites

On stubborn stalks that crackle as they resist.

The last hollyhock’s fallen tower is dust:

All the spices of June are a bitter reek,

All the extravagant riches spent and mean.

All burns! the reddest rose is a ghost.

Spark whirl up, to expire in the mist: the wild

Fingers of fire are making corruption clean.

Now is the time for stripping the spirit bare,

Time for the burning of days ended and done,

Idle solace of things that have gone before,

Rootless hope and fruitless desire are there:

Let them go to the fire with never a look behind.

That world that was ours is a world that is ours no more.

They will come again, the leaf and the flower, to arise

From squalor of rottenness into the old splendour,

And magical scents to a wondering memory bring;

The same glory, to shine upon different eyes.

Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours.

Nothing is certain, only the certain spring.
Laurence Binyon


My life in books

Prompted by a friend’s recent FB challenge that I secretly hoped would never end, whereby you post over 7 days a picture of a different cover of a favourite book, I discussed with same friend how difficult it was to select just seven books, how books reflect various aspects of my life and personality, and how to continue this theme, I decided the best option would be to just continue posting photos, either with it without commentary, and maybe invite friends to add their contributions.
The first book I remember entering my life was not one that I remember reading for myself but one that was read to me and my sisters by my father.  I still consider it an act of betrayal when parents stop reading out loud to their children.  But my lovely Dad did the next best thing.  He took us into town into the public library .  

This was a magical kingdom – I knew it was magical not just because it was a place filled with shelf upon shelf of books, but you had to enter it through the magical portal of the revolving doors.  No other place in my experience had such a wonderful entrance.  And there to my utter disbelief and bewilderment, we were allowed to pick a book, any book, from off the shelves, and take it home with me to read.  This was the start of a life long love affair with books and with libraries.

I don’t recall what my first choice was, no doubt something colourful with plenty of pictures.  But I do remember the stories my Dad read to us.

What stories did your parents read to you?

What are you reading to your children?

Have you forgotten yet?

​Prompted by recent events I am currently reading “Globalising Hatred: The new antisemitism” by Denis McShane.
The book arose from a cross-party parliamentary report a decade ago looking at the rise of antisemitic incidents across the world.  Jew-hatred has not been consigned to the past;  people may attend Holocaust memorial services and claim “never again” yet walk away in total denial about what is going on around them, and in how they are contributing to the poison of contemporary Jew-hatred.

The book does not make for easy reading – 12 pages of one chapter simply lists examples of antisemitic attacks across the world in 2006 alone.  

One phrase though should give some small hope – the author, a Labour MP, states that his political community – that is progressive, left, liberal, pro-European, supporters of human rights, etc  – “needs to understand that until neo-antisemitism is confronted, contained and rolled back the chances of movement on the Israel-Palestine question are slim. 

But  I did say some small hope.  These words were published a decade ago.  Plenty of time for party leaders and activists to take heed and take action, yet here we are, 10 years on with a Labour Party at best, in complete denial that there is a problem, or even worse, aggressively dismissing the concerns of British Jews as a politically motivated smear and attacking those who are genuinely concerned about the rise of antisemitism.

Across the rainbow bridge

Their short lives, over too soon, enrich our own own with their devotion.

I’m deeply saddened by having to make a final update to Max’s page.  I never imagined that this would be the ending, nor that it would come so early.  I had planned to grow old together, there were plenty of walks still to do, sticks to throw.  

Dear sweet loving boy.

Thank you for the best of times

Run Free

Max 29.4.2007 – 10.2.2018

Gathering Sticks on Sunday

If the man in the moon

Gazing at the waning earth, watches

How the frayed edge of the sunset catches

Thimbles and nodules of rock,

Hachuring distinct with threads of shadow

All that is hammered flat in the earth’s brass noon;

And if he sees,

New in the level light,  like pock-

marks on a face, dark craters,

The size of acorn cups, or scars

Vast as his own dried oceans, then

He’ll know that soon

The living world of men

Will take a lunar look, as dead as slag,

And moon and earth will stare at one another

Like the cold, yellow skulls of child and mother.

Norman Nicholson

May 1915 – death on the Home Front

Passing through Lime Street station just before 11am yesterday I noticed a group of people, passengers, railway personnel, passersby and service men and women standing in a loose circle at one corner of the station.  In front of a plaque I must have walked past and never noticed a hundred times stood a lone bugler.  

Thetraditional prayers and poems were recited, wreaths were laid and the last post was played before the two minutes silence.

Echoes of the last post are now being played in the background as I write this.  I am listening to Vaughan Williams’ “Pastoral” Symphony.  Not a cow-pat depiction of idyllic rural England, but a work RVW started in 1916, music that rose from the horror of the trenches.  RVW served in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

But standing at the station in silence yesterday I had a half recollection of reading about a train disaster in Britain early on in the war so came home to research it.

In Edinburgh, on May 22nd 1915, 500 men from the 1/7th Battalion of the Royal Scots boarded a train bound for Liverpool.  They were heading for Gallipoli.  The train carriages were old and ramshackled, totally unfit to travel at high speed.  They were built of wood and lit by gas, which was stored in containers underneath the carriage floors.

The troop train sped southward.

Their were four lines which were operated by the signalmen at Quintinshill signal box, two main tracks and two loop lines for passing trains.

On this day,  both of the loop lines were occupied by freight trains.  

Meanwhile, a local train and two express trains were heading north towards Quintinshill as well as the train with the soldiers heading south.

The troop train steamed into Quintinshill at high speed and smashed into the stationary local train.  The train was derailed and the wreckage from the trains spread across the main lines.  Some men were killed instantly, others were trapped in the wreckage.

But worse was to come.

Travellig at around 80mph, the second northbound express ploughed straight into the wreckage.

The gas tanks on the troop train ignited.  The fire spread rapidly to the other trains on the loop lines.  Many soldiers were trapped in the train with fire raging around them.  There were reports at the time that some of the trapped soldiers were shot to spare them the agony.

A total 230 people died and another 246 were injured. Of the 500 soldiers on the troop train, only 58 men and seven officers escaped the Quintinshill train disaster alive and uninjured.

Those who survived were sent on initially to Liverpool to be dispatched to the doomed Gallipoli campaign, but they were declared unfit and returned to Edinburgh.