Monthly Archives: July 2012

British Summer Time

I spent last week on holiday in the South-West of England.  As usual, my timing was slightly out: the week I chose turned out to be the last one when we were still plagued by the storms and downpours of The Jet Stream, and it is this week that The British Summer has finally started.

After the days of unbroken blue skies and hot sun we’ve had this week, the sort of weather described in my poem “B.S.T” (i.e. British Summer Time) must seem almost unrecognisable.  The poem was actually written a year ago, and describes a particularly turbulent day I experienced during that Summer.  Re-reading the poem now, I get the sense of bafflement and amazement I felt at the time, witnessing such extremes of weather compressed within such a short span of time.  The wildness and force of what I was watching also provoked a feeling of exhilaration, coupled with a thankfulness that I was safely indoors, observing it all.

B.S.T.

I saw it all, sitting, hypnotized;
emotions churning, neurones fried.
Saw it all, motionless, in my armchair.
Watched seasons mingle in the baleful air.
From flickering flashes of febrile sun,
to stygian darkness, glowering gloom.
All on a British summer afternoon.

Pity British weathermen, much maligned.
Their forecasts savaged, their status declined.
Yet British weathermen do not tell lies;
they just can’t contend with such fugitive skies.

Green branches heaved and shook in the blasts;
squirrels, sailor-like, clung to the masts.
Secure in my eyrie, I raised my glass high;
a tribute, saluting those braver than I,
venturing outside, now seeking refuge,
scurrying, like mice, in torrential deluge.
I saw bats, I saw rats, I swear I saw the moon.
All on a British summer afternoon.

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Should we take heed of the Higgs Boson?

I am, decidedly, a non-scientist.  Physics and Chemistry made little or no sense to me at school, and I entered adulthood resigned to the fact that I would remain in ignorance of all things scientific.   When “Popular Science” books by such luminaries as Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins started to make an impact on public consciousness, I decided, somewhat warily, to take a look.  I found, to my amazement, that a fascinating new world of knowledge was now becoming accessible for me.  Since then, I have followed the news of the latest scientific breakthroughs with the enthusiastic interest of a semi-ignorant layman.

It was particularly interesting to observe how the discovery of the Higgs Boson (or “God-Particle”) last week was disseminated to us via the media.  Here was a discovery that – so the scientists were telling us – was comparable to Einsteinian Relativity, or Newton’s discovery of gravity.  I came across a succinct description of the Higgs Boson, on one of the scientific websites, as “. . . the particle that gives other particles mass that attracts.  This allows particles to coalesce, forming everything from a rock to a human being.”  So, pretty important, one would think; yet the media seemed rather unsure about how to announce this earth-shattering news to the nation.  As far as the News Headlines were concerned, the Higgs Boson was deemed to be less important than reports on the progress Andy Murray was making towards the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final.

I think this reflects a general uncertainty we have towards the world of sub-atomic particles.  Scientists tell us that these particles operate according to “quantum mechanics”, and are thus able to be in two places at once, travel forwards and backwards in time, and so on.  We accept that this must be the case, but it remains impossible for us to connect this crazy sub-atomic world to the world of our everyday, common-sense “reality”.  My poem “Disjunction” is an attempt to express the bafflement that we feel.

Disjunction:

Our subatomic particles eddy and flow,
pass through matter, annihilate time.
No one knows how they come, where they go.
There seems no reason; precious little rhyme.

They spurn rationality; turn logic on its head.
To some, these paradoxes cut no ice.
Scientists of genius, frustrated, now dead.
‘God’, said Einstein, ‘does not play dice’.

How is it possible to explain the transition?
Am I a surfer, gliding on the particle sea?
From subatomic level, to banal decision.
From particle chaos, to ‘Coffee? Or tea?’

We are dumbfounded by the disjunction.
We are bewildered, searching for the key.
Is it a collapse of the wave function?
How can it form that strange being called ‘me’?

 

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Merrydown Cider

The meteorological entity known as The Jet Stream is, apparently, responsible for the miserable “Summer” weather currently affecting us here in poor, beleaguered England.  Whatever the reason, it is consoling, at times like this, to conjure up visions of more favourable summers in the past: sun-filled days, relaxing with a chilled glass of lager – or cider.

I have written before (in a post simply titled “Cider”) about the many virtues of cider as an alcoholic beverage.  In fact, I am so fond of it that I have written, over the years, several poems about different varieties and brands of cider.  One of the first brands to become commercially popular in the UK was “Merrydown” – available in both “Dry” and “Sweet” varieties.  Whilst some cider purists turned their noses up at it, many – including me – found Merrydown to be refreshing, tasty, and economically priced.  In addition to this, it was, despite the scorn of the purists, actually made from genuine cider apples.  My poem is an attempt to capture the robust, earthy, vibrant virtues Merrydown embodies for me.

Merrydown Cider:

Curvaceous green bottle,
to be hefted by hand.
To be swigged from, gaily,
by toilers on the land.

See them glug it gladly.
Zesty, bubbling, tasty.
Made to wash down
the savoury Cornish Pasty.

So come, lady.  Come merrily.
See the buttercup-liquid flow.
With a hey nonny-nonny!
With a hey nonny-no!

Come, lady.  Come merrily.
Let us drink this vintage down.
Whilst sun-kissed branches
strew Russets on the ground.

Come, lady.  Come merrily.
Sing gleefully, I say.
For with you I will tarry.
For with you I will lay.

Let us join hands together.
Come, lady, lift your gown.
To the muse of Terpsichore,
let us tread the turf down!

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