Copyright 2016: Estate of Dorothy Cowlin; Richard Lung.
May 5 1989
26 September 1989
27 Sept. 1990
Aug. 24 1990
4 Feb. 1991
Dorothys RSPB Christmas cards.
Letter by Mrs Dorothy Whalley to the Plant Committee.
Dorothy helps further on electoral reform.
Dorothy introduces Eve Watson and the Jung connection.
Letter on Dorothys youthful poems.
Award-winning poem: Pennine Tunnel.
Letter on a Frances Anne Bond novel and her replies.
Libraries as standing polling stations.
From books to bricks for a season.
The nuclear threat to the world.
Guide to five volume collected verse
by Richard Lung
Guide to two more book series:
Democracy Science series.
“Love” was how Dorothy some-times signed-off. It is evident from her love letters, that her love was for nature, to which I was invited to share. I think she loved writing, as she loved walking, to refreshing effect!
Nature-love letters of Dorothy Cowlin: That wouldn’t be a bad title for the spirit of Dorothys letter-writing to me. It is obscured, however, by the mechanics of travel arrangements, not only for our nature walks together. Her other passions for family and the arts, and holidays, also obtrude into these letters.
This was her legacy, to me, from a gentle, generous soul, which I share with you.
That is as well as her teaching me the art of poetry. Dorothy was a professional writer. A Wikipedia entry is here: Dorothy Cowlin.
This edition is to remind me of the walks and the talks, I have to thank her companionship for.
I collected her correspondence into a bag, serving as a lucky dip of presents from the past.
Dorothy didn’t always date her letters. It is as well I kept most of them in their envelopes with post-marks. I pick out one at random. And enter a different world.
For presentation, I place the letters in temporal order. And the memories gather round, for when I, too, become an echo.
I wrote several letters reviewing her novels, possibly as early as 1987, as well as 1988. These formed the basis for the literary appreciation, that forms the first part of my book, Dates and Dorothy. I don’t recall if Dorothy wrote to me, in those years.
I remember why, now. Those were the first two years of our friendship, when I still lived in town. Dorothy would come to see me, every week, after she delivered her article, usually, for The Mercury, saturday sister paper to the Scarborough Evening News, when there was a local daily news-paper.
Still, I might come across further communication from Dorothy. I shall include it, and mention it, if note-worthy, in this preface, for any future up-load of this book onto the internet.
Table of contents.
I’ve just been reading your “summing up” of my immortal works.
You certainly do give your mind to the matter! And I feel the conclusions are very just on the whole – though I haven’t had any ideas that Draw The Well Dry was “intellectual.” I would have said no more & no less so than the others. Though I was interested in this question of “miracles” which as you see by the inverted commas I don’t believe in. The challenge of the plot of the book for me lay in that: – making credible the beliefs & half beliefs & beliefs of other people, in a thing my mind totally (or 99.9%) rejects.
I feel I want to defend poor old “End & a Beginning” but would have to re-read it first!
Anyway – thanks for your devoted reading & very careful criticism. Pity I’m not still in the business! You might have helped me. Who knows – though 77 this year I may yet summon the energy to write another? I feel I must hurry up if I want to do any more. The “clot” or “floater” on my eye has scared me a bit – made me realise, more clearly than I have allowed myself up to now, that I haven’t all that much time left.
After your scathing remarks about presents, I hesitate to send you the small present I had bought for you!
I don’t agree with you: Present giving perhaps can be overdone. But it’s so persistent in human society that there must be psychological reasons for it. Maybe the reasons aren’t all admirable!
But so far as I know, my motive in your case is only to give you a token of my liking for you, & your value to me. (not assessed at the cost of the present! – It is just a token).
Secondary motive may have been that you gave me a box of chocolates last Christmas. I did not then give you anything.
So I hope you won’t be offended. I hope that you won’t feel impelled to go out & get me something. Regard us as “quits” – if it is necessary to be so!
And if by any chance you already have a box of chocolates with me in mind – please think again – give them to your mother. For I don’t now eat chocolates at all. (Much though I like them – & though I was eating them last year).
I have a theory that chocolate, with other fats may be part cause of the hypothetical clot that may have caused that shadow on my eye.
Thrombosis can be caused by too much fat. I don’t even now eat much fat, or much meat. But for the time being I am cutting it to zero, to see what happens.
I look forward to seeing you on January (9th). In the meantime, have a happy, if quiet Christmas with your parents.
Internal evidence dates this letter at 1988.
Early in our friendship, I borrowed and read all Dorothys published novels, including eight by Jonathan Cape. I also sent her letters of critical appreciation.
At the turn of the century and millennium, I decided to devote one of my two web-sites to Dorothy. Finding some faint carbon copies, of the letters I sent her, I worked these up into web-pages.
As this website wasn’t guaranteed to endure, when e-book publishing came along, my appreciation went into the first half of my book, Dates and Dorothy (2014). The second half was the second instalment of my own collected verse. A section, narrated our friendship, mostly written after her death, in January 2010.
Dates & Dorothy was a disparate combination, but it turned out happily. In the first part, Dorothys early years trace a social history of the first half of the twentieth century. That combines with the second part, relating to the post-war years, from my view-point. Then my meeting Dorothy joins the two parts.
At home, rather than in the post, Dorothy was less ambivalent about presents. She laid down the law: Some people might not believe in presents but she did.
However, there was nothing mercenary in her disposition.
The last time, Dorothy visited our house, was at age 90, when she stopped-off from a chore in town, just to deliver our Christmas presents. She didn’t even take her coat off. But just sat there, marking time, while conversing with me. I had expressed concern, on the fone, about her taking this trouble, at her age.
She responded that she was a big girl now.
Tho Dorothy expressed fears for her longevity, in this letter, she led a good long active life, only marred in the last few years, by accidents, rather than by ill-health.
Table of contents.
it seems rather a long time since we last met. I’ve been to my daughters since then, and have just come home from Darwen, where I stayed for a week with an old friend, who’s had a serious operation, but has made an amazing recovery thank goodness.
I came home yesterday. Now, about Monday. I have just had a phone call from a woman who is king-pin of the small group of the local Labour Party who produce a leaflet periodically.
It’s the only part of the Labour Party activities I really enjoy (and even that not whole-heartedly).
She is having a meeting on Monday morning at 10 AM. I do want to go to this.
Would you mind if I come to see you in the afternoon, after lunch? Say about 1 o’clock? I might perhaps stay for tea? Perhaps I’d better say 2 PM, as I have to have some lunch of some kind, and the meeting may go on till 12 or 12-30.
I don’t want to put off seeing you, but if you’d prefer it, I could come the following Monday (13th).
If I hear nothing, I’ll assume you agree to an afternoon visit, next Monday (6th).
If you prefer the following week, let me know, will you?
I hope the novel, and preparations for removal, have progressed?
My novel has been nearly at a standstill throughout February. But I hope to get at it again now. I finished chapter 7 before I went to Ginny’s. I shall have to read it all to get into the mood again!
Hoping to see you, Monday.
Molly was a life-long friend Dorothy made at Manchester University.
Ginny (Virginia), Dorothys daughter.
As to naming her daughter after the novelist, Virginia Woolf, all I can remember is that on seeking to establish this, she challenged my assumption, perhaps a trifle aloofly.
Dorothys family were traditional Labour Party supporters. Her grand-mother joined, in the year of its foundation, of which she was rather proud.
Dorothys writing skills went into the pamflets.
Dorothys new novel was “PS” a re-writing of one of her old unpublished novels. She destroyed them, along with her equally voluminous diaries, shortly before she died. The re-write was in terms of the recipient, rather than the anonymous composer, of a series of deluded letters.
I advised that would have been to more dramatic effect. But I didn’t expect her to re-write the whole novel, and rather regret that she put so much new work into a plot with limited appeal.
I, myself, seized by ill-conceived projects, know how easy it is to take a wrong turning, such as the novel writing I was attempting at the time.
“PS” contains several autobiographical incidents. As such, Dorothy told them to me directly in conversation.
Table of contents.
On the envelope she says: (your letter came today – Sat.)
Where were you last night? Perhaps in the thick of “flitting”? You were going to tell me where I would go to visit you the week after next.
I am going away tomorrow – to Northumberland with my Darwen friend Molly – for a week. I return on May 18th.
Perhaps it would be simpler if you were to come here again? At least my home is stable, even if I am a bit foot-loose just now.
Will you let me know, between now and May 16th what you would like to do?
If you are very busy with the removal, perhaps you would rather postpone the visit? I haven’t actually much spare time in May.
Soon after my return on May 18 I am off again – on May 18, til 24th. I’m going to Ginny’s, whose band is having its centenary – giving a concert, and having a dinner. I’m invited to both – will enjoy the concert, and endure the dinner!
Soon after that – (May 31) I am off again – to Shetland, for a fortnight.
My poor novel is going very jerkily. I’ve now done 17 chapters. I think there will be 3 more – when I can get at it. Then I shall really have to settle at it solidly to re-write it. I can’t see any more work being done at it til the 2nd half of June.
Hope you have had a little time for literary matters!
Ginny, Dorothys daughter, continued the family musical tradition, as a player in an orchestra. I think the clarinet was one of her instruments.
Dorothys mother was an accomplished singer. Her younger brother, a physicist, composed classical music. He wrote a chamber piece for strings, I believe. Dorothy said his symfony, when premiered, was criticised as Brahmsian.
Table of contents.
I think I shall be Ok for at any rate a short walk on 18th July. The foot is now nearly back to normal – a bit weak rather than painful. It has nearly 2 weeks to improve.
But I won’t be at the W[riters Circle]. My younger brother & his wife are going on a creative writing holiday at Alnmouth (Northumberland – in case your shaky geography doesn’t tell you!) They are coming here for 2 nights en route from Kent, and will arrive on the Thursday. I can’t just dump them here, & I don’t think they would want to come with me after a long journey.
I’m not so keen on the competition results anyway. I heard the plays very poorly – didn’t enjoy the meeting much. The same will happen again. It’s better for me if someone is giving a talk. “Discussions” are hopeless. Everybody mutters.
I asked Anne to bring her book, & have written to her explaining, and have asked her to give it to you if you are there. I am sending her a cheque (a bit aghast at how much!) But I’ve done it now – & can’t go back on it.
Keep the book til I see you.
You will be interested to hear I have completed project X (in rough) & have begun to try to improve it.
I will be bringing a list of alternative titles, to ask you to say which sounds the most intriguing. Usually I used not to be able to think of a title at all. This time I have about 6 alternatives!
The writing of this book has followed no previous pattern – in every respect!
Don’t know yet if it’s any good. I feel I never shall.
If for any reason you can’t go to the W[riters Circle], or don’t want to, don’t worry. I’ve asked Anne to keep it by her in that case, til next meeting.
Looking forward to seeing you. But don’t keep me all the time at your books! I am interested – but there are limits!
A letter between two bookish people, transfering a third persons book between them. The next letter makes evident that Dorothy means, by “your books,” “a lot of solemn books” I read.
Anne Bond, the secretary, aka Frances Anne Bond, the romantic novelist. (An exchange, of three letters with Anne, is included amongst this books final sections.)
Dorothys letters abbreviated, or rather pictographed, the word, Circle, by a small circle with a dot in the middle.
Having a bad fall off a step-ladder didn’t deter Dorothy, in her nineties, from traveling far south to attend her younger brothers funeral. A missed connection left her all night in a cafe, all of which must have aggravated her serious injury.
Enter chaffinch, stage left.
Table of contents.
Monday 25th S.
Thanks for your letter. I’m surprised you are interested in the P[oetry] W[orkshop]. I thought you’d given up poetry! If you don’t intend to write more – I can’t see any point in coming to the “workshop.” (Silly name really). But in so far as we do intend to write it, it is justified.
Our meetings vary between reading other, mostly modern poets; reading our own, and writing “on the spot.” These are what Mike calls “working evenings.” He brings us some “exercises” to do – and it’s hard work. I didn’t like it at all at first, as I am not a quick worker, and don’t like seeing everybody scribbling away and I devoid of ideas. But I have become more used to this, and now do produce something. I think it is probably good for us!
Our next meeting will be of this kind.
It’s on Oct 3rd – 7:30 PM. [at private address] – off the Filey Rd just past the traffic lights. The road goes down to the Mere. You’ll find it on the map. Fern’s house is on the left – about the 3rd – maybe 4th house.
Lilian won’t be going again. She’s made up her mind. It isn’t just moral outrage. It’s mostly Mike’s high-handedness. But I shall keep on a while. Another new chap may come – the one who read a poem about Scarborough at the Writers Circle. I gave him the address. He seemed keen.
What a lot of solemn books you do read! Very improving. I just amuse myself. Nothing like a good story! It goes out of my head as fast as it goes in. But what matter?
Have done no more to my novel yet. I am just lifting my head after the departure of Mabel (Ron’s sister) and her husband Eric. They are a pathetic pair – she a sad cripple, he nearly blind. But they are both very courageous & cheerful. Fortunately we had two very nice sunny days. I took them to that picnic spot where you took photos of chaffinches and an old old woman. What a job to get Mabel up to it! Fortunately some good Samaritans came along. The chaffinches were much shyer.
I hope to God I never get like Mabel – or Eric (his would be the worse fate).
I’ll see you next Thursday perhaps?
The Writers Circle meetings were on thursday evenings.
With regard to the Poetry Workshop, on-the-spot versifying is perhaps not highly productive. The Beat poets of California valued spontaineous out-put, straight from the Unconscious mind, and perhaps wrote the occasional tour de force. But drugs were resorted-to as a gateway to the under-world of the under-mind. I’m inclined to think that was cheating.
Dorothys poem, Bilberry Pie, was written in a Poetry Workshop session. It has the spontaineous freshness of a sunny holiday on the moors, like her book, Rowanberry Wine.
I did give up writing poetry, thru-out my thirties. I did go to the poetry meeting, in question. And then not again for another year or so, until Dorothy commandeered me to attend a new venue, where members had to share the hiring fee.
This famous (or infamous) incident is related in my verse recollections of our friendship, to be found in my second book of collected verse: “Dates and Dorothy.” A literary appreciation of Dorothy takes-up the first half of the book.
Mike Park, writer and playwright, including comic dialogs in broad Yorkshire dialect (my mothers tongue, tho not my mother tongue). A vice-chairman of the Writers Circle, at the time, and main-spring of local literary activities, his father was a school-master, perhaps of the old school.
The poetry workshop had a tea break. And Dorothy once said: Mike likes to do everything, down to “chief bottle washer.”
Dorothy wasn’t trying to be funny. She was already acquainted of Mike for longer than she was ever to know me.
Mike was the most helpful of associates but this remark was so apt, that I could not resist mentioning it.
Lilian Abigail King, a long-standing friend of Dorothy.
Dorothy and Lilian would both sit next to me, at the Writers Circle, like a praetorian guard.
Mike greeted Lilian with an affectionate smile for this little woman of bird-like independence, who looked such a contrast to himself.
That night, I had no transport and Dorothy offered me a lift, as far as Lilians place.
In front of all remaining, Lilian out-spoke to me: You’re not coming in!
On the drive, Dorothy said: This car knows its own way there, by now.
(As pianists know, muscle-memory out-lives the rest.)
Ron was Dorothys husband, Ronald Whalley. Dorothy kept Cowlin as her writers name, before she was married.
“What a lot of solemn books you do read!” Others at the Writers Circle shared this observation: “Richard, don’t you ever read anything but serious books?” Nikki asked. These exact words were repeated, in much the same manner, by Carmen.
Nikki rarely could attend meetings. As far as I know, both women spoke with spontaineous independence. (Tho there was a slight stumble in Carmens speech, as tho reciting a script, whether consciously or no.)
This was a highly improbable coincidence, not caused by known (“natural”) means, if the words of Nikki were unknown to Carmen. Thus, this coincidence was a candidate for synchronicity, as Jung called it.
My poem, Sissys Synchronicity Giggles (in book 4 of my collected verse) mentions this incident.
In my eagerness to take chaffinch fotos, I failed to take Dorothy at her best angle. This may be the cause of her “old old woman” remark. The foto leaves the stage to the chaffinch.
Enter chaffinch, stage right.
The “chaffinches,” Dorothy recalls, were both taken on a foto, that became the cover of my book: Science and Democracy reviews.
(Yes, only “solemn” and “serious” books reviewed, in that book of books. Tho, typicly, it strays into personal recollections.)
Table of contents.
I rather expected to see you at the meeting on Thursday, so didn’t write or phone.
But in the end I didn’t go. Lilian wasn’t keen. And I was a bit dubious too. I was invited to Whitby that day to have lunch with one of my few remaining Whitby friends, who I think was feeling guilty because she hadn’t asked me to go, for more than a year. I felt I must absolve her of the guilt! I wasn’t really keen to go off again to Scarborough on getting back from Whitby, at about 4.30.
Also – I wasn’t very easy about the subject of the meeting, which was “Resolutions” – i.e. intentions about writing for 1990. I am feeling increasingly awkward about the novel – and it was bound to be in my mind. I think I shall have to “confess” soon. Yet why should I? It’s no-ones business but mine whether I write or don’t write. All the same, I don’t like being devious. It’s more my nature to be frank.
I hope to see you at the next meeting. But I can’t be sure of that either.
Perhaps you may remember I told you that Ginny (my daughter) had discovered a lump in her breast? I had understood that it had been tested, and that the doctor was as near certain as could be that it is not cancer. And so he is. But it seems he won’t say he’s 100% certain – can’t say, unless the lump is removed. So she’s decided to have it removed.
The operation is on Jan 12 – i.e. next Friday. I have offered, if necessary, to go there, after she comes out of hospital. That should be the same day. But things could go wrong. In any case she may feel rotten & need help. I must keep myself available. So I’m afraid I don’t want to make any commitments of any other kind (including meeting you) til I see how things are. I hope to know better by about a 3rd week in January. But that week includes the W[riters Circle] meeting.
I am no forrader with the novel. I wrote to Virago about it before Christmas, but have heard nothing yet.
How is it with you?
Thank you by the way for the Christmas card. It was the only Father Christmas one I had! Very cheerful looking!
I had a very pleasant & interesting time at Ginny’s. I didn’t get up to London, but something was going on every day. Ginny is amazingly energetic, to be a daughter of mine! Entertaining nearly every day. One day she had 16 guests. Better her than me. But she likes cooking & does it well & adventurously. Preceding this party, the guests took a 3 ½ – 4 mile walk in Finchley’s greenbelt (surprisingly broad).
One member of the party brought a dog (not his own – silly man). He didn’t keep it on lead, or near to him, & it got into someone’s grounds, & chased and killed a hen! The owner emerged in dressing gown, & told him it was no ordinary hen, but a pet, worth £20! An expensive walk for the man. Nobody likes him, so he got little sympathy.
Another, smaller contretemps was Ginny’s cat was let in by Jonathan just before the party, & managed to put its paw in a gorgeous coffee cake, topped with whipped cream! Only one guest witnessed this. So she swore him to silence, & smoothed over the paw-mark. I ate a large slice, not knowing – & none the worse for it!
We had quite a bit of music and lots & lots of TV for which we sat up often til 2.0 AM.
I am still not back to my normal routine – didn’t wake this morning til 9.0 AM. I hate the dark mornings of January.
As I shall probably not be able to see you until well into that month, what about one of your voluminous letters? Post is short for me just now, after the Christmas orgy.
Best wishes to your parents.
Jonathan, Dorothys grandson.
Your second letter came today. Thanks for continued research into how I can get rich. I may be able to get a bit earlier into Scarborough on Thursday to enquire again about the Leeds Building Society arrangements. But I am on the whole inclined to call off this venture! I don’t trust the government. They could be up to all sorts of tricks before next April – desperate to look as if they’re doing something for the economy.
In the Guardian today there is a bit about a new scheme being brewed for self-employed people to calculate their own income tax. Well – I’m not self-employed but there may be other changes in the pipe-line. And it seems as if you have to get in touch with HM Insp. Of Taxes about this gross interest lark. I am not anxious to be any more in touch with HM Taxes!
Do you know Richard, that I’ve just had another stupid demand note relating to 1988-89? I thought that was all cleared up last autumn, when they made out I’d earned £1500 as a writer (if only I had!) I actually had the final note admitting I owed NIL. And now they claim I earned £1071! Tax on that £60 plus.
No wonder this country is unable to balance its exports and imports. They can’t read any more at the Customs Offices. It’s all these bloody computers. It’s affecting even seven-year-olds reading ability it seems!
However – you have been so persistent that I will think a bit longer. But please – from now on, don’t go at it so much. You do hammer at things, you know.
– It gets irritating sometimes. [Ed.: this after-thought inserted between the lines.]
I’m glad you enjoyed Whitby. And I am interested in these shifting ideas for a new novel. You seem extremely vague as yet – so I don’t know how scenery can help. But I shall enjoy taking you – somewhere or other on the fringe of the moors – hoping it will bring inspiration.
I think you asked if I could find the little book on Queens etc by JL Carr? I have unearthed it, and enclose it here. Can’t think what the book has to do with the novel.
Let me have it back some time – any time will do.
My researches to make her rich: a typically ironic remark. I would be telling Dorothy that her pensioners income didn’t justify her paying tax on the interest to her savings.
I guess she is right about my driven nature.
This letter struck me as grumpier than usual. Dorothy mellowed over the twenty-two years that I knew her.
I was still too stupid to know, after a couple of decades or quarter century or so, that I was no novel writer. The one and a half typescripts, I did cobble together, were eventually scrapped and cannibalised.
JL Carr was a then rare case of a successful self-publishing novelist, earning much higher profit margins than traditional hard-copy publishing houses offered.
I know what I wanted the JL Carr book miniature for. In those pre-Internet days, this dreamer saw no other option than learning how to self-publish pamflets on democratic voting method.
Dorothy made me a present of number 85 in the series, a selection from The Devils Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce. It has a weird collage of a card cover.
It didn’t include my favorite entry for Accuracy. For, I told her I already had not only the book, but its enlarged version. A diligent editor looked-up newspaper files in California, finding more devilish definitions.
We made a few visits to Whitby, where Dorothy had lived. The estuary heights are of the most scenic amongst many coastal towns. But for me, the landward approach, from the vicinity of the museum, where the river valley is veiled in forestry, has its own enchantment.
Table of contents.
I had intended to go to the Writers Circle tonight, so was not going to reply to your letter, for which many thanks. I love to have letters, & don’t deserve so many from you, as I don’t always reply.
Business first: Mike won’t be going to the Poetry Workshop next Thursday, and has asked me to take over for him. We can’t have the video of Auden’s poems. But Mike has sent me the BBC book. I am planning to read the explanatory bits, and for the rest of us to read the poems. Would you please read the 2 I enclose?
I shall do my utmost to be there. But at present I don’t feel too good. I’ve been awake since 4.0 AM this morning, with quite nasty stomach pains. They still have not died down. I don’t know what can be the matter. I didn’t eat anything unusual yesterday except an apple from my own tree. I thought it was ripe. But maybe wasn’t quite. Apples are supposed to keep the doctor away, but I must say that of late I haven’t found them too easy to digest. I had dire thoughts in the early hours and even got up to consult my encyclopedia on appendicitis. The pain is on the wrong side!
Well – enough of that. I’ll now turn to your letter. I’m afraid I am somewhat mystified by all this apparatus for printing! What a simple matter it seems to write in pen and ink! Even printing used to be a fairly simple thing. Remember John Bull Printing sets? Perhaps you’re too young. My brother had one in his childhood.
It seems more and more expensive too. How can these costly machines be cheaper than the cost of labor? I don’t understand the present world at all. No wonder I can’t get into print, except in very little magazines, who can’t afford to pay the authors, tho they pay the printers!
It’s very clear which is the more lucrative trade. So good luck to you!
The snail you describe sounds most peculiar. Was it a very young one? I’ve never seen even the smallest snail without a complete miniature shell on its back. It wasn’t a slug was it? Your observation is minute. I’ve never looked at a snails mouth I must say!
But of course snails are related to see-shell creatures. Aren’t they all called “molluscs”? I’m intrigued by your observations of the trail of mucus. It perhaps explains why they seem to persist so long on paths. It may take several rains before they’ve washed away. What a business – to have to lubricate your own path!
Project X is no forrader. The bundle of typescript lies in my bedroom, and now & then I think: “I might do something about that.” But I have no urge. Can’t think where to send it. Every modern novel I read (and I read a tremendous number) saps my faith a bit more in my ability to say anything any fin de siècle citizen wants to hear. Television has the same result. So I’ll probably drift back to poetry, though that’s not been so good this year either.
Your comments were pretty devastating! The “Folio” do not agree with you. But I am half inclined to. I don’t agree that my “eclipse” poem was superstitious. I know as well as you do what causes the phenomenum. But when I went out to look at it, I found it quite awe-inspiring. It’s what it looks like – not what I know it is – just as I know a sunset is caused by the turning of the Earth, plus the difference in the depth of atmosphere the sun’s rays have to travel, hence the red colouring. But to see the sun is another matter: a poetic and emotional – and slightly frightening thing.
Have you ever watched it, over the sea? And did you actually see the moon-eclipse?
However – I don’t feel my poem expresses what I felt – it’s too fanciful. The “Folio” (for what it’s worth) very much approved of the imagery in it. Who is right?
I’m sorry not to have been again tonight. But after only 4 hours sleep, and being still in slight pain, I don’t feel I’ll be in good shape by 7.0 PM. And in any case it’s next year’s syllabus. The mixture will no doubt be as before. I have no suggestions to make, and I’m sure I’d hear very little. Everybody will be talking at once.
I’ve written to Maxine & Eireen, Mary Jacobsen and Gary, with their allotted poems. Hope to see you on Tuesday.
Would you try to bring other poems by Auden? The BBC book won’t last all the evening.
I’m not sure of the year of this letter, which has lost its envelope and contents of two Auden poems. One of the members mentioned, Gary was only there for the first few months, after I came. So the time is unlikely to be later than 1991, more likely 1990.
It certainly isn’t the mid-1990s, when the Internet was beginning to loom on peoples consciousness, and making me forget my entertaining the possibility of having my own printing press.
Yes, I did have a childs John Bull printing press.
Subsequently, Dorothy did have appendicitis, requiring an untimely operation to remove her appendix.
This letter hints at how well-informed of natural history, that Dorothy was, and how ignorant myself. I asked her many questions on our nature walks, especially about names of flowers.
I did see a moon-eclipse, looking for the comet, Hyakutake, and wondering what was up with the moon. The title of my little poem, about the incident, Lunatik (in book 4, of my collected verse, In The Meadow Of Night), sums up my own feeling of comic inadequacy as an amateur astronomer.
A cosmic incident may make us sense our helpless littleness before strange enormities, but react to it emotionally, in sharply different ways. Hence, my sharp reaction to Dorothys poem.
The Folio was a small corresponding group, who posted on each others poems for assessments.
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Time is rushing about! I don’t feel after all I can meet you next week, as I’d hoped. The Monday will be bank holiday – a day when I always feel it advisable to keep off the roads.
So what about the following Monday (Sept 3rd)? I could come to Scarborough if you like. I hope this is OK as the following week my old friend Molly is coming to stay – possibly till the 13th Sept.
An alternative for me would be 29th Aug (Wednesday).
Let me know about this soon.
I was sorry, reading your letter, that you were in a low state. But by the time of the last meeting, you said you had recovered a bit. So I won’t go into that, at the risk of slinging you back into gloom! It is all too easy, as I know.
I haven’t had the energy since my novel came back last, to send it out again. I feel at the moment an utter lack of interest in it.
Who is this David, the multi-linguist who has read your political book? Is he a member of the Writers Circle? I can’t remember a David.
I have much news except for my holiday in Bristol, which probably wouldn’t interest you, and the following week of little concerts – ditto.
I am feeling more cheerful about Ginny, having seen for myself, when I met her in York last Tuesday, that she looks remarkably well, and is well.
But of course, there’s still that horrible question: will the cancer recur?
Time will tell, to use a cliche (terrible sin!) We shall know in about 6 years!
It was a lovely day I had in York with her, feeling very good & intimate friends, able to talk freely. It’s a very rare pleasure these days. One cannot expect it once one’s children are grown-up – especially if married.
I think it was the happiest day of 1990 – up to now. And I don’t expect another such.
Whatever makes you think I could sing Brahms Rhapsody? I don’t know it! And I told you, and truly, that I can’t sing now. I only ever had a feeble pipe of a voice. I didn’t sing solo you know, at the Whitby Festival. It was in a Trio, a Quartet, and a Madrigal group – great fun while it lasted, but I believe it killed my voice! I regret this as I used to enjoy singing to myself, and wouldn’t have been too shy to sing to you, if you’d wanted it. But – it isn’t possible.
I like your description of the cygnets! You really have a feeling for “nature” – especially birds & insects!
I look forward to seeing you – both diluted at the Writers Circle, and neat on either 29th August or 3rd sept. Perhaps one of us may have encouraging news by then? Hm!
I never met Dorothy and her daughter together (tho both were present at her 98th birthday celebration). I witnessed Dorothys maternally keen attention to her daughter, over the fone.
There is evidence of two frustrated authors, in this letter. To be fair to the traditional publishing industry, Dorothy unwisely chose an uncommercial plot for her novel.
My political book was a forgotten ancestor of two or three free e-books, in my Democracy Science series. I was going to say “deservedly forgotten” but since I cannot remember even the structure, I cannot be sure of that.
I fancy that the over-all form might have been poor but some of the content ahead of its time.
In desperation to spread my personal manifesto, frustrated of English publication, I turned to the possibility of translations, by a former school friend, David, who wisely refused translating what would soon become an obsolete draft.
I think Brahms Rhapsody is a misnomer for Brahms lullaby.
Dorothy also played piano duets of Bach with a local strings or flute player.
I asked her to play for me but she wouldn’t.
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I suppose the phone is still useless? I haven’t tried today. In any case I meant to write this weekend. Now I have a further spur in your letter, which came today.
I was so glad to hear you too have a ray of light! Lutterworths are a good firm too, even if “taken over.” I hope they eventually take your book. At least someone is going to read it, & you never know!
I don’t know what to think of “Cariad Books.” I wrote back after that first letter to say I didn’t see why an old woman shouldn’t be writing love letters. 2 weeks ago I had an answer. It wasn’t that that worried them it seems. But an old persons handwriting would reveal her age! The wife would spot that this was a woman in her 70s!
Well – I think that’s rubbish. Granted, my writing is terrible. But I was told at school it was like an ink covered fly walking over the paper! It isn’t much worse now. And I have several 80-year-old friends who write a beautiful hand. If anything I’d say younger people write the worst – people in their twenties.
However, this seemed to me a small matter to put right. Even allowing that age shows I don’t think the wife spotted, as she was naturally pre-disposed to believe it was a young or middle-aged woman writing. But I inserted a number of clues about handwriting, for the reader to pick up if alert!
As for the sag in the middle, I don’t think much can be done about that. It’s the way the book is constructed. It has no plot. Only a theme. That’s the way I write.
I’ve been working hard the last fortnight, trying to “tighten up”: have cut out one chapter & re-written another, & shortened most. I posted the book off again today. I can only hope the changes are enough to convince them it’s worth publishing.
But – while working, I wondered if I really want it published!
I don’t think it as good as my two best books. But I feel it may be as good as my worst, which I regard as “End and a beginning.”
That “handwriting” quibble makes me wonder if this Cariad lot have any judgement! I think they did sense the weakness of the book, but don’t know quite the cause of it. I just have to wait & see now.
In a PS in this second letter, they asked if “I had any short stories.” No explanation what for – whether for a magazine, an anthology, or a book of stories of my own. I haven’t enough of that (any good at all I mean). But I’ve sent them what I consider my three best. So something may come of that, if not of the novel.
By the way, I wouldn’t have minded you telling your mother about it at all! It was very loyal of you to tell fibs! But if you want to you can tell her now. It’s just the Writers Circle people I didn’t want to tell. I must say I find it a bit hard to keep quiet now! But I do intend to. Might as well now, till I see what comes of this Cariad affair.
You are a very good “confidant”!
I’m so glad your family has a car again. If your father feels OK about it, and you would like to come over, I’d be free the Thursday or the Saturday next week (29th Nov or 1st Dec). I’m afraid Mondays are still off. The “Dancing” (really relaxation) I spoke of, I had thought ended last Monday. But it’s going on for 4 more weeks now: it has been such a success.
I didn’t go to the W[riters Circle] on Thursday a) because it was only AGM b) because of the weather c) because I wanted to finish typing my corrections of “PS.”The weather would have been OK but I was pleased to finish the book, & get it sent off before the Christmas rush. Now I can get going on my Christmas letters; quite a marathon!
Hope to see you on Tuesday, and also a Thursday or Saturday.
Trail of the ink-fly.
The above image of this letter didn’t scan clearly, so I had to sharpen its appearance, til it looks as if written with a biro. It was fountain penned with blue ink on pale blue writing paper, and looks rather better in the original.
Dorothy sent me letters in various shades of paper, which suggests she engaged in a “marathon” of correspondence.
She asked: Have you noticed that writing pads don’t come with blotting paper, any more?
I think I had. It is a long time, since I used a fountain pen. But I still have a hankering.
My attempts at finding a publisher for a book on elections came to nothing. But I did receive a useful tip-off, from one publisher, of Democracy and New Technology, by Iain Maclean. This introduced social choice theory and Arrow theorem, not covered by my book. So, I was fore-warned of its use by the Plant report, to justify their scepticism of right method in elections.
Labour member, Dorothys introduction, to my submission to the Plant Committee, is reproduced, below.
In the subsequent quarter century, I have noticed this formalism become entrenched in the academic syllabus, Emperors New Clothes fashion.
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I shan’t be going to the Writers Circle tonight, as a) I have a very bad cold, b) the roads may be bad – though they wouldn’t really matter, as I would go by bus.
I don’t know what is going to be the subject, as of course I didn’t go to the party, & I haven’t paid the sub! I may ring Anne later today, as I can’t remember the treasurer’s name.
I had a very pleasant, not too boring time with Ginny and family. They were out quite a lot before Christmas, with friends who hadn’t invited me. (I don’t expect it.) But I was well provided with books, four of which were Christmas presents. The children were hardly ever in the house, & Judith was in a terribly moody state, & hardly spoke to me in the 9 days. I believe she is very unhappy, but doesn’t know why. It’s difficult for her to talk to me as I can hear so little of what she says, even with hearing aid. I make allowances for this. But she doesn’t talk to Ginny either. And at one time she was a chatterbox. It’s all very worrying – to Ginny even more than to me.
Jonathan seems on a very good stretch of water – not only doing pretty well at school but now making many new friends. The latest is an Italian boy called Angelo! He looks very Italian, handsome too, and wears a very Italian looking long black coat. Jonathan spends a lot of time at his house. The mother is English, fat and jolly and hospitable.
Mike still has no job. He has now gone 2 months. He went for an interview while I was there. It was not a well-paid job. But he would have taken it. There were six chaps after it. He didn’t get it.
Strangely enough, there was no great depression about the house, as I feared there would be. No quarrels! And no sign of economising. In fact they seem to me to be spending more than ever over Christmas. I was horrified by what was spent on me – not just presents, but a dinner with the Band, and a Theatre outing, to a musical based on the Just So Stories. Quite good as musicals go, but musicals don’t go far with me!
Anyway – it was nice to go out with them.
The only penalty is this rather horrible cold I’ve come back with. It began on New Year’s Day! I have had two very bad nights, sneezing and coughing etc. it’s a long time since I had such a bad one.
To add to my low spirits, what should be waiting for me on my arrival home on Saturday but the novel!
You were right you see. Now they say they don’t feel enthusiastic enough to “market” it. Why didn’t they say so at first? I do begrudge the extra trouble and expense of the alterations. It is a better book – but what’s the point if it still doesn’t sell?
Moreover – after asking for stories, they now say their book of short stories has already gone to press!
So – back to square 0.
Well – I never really hoped. I think I must go ahead, in desperation, to get a small booklet of poems published this year. It’s all I seem likely to be able to do.
I shall most likely be recovered (from cold & depression) by next Tuesday, when I hope to see you at the Poetry Workshop.
This letter is a vivid reminder of Dorothys daughters family life, about which she would some-times talk to me.
Judith, Dorothys grand-daughter.
Dorothy discussed her grandchildrens contrasting fortunes, in terms of a change in school. The impression I got was that Judith was happier at a progressive school but less so, at a traditional school, where Jonathan coped better with more formal education.
Mike, in this letter, is Ginnys husband. And evokes some sympathy for him as family provider.
This letter also snap-shots the trials of traditional publishing. It is a pity that Dorothy just missed the age of electronic publishing, for she would have made great use of it.
I seem to be accident-prone just now, or else there is a hoodoo on 1991.
I am practically recovered from the cough, & was thinking yesterday that next week I’d be in circulation again if that is a fair description of my way of life.
What must I do, last night, at about midnight, but stub my toe hard on a chair leg. The pain was intense & drew a flood of swear-words! Only then did I look down & see to my horror that my little toe was sticking out at a queer angle!
About thus – [drawing of small toe misalignment].
Obviously it was either broken or dislocated.
I didn’t think it was bad enough to phone the doctor, at that hour though it hurt fiendishly. So I put a bandage round the whole foot, drawing the toe back as far as I could. Then I took two pain-killers, luckily left over from when I dislocated my shoulder, and went to bed – and had about 3 hours sleep.
When the doctor came this morning he said he thought it was a break – strapped the toe to the next one, by way of this splint, gave me more pain-killers, & said it would be about 3 weeks mending.
So here I am – house-bound again!
I can hobble about the house, on one foot and a heel. Various friends have already offered to shop for me. But I obviously shan’t be walking much for some time, & I don’t know how soon I’ll be able to drive, or go on the bus.
I shan’t be at the meeting on Thursday anyway.
But if you feel like visiting a house bound woman, looking & feeling like a gouty old gentleman, you will be very welcome.
What about Sat. 20th?
Come after lunch. As we won’t be able to walk out even in Pickering, I think we should find an afternoon long enough. Say about 1:30.
If Saturday doesn’t suit you – any other day will do. I shall be at home!
Dorothy didn’t get the letter posted til 19th January, for obvious reasons. The Christmas stamp is of a man, bearing a small Christmas tree from snow-bound fir woods, accompanied by a boy. The scene reminds me of Dorothys poem, A Fancy. (One of my favorites, I included it, with other samples of her poetry, in Dates and Dorothy.)
Dorothy dislocated her shoulder, from a fall, whilst out walking with the Ramblers. A man dodged out of the way, instead of catching her and breaking her fall.
She didn’t go back, after that. Their loss was my gain.
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Postmark to A5 envelope containing a pamflet length critique of my hash of a novel, which I am less ashamed of, than the amount of effort, I was responsible for putting Dorothy to, in assessing it. Tho, she would not have had me reproach myself for that.
I came back from Malvern today – now aged 80! I don’t feel any particular difference. But it was a very happy birthday – very definitely the happiest I have had since Ron died.
We were lucky in every respect. The hotel I had chosen, quite arbitrarily, proved really good. The wife of the proprietor is Chinese, and a really exceptional cook, we thought. Everything she provided was delicious. The weather was heavenly – warm but not hot, with sunshine not too fierce for walking. We spent my birthday up on the Malvern Hills. Fond though I am of the North Yorks Moors, I thought the Malvern’s even more beautiful – softer in a way, yet not tame, with plenty of well-marked, dry, unnettly paths, yet still feeling wild & free.
The Malvern’s have been “conserved” since 1888, & well conserved, with imagination & devotion, by 29 unpaid “Conservators.” This really is democracy working.
My daughter & son-in-law put themselves out to give me a happy day. (I think they too were happy mind you). They brought me an iced cake, & some champagne. (I don’t really like it, but of course didn’t say so!)
Altogether I felt it was worth living a bit longer!
I’ve got my hundred books of poetry now, & in general am pleased with them, though 4 mistakes escaped my notice in the proof. It’s so hard to spot everything. I have gone thru about half of the copies, correcting 3 of the mistakes. The fourth I think I will leave alone, hoping no one will notice.
I’m sending you a copy – a present. Don’t let on about it at the Writers Circle just yet. I hope in due course to get the courage to put copies on sale there, & it wouldn’t look well to have given some away, I suppose – though I don’t see why not, really. I shall give Lilian a copy of course, and one or two of my oldest writer acquaintances (Ken Forster among them).
Did you tell him it was my birthday? He wrote a very nice note with the Roundabout.
When would you like us to meet? Can you come here?
What about Sat. 24th? If your father doesn’t want to drive, I could come to Scarborough.
To celebrate her eightieth birthday, Dorothy did what I only thought about, by traditional mechanical means. She desk-top published a book of poetry, The Sound Of Rain.
(She even got the collating right, which was more than the re-publishers did for an American edition of her novel, Winter Solstice, having to be pulped.) She sold all 100 copies, bar presents.
Further poetry publications were never so wholly by herself. (Her very last collection, shortly before her death, went by the title, The Sound Of Rain and 99 other poems.)
Her son-in-law, Mike was an information technology professional, who set-up a second-hand computer and printer, on a just about user-friendly early version of Windows operating system.
Dorothys cussing computers, in an earlier letter, may be an expression of frustration with her own.
Dorothy before the memory tree.
Dorothy got fed-up of the fotos, I subjected her to, in Dalby forest, but lifted her ban, to be taken, at the planting of a sapling memorial to her husband, Ron.
On the picture, there is nothing else around but grass.
The foto of Dorothy, that covers Dates and Dorothy, shows her reaching to the same sapling, grown amongst a rising sea of under-growth.
Shortly before moving to a nursing home, Dorothy asked me why I hadn’t taken more fotos. I reminded her that she didn’t want any more taken of herself. She rejoined: That was mean of her.
This detachment was one of her virtues.
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This is re-cycled paper – very meritorious of course. But I wish they had not felt a need to print a ghostly tree on it!
I went to the Writers Circle party, which was surprisingly enjoyable – with some “team games” M/C’d by Nora Knox in her wheelchair to great success. Beryl was unusually good – intuitive – at one of them, when I was lucky enough to be in the same team.
Unfortunately somebody passed a nasty virus on to me, which rapidly developed, on the 2nd day after I got to Margate – into a very violent cough. I coughed so much on the Sunday night that I had to go down stairs to get a cup of water to take a pill. In doing so I set off my brothers burglar alarm. It certainly alarmed me – making a noise like a police car chasing crooks! I’ve never been in a house with such a device before, and would never have one installed! They appear to think it worthwhile because of all the (unattractive) antiques they have – left over from their shop.
My brother did not reproach me for getting him out of bed at 3 a.m. to shut the thing up! In fact he and Margot his wife were more than usually nice to me. They took me one day to Broadstairs, quite a nice little place, which boasts of a house it claims to be the original of Betsy Trotwood’s house (I hope you know your Dickens?) Another day we went to Sandwich, one of the Cinque Ports, long since silted up, but very pretty. I believe Thomas a Becket landed there en route for Canterbury, to be murdered. That lends the place a charm of course!
At Ginny’s we ate some beautiful meals (as usual) played cards (as usual) with the Jewish side of the family, plus an awful game called “Dingbats.” I did not shine at it – was feeling more than usually stupid because of the persistent cough.
I was so tired I went to bed for a while on 2 of the days. And I am still very tired, tho’ the cough is dying away. I didn’t think it sensible to go to the 1st Writers Circle meeting. Were you there? As I have no syllabus, I have no idea what is on offer for the next meeting – but hope to be there & also at the meeting on Jan 14th. I don’t imagine I’ll see you before that but perhaps we may then fix up a meeting somewhere. It should be at your end I believe, this time?
I hope your Christmas was not too boring, and that you have kept clear of germs.
I look forward to seeing you.
The boy Dickens running away from the blacking factory is paralleled by the young Wells making a 17 mile walk back home from his drapers apprenticeship. He felt very wicked for doing so.
But came to believe, it was nearly the best thing, in his life, he ever did.
I wrote a laf-skuib of a haiku called: Dolly Dingbat. Dorothy did not look amused but she didn’t say anything.
This card [Sundial, 1775, Eyam Parish Church, Derbyshire] has nothing to do with my travels! I am using up some of my much too large collection of postcards.
All is as usual here – raining cats and dogs!
I’ll be here till Tuesday – then off again on Friday to N. Berwick. Finally home (I hope) 21st June. See you sometime after that.
Norfolk, visiting family, didn’t escape her fine poems of rural isolation. She wrote two fine poems of the Fens. When she collected her poems into periods, the former got left out. And I had to remind her to put it in.
Postmark: Fife border?
This is a card [Beverley Minster. Ancient tread wheel.] out of a stockpile I am using up! Nothing to do with my present “adventures”.
On the whole a good holiday – mostly by the sea shore – which is very quiet & lovely.
We went (by train) to Edinburgh yesterday & had an interesting stroll down “The Royal Mile” from the Castle to Holyrood Palace. Back Sunday 22nd. See you!
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We are having the most remarkable weather – 2 days of sunshine together! And this is superb country. The house is one of the best Molly & I have had yet. Altogether – so far, a good holiday.
Looking forward to our get-together, though.
Postcard cartoon of a line of hooded rucksacked hikers emerging out of a cleft in the moors, watched by gawky sheep, saying to its follower: “Funny how they follow each other, just like… um…”
Haven’t seen this yet – except on Post-cards. We are waiting in hope of a fine day! Up to now – (Friday) haven’t had one. We are going to Osborne House – Queen Victoria’s residence – today. Shall be mostly indoors – weather doesn’t really matter.
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I thought you might like a letter instead of the phone-call, especially as it may be some time before there is any point in you making a journey here. You may perhaps not have quite so much snow as here. I am not exactly snow-bound, but I have no inclination whatever to go out unless I have to! I went out shopping yesterday & in spite of managing to catch the “Jolly Roger” as they laughingly call our local bus, I was extremely glad to be back in a warm house, with no bones broken! I hope the cold spell doesn’t last very long.
My stay at Ginny’s was pleasant but a bit boring.
We only got out one day. I must say that was very enjoyable, though possibly the coldest walk I’ve ever taken. It was along a part of the Grand Union Canal, near Tring – in the Chiltern area. The canal had been frozen over, but brats had broken the ice, which was floating in angular pieces on the surface. It was a brilliantly sunny day – very glittery. We saw (this will make you curious!) a heron along the bank – nearer than I’ve ever been to one.
For some reason, to keep enough water in this section of canal, three reservoirs were built alongside. These were frozen solid – with fringes of rushes, flower – a sort of mushroom colour. Beautiful – but so cold we couldn’t stand looking for long. There was one corner of one reservoir unfrozen, with 2 swans, 2 geese and lots of different ducks all congregated, hoping for food.
Other than this walk the time went in TV & books.
I watched The Moonstone, & “Father Ted” while there – quite good – the former.
Last night I watched a film about CS Lewis, with Anthony Hopkins as Lewis – about his love affair – late in life, with an American woman, who died of cancer. It had me in tears – yet it was by no means sob-stuff. I don’t suppose you spotted it? I wished I’d rung up afterwards to tell you. It was an interesting character study apart from the love-story, which was very real. I have never really taken to Lewis as a writer. I warmed to him quite a bit!
I don’t know if you ever make New Year Resolutions? Silly of course. But I do. I’ve made the same one as last year – to try (harder) to get a new booklet of poems published – if necessary at my own expense. Time is getting on – at an alarming rate!
The other is to try to go to Oxford, Liverpool, and perhaps Nottingham – to see pictures mentioned in the art course I went to before Christmas. There are quite a lot of the Staithes’ artists paintings, we were told, in Whitby. Perhaps you and I could go there to look at them one day in the coming year? When there is no danger of snow drifts on the moors!
My hand has had enough. I hope you can read this.
I’ll end by saying thank you to you and your parents for the necklace and the bottle of apple juice. I shall wear the one & drink the other in due course with much pleasure. Hope your mother can keep warm & free of rheumatics this weather. Please pass on my thanks to them.
Every early spring, for several years, Dorothy took me to see the herons nesting in the distance. She was keeping to a tradition of visits with her late husband.
I took it as a self-imposed challenge to write a poem about herons, on each occasion.
Dorothy told me that Ginny watched Father Ted, when I brought it up.
I did see the Shadowlands film, which claimed to be a “true story” but perhaps was not so true to the characters it romanticised, in Hollywood style. Otherwise, truth to tell, I may be a weepier character than Dorothy!
I think the film was a victim of the star system. Hopkins, with a crisp English accent (tho he could mimick Richard Burton, because he came from the next Welsh mining village) was not an image of the bluff Ulsterman.
Dorothy did persist in self-publishing poetry pamphlets.
I don’t remember whether we went to see the Staithes artists, tho I would have been content to do so.
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Here is the poem – though the idea of it appearing on Internet is a bit like sending off a poem in a bottle on the ocean!
Would you like to come here on Saturday 22nd? If this isn’t suitable, Tuesday (25th) Wednes 26, Friday 28th or Sat 29th would be OK. I know that Friday & Sat 28 + 29 is near Easter weekend. You may prefer to stay at home those days. But I don’t think they’d be as bad as the Sunday & Monday.
I’ll ring up tomorrow or Friday about this. I hope we can meet before the end of March, as I am invited to Ginny’s on 3rd April (just for a long weekend). I never can refuse her! She doesn’t ask me all that often! And the next week Molly is probably coming.
Thanks for the poetry books. There were 5 (I think) women poets in them! I have made copies of 2 poems.
There is a (Gazette and Herald) cutting enclosed in this envelope, Dorothy has dated 9.1.97, from when I was briefly press officer:
All members contributed to the Christmas party, but special thanks for quizzes and prizes go to Derek Peet, Irene O’Brien, Kate Boddy and David Smart. Guests are welcome and we were pleased to meet Ron Lewis. David and Irene with Maxine Wilson were runners-up for the annual cup, won by Dorothy Cowlin (also a runner-up with another entry).
Though Dorothy is by far the longest serving member, to have won 10 times (more than the rest of us combined) by different judges may be a record for poetry workshops.
Before she won her Poet of the North Calendar TV award, the chairman of Scarborough Writers Circle, Stanley Wilson once introduced her as one of the finest poets in the nation.
I caused an uproar after my first visit to the workshop because my choice of favourite poet was Dorothy, not some big name. Nevertheless, January 14, will be devoted to the poems of John Betjeman…
Dorothy won the poetry workshop competition about a dozen times in all. On occasion, I saw-to some of the later engravings of winners names. I don’t know what happened to the little silver-plated trophy cup, tho I heard the competition ceased.
Dorothy wisely compared my putting her poem on the Internet, to ocean posting it in a bottle. This image is a good riposte to e-mailers, who called traditional post, “snail mail,” as Dorothy likened web-sites to something like, say, a sea-slug posting.
Here’s irony for you, my web-site “bottle in the ocean” containing her poem, The Sound Of Rain, was picked-up by the BBC, to be broadcast by Radio Four, on Poetry Please, and another program.
Dorothys front window witnessed the raindrops, in her celebrated poem, The Sound Of Rain.
Am surviving – but time crawls! I feel I have already been here 2 weeks – but it is only 2 days. Feel useful tho’.
I think the building on this card [Manchester Town Hall] is still intact. I didn’t go to look at the damage [from IRA bombing]. It looks ghastly enough on TV (between all the cricket!)
Dorothy must have been a bit unsettled. It wasn’t the only time, she wasn’t quite sure of my address. but this time, she mutated my funny foreign name to a similar English name, as folks do.
Postcard view towards Pier Head, Liverpool city hall in the distance.
So far – very good.
Nothing like my dreams foretold! Mealtimes are not good – because of hearing trouble but delicious food! And I spent 2 days exploring history & architecture etc of Liverpool – quite happy to be alone! It is very hot though. And I lost my sun-hat today!
If I remember rightly, disturbing dreams followed the Manchester attacks. This was Dorothys university city of her youth, where she made life-time emotional ties.
I was surprised & sorry to hear your cold had developed again into a cough. I thought you had recovered at the party. Perhaps this was a different germ? I hope you’ll be around again by the 1st Writers Circle meeting, which I find is not till Jan 20th. I rang up Stan to find out, and was told by Audrey that he also had a “chesty” cold over Christmas, and was asleep nearly all the time, but woke up now and then to write another piece for the Gazette!
The Christmas visit to Ginny was very enjoyable on the whole. Jonathan and Judith were both home for Christmas day. I seldom see Jonathan these days.
He went (I expect I told you) to Bruges with us & was agreeable, tho nearly silent company! I am not sure he really liked all the Art galleries, Churches and Museums we went in (about 2 of each). But he certainly enjoyed the food! I didn’t – largely because I feel isolated by my deafness in restaurants, especially when other diners become loud and exuberant with wine!
It rained both evenings & I didn’t greatly enjoy tramping round in the wet looking for a restaurant. (Our hotel was only for B & B). But even in the rain Bruges is a lovely city – a pretty city I’d rather say – with old buildings floodlit, and every street decorated with lights and Christmas trees, and the shop windows all glittering and pretty.
There was one especially beautiful scene of floodlit walls at what is called the Minme water (Lake of Love!) The water lit by the lights, and about 20 swans in black-silhouette against it.
I’d forgotten to take my camera!
I enjoyed the Arts galleries, and have acquired another set of postcards for my own little gallery which you must see when you next come.
But I will come over to see you – hopefully before 20th Jan. Let me know when and if you feel up to a visitor – even if we can’t go out. I don’t suppose you are infectious – only if actually coughing.
Have you heard yet about the court case? I do hope it went in your favour in the end.
Stan and Audrey Wilson. Stanley was a veteran chairman of the Writers Circle.
The small claims court case was my failed attempt, to return a mail delivery computer, into which I put much more time and effort than was worth-while. The verdict did not improve the firms alacrity of service. Their delay cost them an award of servicing expenses to me and obliged them to pay my court fee.
The firm got off lightly, because I was so green, that I did not know that when their engineer looked at the disk space, the graph revealed that the computer was not new but much used. This should have cost them a hefty fine and replacement.
Table of contents.
Removed envelope; no date.
I thought you might be interested in the “follow-up” of our “natural history” yesterday. I went to the library this morning, & I think I’ve made out two of the butterflies we kept seeing.
The dark brown ones are “ringlets,” and the lighter ones with only one spot on the wing are “meadow brown.” I can’t be sure of those little orange ones – but they may be “small heath.”
And do you know – I found that beetle I saw in my garden!
It’s called the “Hawthorne shieldbug”! Harmless – lives on hawthorn berries & oak leaves. I thought it might be a pest, by its bright colours.
And if you are interested in the flowers, the yellow one you saw where we had lunch is “yellow rattle.”
And that tiny pale mauve vetch-like flower is called “hairy tane.”
So now you know.
I find I have got some Norman McCaig in an anthology – three poems that I can understand & quite like. I typed 3 copies of each.
So I’m sending back your book. (I have a copy of that anyway!) Don’t know my own library it seems.
Thanks again for your company in that lovely peaceful valley. I felt I got to know you a little better. You put up quite a barrier you know normally, but I felt it was lowered a little yesterday. It isn’t that I want to probe. But I like it when people will allow me a glimpse!
I think you are essentially a very affectionate warm-hearted person. You must let yourself “out” a bit more!
I pencilled: Whisperdales, at the top of the letter, that gentle valley as a haven from human habitation. Round the corner, before the entry, a solitary house showed no sign of anyone in. It was garden fenced, whereon Dorothy spotted a yellowhammer.
(As a teen-ager, on her way to taking a school exam, she was entranced by a yellowhammer singing.)
We were surrounded by grasshopper chirrupings, related in my poem, Grasshopper Gorge. That was another grasshopper haunt, in steep contrast to Whisperdales.
Despite my trust in Dorothy, I didn’t tell her much about my past, mostly friendless. I had not developed the habit of confiding, thru-out most of my life. And I found exceptions counter-productive.
From Dorothys curiosity about me, you would think this an early letter. But Whisperdales dates it at a fairly advanced stage, in our days out together. I have put it somewhere very roughly about 2000, in Dorothys correspondence.
Not til after Dorothy died, was I thrown back on myself. And I think Dorothy, if no-one else, would have taken her novelists interest in the year-by-year accounts, that appear in “Dates and Dorothy,” a book which is otherwise so much about herself.
Close-up of Dorothy with her tree.
Postcard from Prague
Foto: Milan Kincl. [Ed.: All domes and spires!]
Prague is certainly a very beautiful city. We are led about it in gangs & I would rather be one of a pair. But I bargained for this. At least you don’t get lost because you can’t speak the language. Went to an opera last night. To my surprise I really enjoyed it. My ears aren’t so bad after all.
I saw this article in the Guardian, and thought it might gladden your heart, as maths seem to be one of your main interests just now.
Ginny and Mike are coming to stay next Monday – possibly til the following Sunday. I am glad they want to come, but I shall feel tired by the end of the week!
Enc. Guardian Education Tuesday, August 28, 2001.
Maths builds brain muscles.
And activates hemispheres Playstations cannot reach, says Tim Radford.
I cut this out of the Guardian last week, thinking it might interest a fellow bird-lover!
I don’t think the Chinese can have found a fossil with all the feathers still on it, as shown. This must surely be an artists impression?
What a queer object the creature would be – to see gliding about the trees!
I’ll be seeing you again soon. Didn’t go again to W[riters Circle]. John was again lured to “The Lions”!
The Guardian Tuesday, January 23, 2003.
It’s dino-bird Chinese fossil clue to evolution of flight.
Illustration: Portia Sloan/PA
with title: The four-winged dinosaur fossil unearthed by Chinese scientists.
(It is drawn with a feathered tail, also.)
Table of contents.
5:30 PM Sunday, 12 January 2004.
Inside Medici Society card of Lavender in Provence by Clive Madgwik RBA:
I was given these cards for Christmas, and I haven’t much news to tell, so am using one up.
I’m just starting the book you gave me. It hasn’t made me laugh yet! But much in it makes me smile. Perhaps women’s humour does provoke a smile rather than a belly laugh. Mind you – not very much gets me really laughing out loud these days. And only with Ginny do I get quite hysterical, as I used to do as a girl.
My “merrymaking” for Xmas is now all over. 4 times I met the same friends – at each other’s homes! Heaven knows how we found anything to say the 4th time, which was at my home on New Year’s Day. But we did! It was all very pleasant – but hard work for the hard of hearing.
I’ve also written a poem. And my last article has been in the Gazette. I must get going on another – but don’t know quite what.
Would you like to come here on Sat. 17th? I’ll ring later – thanks again for the book.
Love – Dorothy.
I found many books for Dorothy over the years. Later on, she asked me, for any books by Margaret Forster, I came across, in the second-hand book stores or charity shops.
This humorous work may have been: Bealby, by HG Wells.
A pity about the muddle over buses – both ways! But I enjoyed the day in spite of this, & hope you did too.
I’ve been looking up flowers & the tree.
The blue flower was Alkanet. You were right to think it looked like forget-me-not and Speedwell. Not infrequent near gardens says my book.
The tree on Wrelton green was Sorbus. Also called Whitebeam. It is in the Rowan or mountain-ash family.
Hope we can meet sometime before the end of May.
Ginny and I went to see this artist in London. We both thought him a bit too “patterned.”
Letter sent in card of painting, by Eduard Vuillard, The Public Gardens: the Conversation, (detail) 1894 distemper on canvas.
I cannot remember this particular muddle over buses. I think this was the day that the bus driver asked me if I was 60, when there would be a concessionary fare.
“Not yet.” Dorothy responded.
(He doesn’t look 60: my Yorkshire mother sneered to my father, afterwards.)
Something is coming back to me about not benefiting from a return ticket, on that occasion. That might explain Dorothys remark about “both ways.”
We sat on a bench on the lush village green, near the whitebeam.
This was near my mothers village school. We visited the farm where she grew up. A house-bound dog barked back at us, but that was all.
Postcard of St Ives from Carthew.
Meant to go on the “Island” – really a peninsula, as on this card. But the wind is terrific. I am afraid of being blown into the sea! Lovely colours – every shade of blue sea. Arrived in a rain-storm – soaked to the skin. No taxis visible! It’s a town of lulls like Whitby. Feared the worst!
So far so good.
Postcard of Castle Urquhart, Loch Ness.
Is your phone off the hook?
I can’t get thru. Don’t buy another hat. It’s turned up! On the floor under the chair you sat on. The cleaner lady found it!
This would be my multi-coloured flower hat, worn that sunny day, while sitting with Dorothy in her garden.
In her last few years, Dorothy had a home help, who came every dinner-time, for half an hour, for free, from social services. Anything longer brought a charge.
She would stick a ready meal in the microwave and do what little house-keeping could be done in that time.
I don’t remember, if she came as early as 2006, or whether she had some previous arrangement with a house-cleaner.
Table of contents.
(Written Dec. 24.)
What a lovely letter you sent me! I was really touched by it, and so glad you feel I have been a good friend to you! It makes me feel I have been of some use to the world after all. Often I think I’ve led a rather selfish and useless sort of life.
Long may we continue! It hasn’t all been on one side you know. You are among the friends have been a comfort to me since Ron died. It would have been a lonely 30 years indeed without them. As for the poetry – you read my efforts too.
Thanks too for the presents – the biscuits – the chocolate and the book. You really have gone to town this year!
I’ll see you before long – January. In the meantime – all the best for 2008. The article on our oldest correspondent comes out this week I believe.
This letter is a comfort to me, because I thought that I’d been rather remiss in writing later letters, having been corrupted by the advent of the electronic postage system.
However, Dorothys post-cards remind me that, when she sounded me on the subject, I told her that I liked scenic post-cards. So, there was perhaps some tacit agreement that there would be less letter writing.
The Gazette and Herald article about Dorothy, their veteran correspondent, can be found with other links, in the Wikipedia entry on Dorothy Cowlin.
Dorothys last posting to the Gazette, My Mini-Aldermaston, was never published. Perhaps a CND march was off-limits for a conservative rural readership.
Before her mobility was impeded by a fall, Dorothys last protest was to take part in a vigil in Pickering town center, against the second Iraq war. (One of Dorothys last Christmas cards was a snow scene of Pickering market place, from a water-color by Alan Fairbairn.)
“Peace does not come from the barrel of a gun” authoritatively said the stop-the-war movement. It was a tragicly true prophecy.
Martin Sixsmith said:
“Tony Blair is about to lead us into war and has asked for the trust of the British people. As one of his former top civil servants, I have to tell you that he isn’t worthy of that trust.”
(Daily Mail, september 28, 2002.) This article on the manipulative deceit of new Labour is corroborated, with regard to electoral reform (for the record, in my e-books on this).
Enclosed card of pink waterlily.
I went out into the garden at 10.0 PM & there was the moon, bitten in two – very bright. At 11.30 I went out again and it was quite dark. I didn’t see the moon at first then spotted it higher up, a dull orange disc. I think a thin cloud had come across by then.
It was quite different from the other lunar eclipse I saw.
Thank you for telling me about it. Did you have a look or were you too lazy?
I was too lazy. That shows who was the more enterprising of us two.
Having seen the previous one, in the early hours (as was the lunar eclipse of 21 January 2000) I knew what GK Chesterton likely meant, in his poem, The Donkey, about when the moon was blood.
Holly Blue [butterfly] powdering the light.
Date indicated by copyright: Anneliese Emmans Dean.
Bringing Poetry to Life.
Best wishes for your birthday!
It will be late I’m afraid. The date has crept up on me.
And this is not a proper birthday card.
I bought it at the AGM of the Forum where a woman recited poems about beetles & butterflies etc. Excellent poems. Humorous, & delivered with humour.
This has been a perfect day. Beauty everywhere! Saw a glacier – end of – and a glacier museum. Fiords & rivers & lakes & snow topped (cuts?). Couldn’t wish for better!
Postcard from Norway (Norge: Fjaerland, Sogn.) Picture of wedge-shaped mountains, conifered and more or less patchily snow-capped, around a forked flat green delta, with scattering of small dwellings.
No postmark. Writing bad to read. Dorothys last holiday, probably 2008, of a special significance to her, because she took a Norway cruise with her husband, about a half-century before, related in one of her journalist articles.
Before she went, I teased her that she would be sitting on deck, reading a book, as usual, as if she was still at home, surrounded by sea mist, oblivious to the mountainous coastal scenery.
But she had better luck.
Table of contents.
Dorothy the bird lover bought calendars and Christmas cards from the RSPB.
A picture, called “rabbit in the snow” by Derek Bown, came with Dorothys message: I know you like this little feller!
Besides the magical eye, the artist has observed the russet at the back of the neck.
A card, by the same artist, called Countryside Birds, features a brambling, and a fieldfare, which is a Scandinavian winter thrush.
A fieldfare pair, visiting with the snow, was remembered in one of my bird poems.
Redwing, by Anne Mortimer.
The bird, with thrush-like speckles, is nestled amidst elderberry and rose-hips.
Dorothy wrote inside: No – this is not a sparrow. Lift its swing & you would see a bar of red!
Widgeon, by Robert Gillmor.
Three dark-peach fronted ducks on a river-side shelf of snow, amidst hoar white tracerys of long grass.
Snowman’s Friend by Julian Wheat.
A robin perched on a snowman (2002).
Dorothy offers my parents the prospect that they may “get golfing again soon!”
Robin! By Anneke Emery.
(Also with snowman.) Robins are the most popular Xmas card features.
A cartoon (not attributed) of two robins on a frozen birdbath, one looking on in dismay, as the other, with a cross expression, vibrates to a pneumatic drill.
(It reminds me of a furious robin at a food bag, it could not stay on, like the sparrows and blue tits.)
Inside the card says:
& Best Wishes for 2005.
More Poetry Please!
Dorothy walking into an ambush of geese at Dalby lake.
Table of contents.
Dorothys comments on my writings ranged from summary to substantial documents. Sometimes they came by post, in her letters, or they were waiting for me when I arrived at her home, next time.
Regretably, I cannot include the bulk of Dorothys literary criticisms, which run to detailed, page by page, comments on works of mine, that no longer exist, and which had no meaning, on their own, even then. Tho, I have endeavored to include just about everything intelligible that she wrote to me.
Also, Dorothy was prone to change her mind. This applied to judgments on herself, as well as me. To take the first example that comes into my head. She once began a five minute talk (people at the Writers Circle gave each other in turn) with the remark that poetry is the Cinderella of the arts.
I thought that was pretty good, and reminded her of it.
Her reply was, on the lines: Oh did I say that. She didn’t think much of that at all. She didn’t even approve of being associated with such a cliche.
So, I had to forebear from quoting her to that effect.
It may be that, without saying so, she didn’t like my role as her some-times naive publicist. She didn’t always, which may be another instance of her changableness.
Changableness is a noted characteristic of the artistic temperament. Sibelius had it (as features in the monolog, in my 5th verse book: Radical!).
Dorothy was honored, and even humbled, for the little reviews, that I put-up on a special Dorothy Cowlin web-site. I sat with her, as she went thru my web-page of her novels, asking her to confirm their accuracy, which she did.
Whether or not the fanciful Cinderella comparison is a happy one, therein is a profound truth. Poetry, as poetry, is shunned, by the test of people putting down their money for poetry books.
Poetry, as an attribute of the other arts, produces the highest praise. Hence, Shakespear, the dramatic poet.
Shaw called himself a dramatic poet. As far as I recall, he isn’t. When I first visited Dorothy, and I talked of Shaw, Dorothy affirmed Shaw was her favorite playwright. Then, with misgivings corrected herself, to admit Shakespear, whose lines she would quote, occasionly, on our walks.
Tho her deafness restricted her, Dorothy was a play-goer and a concert-goer, and an art-gallery frequenter, as her letters testify.
Folk music, being associated with the classical repertoire, a Joan Baez record found its way into her collection. It featured a Bob Dylan song. Dorothy was wholly of a former generation that knew nothing of him. Tho, she approved of: It ain’t me, babe.
Dylan Chronicles how he sought out all the (often rare and elusive) folk recordings, of his predecessors. In this, he was just doing what other great composers have done. Vaughan Williams was an assiduous collector of old English folk songs.
There’s a movie, about an unruly school, in which a teacher tells his associate, that his favorite poet is Bob Dylan. She thinks he says: Dylan Thomas. And he corrects her.
She demurs: Oh, I don’t know: all those repititions.
But, in the end, she buys him a book of Dylans collected poems.
Perhaps a different film ends, with a present of the collected recordings of Stevie Wonder.
An American critic mocked the relentless repetition, in the Dvorjak premiere of the New World symphony. As to the slow movement, he commented on the program note, if that’s an epitome of native American music, then the future is with the Red man.
(That was not exactly prophetic of Jimi Hendrix, even: The Wind Cries Mary.)
Anyway, Bob Dylan won a poll of best poet, in the past fifty years (second half of twentieth century). Actually, it is his musicianship that promoted his poetry, just as Shakespear the dramatist so promoted himself king-pin poet.
The fluidity of the Dylan imagination is typical of the highly artistic temperament. Both Jan Sibelius and Bob Dylan sorely tried their wives with their mood changes, to the repentance of both men.
Beethoven, a notoriously moody artist, was called the Shakespear of music, for its romantic quality, above all, the avant-garde tone poetry of the Eroica symfony.
A classical Haydn or Mozart style of orchestral playing is wasted on it. Their works are a tonic, dazzling and grand, perhaps, but not brooding, turbulent and momentous.
In this respect, the Eroica still doesn’t sound conventional, against Sibelius symfony 4, what Scandinavians, harking back to their famine years, called the bark-bread symfony, of over a century later.
Romantic imagery is omnipresent in movie-making. I was so struck by it, in an award-winning documentary of macaques in Sri Lanka, that I translated some of its poetic imagery into words, so to speak, “a poem.”
I believe that the rise of performance poetry, is the attempt by poets to emulate the performing arts, in harnessing poetry to their immense success. Performance poetry is the poets, the Cinderellas of the arts, hoping that: Cinderella shall go to the ball!
Table of contents.
Saturday, April 3 (year?)
As I’ve just said on the phone, I’ve now read all 60 of your poems, and have made a note of how I felt about each of them.
I think your first set are pretty good now, some of them really A1. I ticked all those I think good, and made comments of what are usually, to me, only minor defects.
In general, I feel sure you’d do better to revert to normal spelling! Editors simply won’t think you do it on purpose. They will think you are illiterate! One man can’t reform spelling. Otherwise, in Part One, it’s chiefly titles I don’t like. I’ve under-lined those I don’t like – which I feel are misleading.
Dorothy under-lined 19 titles she didn’t like. She was very literal minded, maybe the by-product of an over-worked conscience. She impressed me as the most honest person I’ve ever met.
Indeed my titles are misleading. They often are meant to be misleading. The harmless mischief of a sly sense of humor is so ingrained, I don’t even notice it, myself. It’s a well worn practice with English journalistic captions.
Dorothy even under-lined the titles of two of the three poems, that she double ticked: No Contest; and Diggers. (The third was the title poem.)
These are two of the last poems, I wrote, to The Valesman collection, more or less as after-thoughts.
I doubted that I could write a poem about seeing my grandad digging. But the famous Seamus Heaney poem, Digging, featured his grandad, as a champion turf digger. And I thought my grandads strength and technique was something to behold. Like Heaney, I could at least give the digging a try with my pen!
I heard my parents mention that no-one in the district could compete with grandad for sheep shearing. Hence the title: No Contest.
Dorothy ticked another 30 of the 60 poems, as good. The rest she put question marks against. And two (harmless, I thought) minor poems, she put crosses against; not against the one poem, I eventually excluded from The Valesman collection. I expanded it from 60 to 160 poems. Many of these extra poems of the vales were only written, because of days out with Dorothy, re-connecting me with my roots in the country-side.
The whole larger connection was much revised, especially the weaker poems, before it became my first e-book publication in 2014.
After naively requesting reviews, on the internet, I received one review (my sum total for ten published books, to date) which was an Amazon and Goodreads review of incredible hostility, characterised repeatedly as honesty.
Its animus was not surpassed by a critic, at the premiere, of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, he called “a stench in the ear.”
Table of contents.
The Valesman is the first book in a series of Collected Verse. The second is called: Dates and Dorothy. The first part is an appreciation of Dorothy as a writer. The second part consists of my second collection of verse, including a section about our friendship. This was mostly written after Dorothys death. So were the poems for each year, before I met her: the Dates, alluded in the title.
There is also a group of love poems, which the Dates, of the title, also covers, for a double meaning. These are substantially the poems that Dorothy generously reviewed:
I think this is a very impressive collection. 68 poems! I had no idea you had written so many.
All have something good in them. Some are very good – full stop.
Some seem to me to still leave weak spots. I have tried to put my finger on some of these. You may or may not agree. But perhaps you could have a look through before sending them out again?
I particularly liked some of the love poems – which really do convey the emotion. That these poems are so many of them sonnets – a very restricting form, makes that even more impressive.
I don’t think your title is good. Not all the poems are about women, tho a surprising number are.
Why not pick out those which definitely are? The collection seems too long for any hope of publication as a collection. Many writers final “Collected Poems” are not as long!
Then there is another group – about childhood.
There is a lot of variety of subject & tone.
I would think an editor would be overwhelmed by such a volume – of not very easy poems.
I would think 20 or 25 at a time ample.
I followed Dorothys advice, in abandoning the title, which was an ironic borrowing from the feminist discipline of Womens Studies.
Dorothy follows her summary, with comments on all the poems, ticking 31 of them, and with good things to say about others. Some, she says, she doesn’t get, at least in parts, or are too compressed.
A couple of the poems, she liked best, were outside my comfort zone.
Dorothy particularly liked, as well, a poem about Marilyn Monroe and another about Mother Teresa! The former found its way into my third collection, and the latter into my fifth.
The childhood verse went into the first collection.
Regarding a little poem about Mae West, Dorothy comments: “good – I think it exactly ‘gets’ her!”
Dorothy quotes, for especial approval my lines about Monroe: “you were never a sea – but a sea-change.”
I revised and added to that poem. I don’t know what Dorothy would have thought to the final version.
Table of contents.
The next judgment is a little essay in itself, on her principles of criticism.
The long poems, she was talking about, were early drafts of a couple of the monologs, that appear in my fifth verse collection, “Radical!”
When Dorothy says they could be greatly improved by more work, they certainly did receive intensive revision, as have my poems, long and short, in general.
Poetry is a form of perfectionism. And if I had the time, from other things, to go, yet again, thru my five books of collected verse, I don’t know how many simple improvements of style, I might find, that I some-how missed.
I appreciate the observation of the dramatic critic, seconded by Dorothy, that my stilted style gets in the way of what I have to say. I did not write in a free-flowing conversational style. Rather, I found myself trying to artificially construct verse, using words like Lego bricks. The result often is not elegant.
Dorothy never suffered from this problem, as immediately struck me, from comparing her poems, to my own clunky efforts.
Dorothy was writing in the pre-Internet days of small poetry presses for short verse, when there were practically no openings for long poems. Hence, her pessimism:
Richard – don’t take umbrage at this – but I think the main criticism of your monologues is true.
They are not dramatic.
But did you intend them to be so?
I would have thought not. To me they are perhaps better described as “meditations.” And I think you sent them to quite the wrong place.
The question is – where is the right place?
I think you will be very lucky to find a place for such long poems.
And I think they could be greatly improved by more work on them.
I feel in agreement with one of your critics: that your style of writing gets between you and the reader.
Yes – I know you think I am a stickler for rules of grammar! Not so: – for their own sake. But it seems obvious to me that unconventional or careless construction does often get in the way, in your case. And then the rules do matter. Another barrier is your tendency to abstract words. Of course, where political ideas are the theme, these are bound to be used. But if you are writing poetry concrete words are more effective and should be used as much as possible.
I could have pencilled many detailed comments to this effect on your typescript, but of course didn’t want to mess it up.
I still like the Sibelius monologue the best. I don’t find it dull – or him a dull dog. I like it because it conveys a definite (and unexpected) character by the anecdotes. But even this one could be improved, by shortening and being made more concrete – and by clarifying the grammatical construction.
The best of all – to my mind, is the short poem – “Sibelius’ 8th.” [Since incorporated in the revised long poem.] You spoil it by going into 3rd person in the last stanza. You might have more luck with this separately.
I find Shaw’s love affairs rather confused. It wants a lot of clarification – names of people e.g. Not all of us know all of Shaw’s beloveds by their Christian names!
But – tidied & shortened – this too might have a chance separately.
You have to write what you feel you must write – of course. Things “well-up” – I know! One can’t write to order – certainly not if there has been no order! (I find I can, if there is really hope of acceptance.)
But I really do think you have taken a very doubtful track with these monologues.
I may be wrong. I’m not a very good guide to any writer looking for publication. It’s just how I feel about these.
Actually – I dislike reading long poems, myself!
The long poems, as usual, after continued development, and with other monologs etc, eventually appeared in my fifth verse collection: Radical!
Dorothy also disliked science fiction, of which I wrote much (in my book 4 of collected verse). I thought better of my SF than some other genres, I indulged, which she also gave relatively little attention: Politics is not lyrical. And she was not religious.
A Christmas poem, she just pigeon-holed (perhaps not too accurately) as a conventional treatment, without further comment.
I knew her tastes, and didn’t say anything.
Whereas generally, she gave sustained attention to my out-put, as I brought it to her. I’m amazed she worked so hard for me, and until she was nearer 100 than 90.
I said, it was alright, Dorothy, she didn’t have to write a critique. But she did.
On what turned-out to be the last occasion, I had to say, after receiving her comments: It must have taken you quite some time to do that!
She admitted quietly, she set aside an evening, at writing table, for the work.
Even in her last weeks, in a nursing home, she encouraged me to bring my poems, and made pithy comments on them.
I tore up a rough draft of a sort of science fantasy, of mine, I came across, just the other day. Perhaps I should have checked what it was about, before tearing it up. The following is Dorothys report, of the dialog or trialog:
I found this interesting – though baffling at times because of my ignorance – not your writing. I liked the “writer” and the “genie” best. The scientist baffled this artist!
The writer has your quirky humour!
Why “genie”? – The tone is much like that of the scientist. Is it supposed to be a genie speaking? Why “confidante” – I have always thought a confidante is a person you confide in – on the stage usually. These appear to me to be doing the confiding.
I like the colours and vividness of the descriptions in part 2. – But I got tired. For me it goes on too long! Maybe I am lacking in stamina! In general I prefer short poems and fairly short novels!
The idea for a discussion, Dorothy reviews, may have come from Galileo dialog of the two world systems.
In my case, I wasn’t trying to promote one world-view, at the expense of the other.
I tried to show that Relativity physics is shadowed by the “Relativity of choice.” This is the title of a chapter, and perhaps distant descendant of that dialog, appearing in a book, called: Science is Ethics as Electics. (It is number three in my Democracy Science series of free e-books.)
A BBC biopic, by Ian Wilson, of Philip Larkin, traced back to his under-graduate years, his revulsion against classic epic poems. Like Dorothy, he never wrote any long poems. And like Dorothy, I think his essential attraction is as a mood poet. Or, to use Dorothys own term, her poems (and his) are meditations. Perhaps Larkin and Cowlin were both mystics, without knowing it. Because, we in the West, unlike the East, don’t have a main-stream mystical tradition, we can readily relate.
That may be why our modern popular culture has gone from insular to cosmopolitan. Any local bill-board will display, from world-wide primeval shamanism, thru ancient India and China, all sorts of activities “full of eastern promise” to quote an old sweet advert.
But Dorothy wasn’t into that either. She was something of an orthodox scientific secularist. She once tried to talk me out of my primitive superstition that a cold had anything to do with being cold. She said it was a virus (as if I didn’t know that much). And explained how people had been put thru freezing conditions and hadn’t developed a cold from it.
Dorothy herself was so immune to cold, she genuinely didn’t understand those who weren’t.
When she visited the clinic, the doctor ironicly commented: This is an honor (to see you here).
Then “science” officially discovered that cold did make a difference. I forget the details. But Dorothy conceded the new party line.
Dorothy is essentially a nature poet of traditional subjects in modern free verse. Whereas Larkin is a traditional rhyming poet, substantially without a traditional genre, even nature. He is a mid-20th century period poet of distinction, a classic, in his time.
Larkin (like Cowlin) did not hold the traditional religious belief in an after-life.
Alan Bennett began a televised talk, saying: Philip Larkin was the poet who feared death.
He also feared life.
Larkin didn’t live long enough, to attain a composure that may come at an old enough age.
Dorothy expressed anxiety, about her future health, when I first met her, in her late seventies. Naturally, she expressed some weariness, with life, as the years wore on. This would contribute to a calm about death, in her last years. And I talked with her, up to only a few days from the end.
She hoped to die, without much trouble, from her heart giving way. Her wish was granted.
She certainly never hid away from the world. She once told me, that the only thing, she regreted, about not being well-off, was that she could not travel more.
The last time, I saw her: Yes, she agreed, the snow looked picturesque, but she wanted to be out!
Dorothy left us some classic short poems. Her second novel, Winter Solstice, is her epic prose poem of a sooty northern industrialism.
Dorothy rightly detracts from the cryptic compression of my verse about Shaws love affairs. This was a very early piece, dating back to my twenties. Its material was somewhat liberated, as part of a Shaw monolog.
I read a different sample, during a later stage of revision, to the Writers Circle. People laughed freely at Shaws humors. Dorothy commented after, to the audience, that the narrative was taken from his sayings. She knew her Shaw.
(Even the odd joke of my own, slipped in, raised a laf.)
Dorothy wrote a local newspaper article for equal incomes. Like Margaret Drabble, she had picked-up this Shavian cause. A woman from across the road, stopped her to say: Oh, I don’t agree with you, about equal incomes, Mrs Whalley.
Dorothys radical views didn’t get in the way of her being liked and respected.
Shaws rational case for equal incomes and the necessary inequality generated by market competition is a basic paradox, I sought to resolve, in my subject of Constitutional Economics, using an analogy with political democracy. (This is contained in my book: Science is Ethics as Electics.)
Table of contents.
(Sept. 28th 1991).
I am a member of the North Ryedale Labour Party.
In the 45 years I have lived in the area, it has never once been represented by a Labour MP. Knowing that however much work one puts in, will be wasted, is extremely disheartening.
More and more, I feel that proportional representation is vital, here and everywhere. I feel also that of the various methods, STV is the fairest. I was disappointed to gather from your Report that you are not in favour of it, at least for the House of Commons: partly because you think it would weaken the association of MPs with their constituents.
I have never felt in the least that our (inevitable) Conservative MP gives me any influence whatever, however small, on the actions of the Government. Whenever I have written to him I have been palmed off with some slick Party Line.
As for electors not understanding the system: certainly it is less simple than a cross opposite one name. But STV seems less complicated to me than the other systems you examine, as well as more fair. And if the Irish voter can manage it, surely the English voter could!
I am writing this letter partly to express the above opinion, but mainly on behalf of Mr R. Lung. He is far better equipped to argue the matter than I am, having given years of thought and reading to it.
I have read his reply to your Report, and I found it most impressive in its depth and detail. I feel it is very well worth your while to look at it, and do hope that some or all of the committee will give it serious consideration.
(This letter is also reproduced in my free e-book: Scientific Method Of Elections.)
Table of contents.
Dorothy didn’t just put in a good page for my transferable voting recommendation to the ever intransigent Labour Party.
She gave as much pamphlet-length attention to a typescript on politics, as she did to my deficient fiction.
I don’t even remember the structure of that book, whether it was just about elections, or included other democratic causes. At any rate, Dorothy warns me against my spelling heresies, in fiction and non-fiction alike.
Dorothys marathon readers report appears to have been handed over to me, in a large envelope, which she received in September 2002. So I guess this draft of my election methods book was compiled by then.
I am puzzled, because I wasn’t really interested in trying to get a book on democracy traditionly published, by the late 1990s, because of the immense-seeming promise of the internet.
Was I still trying to hedge my bets, by the early 2000s? I don’t know. Can’t be sure.
The bulk of Dorothys advice was well-intentioned attempts to improve, in detail, a long since obsolete and cannibalised typescript. So I just quote the passages that still make sense as a short critical essay:
Thank you very much indeed for letting me read this book, and for trusting me with your M/S. Only another writer can realise how precious this is, & what a privilege it is to be so trusted.
I did not find it easy reading.
This is partly because it really does go so very deeply into its theme. I am full of admiration for the extent of your knowledge, the depth of your thinking, and the sincerity & passion of your belief – the rightness, too of your ideals.
You have here, potentially, an extremely good book, which ought to be published.
But – yes – there is a but!
I think you have loaded the dice against it in several unnecessary ways. By its nature it could not be an easy book to get published.
You have laid an additional burden on it by your style.
In your letter you made it clear that these details were intentional. You insist that the spelling and grammar you have used be unchanged.
The spelling does not worry me. I am a bad speller myself, and so I hardly notice if things are slightly different. But many a publisher would be irritated. I agree the present system of English spelling is chaotic & ludicrous. Bernard Shaw long ago had a try to get it simplified. Nobody has used the money he left for this purpose.
But Richard – you can’t take on the task of simplified spelling at the same time as the cause of more democratic elections!
One thing at a time! Your simplified spelling will simply antagonise people you wish to convert on the bigger – much bigger – matter.
Much worse – to me – was the irritation of different punctuation. To some extent, tradition is flexible here. But some of your punctuation marks definitely distort the sense of what you are trying to say. The omission of apostrophes in some cases makes it unclear whether you are writing of, for instance, one voter, or many voters. I think that sort of thing matters. Why should the reader have to sort it out? There are more important things in your book, to which the reader should be allowed to give his or her whole mind.
But worst of all is your way of starting subordinate clauses as if they were new sentences. Quite often – far too often, it is not clear whether a phrase refers to a preceding phrase, or to a following phrase. It alters the sense. Sometimes it makes a complete nonsense.
I don’t feel you will agree about this. But I think you are being perverse! I do beg you to think about it, and, if you can bear the toil, go thru the book and revise it to a more conventional grammar & spelling.
You see – I was halfway converted to your thesis before I began to read. But now I have read the book, I am very little clearer as to exactly what STV entails. This is partly because I have no training in logic or mathematical ability – but also, very much, because of the barrier set up by your irritating mannerisms.
I hope this doesn’t hurt you. I know how tender an author’s shin is. No-one knows better than I do. I have wept untold tears over my writing – silly though that may seem.
I am only saying this because I truly think there is a good book here, which ought not to risk neglect simply because of these details.
Please forgive me if I have offended you in my attempt to help.
I do feel that, given our present electoral system, this country is done for. I think it would need more than one book to put it right – however good. But I also think, that, if you could get this book published, it might help to change people’s minds on the subject. As it is at present, I fear most people would give up the effort to surmount the difficulties you have so unnecessarily laid on.
Very sincerely indeed
I made some rough notes as I went along – possibly unreadable. Possibly they would infuriate you to read.
But if you feel you could bear to examine these matters, I would let you have these notes. They are by no means all adverse!
NB I don’t feel the “Contents” section helps. It was a bit frightening to this ordinary reader! I was not gripped until I got to chapter 1. Your Foreword too was rather baffling.
Chapter 5, where you try to come to real grips with your subject, was for me the most difficult – and it was in this very chapter that your “perverse” form of grammar was most apparent!
Thank you very much indeed for your kind remarks on my 2 books. I felt quite resurrected by what you said! And I feel the meaner for criticising your work. But it is truly not meant to be mean, but to help.
I’d love to see this book in print!
Chapter 1 for me – really begins the book. Here I became gripped. Before this, bewildered!
p. 30 good phrase
We need not only to make the world safe for Democracy. We have to make the world democratic to be safe (in fact it cannot be safe without it).
p. 32 Tyrannical world govt no good for Peace[;] would keep nuclear weapons to keep down dissidents. [Ticked.] I have dimly seen this. You make it very clear.
[“Dimness” is not a quality I associate with Dorothy. Her old vocation of teacher is evident in these reports.]
p 34 vested interests etc expression of hedonism & selfishness. Good. [ticked]
p 35. Speakers Corner – didn’t know this about permission.
[This by-word for free speech isn’t free from having to ask permission to speak there.]
Ch 3. I didn’t know of H. G. Wells support of S.T.V. [Single Transferable Vote].
With the democratic voting system (STV), the people could decide the majority government. In Ireland, parties often ask their supporters to give their later ranked choices to the candidates of a party they intend to partner in a coalition. The voters have it in their power to vote across party divisions, with a unitive vote, paying regard to the character of individual candidates.
The transferable voting system proportionly counting a preference vote is the only way to democratise PR, without leaving the preference vote in the exclusive hands of party bosses making party lists.
The Additional Member System (also called Mixed Member Proortional) uses closed lists. The suggestion of Open lists, doesn’t work, because the vote is still basicly for a party, so a personly unprefered candidate can win a seat, merely on the strength of the party vote.
I could go on. I have, in two free e-books.
Scientific Method of Elections:
A fan of HG Wells books.
[Nowadays. this blurred pic would be called a selfie, taken in the Indian summer of youth. The white booklet in the book-case is Dorothys first poetry collection, The Sound Of Rain, which dates the foto at 1991 or shortly after.
This was also the title of her last collection, a perfect bound book, I received by post, when she went into nursing home.]
[After her many puzzlements and suggested amendments, Dorothy concludes:]
In general. You have the makings of a very good book. You know your subject. I am deeply impressed by your wide knowledge & detailed facts.
But I don’t think it would persuade anybody not already persuaded.
This is because of its style, & also because in parts it is discursive. Also because in parts it relies on philosophic terms & mathematical terms.
I would like a clear explanation of how a person would vote.
One has to admire the tact and sincerity of Dorothys criticisms.
The Internet has lifted the tyranny of spelling conformity. It is true that publishers house styles have been replaced by word processors with spell-checks. But one is free to ignore them. I always turn off that feature.
(I always turned-off editors, as well, but that was unintentional.)
No-one on the Internet has ever complained about my hyper-American spelling reforms.
Tho, my spelling has given voice to the impression of an American.
On web forums, some-one may draw attention politely to a commenters confusion of spelling, that doesn’t say what he means.
We hear a lot about trolls on the web. But there exists also the good manners, that doesn’t find fault with those who have a shaky command of English. They may be people of high technical ability or they may be struggling a bit (or both). Either way, they are making their contributions.
Not long ago, I came across a commenter, demeaning the technical standards of a web manager, by showing off his own expertise.
But this was followed by other commenters, appreciative of the truly attractive layout of the web-site, to counter, with kindness, the belittling would-be technocrat.
Bernard Shaw eventually did have his spelling reform Will implemented, to fund the winner of a competition for a new phonetic English alphabet of not less than some 46 letters. I can’t remember the exact number he stipulated.
I suspect this number may have influenced Sir James Pitman to have as many letters in his Initial Transitional Alphabet. This burden of extra letters, many of them clumsy ligatured digraphs, was the undoing of ITA.
Otherwise, official research showed a big advance in literacy (two years, I think, even with ITA), due to first teaching school-children with a relatively simple phonetic English alphabet, before introducing all the conventional spelling complications.
Professor John Downing, who conducted the official trials, deeply regreted the obstacle of introducing extra letters into an initial alfabet, instead of just using the existing alfabet letters, spelt in a consistent way, for a starters alfabet.
I still try to push English language reforms, in my e-books, fiction or non-fiction. Dorothy was probably right that this could have an adverse effect on my work.
However, I am in accord with her, about my poor sentence construction. I do tend to start off with a minor clause, doubtfully connected to the main statement. This has been brought home to me, over the years, by the need to make clear, straight-forward debating points on electoral reform. Nowadays, I try to correct these bad habits, whenever I notice them.
I did go thru all Dorothys detailed criticisms, as I see from my pencilled-in remarks to them.
I was yet more influenced, by nearly two decades of her sustained remarks about my poems. Dorothys judgment is ingrained in my writings, tho she is not to blame for them!
Table of contents.
7th December, 1995.
All her life, Dorothy went on walking holidays, sleeping at hostels. They feature in all eight of her novels, One contemporary friend, she went with, in later years, was Eve Watson. Dorothy invited me, to meet her, at her cottage.
Eve wanted to see the video of Dorothy receiving her Yorkshire TV Calendar program “Poet Laureate of the North” award for her poem, Pennine Tunnel.
(I was cinematographer!)
It had been a few years since, and Dorothy watched herself on television, with a wistful expression.
(This video may now be accessed on-line.)
Dorothy said afterwards, that she wasn’t surprised I liked Eve, because people usually did. She was even more deaf than Dorothy.
But the letter, she wrote me, was typed with secretarial efficiency.
Dear Mr Richard Lung,
Thank you very much for your letter and for kindly returning the books on Jung which I lent you and for paying for the ones you wish to keep.
It was very nice of you to write expressing your appreciation of the loan and I did enjoy receiving your remarks and interesting observations.
I understand my husband believed, like you, that Jung will come more and more into his own, progressing beyond Freud. I only wish my husband had kept a diary while he was with Jung – what a mine of fascinating information it would have given?
I had forgotten Mae West’s remark which was good advice too?!
I am sorry I have not any more information to give you and the year my husband spent with Jung in Switzerland in the 1920’s – only that, of course, my husband thought he was a great man and had a great admiration for him.
I see Dorothy has told you about when Jung came to London to give a talk and recognised my husband in the audience and my husband thought it was wonderful of him to bother to come down off the platform to have a word and greet him, especially, (I do not know whether Dorothy mentioned it), as the meeting took place over 30 years after the time my husband was in Switzerland?) Unfortunately, I was not married to Tertius on either occasion.
I should be soon taking a few books on and about Jung down to the Institute for Complementary Medicine in London who are setting up a library of my husband’s collection so as anyone wanting to do research work on it can do so.
The Institute already has quite a few of my husband’s books which were deposited when he died, and I have promised to let them have the rest in due course.
But I think I will keep The Tavistock Lectures on Analytical Psychology for myself which you recommend as a good introduction to Jung’s psychology – many thanks for the helpful advice.
With kind regards and best wishes,
Mae West famously remarked: Keep a diary and one day a diary will keep you.
Table of contents.
2 Feb ‘03
Of course your teacher was right about there being too many adjectives in that poem for the school magazine. After 75 years, you haven’t done as you were told, you naughty girl.
(If it were me, I would keep the original – no, if it were me I wouldn’t, but do an adjectivally cut version of Fleshwick Bay. It’s worth it and says your youthful effort was worth the trouble.
I wouldn’t change “The Coal Forests” at all. I agree with you there. It’s like a sorcerers apprentice almost comically clumsy with her new-found power with words. I love its youthful exuberance.
The first really good “mature” poem (at 20) is “Fife and Drum” which wouldn’t disgrace any poet. You might have become a song-writer if you hadn’t given up the rhyme and rhythm, as in this poem. The Triolet shows that, too.
The Sea-Song, written at 17, is a good apprentice work.
“Grasshopper” reminds me of our day in Whisperdales where you said: If I could find you a grasshopper, you would be my friend for life. Their sound was all around but I never saw one!
We also saw a yellowhammer there, on a fence of that isolated house and garden looking on the length of the valley.
Using the grasshopper as an elusive thought is really good, as fitting as “Thought Fox.” [by Ted Hughes.]
“Tulips” is an effectively gaudy metaphor.
In fact, all of the rest of those earliest poems have got something and are worth preserving.
Most of the poems from 1935 and 1936 are new to me. Suddenly there is a big improvement in 1937. You must agree because these are almost the earliest poems you published.
In 1937, you found your stride as a poet (tho there are more or less good earlier poems.)
You shook off the over-writing of “Villadom,” becoming lean and sinewy. You avoided bad images like “stony breasts of the recumbent clouds” etc, in “July.” These two poems strained to achieve effects perhaps because they are exceptions to the rule that your poems always have an idea to communicate, or, usually, have an idea.
“Summer” is a later, accessible version of this word-pruning.
The poem “Advice” might have been called “Sage advice” because uttered by some ancient sage imparting mystical wisdom. (You made fun of my sage toddler, remember? [in The Valesman])
I think it would be worth cutting the long words from “Villadom” and “July” because that rare case of over-writing in your youthful work does detract from your out-put, considered as a body of work.
The first sentence (two lines) of “Advice” could be cut and the title changed.
Apart from that, there isn’t much tweaking that needs to be done. I remember your diary write-up saying “Submerged” hadn’t come off. And it hasn’t. This isn’t helped by what appears to be a mis-print, perhaps, “among.”
It’s worth remembering that a Collections faults can be all the more glaring for being isolated. So, it is worth weeding out those trains of long adjectives, mentioned above, and any others. Not at all a typical fault of yours, tho, isn’t over-writing. It’s a fault of mine: most of my poems, rather than two or three of yours, need over-hauling.
We were halfway to winter:
hills streaked white and green
water running dark between
and sheep able to take
a philosophical bite
from not quite frozen fields.
Then, with a tattoo
like metal drums –
into the tunnel.
we all with minds bent inwards
by reflected selves.
A second roll –
out into day.
I hardly know
these once familiar hills,
their bony knees and knuckles
quilted to roundness
under a seamless anorak of snow:
yet unsuspected flaws,
old quarries, spoil heaps, scars
of forgotten enterprise
Set in the drenching white,
are sticks of charcoal.
Companies of inland-resting goals,
all but invisible,
take sudden wing, and wheel
sooty as rooks
against the Pennine sky.
Total winter now.
Winning poem of Calendar tv Poet Laureate of the North award.]
Table of contents.
Of course, Dorothy was not the only novelist, at the Writers Circle.
I learned, early in her literary career, how popular was the romantic novelist, Frances Anne Bond, when she casually mentioned 80,000 borrowings from the public library. Words failed everyone, but I felt our writers circle walk had been transformed into a celebrity tour.
Reading her novels, she asked us to note mistakes, that had slipped thru the proof-reading into print. I did this for more than one of her books. But have only chanced upon a faint carbon copy of my letter to her, on:
“The Return Of The Swallow”
A few notes while reading your book.
Of your first novel (Dance Without Music) I said that its episodic rush prevented the development of relationships. But relations, especially between the sexes are the main theme of your second novel. (I must be among the 5% least qualified members of the population to criticise this. In fact, I know I am, that being about all I know.) In truth, the straight novel, such as yours (or Dorothy’s) is not the kind I read. But I’m glad that I’ve met you both, personally of course, but also because you write about the bread-and-butter of life. (Unrelieved routine is hard to write, even as it is to live, tho.)
I can see the point of the kind of novel that is a discussion of how people get on or fail each other. It gives an over-view that may help the reader reflect on her own trials and experiences.
By the way, Theodore Dreiser: “An American Tragedy” is a wonderful morality tale. But I can’t imagine the people reading it, who would benefit most by it. It’s so very long for one thing, I confess I skipped much, even as I admired it.
I didn’t skip you, tho, and to prove it, I point out some printers errors right here.
P. 95, line 14: one “since” too many.
P. 139: “expanded” should be “expended.”
P. 154, fifth line from bottom: delete first “with.”
P. 245: should be more not “less” than 1 ½ m.
There is wisdom e.g. Dorrie’s parting thought about Gabe: He liked her but he didn’t like her enough.
The characters are not only real but recognisable types, especially Irene, like a dazzling, swift but shallow stream.
I think tho what comes out in this book is the uncertainty about the true natures of other people (and indeed oneself). So it’s not surprising that Mr Whitney should say to Dorrie, she always picks the wrong man. Being competent at ones work is easy in comparison, depending partly on how hard one chips away to get out the model or plan in one minds eye.
Of course you can’t determine everything with people, because they have their own ideas, liable to upset your plans, maybe disastrously.
Dorries dad talked about givers and takers. A John Mortimer character called them nurses and patients. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devils Dictionary, defines “man” as the insignificant sex (to woman) divided into two categories – good providers and bad providers.
I think that a critic should have written a novel, himself, even if it’s unpublished. That way, I know the tremendous amount of hard slog that went into this work, twice the length and in half the time of anything I would attempt. Now I don’t know what sort of a person you are. I only know that I couldn’t do my best work at such a pace.
The arguments are not all in favor of taking ones time e.g. The Leopard, by Lampedusa, took twenty years and he couldn’t get it published (I shall have to finish reading it sometime.)
Daniel Defoe, churning out copy didn’t stop him from coming up with a masterpiece [or more]. Dickens churned out masterpieces but destroyed himself in the process. It’s safe to say that some writers have sacrificed quality to quantity. Most famous names of literature perhaps were writing for a living. Some wrote to get across the message, as well, with the same life-shortening of their works value as art, if not history (e.g. Voltaire, who influenced many later writers.) And yet, compared with, say, Wells or Chesterton, one long novel a year seems reasonable. We could call it “annualism” because a less temporary writing than journalism. Then again… I must stop arguing pros and cons.
Getting back to hard facts, I have some questions. Like, about the book structure. Dare I say your novel is two stories, that could easily have been completely independent. The Australian tale was just about the length I can manage, gasping for breath, while you are just beginning to get going.
You use plot and counter-plot. When one of the stories has warmed up or got moving, you switch to the other, in the following chapter. Can this be justified like counterpoint in music? Does it mesh like the two folk tunes, alternated and joined in Vaughan Williams fantasia on Greensleeves?
And then was there not too big a gap between the exciting escape of Rob with Len? Surely the story had gone cold after, well it’s just over sixty pages – it seemed longer. I thought all your Australian research was well assimilated into the story-telling and I enjoy picking up titbits like those.
Personally I would have liked to hear more about “Dreamtime.” There was perhaps a good short novel in the making here that has been cannibalised to make up one long novel. You’re never going to have one of those slim-volume book-prize winners, at that rate. However, I suspect even the most eminent writers do this.
I developed this unworthy theory from my own efforts to write at any reasonable length. I’ve found that I’ve always had to cobble bits together and pretend they were a whole. Golding “Darkness Visible” consists of two separate stories, tenuously joined in the third part. Yet it is a novel, because of the later linkage. And this structure is defensible as a thesis, antithesis and synthesis.: Good, evil and their conflict.
I must admit your chapter 18 jarred on me, after the outback escape. And particularly, I suppose last paragraph, p. 136. No doubt ones romantic feelings are cliches. Nevertheless, I’d like to have lined-in that passage with a pre-emptive strike of blue pencil. Hostile critics are not above quoting ones worst and saying that’s the kind of writer she is. I don’t think there should be so much pressure to meet a deadline that minor blemishes are over-looked. They can stand out like a small flaw in a large gem.
Your knowledge of hotel management was convincing but I imagine it’s easy to impose on a simple shop assistant about being a “high-powered executive.” This reader moved in a womans changing scenery of dress fashions, which I didn’t skip or take-in, clothes being what keep you warm. I see it’s still fashionable for novelists to go in the bedroom every fifty pages or so (I didn’t keep count). You know how to do varied male characters. (Some women aren’t supposed to, nor men, women.) One may hope for original observation (in reading you) e.g. Rob and Dorrie in such perfect accord, that strangers seek to partake of it and of course can’t.
Thanks for the interesting observations on my second book. Printers errors – Unfortunately, they are always with us. A professional proof writer checks the manuscript and I do. However, as I am so familiar with the subject matter, it is inevitable some errors are missed. A pity. I think I might ask you to help with my next book – and I am only half-joking?
Your comment “uncertainty about the nature of people” was spot on! That’s exactly how I (and my characters feel). It’s actually rather wonderful, but also scary the pros and cons of churning out work is one subject that makes me uncertain. I’d end up thinking about it too much – I may stop writing. I try & keep my thoughts simple.
I love to write and I am delighted I am meeting with some success. Naturally, I hope success continues. If I continue to be published, I will continue working hard and hopefully, my writing will mature. Perhaps in time, I will be able to “push out the boundaries” &, although still writing “popular” stuff introduce more “thinking” material.
I will never write a masterpiece nor come up with any totally original thinking, but I think I create believable characters with whom people can empathise.
You spotted I interweave stories. I think my style is more of a short story writer – I am fairly sparing with descriptions etc. I know I cannot sustain long scenes, so I introduce new action. I would rather do that than use “packing”.
The book I am working on now is turning out quite differently from the first two – who knows what the future will hold? Must close.
All the best
Sorry about the scrawl.
As to my letter remarking a simple shop assistant, Anne came in my parents shop, as a still young-looking mother, flanked by two grown-up daughters, with artisticly matching good looks. One daughter had an experimental hair-do, which I commented on. Anne quipped: I’m going to get mine done like that.
Anne did work hard, as she planned, meeting a schedule of a 120,000 word romantic novel a year. She said to the Writers Circle, she could never have done it without a word processor.
These were the dedicated machines, like the Amstrad, advertised sending typewriters to the scrap heap. She kept-up this work-rate, for nearly a decade, before illness overtook her.
We learned from her, that her publishers knew that blockbusters sold best. Internet e-book publishers report that this is still the case.
I don’t know whether I made a carbon copy of my subsequent letter, that Anne answered here:
Thank you for your comments on “Catching Larks.”
I am delighted you tracked down the Lucius Valerius Martialia reference… lovely. The proverb is obviously older than I realised.
I was interested – and grateful – for your thoughtful comments.
I take note of your comments, on Pauline I and Pauline II which I thought valid. Are you right? Was I wrong? I don’t know.
As you are aware, much of my writing is instinctive and when the work is going well, I refrain from probing too deeply. I’m afraid the ideas will dry up.
I suppose I was linking Pauline II with old Eliza i.e. in 1946/7. Eliza was pleased by small things and a little unconventional – sympathising with the young couple in the dance hall, for example. Pauline II (1980) wore purple jogging trousers and tinted her hair.
Anyway, at least these are things to think about, unlike a Mills & Boon.
I’m glad you became involved with the characters and thanks for reading the Book and commenting on it.
Sorry about the scrawl. Your handwriting puts mine to shame.
Table of contents.
As mentioned in the previous chapter, Frances Anne Bond had a huge number of public library borrowings. A modest scheme of authors recompense had just come in, by then.
Dorothy was a regular user of the local library for new novels, til there was little range of choice left for her – So she would tell me. I brought books for her, over the years. Her letters show that she used the library for reference to sights of our nature walks. Libraries were also a source for her journalism.
I would stop off, from the bus, at her local library, to see what was going. There was one data-dense book, on Nuclear Winter, co-authored by Carl Sagan, which went a begging for months.
I felt that age was too much against me, to get into that line of research, and hoped someone younger would make better use of the book than an old loner like me.
Dorothy had her suspicions that the library was luring me off course, on my visits, instead of going straight to her.
I once teased her that she would be born again as a book-worm. She took this as a matter of course, saying: It would serve her right if she was.
She didn’t have any expectations of being born again as anything at all.
She told me, and she repeats it in a poem, that she would be content to die with a book in her hand.
All over Britain, libraries, sometimes the only source of community, employment and education for the general public, face imminent closure (january 2011). An American study showed that closing public libraries is a false economy. They more than pay for themselves, indirectly in the opportunities they give ordinary people. But local authorities have to go thru the motions of meeting central government cuts in their budgets, tho it is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and of less than real benefit, if the truth were known.
Villages lose their only grocers shop, their post office and even their pub. Going thru a village, sometimes the only institution one sees is the public library, a little beacon in a grey world of forbidding housing. If there is nothing left for people in the villages, they will drift even more to the towns, or town centers, causing more disruption and putting more strain on over-centralised services.
The Coalition government may have to face the verdict that they failed the public in curbing both private and public management. James Burnham thesis of The Managerial Revolution still holds.
In january 2011, a Times front page article claimed that local authorities were cutting services in such a away as to maximise their bonuses. What the private sector gets away with, does not go unnoticed in the public sector.
My review of Fleeced! (in Science and Democracy reviews) acknowledged Labour modernising of the libraries, that the Tories had subjected to a sustained neglect for decades. With the Tories back in power, helped by the Liberal Democrats, they are instrumental in the wrecking of the library system.
By simply cutting the budget to the county councils, they are ensuring that management will ring-fence their own jobs and cut front-line services. It was the job of central government to ensure that the reverse happened.
It is true that libraries are likely to lose their role as paper book repositories. But thanks to Labour modernising, they are well placed to take on another vital role in the infrastructure of our democracy. Politicians of all parties would really be shooting themselves in the foot, if they were to dismantle the public library system. For example, in North Yorkshire, the County Council planned to ax 24 libraries, more than half the total.
Not only do we have a Stone Age voting system with an illiterate x-vote. We also have a Stone Age ballot procedure. All it consists of is these transient little polling stations on the day of the count, offering the least possible support to the voter beyond putting a cross on his piece of paper.
They belong to an age of acute information poverty, for which there is no longer the slightest excuse. The local polling station on polling day is still going to be needed for the foreeable future but only as an ancillary to modern standing polling stations based in the library system.
The library, as information resource, is well equipped to become a standing polling station. Instead of polling day, there could be a polling week or polling month for the whole duration of a general election campaign.
Of course that would involve a stringent security system against ballot rigging. But it would be a lot more practical than the present postal voting system, so wide open to abuse and already subject to several court cases and judicial condemnations. Postal votes can be stolen, bribed or bullied. That is not good enough, tho there must be adequate provision for the immobilised.
A library system, with its new role of standing polling stations, offers a cheap and effective method of democratic campaigning for candidates and their parties.
At the moment, the Tory party heavily relies on the tax exiled funds of a millionaire targeting marginal constituencies: sheer propaganda.
Judging by their tree logo, the Tories would like to have a mass membership of millions like the National Trust, instead of a (disputed) few score thousand. Popular support has to be earned. Wealth can be bought for political favors.
The Tories bought an American computer program to target the few score thousand marginal voters who swing First Past The Post elections. Tory campaigns were largely based on targeting these few crucial voters to swing the election. So much so, that Channel 4 News caught them out with a “mistake” in their 2016 general election spending returns.
Whereas the Labour Party was held to ransom by Lord Sainsbury, because the party chose one brother over another: Ed not David Miliband. The Tories ennobled fund-raiser, Lord Ashcroft booked his displeasure with party beneficiaries.
Rich donors can damage your democracy.
The Liberal Democrats are embarrassed by having been funded, by a dodgy millionaire lending his jet plane, and faced with demands to pay back the money that didn’t belong to him.
UKIP had their funding scandal.
The Greens got 13% of the popular vote in the European elections of 1989. I suspect that the generosity of John Cleese to the Greens was their undoing. Without that extra funding, the apparatchiks probably wouldn't have had the nerve to get rid of their charismatic leadership. That's my guess anyway. The Greens promptly sank back down to some 5% support.
It’s taken the Greens over 20 years to recover to the extent of electing an MP. But that was done by pouring most of their resources into a few marginals, decreasing their national vote. In that, they are only following the other parties down the road of First Past The Post, which turns General Elections, so-called, into Marginal Defections.
The library system could become the political information-rich campaign-length polling station. Every library computer could have all the icons for candidates and parties on their desktop screens, with trained library staff to access information for the voters. Instead of having just the name and a party on a ballot paper, voters would have access to all the information they needed about everyone they could vote for.
Traditional leaflets could also be put on display. And candidates could hold debates and speeches there, indeed supplying electronically information to support their campaign.
Some direct democrats claim that having our own personal computers is all we need for a democracy, just voting online. It is strange that they would do away with representatives as policy mediators, yet replace them with machines as the sole mediators of public policy.
And as has been warned by hackers, as well as leading scientists like Roger Penrose, purely electronic democracy is an idea whose time has not yet come, as one report put it.
In any case, that is not the basic issue. People use their personal computers for personal reasons. The more skilful at computing, the more they are likely to find more personal pre-occupations. Very few people will assemble for themselves information from the full range of the political spectrum.
There has to be a place for policies to gather, or indeed many places, if politics is not to be completely centralised. Such a system of impartial political information does not exist online. Even if it did, most people prefer dealing with human beings to machines.
The voter, the human being, as total activist is a myth, an impossibility. We are all in a balance of passivity and activity, represented and representative. People in general will just consult their own inclinations, with what time they have left over for public duties. It is not only representatives but voters, also, that prove wanting.
The kind of direct democracy, that only sees democracy from the point of view of the individual voting, is an inadequate view of democracy. There must also be a public platform, for which the modern library system is admirably placed, which freely (or affordably) advertises the full range of policies seeking support.
Tho that in itself would not be properly effective without the effective voting system, namely the single transferable vote, which equitably or proportionally represents public opinion. With first past the post, the more candidates the more split the vote and wasted. This is just as much true of direct democracy as it is of representative democracy.
The public should not have to pay other peoples bad debts.
We have all these laws of citizens rights for armies of lawyers, who fill the legislatures, to litigate themselves into affluence. But we cannot get the simple principle established that the general public, who have had their savings stolen for speculations, should not have to pay for the speculators blunders. And that inflation without recompense (as by adequate interest rates) is institutionalised theft.
Table of contents.
I had known Dorothy ten years, when I decided to take a year off from my book-bound life, by building a conservatory. Keeping off the books, for so long, seemed as hard a task. But in that I was mistaken.
I had prepared a rough base, the year before. And hoped the summer would be neither too wet nor scorching. In this, I was lucky. The season was sunny but bearable for work, and there were not many interruptions from the weather.
My father very rarely came out the kitchen door but made an appearance, to dissuade me from the task, during my feeble early efforts, at foundation laying.
My mother said nothing. But when the conservatory brick wall was eventually built, and frames for the glass wall, arranged on top, she gasped with surprise that they fit.
She told me afterwards, that she thought she would have to get in builders, to finish the job. And if you read the following, rather formal account, of the whole operation, you may think there was some justification for her apprehension.
She also told me later, that I looked very well that year.
I was so fit that I could swing over the wall, as if on parallel bars, which I found easier than using a step ladder. It is a pleasant memory, that I did this, to a chorus of merriment from three kids, across the way.
I also found out later, that Dad had been expecting to be called out, at any time, to lend a hand.
So, it was with incredulous laughter, that he told Dorothy, venturing in the finished glass chamber, that I did it all myself, with the one exception, of being helped to fasten in the window. Mum brought Dad a cushion for his head, acting as a mount for the frame, which Mum held in place, while I screwed in the fixtures.
Dorothy tended to call the conservatory a green-house. Next year, Dad helped me to dismantle a green-house, for sale, and transport it back home, where I rebuilt it. This, at least, had the satisfactory out-come of Dorothy having to call a green-house a green-house and a conservatory a conservatory.
The manufacturers helpline explained to me they were in the process of rewriting the do-it-yourself instructions, tho this was a “massive task.” I built a conservatory extension to the house, without any help, but I found practically every step of the way very hard going. You need to be fairly fit to fit a so-called easy fit model. The strength of two people might make the job more tolerable.
At the start, I was only aware of the advantages to come from the finished structure. This sun-trap would insulate our draughty dining room; protect the wood bay window; offer extra security; keep hot-house plants and collect rain-water.
The first of my economies was to get foundation rubble from the house building site left-overs, unearthed from the vegetable patch. I also dug out a smothered rockery. An elder bush had dislodged an unliftable concrete slab with broken-brick base. I spent an afternoon or two, like a dinosaurs dentist, completely prising it out. I up-ended the extract onto a wheel-barrow on its side. My body-weight righted it under the load, which broke the rib of its rim, but fortunately not mine.
Neighbors doors, in the dusk, peeped on some Quasimodo-like creature tugging a stone-coffined hearse up the garden path.
Before I had finished, old tarmac was levered with a spade, off the patio, for conservatory floor filler.
Also, the kitchen ceiling collapsed under my do-it-yourself hammerings, providing a heaped wheel-barrow of plaster and polystyrene, also towards raising the conservatory floor level.
We saved £300 [at 1996 prices] by buying our (pre-fabricated) conservatory in a sale. This went a long way to paying for the extra building materials, still needed after all my scouring.
Having a pre-war house with raised floor-boards perhaps doubled the work.
A three to four feet double wall on a slope was needed to lift the conservatory roof over the bay window. Because this window juts out, the extension would be smaller than against a straight wall. Two vents under the bay window had to be extended thru the base walls for the conservatory, to keep damp and mould off the house floor-boards.
Each vent needed two clay sleeves, as a tunnel to the new wall. Its two openings each had two air-bricks, one for the outer wall and one, to bridge the gap between the conservatory double wall.
You still have to make sure that the ventilation is not blowing air into this double wall itself, instead of just thru it, especially as these modern bricks each had three holes in them!
Don’t forget to keep measuring your double wall is 5 cm apart always, or you will have trouble sliding in your 5 cm thick insulation pads, especially under the vent bridges. There the pads have to be cut to shape.
Even a post-war concrete-based house needs damp-proofing. The mortar-line, a few brick levels above the ground, will reveal a tar line. This must be joined seamlessly to any brick wall extension to the house. At an equal level, the new brick layer must be coated with a bitumen-based paint. Since new bricks have three holes in them, one can cover these with strips of thick polythene, which I cut from the bags of sand, used to make mortar with Portland cement.
Building the conservatory floor to modern building standards, also requires thick polythene, this time in big sheets across the floor up to the damp-proof coursing in the brick-work, that is like a plastic boat to keep out rising damp. The same silicone sealant supplied with DIY conservatories will also seal and patch the sheets and join them to the damp-proof course. I carefully cut the polythene packing of the conservatory wall frames and saved them for the above purpose. (They could also be used, at a pinch, as car covers!)
Before damp-proofing over the solid base, say, of mortared flag-stones, I inserted insulation, a two-inch thick layer of polystyrene, coming in 8 × 4 feet boards. Then on top of all that, another layer of flag-stones, then a spread of concrete. Finally, I decided on a new material supposed to be stronger than concrete that you just sweep on and sprinkle water over. The polythene, attached to the damp-proof course, was covered with a skirting board of coated hardboard. But the flooring was left til the structure was built, when it was, in fact, an in-door job.
Laying 900 bricks was a long job for a novice. I didn’t even know that I could have got 75 mm rather than 65 mm bricks. It is a false economy of time to not always stretch out a horizontal string guide with the help of a plumb line. It is easier to set out a trail of mortar so several bricks can be laid at once and levelled off against each other. The vertical mortar is slapped on the brick end in train with the one previously laid, not pushed down in between laid bricks. If short of mortar, one may lay two trails on each side of the holes in the bricks on the preceding level.
[Since this description, a simple innovation has greatly speeded-up brick-laying.]
Because we bought a Victorian conservatory, its wall had five sides and four corners. Angle bricks for these cost as much again as all the normal ones. So I cut my own corners, marking out straight edges with a tile-cutter and chipping with an old pitch-handled chisel and steel hammer. Later, I learned to cut deeper channels in the straight scratches and so break-off bigger pieces of brick cleanly. I didn’t waste any bricks but I wasted a week or two of my time, going back to the Stone Age.
I used foot-wide paving stones to the double wall. One stone was cut into carefully measured triangles over the four corners, using a rusty but still strong and sharp steel axe. This was possible because the slabs appeared to be fairly soft sandstone bake filled with chippings. The uneven surface would have to be filled-in, tho, against rain becoming standing-water seepage under the conservatory sill.
Uneven coping also complicates the problem of a horizontal surface to set the conservatory frames on. They must line up with the house wall and not be slanted on a slope, or the double-glazing panels don’t fit back in.
In this respect, the door frame may have the least tolerance for error. Five-bar security doors won’t lock unless level and parallel with each other. And only small adjustments of a few millimetres can be made (by way of adding or taking away packing pieces to the glass under the beading, to realign the door levels, and by way of turning the pins in the hinges to edge the door verticals into parallel).
As drilling the frames to the house wall and into the base will be the main way of keeping the conservatory from blowing away, a higher power electric drill, even a hammer drill is advisable to buy or hire.
An ordinary electric drill may take a day to bore, especially a hard engineering brick. And then you may have to resort to intervals of hammering out the hole with a metal spike or old screw-driver. It is possible to buy a driver that turns in the hole as you hit it. This is a slow manual version of the hammer drill.
Failing that, a few expedients are possible. A drill bit will go thru old mortar like butter. But you can align at least one of the two frames adjacent the house wall to a vertical line of mortar in the brick-work. Then you can make, say, four bores in the mortar, so they have brick on both sides of them. You can also probably pick similar suitable spots to attach the aluminium roof bars that adjoin the house wall. On the other house-adjoining frame, even if it takes a long time, one should doubtless make at least a few bores into brick.
If you are building round a bay window, the stone sill can be used to buttress the frames fastened to the wall, mortaring a piece of stone jammed between the two, if necessary. On drilling and punch-hammering into the coping to fasten the frame bases, house wall mortar cracked. I filled all fracture lines I found with No More Nails glue.
Our Victorian conservatory frames were joined at 135° angles by bay-poles, which looked like may-poles. They had to be clamped for drilling the holes that would screw-join them. Similarly, the tops of the frames (plus some packing heads, which could be very hard to ratchet on, with their barbed wedge fittings) had to be clamped to the eaves. But no clamps were provided for these special tasks. I had to resort to tying string round and packing out the slack. Using that and my own main strength as a clamp was hard and inefficient work.
A Victorian conservatory roof has an aluminium ridge projecting from the house wall to a hub, from which roof bars radiate down to the eaves, using nut and bolt fastenings. In the circumstances, I found it less burdensome, tho still awkward, to lower the ridge with the four nearest roof bars loosely attached, thru the bedroom window onto the eaves – then rushed downstairs to fasten the eaves-ends of the roof bars before there was a disaster. No doubt, two pairs of hands would have been better than one. The ridge stuck in the brick-work too low. But from the top of the bay window, I was able to pull the ridge away and then up to horizontal (nearly).
Four polycarbonate oblong roof panels met at the ridge and six triangular panels met at the hub, on the end of the ridge. One of the latter, I had to cut to a finer point on both sides, with a steel saw, so that its apex would sit with the others on the hub.
The roof panels are kept from blowing away by (PVC) capping bars that fit into their aluminium counter-parts, again on the barbed wedge principle. And again you are supposed to press down on one end and work your way along til the capping is completely slotted in. Personally, I was most unprepared for the vigor with which you have to do this. At first, I thought the capping had gone in, when it hadn’t ratcheted at all. Later, I noticed three levels of notches in the aluminium bars that the cappings wedge fittings had to be pressed right into.
So, the flash-band shouldn’t be put on before you are sure the two wall bars cappings are firmly fixed in. The other cappings each hold down the edges of two adjacent roof sheets. Two of the triangular sheets, when in place, are narrow enough to reach over, from a ladder, and really press on the capping all the way down. This required the two oblong sheets, nearest the hub, to be left off. Either of these hatch-ways, for you on a ladder, will enable you to press down the cappings, part of the way from the hub, depending on how long and strong your arms.
Then with your ladder on the eaves end, you have to continue the pressing down from where you left off – if you can safely reach. I found that I had not the reach or the strength to do the job completely and couldn’t ratchet the cappings down, all the way down, all the way along, but only by one or two (not three) notches, in the course of pressing along to the eaves end.
Moreover, once you’ve placed the last roof sheet, the last two cappings, on either side of it, can only be pressed down, from on the roof. I stuck an aluminium ladder out of the bedroom window over the ridge, tied it to the window frame, and weighted the other end on the bed with heavy furniture.
Mostly, after setting the last two cappings in place, I used my feet, wearing shoes with good grips, to shuffle down the cappings. Even so, after much effort, I still under-estimated the pressure they needed. Clinging to the ladder, I eased my feet fairly close to the roof edge. But when, the next day, I set out to finish the job, with a ladder propped on the eaves, I couldn’t get the cappings down more than a notch, where I was only using the pressure of my arms, rather than my feet.
I may add that you cannot walk on the polycarbonate roof and you could skid on the narrow and sloping cappings.
It was not my idea of an amateurs task. And the instructions should have full safety guide-lines, so that no one has to take unnecessary risks.
I probably saved considerably more than half the cost of getting the job done for me.
But that is less important than serious reservations, as to the difficulties, not all of which have been mentioned, even if our chosen DIY model was good value and looked good.
I took over a summer. I admit I have always been “slow.” It’s the first thing both my primary and secondary school reports noticed about me.
Dorothys front garden in flower.
Table of contents.
Dorothy Cowlin was the greenest of socialists, not only a long-time supporter of CND, but also Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
Back in the 1930s, she had been a member of the Peace Adventurers, a junior branch of the League of Nations.
In the 2000s, in her 90s, perhaps her last deed, as an activist, was to collect signatures for a CND petition, for an international forum on dismantling all nuclear weapons.
CND also made a good case against nuclear power.
Life on earth cannot be guaranteed. An unlucky asteroid might end it. Climatic instability, such as the greenhouse effect, even turning the earth to another Venus, is not impossible, for all we know. I early reported a few of such warnings, repeated in my book, Science and Democracy reviews. But I have never dared express an opinion on global warming or climate change.
Nobody knows for sure how homeostatic is the weather system. There have been drastic alterations in previous eras, like the reversal of the Gulf stream, which if suddenly repeated, would cause huge problems. The scientific consensus seems to be that politicians must act to limit global temperature rise.
Man-induced climate change may be An Inconvenient Truth. But it is not the only one. Al Gore himself says that “democracy has been hacked.” He suggests that the Internet is an answer to that. Indeed, I would guess that if humanity dies, it is more likely to die by dishonesty than anything else.
Given climatic instability, such as drought, deforestation and flooding, from temperature rise, a key factor is evidently human over-population over-taxing natural resources and depriving other species, as well, of their environments. This has been called The Sixth Extinction. Only for the sixth time, in the life of planet Earth, has there been so serious a loss of biotic diversity, as caused by the spread of humanity, driving other species to extinction.
It frequently happens in nature that when the population of a species explodes, the imbalance it creates from the lack of resources to sustain them, results in a catastrophic crash in numbers.
In humanitys case, a resulting conflict over resources, resulting in general weakness and inability to stave off diseases, could further cause devastating epidemics or pandemics. This would be further complicated by the implications of technological warfare.
Nuclear weapons and nuclear power remain perhaps the biggest known threat to life on earth. The civilian nuclear industry began and remains a military accessory. A genuinely civilian atomic energy plant, that cannot be exploited for military purposes, not causing unsolved chronic waste containment problems, has never come into commercial operation.
The reason for this is the governing human priority that the power of death comes before the power to sustain life. The likely outcome is that this priority will be realised, and Earth turned into a dead planet.
The national nuclear powers are following the commercial incentive to export their pretend-civilian nuclear power to other nations, pretending not to use it for nuclear weapons. Tho, this has always been the route taken, from the Manhattan Project onwards. Britain secretly developed nuclear weapons independently thru its pretend-civilian nuclear power development.
Harold Macmillan kept secret the Windscale reactor catching fire and spreading radioactive pollution.
The current Cameron-Osborne government, judging by its wildly uncommercial obsession with more atom plant build, and its determination to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent, is following the same secretive and dishonest plan of nuclear weapons with a pretend-civilian nuclear power accessory.
According to Enenews, the American presidency secretly and illegally was responsible for giving Japan nuclear weapons, under cover of their nuclear power program. I have not heard this claim, either confirmed or denied. But it is consistent with the general pattern of nuclear proliferation, that makes more likely catastrophic nuclear pollution of the planet.
Even a conventional war, that happened to destroy the atom plants, spreading all over the planet like mushrooms, would effectively amount to a nuclear war. With or without a war at all, they are prospective terrorist targets, as a specially called international convention has already admitted.
Even a regional nuclear war, which would be liable to escalate, anyway, could be sufficient to shroud the Earth in a Nuclear Winter. The fall-out would not only poison growing-land and drinking-water. It would not only result in a global Bhopal from the firing of the immense chemical industry. The chronic blotting out of the sun would mean there would be no harvests, no food, no warmth, to stay alive.
Dorothy Cowlin would send me cuttings from the Guardian. Below, I include a few extracts, against nuclear weapons and nuclear power. These are from the Guardian online Comment Is Free, by lesserflorican, bertforby, ratherbered, and democracyscience (me).
These are a tiny sample, scarcely the first word, let alone the last word on the subject. In any case, one cannot put a generous amount of public domain material, in what is actually a joint book by Dorothy Cowlin and myself.
One could become very well-informed on many subjects, by drawing on CIF. The trouble is separating the wheat from the chaff, while learning by hearing all sides of an argument.
Military reactors have never produced enough plutonium for all the West’s nuclear warheads. The UK and the US got around the treaty that prohibits use of civil-produced plutonium in nuclear weapons by each exporting their nuclear “waste” to the other for re-processing.
The UK also breached its international treaty obligations by refusing to allow the IAEA to inspect that part of Sellafield where military and civil nuclear “waste” was processed, supposedly in parallel but separately.
To be weapons-grade, plutonium must contain a minimum proportion of Pu-239. That decays over time, and the military can no longer be confident that existing warheads still contain enough Pu-239 to be effective, hence the need for fresh supplies, and new power stations…
Read: Defended To Death, Gwyn Prins (ed), Penguin, 1983.
Nuclear is a dinosaur technology and and ripe for extinction. It’s unsafe, borne out by Fukushima and Chernobyl.
It’s too expensive especially when you factor in the decommissioning costs, into the overall calculation, (rarely done).
Nuclear is far from CO2 neutral, when you include, Uranium processing, mining, transportation, grid maintenance, buildings etc. etc.
A better, far better solution would involve building straw bale homes. Enough straw to build 200,000 three bedroom homes every year is currently dumped by farmers and left to rot on the land. Combined with systems of permaculture, sustainable hydroponic aquaculture, local DC grids (much more efficient), Water harvesting, and full spectrum LED lighting, and local food production grids. These systems are proven safe, cheap and environmentally sustainable.
The efficiency savings from heating would be 75% per year, per house and of course the houses themselves would be totality biodegradable fireproofed with lime rendering along with massive improvements to sound proofing and humidity control.
However, in my opinion the biggest energy breakthroughs are going to come from, hydrogen fuel cell technology. (Water energy) and artificial photosynthesis along with electro chemical fuel cells. This technology is almost ready to be released and in development by many countries. Along with imminent breakthroughs from battery storage technology. This is going to cause a worldwide revolution…
Editor: We always hear about these technical revolutions just round the corner. Let’s not forget that electronic books, being about to take-over, got them laughed-at for decades. Now they are here, after all.
From a long post on government sabotage of renewables to stand up the oil, gas and nuclear industries:
As for new nuclear – Hinkley won’t generate before 2025 at the earliest and other nuclear plants are even further behind. Hinkley is only ‘viable’ for investors because the Government has offered a guarantee that the national grid will buy its electricity at £95 / MWh index linked, when the current wholesale electricity price is below £50/ MWh.
The Government says it is necessary to do this to give investors confidence to invest and the predicted return on investment is more than 10%. Contrast this with Solar PV where DECC are concocting huge cuts and removing guarantees that subsidies will even remain in place for the period previously promised…
No man is good enough to be another mans master.
Centralised power is in the interests of the center. It has no regard for anyone else now or in the future.
Hence, British and French governments, with the arrogance of power, build these nuclear catastrophes waiting to happen. Or in the case of Chernobyl and Fukushima, these catastrophes already have started to happen and require ever-lasting international effort to put-off the consequences.
To serve the people requires a democratic reform of society.
Table of contents
Dorothy the maker made a maker of me.
Dates and Dorothy
He’s A Good Dog.” (He just doesn’t like you to laf.)
In The Meadow Of Night
I described (some of) the comedy of errors that got me onto a social science degree course. My state of mind was too backward and unimaginative to make good use of this youthful opportunity. Nearly 20 years later, still somewhat inept, I had another stroke of luck. This also came about in a comical way. A day or two before the 1987 general election, I went to attend a Liberal candidate speech. In the Liberal club, I blundered into the wrong meeting. This turned out to be a writers group.
In the interval, I was approached by an elderly woman. I remember her asking what my politics were. I said I was independent. She seemed heartened by this. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that was to last over 22 years. I suppose that I met her for no longer than the time taken by a full-time three-year course. But it’s much less pleasant to have ones education crammed in to one for an examination.
Dorothy was like having a personal tutor for a friend. She was a tireless critic of my writings. In the early 1990s, the Labour Party produced a report on electoral systems. Dorothy came from a Labour family and she provided me with an introduction, as well as a time-consuming commentary on my submission.
She made the biggest impression as a poet. There is an aloneness about Dorothys poems that puts me right in her place. Her poems of the Keltic wildernesses are the most obvious examples. When my time is done, these poems might speak for me.
In the sixth form, I had a good English literature course, the bulk of which was classical poetry: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Webster, Milton, John Donne, Herbert and other metaphysical poets, Wordsworth, and Hopkins, that precursor of the moderns. It was not the sort of literature that I had wanted to read in my late teens. It did not occur to me that poetry was something that I might write. It was just exam fodder, or I was just exam fodder, and wasted on me, who knew nothing of life, stuck in school-rooms all day.
After leaving college, I tried write some traditional poetry, without any knowledge of the 20th-century poetry, which I hadn’t studied. I gave-up trying to write poetry at 30. A decade later, it was a revelation to read Dorothys poems and, what is more, hear how she read them to an audience. Dorothy wrote traditional nature poetry in modern free verse. Knowing Dorothy, I could see that these poems were an expression of her personality. They were relaxed and reflective and usually had some point to them. They were Dorothy.
Dorothy also went to a poetry group and had taken me, one evening. I provoked laughter, by reading one of Dorothys poems. I suppose the laughter was to rub-in that Dorothy was not famous enough to be so distinguished.
After that, I stopped going. And it would be a year or two before Dorothy told me to go again. She also crossly said not to read her poems; they all laughed and she didn’t like it!
Shall I compare Dorothy to a summers day? There were occasional thunderstorms. They were impressive, while they lasted, but you knew they would soon blow over.
This contrasts sharply with those temperaments, on which anger seems to have settled like an ice age.
I soon realised that I was only conscripted to the poetry group because of falling membership. The irony was that my belief in Dorothys work gradually infected everyone else, until they came to share my conviction that Dorothy was one of the best poets in the country. The fact that she nearly always won our little groups poetry competition trophy also helped.
And Dorothy won Yorkshire tv competition for poet laureate of the north.
I am pleased to say that, later still, I was also the means to getting a poem by Dorothy noticed nationly.
Dorothy didn’t just teach me poetry by example. She was a rambler and knew all the out-of-the-way places in our district. We must have gone for one or two hundred outings together. They inspired our poems. She brought me back to the countryside of my childhood. I re-worked my earliest memories.
She paraded, before me, all the sights that imagination needs to be able to work on. Poetry, like science, needs experience and imagination. It is well known that poetry is debased because people don’t realise that, like every other activity, it is a skill that requires practice.
Science is about learning to think. People may think that they think but in fact it also depends on much practice. Scientists are imagined to be laboratory technicians in white coats. It is true that the bulk of science is remotely specialist from anything that most of us could hope to do. But essentially a scientist is only someone who has learned how to think, tho the thinking tends to become specialised.
In my 40s, Dorothy inspired me to want to write many beautiful poems. Few of them really come-off and one never seems to have written enough.
Till then, science and ethics or the true and the good had preoccupied me. As a thinker, I was something of a two-dimensional card-board cut-out, until Dorothy showed me the third dimension of beauty.
The evening I first met Dorothy, I heard her mention in conversation the influence of Thomas Hardy. There is the same country remoteness, and a secular pessimism combined with a dour kindness. Dorothys poems give the impression of as lonely a person as myself. That and my own farm-land infancy explain their attraction to me.
That, in itself, wouldn’t be enough without Dorothys unique qualities. Thomas Hardy was a reticent man but he did once say that his life story was in his poems. I don’t think I could say that about Dorothy because she was a more sociable and popular person than her poems would lead you to believe. Perhaps companionship is too prosy to make much good poetry.
It is profoundly true, especially of my earliest years, that my life is in my poems. Before Hardy, Wordsworth made natural a poetry of rural toil, rather than the professionals holidays or court affairs of state.
Otherwise, I drew on further experiences, as one must, tho too literal an interpretation would be misleading. I respect the kitchen sink dramas. My sixth form literature syllabus included contemporary plays. A teacher took us thru Arnold Wesker and something of the Angry Young Men.
Most – not all – of the worst things would get left out of my poems, and much else put in!
The first volume is mainly traditional nature poetry.
(160 poems, including longer narrative verse in section three.)
The nature poet Dorothy Cowlin reconnected me with my rural origins. Many of the poems, about animals and birds and the environs, could never have been written without her companionship.
The unity of themes, especially across the first two sections, as well as within the third section, makes this volume my most strongly constructed collection. I guess most people would think it my best. Moreover, there is something for all ages here.
1. How we lived for thousands of years.
Dorothy thought my best poems were those of the farming grand-father, the Valesman.
2. Flash-backs from the early train.
More memories of early childhood on the farm and first year at the village school.
Narrative verse about boyish pranks and prat-falls.
4. Oyh! Old Yorkshire Holidays.
Features playtime aspects of old rural and sea-side Yorkshire.
Book two begins with eight-chapter review of works, plus list of publications & prizes by Dorothy Cowlin.
(Seven of these chapters are currently freely available as web pages.)
This second volume continues with the second instalment of my own poems, classed as life and love poetry.
The Dates are historical and romantic plus the friendship of Dorothy and the romance of religion.
169 poems plus two short essays.
Prelude: review of Dorothy Cowlin.
Dates, historical and romantic, and Dorothy:
2. the Dorothy poems.
3. loves loneliness loves company.
4. the romance of religion.
The hidden influence of Dorothy, in the first volume, shows in this second volume. The first two sections were written mostly after she died. Thus, the first section, Dates, reads like a count-down before meeting her, in the second section, as prentice poet.
She was warmly responsive to the romantic lyrics of the third section. This was reassuring because some originated in my twenties. (I gave-up writing formal poetry during my thirties, to all practical purposes. There were only about three exceptions.) These surviving early poems, like most of my out-put, under-went intensive revision.
The fourth section probably stems from the importance attached to religion at primary school. Here humanitarian Dorothys influence only slightly made itself felt by her liking to visit churches.
The prelude review of Dorothy as a professional writer is freely available, at present, on my website: Poetry and novels of Dorothy Cowlin.
Nearly all the text is there, except a preface and last section, which I didnt upload before losing access to the site in 2007.
The fotos, I took of Dorothy, are published for the first time.
The continued availability of my Dorothy Cowlin website is not guaranteed, so I welcome this opportunity to publish my literary review of her work, as an extra to volume 2.
The third volume is a miscellaneous collection of 163 poems/pieces, making-up sections, one, three and four, with the arts and politics the strongest themes, as well as themes found in other volumes. There is also a story in section one, and a final short essay.
1. with children
2. or animals
3. never act
4. the political malaise
5. the lost
6. short essay:
Proportional Representation for peace-making power-sharing.
The first section includes a sort of verse novela and dramatic poem with an eye on the centenary of the First World War. The idea stemmed from an incident related by Dorothy Cowlin (yet again). Her uncle was stopped flying a kite on the beach, because he might be signaling to the enemy battle fleet.
In this miscellany, previous themes appear, such as children, animals and birds. Verse on the arts comes in. I organised these poems on the WC Fields principle: Never act with children or animals.
The fourth section collects political satires from over the years. The fifth section reflects on loneliness.
This volume is classed as of “presentatives” because largely about politics and the arts, with politicians acting like performing artists or representatives degenerating into presentatives on behalf of the few rather than the many.
However, the title poem, He’s a good dog…, hints how eccentric and resistent to classification is this third volume. This title poem is based on a true war-time air incident. The good dog is also derived from a true dog, whose own story is told in the poem, the bleat dog (in volume 1).
The fourth volume is of 160 poems and three short stories on the theme of progress or lack of it.
part one: allure.
The allure of astronomy and the glamor of the stars.
part two: endeavor.
The romance and the terror of the onset of the space age and the cold war.
part three: fate.
An uncertain future of technologies and possible dystopias. Ultimate questions of reality.
This fourth volume is of SF poetry. SF stands for science fiction, or, more recently, speculative fiction. The verse ranges from hard science to fantasy.
This literary tradition of HG Wells and other futurists exert a strong influence.
Otherwise, I have followed my own star, neither of my nature poet friends, Dorothy and Nikki, having a regard for SF poetry.
Yet science fiction poetry is a continuation of nature poetry by other means.
This may be my most imaginative collection. Its very diversity discourages summary.
Volume 5 opens with a play about the most radical of us all, Mother Teresa: If the poor are on the moon…
This is freely available, for the time being, on my website: Poetry and novels of Dorothy Cowlin. (Performers are asked to give author royalties to the Mother Teresa Mission of Charity.)
The previously unpublished content consists largely of fairly long verse monologs, starting with artistic radicals, in “The dream flights of Berlioz and Sibelius,” which is a sequence of The Impresario Berlioz, and The Senses of Sibelius.
Next, the intellectual radical, Sigmund Freud, followed by short poems on a sprinkling of more great names, who no doubt deserved longer. (Art is long, life is short.)
The title sequence, Radical! is made-up of verse about John Stuart Mill, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells, George Orwell and JB Priestley.
Volume five ends with an environmental collection, some drafts of it, currently available on my websites (mainly: Poetry and novels of Dorothy Cowlin).
Should that website close down, I hope the green verses and the Mother Teresa play can still be obtained in this volume five.
Published on 3rd august 2014.
Free from Shakespir.
[Published on 2nd september 2014.
Available from Shakespir here. (Reader-sets-price.)
Published on 14 november 2014.
From Shakespir. here
Available from Shakespir here.
Available from Shakespir here. (Reader-sets-price.)
If you read and enjoy any of these books, please post on-line a review of why you liked the work.
[My website: Democracy Science.
has current URL or web address:]
_While preparing this series, I have made minor changes to arrangement and content of the material, so the descriptions of companion volumes, at the end of each book, might not always quite tally. _
Table of contents.
Literary Liberties with reality allow us to do the impossible of being other people, from all over the world. Our imagined other lives make the many worlds theory a fact thru fiction.
This book of books or illustrated reviews span fiction, faction and non-fiction.
It goes some way to substantiate the belief of Benedetto Croce that history is the history of liberty.
I only wrote of books that I appreciated, so that I could pass on that appreciation to others. It must be admitted that I went with novels that looked over horizons confined to family values. (Family is, of course, a basic trial of liberty, compromised by obligations to partner and children.)
Likewise, these reviews themselves need not be bounded by the horizons of literary criticism but reach out to solutions for the problem novel or the non-fiction book with a cause.
In promoting others writings, I hoped to promote my own, any-way, the liberal values that inform my writings. It took a lot more preparation than I had anticipated. This is usually the case with my books.
Literary Liberties is the first of a short series of Commentaries. This author also has a Democracy Science series. The series of Collected Verse was the first to be completed.
As they separately pursue their shared ethic of progress, scientific research and democratic reform conduct themselves as two different journeys, both here followed, as the evidence mounts that they depend on each other to meet the stresses that survival poses.
Works reviewed and studied here include the following.
The physicist, John Davidson under-took an epic investigation into the mystic meaning of Jesuses teachings, as for our other-worldly salvation, supplemented by a revelation in non-canonic texts of the gnostics.
The Life and Struggles of William Lovett, 1876 autobiography of the “moral force” Chartist and author of the famous six points for equal representation.
Organiser who anticipated the peace and cultural initiatives of the UN, such as UNESCO.
Jill Liddington: Rebel Girls. Largely new historical evidence for the role especially of working women in Yorkshire campaigning for the suffrage.
“How the banks robbed the world” is an abridged description of the BBC2 program explanation of the fraud in corporate finance, that destroys public investments.
David Craig and Matthew Elliott: Fleeced!
How we’ve been betrayed by the politicians, bureaucrats and bankers and how much they’ve cost us.
The political system fails the eco-system.
Green warnings, over the years, by campaigners and the media, and the hope for grass roots reforms.
From Paul Harrison, how expensively professionalised services deprive the poor of even their most essential needs. And the developed countries are over-strained, on this account, drawing-in trained people from deprived countries.
Why society should deprofessionalise basic skills important for peoples most essential needs, whether in the third world or the “over-developed” countries.
The sixth extinction
Richard Leakey and other experts on how mankind is the agent of destruction for countless life forms including possibly itself, in the sixth mass extinction, that planet earth has endured in its history. Why world politicians must work together to counter the effects of global warming.
On a topic where science and democracy have not harmonised, a few essays from 2006 to 2010, after “nuclear croneyism” infested New Labour and before Japans tsunami-induced chronic nuclear pollution. There’s a 2015 after-word.
Some women scientists who should have won nobel prizes.
Lise Meitner, Madame Wu, Rosalind Franklin and Jocelyn Bell, Alice Stewart, to name some. Reading of their work in popular science accounts led me, by chance, to think they deserved nobel prizes; no feminist program at work here.
Julian Barbour: The End Of Time.
Applying the Mach principle, to an external frame-work of Newtonian absolute space and time, both in classical physics and to Schrödinger wave equation of quantum mechanics, by which the universe is made properly self-referential, as a timeless “relative configuration space” or Platonia.
Murray Gell-Mann: The Quark and the Jaguar.
Themes, including complex systems analysis, which the reviewer illustrates by voting methods.
Brian Greene: The Elegant Universe.
Beyond point particle physics to a theory of “strings” that may under-lie the four known forces of nature, and its material constituents, thru super-symmetry, given that the “super-strings,” as such, are allowed to vibrate, their characteristic particle patterns, in extra hidden dimensions of space.
Brian Greene: The Hidden Reality.
A survey of the more extravagant physics theories that have invoked many worlds or a multiverse..
Lee Smolin: Three roads to quantum gravity.
Reviewing the other two roads (besides string theory) namely black hole cosmology and loop quantum gravity. All three approaches are converging on a discrete view of space and time, in basic units, on the Planck scale. General relativitys space-time continuum is being quantised, rather as nineteenth century thermo-dynamics of continuous radiation was quantised.
Lee Smolin: the trouble with physics.
Impatience with the remoteness of string theory and hope for progress from theories with more experimental predictions. How to make research more effective. Smolin on a scientific ethic. Reviewer criticises the artificial divide academics make between science and ethics.
Dates And Dorothy was a literary appreciation of the professional writer, traveler, nature walker, and poet, combined with my second book of verse, that includes the story of our friendship. My second book, about Dorothy, is a memorial, she graces. by speaking thru letters to me, as well as assessments of this writer, she made into a maker and aided as a reformer.
In widowhood, she yet became companionable and widely liked. Her quiet and sunny disposition held in reserve a deeply serious nature.
If and when time allows, I may gather a final note-book, consisting largely of tables, graphs and diagrams, too large to conveniently include for e-book readers…
Table of contents.
The Democracy Science series of books, by Richard Lung, also is edited and renovated from this authors material on the Democracy Science web-site.
The first, of two books on voting method, has more to do with electoral reform. (The second is more about electoral research.)
“Peace-making Power-sharing” features new approaches to electoral reform, like the Canadian Citizens Assemblies and referendums. I followed and took part in the Canadian debate from before the assemblies were set-up, right thru the referendums.
This was a democratic tragedy and an epic in the dashing of idealistic hopes.
Some developments in America are reviewed.
The anarchy of voting methods, from the power struggle in Britain, is investigated over a century of ruling class resistance to electoral reform.
A penultimate chapter gives the simplest way to explain transferable voting, on to the more formal treatment of a small club election.
The last chapter is the earliest extant version of my work on scientific measurement of elections (in French).
The previous book had a last chapter in French, which is the earliest surviving version of the foundation of this sequel, Scientific Method of Elections. I base voting method on a widely accepted logic of measurement, to be found in the sciences. This is supported by reflections on the philosophy of science.
The more familiar approach, of judging voting methods by (questionable) selections of basic rules or criteria, is critically examined.
This author is a researcher, as well as a reformer, and my innovations of Binomial STV and the Harmonic Mean quota are explained.
This second book has more emphasis on electoral research, to progress freedom thru knowledge.
Two great pioneers of electoral reform are represented here, in speeches (also letters) of John Stuart Mill on parliamentary reform (obtained from Hansard on-line). And there is commentary and bibliography of HG Wells on proportional representation (mainly).
Official reports of British commissions on election systems are assessed. These reports are of Plant, Jenkins, Kerley, Sunderland, Arbuthnott, Richard, and (Helena Kennedy) Power report.
The work begins with a short history on the sheer difficulty of genuine electoral reform. The defeat of democracy is also a defeat for science. Freedom and knowledge depend on each other.
Therein is the remedy.
Political elections, that absorbed the first two books in this series, are only the tip of the iceberg, where choice is concerned. Book three takes an electoral perspective on the social sciences and natural sciences, from physics to metaphysics of a free universe within limits of determinism and chance.
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Table of contents.
A gentle and generous soul, with a quiet and sunny disposition, well liked by many, and more radical than most, a deeply serious human being, with an over-worked conscience, who I once told was a monster of honesty. This was Dorothy, the solace of the friendless, the maker, who made a maker out of me, in her own letters, unshadowed by thoughts of publication. I collected her correspondence into a bag, serving as a lucky dip of presents from the past. She loved writing, as she loved walking, to refreshing effect! Nature-love letters of Dorothy Cowlin: That wouldn't be a bad title for the spirit of Dorothys writing to me, together with careful travel arrangements, and her other passions for family and the arts, and holidays. As editor and commentator, here is my second book about this remarkable woman. The first book about my friend started with an appreciation of the professional writer, traveler, nature walker, and poet, that begins the title: Dates and Dorothy. It was based on several letters reviewing her novels, possibly as early as 1987, as well as 1988, just before her own letters, recorded here. My literary assessment was combined with my second book of verse, that includes the story of our friendship. More information on this novelist is in the Wikipedia entry: Dorothy Cowlin.