On the first day of each month, over the period of a year, I photographed the trees outside my window.
Here are the photos I took over the past twelve months together with extracts from poems that reflect each month and the season of the year.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
William Carlos Williams
The cold grows colder, even as the days
grow longer, February’s mercury vapor light
buffing but not defrosting the bone-white
ground, crusty and treacherous underfoot.
What did the thrushes know? Rain, snow, sleet, hail,
Had kept them quiet as the primroses.
They had but an hour to sing. On boughs they sang,
On gates, on ground; they sang while they changed perches
And while they fought, if they remembered to fight:
So earnest were they to pack into that hour
Their unwilling hoard of song before the moon
Grew brighter than the clouds.
Now that the winter’s gone, the earth hath lost
Her snow-white robes, and now no more the frost
Candies the grass, or casts an icy cream
Upon the silver lake or crystal stream;
But the warm sun thaws the benumbed earth,
And makes it tender; gives a sacred birth
To the dead swallow; wakes in hollow tree
The drowsy cuckoo and the humble-bee.
Now do a choir of chirping minstrels bring
In triumph to the world the youthful spring.
The driving boy beside his team
Will o’er the may month beauty dream
And cock his hat and turn his eye
On flower and tree and deep’ning skye
And oft bursts loud in fits of song
And whistles as he reels along
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
And if I woo from yonder trees
A breath of coolness for my brow,
They’ve none to give—not e’en a breeze
Rustles amid their foliage now;
Yes, hush! there stirred a leaf, but no,
Tis only some poor, panting bird,
With silenced note, head drooping low,
That ’mid the shady green boughs stirred.
Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon
In the mute August afternoon
They trembled to some undertune
Of music in the silver air;
Great pleasure was it to be there
Till green turned duskier and the moon
Coloured the corn-sheaves like gold hair.
Algernon Charles Swinburne
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.
But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.
Helen Hunt Jackson
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
They say it is the month of death,
But I have never seen such beauty in decay.
Remains of Autumn,
Cling to the branches,
And the Earth is painted a thousand shades of red.
It is full winter now: the trees are bare,
Save where the cattle huddle from the cold
Beneath the pine, for it doth never wear
The autumn’s gaudy livery whose gold
Her jealous brother pilfers, but is true
To the green doublet;
(This is an old article moved from a page into this post)
Tuesday 14th April 2015
Our page that covers the general election of 2015.
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This page asks the question: what does politics mean for the arts?
As the country prepares for a general election on May 7th and as Leicester prepares to elect its constituency members of Parliament and city mayor, we will be looking to see what the candidates are saying about their policies for the arts, heritage and culture in Leicester.
Our focus will be on the contest for the position of Mayor of Leicester. Now that the city has an elected, full-time Mayor we will be trying to find out what the candidates have to say about how they would support and develop the city’s arts.
The future of arts policy in Leicester (editorial comment)
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In 2011 we reported on a visit to Leicester of Ed Miliband
Devising characters and then bringing them to life, in a story, is far from easy. In this week’s article, I talk about how I have gone about making the three characters who are central to my latest novel.
I need to get going. This blog has not been updated. That will change. I have decided to have a blog section. That is a section of this website where I post weekly posts about what I am doing. The first instalment is due on Sunday 18th February.
I have made a start by putting a link, on the main menu bar, to the home page for my regular blog. Click on Blog Home above. ↑
17th November 2017
A new beginning
Now I have got my domain name, it is time to revamp the blog.
I want to give the whole site a fresher feeling; simplify it, make it easier to use and focus on the new rather than the old.
Please come back soon – lots of new writings are on the way.
The guitarist plucks at his strings
the metallic tumult begins.
Like legends of some Gothic age
being given eagle-like wings.
We can see the shape of the man
on the venue’s dimly lit stage.
Rage breeds, as the vocalist roars,
slapping shockwaves into your face,
as the mounting tension outpours,
wielding thunderbolts like a sword,
the drums set the thunderous blows
of the songs that everyone knows.
The man is a god of the strings.
His open shirt showing his chest
and the sweat to his jawbone clings
they all know that he is the king
the greatest that they’ve ever seen,
and their excitation takes wing.
As they savour the savage sound
the crowd waves their lighters around,
fists clenching, they punch at the air,
prodding fingered horns at the crew.
For people, the devil may care,
if he misses a note or two.
As they watch the twist of his hips,
enthralled by his glistening hair,
they long for the touch of his lips.
For them, he is Eros defined.
Their clamour is not for his mind
his pulsating body is there.
At the end of the set he bowed
and the crowd erupts in applause
the screaming and shouting are loud.
Off stage, the musician withdraws,
and his heart is swelling with pride
and, of him, the band is so proud.
The musicians start packing away.
They pick up their amps, and feel strong.
The performance turned out quite well,
for many they cannot go wrong.
Tonight’s gig – a very big throng –
and next time, more tickets they’ll sell.
Pursuing the call of the bars,
stinking with old perspiration,
the stubble of weeks on his chin –
ready to conquer the nation,
Guitarist’s about to begin
his meteor rise to the stars.
So when he is in the arenas,
thousands of fans, grouped in thickets,
Will he recall the admirers,
the ones he began to impress,
the fans who first bought the tickets,
thus paving his road to success?
Will singer think back to the start,
when playing those shit-venue dives,
the small ones he had to endure,
for the sake of his grinding art,
as he plods on, tour after tour,
will he think back to all those lives?
Does he love those women that crave
masculinity, music and charm?
Girls worship the man who gets pissed,
the man who can do them no harm,
the singer who’se always the rage:
the legend call The Guitar-ist.
Wreck of the Imperial Prince trawler off the coast of Scotland in 1923
by Trevor Locke
[This is an amended version of a story I wrote that was published in issue 2 of Family News, June 1992. It was later published on my family tree blog in February 2017]
On a stormy October night in 1923 a small Scottish trawler was sailing back to her home port when she was blown aground in a storm and heavy fog. The rescue attempt mounted to save her crew led to honours being bestowed by the Prince of Wales on the rescuers one of whom was my father – Leslie James Locke.
In the early morning, of October 19th 1923, a fierce southerly gale struck the coast of Scotland. The steam-powered fishing vessel Imperial Prince (129 tons) was returning to her home port of Aberdeen when she was overcome by strong winds and high seas and was washed ashore on Black Dog beach off Belhevie, four miles north of Aberdeen. Four lives were lost. The coasts around Aberdeen must have been treacherous because several ships were wrecked there in 1923 alone.
By daybreak, only her bow and stern could be seen above the waves. Imperial Prince was a steam-propelled fishing vessel built and launched in 1899 by J. T. Eltringham & Co. Ltd of South Shields, she weighed 129 Gross Registered Tonnage. Eltringham was an established ship-building company based at South Shields. By the year 1910 the twenty-sixth trawler had been delivered to what had then become the Prince Fishing Company. The shipyard closed in 1922, hit by the recession.
The trawler sank at 5.30 am and her nine crew were left clinging for their lives to the rigging. The rowing life boat was called from the fishing village of Newburgh and the big powered life boat of the Harbour Commissioners was summoned from Aberdeen; she was equipped with a rocket apparatus and this succeeded in firing a line on to the wrecked trawler and a breeches buoy was established to haul the men ashore. This took a long time in the rough seas and by the time it was ready the trawler men were so exhausted that they could hardly haul the buoy and one of the crew was drowned in the rescue attempt. The Aberdeen Lifeboat station was one of the earliest in Scotland, being established in 1802 by the Harbour Commissioners. It was the forerunner of the Aberdeen Lifeboat Station run today by the RNLI.
Before the advent of helicopters, if a lifeboat was unable to reach a stricken vessel, the only alternative means of rescue was the rocket-propelled Life-Saving Apparatus (LSA). It was invented by Cornishman Henry Trengrouse (1772 to 1854.) The LSA later became the Breeches Buoy. The apparatus provided a way of getting a line on to a ship. In 1808, Trengrouse designed a device that could deliver the line to the ship by means of a rocket. Once the line was established, a chair could be pulled across the hawser.
Villagers turn out to help
After a determined battle with the elements, the Aberdeen lifeboat was eventually swept ashore. Whilst this was happening, the Newburgh lifeboat was on its way from the fishing village seven miles further along the coast.
In 1828, Newburgh became the first port in Scotland to have a Lifeboat Station, then called the Shipwreck Institution. The RNLI, as the Institution became, based a lifeboat in Newburgh until 1961, when it moved to Peterhead.
The sea was too rough to launch it and so it had to be dragged along the soft sands by the men, women and children of the village. They reached the stricken trawler at 2 pm, eight hours after she had run aground. Eventually the Newburgh lifeboat was on its way, with Coxswain John Innes at the helm and his son James amongst the crew. They succeeded in saving two of the trawler men but a third was washed out of the buoy and drowned. One of the two men they saved was badly injured and the lifeboat crew became exhausted by their struggle with the sea they were forced to return ashore. Coxswain John Innes and his son Andrew were decorated by the Prince of Wales at Mansion House, in London, in 1924.
After a valiant effort, Coxswain Innes was forced to return ashore. The Newburgh rescuers made two further attempts to reach the trawler men but without success. A motor life boat was summoned from Peterhead, twenty-two miles away, up the coast. A message for help was sent to the Commanding Officer of the Royal Naval ships lying off Aberdeen.
Sailors to the rescue – in a fleet of taxis!
On board HMS Vampire, off-duty ratings were sprucing themselves up in readiness for a run ashore. One of these was 19 year-old Able Seaman Leslie Locke from Little Ann, near Andover, in Hampshire. On receiving the plea from the rescuers at Black Dog Beach, The commander of the Royal Naval destroyer called for volunteers from the ratings aboard Vampire and another destroyer, HMS Vendetta, lying nearby.
Eleven sailors, led by Petty Officer Essam of the Vampire, volunteered to help with the rescue and were dispatched to Black Dog Beach in the only means of transport available – a fleet of taxi cabs. The light was beginning to fade as they made their way along the windswept coastal roads to Belhevie. A soon as they arrived, a fourth attempt to reach the trawler began with the navel crew supporting the locals in the Newburgh lifeboat under Coxswain Innes, injured in his previous efforts and Petty Officer Essam.
It was nearly 7 pm and the light had gone. Although the wind had subsided there was a heavy swell breaking over the deck of the Imperial Prince. Her remaining crew had been had by now been clinging to her rigging for thirteen hours. Only her masts and the top of her funnel could be seen above the breaking waves by the light of the moon which had come out through the clearing skies.
After a long hard pull, the rowers in the Newburgh lifeboat got to windward of the wreck and threw a line to her. The boat dropped to the port side of the trawler, where she lay with her stern close in under the foremast. She rose and fell eight feet in the swell as the sailors struggled to take the remaining five trawler men from the wreck. Eventually, all the crew members were saved and the Newburgh lifeboat set off once more for the safety of the shore. The Peterhead lifeboat arrived at the scene, after struggling for 22 miles against the gale, shortly after the men has been rescued.
Prince rewards bravery
The story of the rescue of the crew of the Imperial Prince was told at the centenary meeting of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, held in London in June 1924. In the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Edward, His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London and many other dignitaries, the Deputy Secretary of the Institution accounted for the rescue of the Imperial Prince and described it as the outstanding service of 1923.
As a result of the gallant efforts of the sailors from Vampire and Vendetta. The Lords of the Admiralty showed their appreciation by promoting Petty Officer Essam in rank and each of the eleven ratings was given six months seniority of service, including Able Seaman Locke. At the centenary ceremony, Prince Edward presented the Institution’s silver medal to Coxswain John Innes and the bronze medal to his son James who was the Bowman. Petty Officer Essam, of HMS Vampire, was also awarded the Institute’s silver medal.
A special letter of thanks was sent to the women of Newburgh for their part in hauling their lifeboat seven miles along the sands. Each of the eleven naval ratings was awarded the RNLI’s certificate of thanks, inscribed on vellum and signed by the Prince of Wales.
Leslie Locke commenced his time in the Royal Navy on 10th January 1922 for a period of 12 years. He served on the Vampire, as a rating from 16th November 1922 to 5th June 1924. He was an ordinary seaman and then an Able Seaman. In February 1924 his naval record was endorsed with ‘awarded six months additional seniority in rating … for advancement purposes for rescue … of trawler Imperial Prince by men of Vampire and Vendetta …’
The Prince of Wales later became King Edward VIII, until his abdication following the constitutional crisis of 1936; he later married the American Mrs Simpson.
This article was compiled with the assistance of the rescue records Department of the RNLI in 1992 and drew on records left by the late Leslie Locke.
Today is National Poetry Day, 2018. To mark this, I publish three of my poems based on history and legend.
A thousand slaves on Nemrud’s height did toil and raised a tumulus of such might that snow lay on its body, huge and bare. Six Titans sat, carved from titanic stone, and guarded Antiochus, lord of Commagene, whose mortal ashes, in his tomb, no longer can be seen.
Some lines depicting a Greek legend, 1966
Wild chaos, like a milky void, was there and from it, through the very beats of time, arose a Goddess with a graceful form. She found no solid thing to rest upon and so divided water from the wind. She made the boundless sea with flowing tide and danced upon its ripples and its waves. She danced upon the universe alone and grasped the tameless wind between her hands: she rubbed it and behold! A serpent grew. The star-crowned, black-winged goddess of the night, before whom even Zeus must stand in awe, was courted by the wind and made an egg of silver which she laid in Darkness’ womb.
Artemis gazes from above with hornéd creatures by her head. She fills the world with stormy love and constellations of red dread lie throbbing on her many breasts above the aching chasm’s floor that once contained her great incests – rise now with human gore.
All composed during my teenage years when ancient history was a new-found interest of mine.
“Echoes & I Imagine” World Premiere at Curve – Review
10th Oct 2015
Echoes and I Imagine – World Premiere – Curve
By Trevor Locke
The solo dance performance of Aakash Odedra tonight was sensational. I have not seen male dance of this calibre since I last saw Rudolf Nureyev in the 1970s. Odedra’s first piece was a stunning performance based on the Indian classical dance genre Kathak. Dancing to the choreography of Aditi Mangaldas, Odedra demonstrated the sublime artistry of his abilities, with movements that had razor-sharp timing, perfectly synchronised with the music. The work opened with with gloriously evocative sounds creating a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere, heightened by the lighting and the floor of the stage being spread with long filaments of golden threads studies with tiny bells, laid out to look like the ripples of a lake.
The piece drew on the image and symbol of bells, which hung from the top of the stage in clusters of long strings. As the programme notes explained ‘The resonance of the bells awaken us to the now. A breath and senses awakens. LIFE awakens me.’ The Kathak dance form is story-telling in motion. The elaborate footwork, enhanced by bells, attached to the ankles, was characteristic of the dance form; Odedra pulled down two of the long strands of bells and wound them around his ankles before proceeding to display amazing footwork, in his bare feet. In something that Western audiences would recognise as tap dancing, he also used his feet as percussion instruments, drumming on the stage, producing sequences of intricate rhythms. Echoes is a work that plays with the idea of bells, their tradition in classical dance, their ritualistic significance and their potential as a metaphor for freedom and awakening.
The piece also included many of the spinning movements – the chakkars – so characteristic of classical Kathak. What Mangaldas has done is to bring the ancient art form into the 21st century without losing any of its resonance and vibrancy. Some of Odedra’s spins were like those of an ice skater; he has a fluidity of movement that is remarkable but he combined this with dynamics that are amazing. All the time we watch those extraordinarily impressive hand movements, the fingers that wave and flutter like the wings of a bird. It was like seeing dance from another planet; something that moves forward what we understand about solo dance. Utterly enthralling and spellbinding throughout.
Echoes celebrated the form of classical Kathak, but the second piece – I Imagine – brought a totally new approach and direction to the stage. In it, Odedra demonstrated his sense of humour, his consummate capacity for entertaining his audience. It was another demonstration of his story-telling powers, using mime, antics and even spoken word to engage us in a meditation on the theme of travel and migration (very topical.) Odedra came on to a stage stacked with suitcases – like the bells, another evocative metaphor. This piece used a variety of masks to signify characters, not unlike those used by actors in classical Greek drama, I thought. At the beginning of the piece, one of the larger suitcases begins to move and Odedra emerges from it, foot by foot, leg by leg, rather like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. It reminded me of Ernest being found in a handbag. The story goes on to depict arriving in a new country, migration to a new and alien culture, the feelings evoking loss of homeland, leaving behind the ones that are loved, the challenges of accommodating a new style of life. And then Odedra does something totally innovative for a dancer – he engaged in a spoken monologue in which he used surprising skills of characterisation, speaking in accents to bring his characters to life, much to the amusement of the audience. It was a sequence that bore similarities to stand-up comedy, recollecting the Kumars, I thought. Towards the end of the piece, Odedra walked across the top of a line of suitcases, having used them beforehand to make an armchair and a house. It was a gleeful deployment of the props and one that took us a long way from the previous classical dance routines.
I Imagine included spoken word by the celebrated Sabrina Mahfouz, the British Egyptian poet, playwright and performer who was born in South London. Odedra’s collaboration with the award-winning Mahfouz created a work that was supremely one of theatre, one that gave us dance, drama, comedy and gymnastics. It reminded me of my previous experience at Curve when I saw Bromance, the production by the Barley Methodical Troupe that created a new genre of dance and gymnastics. Odedra commissioned the masks used in this production from circus practitioner David Poznanter (it must have been the association of circus that conjured the idea of the work by the Barley Methodical Troupe in my mind.)
Tonight’s World Premier of Echoes and I Imagine crowns the previous appearance made by Odedra at Curve, including Inked and Murmer in 2014.
Speaking after the performance, Odedra paid tribute to his teacher, the internationally renown Kathak dancer Nilema Devi MBE.
Aakash was commissioned by Curve Theatre in Leicester to choreograph a piece for the opening of the theatre in November 2008. This piece, called “Flight” was the only one invited to perform for HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on their visit in December 2008
Aakash Odedra was raised in Leicester and his company is based here.
Curve has over the years given us so much that is new and exciting in the arts and tonight was no exception.
This entry was originally published in Arts In Leicestershire online magazine, on March 12, 2016
“Me an’ me mates
were over on ‘ayling Island.
Trev – ‘e’s me best mate –
‘e went back to the mainland on the ferry
but I couldn’t go, ‘cos I didn’t ‘ave
enough money. So Trev went over and
said he’d come back for me.”
I stood on the island shore
watching the tide pour through
the narrow channel between the islands
in a churning current.
Watching the figures on the mainland shore
hoping that one of them would come back for me.
I stood there alone, penniless…
…with a strange feeling deep inside me…
of being utterly alone
stranded, in a strange place,
far from home.
I was not afraid
even as the tears
momentarily blurred my vision.
I felt challenged to survive.
With a strange feeling,
an odd sensation deep inside me.
Stranded on an island far from home.
Across the raging water,
just three hundred yards away,
there was my friend.
I did not know
what that strange feeling was
but I called it
Since then I have
felt it again.
At times it creeps back;
when I am faced with
when I have to make important plan
when I end a love affair.
On my island of life
I look across at the world.
I feel alone.
I am far from home.
But the challenge is to survive.
That dispels the blurring of my desolation.
I did get back all right.
I did get home.
But now home is
eighty miles away.
I am an adult.
But I am still alone.
Room with a view and a gas ring a hot and cold sink a hot and cold bed Bare walls distempered blue and carpets fitted – more or less.
Heavy lorries roar in Cromwell Road. The gas fire hisses at the coldness of my feet; drafts carry away the precious little heat.
I am here. They are there, all around me boxed in little rooms human units anonymous entities unrelated existences.
Roar, roar thou winter lorry;¹ thou art not so unkind
as Georgian architecture.
¹ a play on words from Shakespeare, As You Like It (II, vii)
My mind, 1969
My strange existence:
it is heavy like a rock
it is shallow like a stream
it is clear like a loch
it is false like a dream
From bubbles to butterflies
it changes, like passing clouds,
and winds that blow away
leaving the air to be still
I seek it with searching eyes
I seek it with straining ears
I seek it with with groping fingers
I seek it with quivering heart
quivering with frustration
I reach, at last, the truth:
Alas! The bubble bursts
the butterfly flutters away.
The Wind, 1969
I feel it blowing through my mind,
this wind of evening, warmed by the setting sun,
as light as the fleecy clouds, high in the radiant sky.
I feel this wind: breathing, gentle, ponderous,
softly in my heart, living in sentiments.
It blows faintly through deep bones and organs,
whistling in hot blood, collecting in the clear eye,
whirling around in the darkness of the brain.
My life is a wind of change, eternal transience,
but I, always ineffable, say
“I am I, for ever, come what may.”
Though I may suffer much, I never cry
from the bleeding rack of bloodied time
and unavoidable age. I never cry:
the wind will dry my tears before they fall.
I never cry. But, do I ever laugh?
My inner wind is never calm. From gales,
to fairest whispers, I am beaten down
by the movement of feelings,
emotions, sentiments, stinks and essences
of my life, my destiny, my death.
I never cry? I laugh, only to die, for a time
and I have parted friendless from enemies.
Be brave, for courage is
one’s only untaxed asset.
And tears fall in the drying wind of change.
Poor, sad eyes: dark pools within
the face’s wan virginity.
Dear wind: blow! blow!
My tears are drops of dew
in your desiccating kisses.