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Edward Thomas / High Beach

This week we have mostly been loving…Marsh orchids. Brief trot round North Metropolitan (ex-gravel) Pit* in the "Essex Lake District" - except we were in Hertfordshire, just. The River Lee is still a border here. Danelaw still applicable there: so far as any laws are really applicable in Essex. Orchids are very partial to soil enriched with dumped fuel ash from coal burning power stations, their deep flowers a pink lining to a cloudless and ozone-free world.

Short extract from The Laws of Storms (see, 12/5/4 etc.) more or less in lieu of a blog.

I hadn't realised that ET (see last week, 19/5/04) actually lived - albeit briefly - in Epping Forest. My ramble was therefore very appropriate…especially as I was plagiarising his poem "Lights Out" in the chorus. (I think you mean paying "homage" Ed.)

No, I definitely mean plagiarizing.

Anyway, ET & family moved to High Beach in autumn, 1916. Edward had by then already taken the king's shilling - in fact at one stage he had been in camp at High Beach, so perhaps that's how he discovered its delights. He did, however, manage to grab a week's leave to set up home, and he wrote to Robert Frost on 19 October 1916:

"It is right alone in the forest among beech trees and fern and deer, though it only costs 10d. to reach London."

Rope Trick / Snake Factoid #4
By autumn 1916, circus entertainers were apparently no longer exempt from the great adventure. In the same letter, ET tells RF:

"You would like one of our sergeant-major instructors who asked a man coiling a rope the wrong way - from right to left - "Were you a snake-charmer before you joined…""

*You can download a useful map/directions etc.from (Lake and Riverside Walk.pdf)




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Marsh orchid



Strange Perambulation / Loughton › Cheshunt


American Graffiti


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JW 1944

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Book cover

Waterlow Park



The Hardy Tree (28/4/04)

Finchley (21/04/04)

Haiku (7/04/04)



Epping/Ophelia Pt III/

Ophlia Part II/



Strange Perambulation / Loughton › Cheshunt





Obeying his inner voice, shady stepped out into God's study via the Central Line. He took with him a half-finished lyric: Strange Perambulation, inspired by Helen Thomas's essay recording her visit to Ivor Gurney in Dartford Asylum when they spent a happy hour retracing on well-thumbed ordnance survey maps walks he had done with Edward before…

…He's gone and all our plans
Are useless indeed…

Shady's own map-reading skills being similarly imaginative rather than scientific he got lost and returned several hours later with an unfinished (unlooked at) lyric and a burnt nose.

And one hundred and eleven digital images, a selection of which he humbly posts for your perusal.

Mystery Flower Update (see 27/3/04: text / image) The mysteryflower is still - officially - a…er…mystery flower. The county recorder for higher plants responded to a request for info from Sussex Wildlife Trust: "I have had a good look at the photo, and am as unsure as any of you as to what this might be. However, it is just possible that it is something fairly straight forward that has become fasciated." Unfortunately, I couldn't supply them with any sensible photos of leaves etc. so the identity of the flower will have to remain elusive. At least until next year. Fasciating.

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beach 2


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chimney sweeps


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dog rose


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everybody's doing it

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indian rope trick


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ragged robbin

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American Graffiti / Dissertation on the Cause of Spouts

According to a sign on the wall of Waterlow Park, the park is also the site of Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) 's cottage. I'm not sure there's any documentary evidence for this but it is at least possible, according to the Poetry Society, that the final stanza of his poem, The Garden, was inspired by a sundial in the garden of Lauderdale house. The garden is now part of the park.

"How well the skilful gardener drew
Of flowers and herbs this dial new,
Where from above the milder sun
Does through a fragrant zodiac run;
And, as it works, the industrious bee
Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers!"

In the same poem (stanza 3) Marvell discusses the time-honoured practice of scratching initials on long-suffering and undervalued trees:
"Fond lovers, cruel as their flame,
Cut in these trees their mistress' name."

My undergraduate copy is annotated in rather pinched pencil "Loving = wounding"; which must have appealed to me for some reason, now lost. And Andrew Marvell rather smugly suggests that if he writes anything at all, it will be simply the name of the tree:
"Fair trees! wheres'e'er your barks I wound,
No name shall but your own be found."

Whether inspired by this or not, many of the trees in Waterlow Park are indeed labelled. Which makes it an ideal destination for those like me who are arborially enthused but knowledge-deficient.


Last week I was up at Frithsden Beeches near Berkhamsted to see if I could find any obviously WWI graffiti among the venerable beech (Fagus sylvatica) pollards.

Richard Mabey in Flora Britannica alerted me to the fact that there is graffiti here going back at least 100 years including the initials of more than one American airman stationed nearby during World War II.

Linguistic evidence suggests that tablets made of beech bark may have been among the first books. The word beech itself is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for book. Indeed beech still is "bok" in Swedish and "beuk" in Danish. (Trees: Their Natural History, Peter Thomas).


With nice irony, these obviously literary-minded sons of Sam may have been at the time engaged in dropping books rather than bombs as part of the 8th US Airforce's secret Psychological Operations Squadron operating from nearby Cheddington.


MORE SNAKE FACTOIDS (see blog 21/4/04)

The derivation of cyclone is probably a Greek word refering to the coil of a snake.




I will not now enter into a Dissertation on the Cause of Spouts, but by what I can understand they are caused by nothing but the Circumgyration of the Clouds, made by two contrary Winds meeting in a Point, and condensing the Cloud till it falls in the Shape we see it; which by the twisting Motion sucks up Water, and doth much Mischief to Ships at Sea, where they happen oftner than at Land. Whichever of the two Winds prevails, as in the above-mentioned was the S. W. at last dissolves and dissipates the Cloud, and then the Spout disappears…

Joseph Ralton
12 Dec 1703


Ralton was one of the many who responded to Stoke Newington boy, Daniel Defoe's, appeal for eyewitness accounts after the Great Storm of November 1703. London was particularly badly hit by the cyclone which claimed 8000 lives including 1/5th of the crews of the Navy, in one murderous night. The Storm was republished by Allen Lane/Penguin last year, Hamblyn, R. (Ed). But I have to say the cumulative effect of so many similar accounts and repeated protestations of veracity is curiously - though perhaps appropriately - flattening.

LAW OF STORMS was one of a number of books among the personal possessions of my G3-Grandfather, James Goffey, and was sold, batched with a Chronometer Guide, at auction for three shillings and sixpence, after his untimely demise.

"Best practice" re: storms is understandably high on the list of need-to-knows for a ship's master of any period, and storm theory was apparently the big debate of 19th century meteorology.

Reality TV Nigerian-style came to Snake Island this week in the form of Guilder Ultimate Search.

It's enough to drive a man to drink.




Waterlow Park - Karl Marx's Birthday - W. Heath-Robinson



June and July are months when things run your way - Saturn lets you capitalise on
your business connections and buy your sister's flat, Jupiter gives you the urge to throw a mammoth garden party and/or fall in love. The elusive but profile-enhancing energies of Neptune highlight your career
right through to next birthday. Industry involving glamour, oil, pharmaceuticals, media, mysticism and con artistry are especially favoured. Happy returns."

Neil Spencer, The Observer, 2 May 2004


Quite which of these, if any, apply to Karl Marx (b.5 May 1818) I shan't speculate. Perhaps they don't work retrospectively.


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Highgate Park, 1929, J E Goffey 1907-2000

Marx's tomb: Highgate Cemetery




I was half hoping, but not really expecting, to see a red flag or two up at Highgate this morning. But I had the park more or less to myself - just a few damp contractors, and some disappointed rooks who prefer picking over takeaway wrappers to having to dig their own lunch.

My late grandmother, Joan Goffey, née Passmore, painted Highgate Park in 1929 whilst she was a student at Hornsey School of Art where she was a contemporary, and friend, of some of W.Heath-Robinson's children (?)

William Heath-Robinson (1872-1944) moved to Highgate in 1929 (I think: I've mislaid my notes), to a house at the top of Shepherds Hill (ditto). He remembers a morning stroll in a quiet Waterlow Park at this time in his autobiography, "My Line of Life". He describes seeing the small "club" of retired men, who met daily; a young man scouring the newspaper for work; an old lady with her breakfast in a paper parcel; nursemaids with their charges and a procession of singing children from a nearby convalescent home. He also pictures families relaxing in the warm light of a Sunday evening, accompanied by music from a band, with the dome of St Paul's and a wide prospect of London visible through the trees.

The park was still a private garden in 1883 when Karl Marx was buried next door in Highgate Cemetery. The land was donated to the people of London - "a garden for the gardenless" - by Sir Sydney H Waterlow Bart, Lord Mayor of London1872-1873, some six years later.

Marx was however a regular visitor to Hampstead Heath, another favourite destination for Heath-Robinson who had spent an early summer painting landscapes there à la John Constable. (The fruits of this he took to a dealer in the Balls Pond Road who advised him to "try something else").

Marx's friend, Liebknecht, in his memoirs, described a typical London Sunday in Victorian England enjoyed by the Marx family and their fellow exiles:

"A Sunday on Hampstead Heath was the highest pleasure to us... the children spoke of it all week and grown people too anticipated it with joy..."

The picnic basket "... was our commissary department, and when a man has a healthy strong stomach... then the question of provisions plays a very large role. And good Lenchen knew this and had for often half-starved and, therefore, hungry guests a sympathising heart. A mighty roast veal was the centrepiece hallowed by tradition for the Sunday in Hampstead Heath."

Quoted in Marx In London, An Illustrated Guide, by Asa Briggs, BBC 1982

Another anniversary falling this month is that of Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which is 200 years old this year. I wonder if anyone has thought of twinning cemeteries like they do towns: "Highgate Cemetery twinned with Pere Lachaise ." Come to think of it; some places I've lived could easily be twinned with a cemetery:, for example. I visited Pere Lachaise about twenty years ago, only vaguely aware that anyone apart from Jim Morrison (d. 1971, aged 27) was buried there.

Christian Charlet, the historian responsible for the tombs, was interviewed by Reuters this week:

"We would like to kick out Morrison because we don't want him, he causes too many problems...If we could get rid of him, we would do it straight away, but unfortunately the Americans don't want him back."

Others interviewed in the same article were more easygoing about the crowds flocking to see the final resting place of the Lizzard King: "It doesn't bother me at all...On the contrary, people should join in. It's nicer. Maybe for the dead too, it's nicer to have people around."

Karl Marx's views on the matter are not on record. But one might imagine him muttering darkly about "communards" and "circuses" and "Could you pass me another chicken-leg, please?".

© Richard Shepherd, 2004 top  
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