Category Archives: Family

Graves Memorial St David's Park

John Woodcock Graves and The Hobart Connection

The Cockermouth Poets

The New Bookshop, Main Street Cockermouth

My blogging style has become like that of the proverbial London bus. You wait for hours, days, weeks and then two come along together. Why is that? I have no answers as usual.

This is another looking back and ‘here and now’ post, this time about Dad’s anthology of the Cockermouth Poets, design and typesetting by Karen Sawrey. I don’t know if you remember if you have been reading this blog for a while but there were terrible floods back in November 2009., as now across Somerset, which hit the small market town of Cockermouth where Michael lives. I was reminded by seeing Prince Charles on the news that he too visited Cockermouth at that dreadful time.

The town of Cockermouth has a new flood risk management scheme in place which has been operational since 2013. This is a video of the new scheme from the perspective of David Duck at the Environment Agency. It has some interesting shots of the rivers Derwent and Cocker and a good description of the new scheme and you get to hear the distinctive tones of the Cumbrian accent and brings home how each situation is unique and needs a bespoke solution to its particular landscape.

Michael’s response when Cockermouth was getting back on its feet was to organize a poetry trail to brighten up the shop windows of Main Street which had been under so much water. 

The trail was a great success and many people asked if he could produce a book with the poems from the trail which he duly did with the help of Joan Petherington his co-editor and muggins here the typist and sub-sub-sub editor. The Guardian’s Northern correspondent Martin Wainright helped give the book some publicity and took it on holiday with him and wrote about it here, where it sat on a sandy beach many miles from home. The book has been reprinted now, the first run sold out and has done very well indeed for a poetry anthology, raising funds for the charities, Mountain Rescue and Save the Children.  Edit: Michael says to date they have raised £1500!

The Poets in Sydney by Celia of FigjamandlimeCordial

The Poets in Sydney courtesy of Celia @ FigjamandlimeCordial

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

Copies went to Sydney and to East Sussex and thence to Denmark and I was sent these sweet photos by Celia and Misky respectively which pleased the mighty editorix greatly.  

Michael however (never satisfied) hankered longingly after a photo of the book in Hobart, Tasmania.  Why?  Because one of the most famous poems in the book “D’ye Ken John Peel’ was written by one John Woodcock Graves,  who emigrated there and made a new life for himself as a sheep farmer. “It would be so nice” he said, with a far-off look in his eyes, ” if the book were there one day…”

And now we jump forward to the present day and across the world to a park in Hobart where we find Fran! 

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

There is a monument in St David’s Park to John Woodcock Graves and when I read that the glorious Fran of Serendipity Farm  had been to Hobart with her daughters and was planning a return journey in 2014,  I emailed her cheekily and asked her if she would maybe take the book to the park and take its photo at the monument. Fran embraced the project with her usual amazing enthusiasm and has sent me masses of photos. I wish I could have perched at the other end of the monument and basked in that hot Tassie sunshine for an hour!

This is my favourite of Fran's photos taken by her daughter Madeline

This is my favourite of Fran’s photos taken by her daughter Madeline

 I am going to surprise Michael with these photos later today.  

The Cockermouth Poets on John Graves Monument in St David's Park, Hobart

And a close up!

Thank you so much Fran and thank you Celia and Misky for playing ‘Pose the book’ ! You are all stars and treasures  and deeply kind people.

D’ye ken John Peel

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so grey,

D’ye ken John Peel at the break of day,

D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far away,

With his hounds and his horn in the morning.

For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed

And the cry of his hounds which he oft times led,

Peel’s ‘view hullo’ would awaken the dead

Or the fox from his lair in the morning.

Yes I ken John Peel and Ruby too

Ranter and Ringwood and Bellman and True,

From a find to a check, from a check to a view

From a view to a death in the morning

Then here’s to John Peel with my heart and soul

Let’s drink to his health, let’s finish the bowl,

We’ll follow John Peel through fair and through foul

If we want a good hunt in the morning….

John Woodcock Graves (1795-1886)

I do not support hunting, but I am very fond of this song as Michael would sing it to us as small children along with ‘Molly Malone’ and ‘I went to the Animal Fair’ as part of a going to sleep settling down the children ritual. I can hear his deep almost mournful voice softly singing away in the dark as we snuggled down under the covers right now as I write. I have a feeling we all joined in with Peel’s ‘View halloo’ which was the dramatic climax of the song.

Funny the things you remember as you write a blog post. Here is a lovely recording of it being sung by Peter Dawson, not as good as Michael’s of course!

Did your parents sing to you when you were little and do you sing to your children and grandchildren if you have them? 

Joanna  – February 2014.

 

For the curious ….

John Peel the Huntsman celebrated in the song was a real person who was buried in Caldbeck, Cumbria:-

Growing Asier

I am possibly the most beautiful curl in the world

I am possibly the most beautiful curl in the world

Once upon a time there was a little girl whose Great Aunt Gerda lived in a wood far away across the dark North Sea. It took a night and a day to get there on a big ferry boat.  When the child visited her great aunt and other relatives she ate all sorts of exciting things that she didn’t eat at home, lots of the foods were fishy and salty, or smoky or pickled with herbs and vinegar and sugar.

One of the foods she thought of often but never tasted again till almost half a century had passed by was a delicious white firm pickle that her Great Aunt had made.  The little girl thought it was a special snow-white cucumber or maybe a marrow and that only her Great Aunt grew them –  she didn’t know much about pickles or growing vegetables and as far as I remember she thought that vegetables only grew on farms like the pictures in her books.

She didn’t know what the vegetable was exactly because the relatives called it asier. It was crunchy, golden-white, sweet and fragrant and she remembered it with longing for many years.

At home there were imported Polish gherkins with exotic names like Krakus and Globus which were also very good, but not the same and all the time she carried in her taste memory the flavour and the texture of the white asier, the sort her Great Aunt Gerda had made and given her in the house in the woods all those years ago.

Many years later the internet arrived and online shopping arrived fast in its wake, amongst the sites that sprang up to take advantage of this brave new world were many food sites. The woman found that she could order pickled asier from one of these sites and ordered several jars, but even though the taste was close, it wasn’t quite right and she was a little bit sad and downcast.

Then one day she mentioned the asier to her friend Misky the Poet,  who knew about these things on account of being married to Peder the Dane and Misky knew all about the asier and wrote an Asier Pickle Post specially for her old chum about how to make the pickle and advised her on how to nurture the plant.

Kind Misky sent her special asier seed and asier pickling spices from the country of the Great Aunt, so that she could not only make the pickle but grow her own asier.  She sowed the seeds as instructed and waited patiently for the asier to grow.  It was a very cold and long winter and an even colder and longer spring and only one of the seeds germinated.

Hiding but growing

Hiding but growing

The asier grew and grew and got put into a bigger pot. She watered and waited and watered and waited and soon the asier grew flowers and tendrils and the bumble bees visited the bright yellow flowers and hummed and hawed and left again and then one day there was a Baby Asier!

By George I think it's growing!

By George I think it’s growing!

The weather got hotter and hotter and the asier got bigger and bigger…

"My vegetable love should grow vaster than empires and more slow" John Donne

“My vegetable love should grow vaster than empires and more slow” John Donne

…until it was nearly the size of one of Peder the Dane’s shoes and she took it off the mother plant.

Asier Glory

She ate the first asier just as it was because she was over-excited and wanted to see what it tasted like and it was So Much Better than the watery hydroponically grown idenitikt cucumbers from the shop. This asier had  firm white flesh, very few seeds and was crunchy and just delicious!

Now she is waiting for the four new babies that have appeared on the plant to grow and hopefully she will finally make the pickle just like her Great Aunt made all those years ago. If not this year, then next year – when she will grow more than one asier –  she is very patient.

Here's looking at you kid!

Here’s looking at you kid!

The moral of this story is (with apologies to James Thurber)

Don’t pick your asier before they are size 42 as one asier on its own will never make a jar of pickle!

Have you ever grown anything just for the sake of a memory ?

NB: To read all about the fascinating history of the cucumber, one of ‘the ancient foods of Ur’ you could do worse than start with Wikipeda whence originate all the factoids you could possibly want.

I came across this Danish article about growing cucumbers for making this variety of pickle and put it into Google Translate and they suggested a variety called Fatum, which I see is sold by Marshalls in the UK as another alternative which is apparently less prone to mildew than the Langelands Kaempe variety.  I do like growing these big cucumbers !

Hills, Cheese, Snow, Cake

Grasmor from Harris Park, Cockermouth

19th March 2013

As you can see it is pretty wintry still in England this week. This view of the fells from Harris Park in Cockermouth gives you a feel for the raw and unsettled weather we have at the moment.

Windfarm on Cumbrian fieldsToday we drove in search of Dad’s opthamology appointment to two different hospitals as he wasn’t sure which one it was in, which added a certain frisson to the proceedings, but all went well and we had a lovely drive over the fells, waved at the sea at Whitehaven, and passed the windfarms on the fells as the snow and sleet gusted around us.

We returned via Thornby Moor Dairy Cheese Farm (as recommended by our friend Andrew Auld of the Loaf in Crich) where we sampled and bought some wonderful cheeses.

Thornby Moor Dairy

Cumberland Farmhouse Cheese from Thornby Moor Dairy, Carlisle

Cheeses made with unpasteurized milk from shorthorns, delicious goat cheeses and artisan farmhouse cheeses.

Before being unwrapped and cut

We admired the timeline of cheese on the shelves and then returned to Cockermouth for lunch. Edit: In view of some of your comments I will try and add a bit more here – I may not have understood this in its entirety but the cheese maker who came out to help us expalined that the rows of cheeses on the shelves were all the same cheese, the small version of the farmhouse cheese at different points between 0 – 3 months. The mould gathers on the outside of the cloth the cheese is wrapped in, which is removed before being presented for sale. The dairy produces a blue cheese but this wasn’t it. I apologise if I haven’t got this quite right.

Maturing cheese at Thornby Moor Dairy Cheese Farm

This afternoon we popped out to the New Bookshop for coffee and cake.

Coffee and Gingerbread

The New Bookshop alone has sold more than 200 copies of The Cockermouth Poets, which I think is pretty impressive for a poetry anthology!

The Cockermouth Poets

Zeb has been not very well but we hope he is finally on the mend. He loves it up here usually and he has been very miserable. We love the out of hours vets who gave him pain relief on Sunday night at 10 30 pm when he couldn’t stand up without twisting and turning. Yesterday he managed to produce part of the bag that he ate 12 days ago which has somehow managed to travel through his digestive tract and re-appear as a gigantic Cuban cigar of rolled leather. So lets hope that he recovers fully. He slept in the middle of the bed last night.

Now it’s time to cook supper again: roast vegetables and chicken pieces I think, and maybe sharpen the kitchen knives before I start.

At times like these

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17th March 2013

Attempting to post via the clunky wordpress app on the ipad… so if it looks odd that is why…

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Good Morning! We drove up to Cumbria last night and disgorged the contents of the car into Dad’s house plus two poodles, who are good travellers but very bad at sleeping first night in unfamiliar places.

Consequently one fell off the bed at 3.45 am with a loud thump. That is the same one who was in and out of vet most of last week, having eaten all the leather straps, tags and bobs on the manbag.

There was restless padding about, snuffling, grumbling, it went on and on, so in the interests of everyone I came down, stood by the backdoor while they hurtled out in the sleet, snorting and huffing, trampling snowdrops and so on. Then they came back in, presumably having scared up any resident shrew or hedgehog picking up the remains of the bird seed. They then expected to be rewarded for this appalling behaviour with food. I thought not. Sleep has eluded me and I am so not amused.

So here I am several hours later, pretending to take revenge by leaving the dog outside for all of five minutes.

She is back indoors now, carrying her squeaky toy around and asking for a game.

Dad has been profiled in local glossy magazine, Cumbria Life, quite surreal to imagine people staring at this while they sit in the dentist’s waiting room.

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Roll on Sunday morning – what are you all up to today?

The Cockermouth Poets – an anthology

Cockermouth Poets cover published 2012

Michael (my Dad) will be 84 on Christmas Day and has just got delivery of his latest anthology, The Cockermouth Poets.  It’s an eclectic collection of poems from Wordsworth to schoolchildren. Many of the poems appeared on a poetry trail as individual posters put up in shop windows in Cockermouth following the bad floods they had there in 2009. As the rain pours down over the country once more and many people are suffering with floodwaters this year, it is a reminder that life is unpredictable and yet full of joy and creativity. You can hear Michael reading some of his own work on Listen up North. I am particularly fond of his poem about writing to Rita Hayworth.

The Cocker, Cockermouth,

He has popped one of my poems in there as it was included on the original poetry trail. If you visit Cockermouth you will find the poems on the walls of the New Bookshop on Main Street and be able to pick up a copy there and I think in Keswick at the bookshop too. All profits are going to the Cockermouth Mountain Rescue and Save the Children charities.

My attempts at poetry are usually kept separate from this blog but I thought I would give my Dad a little puff of publicity. He works so hard at his books and it has been a long year. He often torments me by asking me to do a little typing and I end up scouring the internet for poems and information about the poets, but it is always a pleasure to help out and argue about words and the provenance of poems with my Dad.

Here is my poem as it appeared on the Trail in the window of the wine bar in the poem. When the floods came Michael was on the other side of the world…

Cockermouth Poets, Poetry Trail

Some places where people are writing about The Cockermouth Poets:-

Martin Wainright’s Guardian Northerner Blog about’ The Cockermouth Poets’. He makes me smile when he writes about how Baron is very good at getting people to do things….

The wonderful Listen Up North mentions the book here and links to us too, most honoured!