As a young child, I was sometimes woken up when it was barely light, to go off with my mother mushrooming on the decommissioned RAF airfield near our house. Blackberrying was for late summer, always, and rosehips for autumn, when the entire village school would spend afternoons gathering rosehips for Delrosa to turn into rosehip syrup (‘Whaddya mean, slave labour? The best pickers got a tin badge to keep!’). Later, in France, we added wild asparagus, wild cherries, mushrooms, walnuts, chestnuts and sloes to our Free Food bonanza. It’s made me a seasonal eater. I love it when the seasons announce that we have a different food to add to our diet, for a few weeks only. Fresh peas straight from the pod! The newest and smallest potatoes! Discovery apples in August! And in winter, these same foods, bottled and preserved give us a different pleasure – a memory of summer, but presented in a comforting, warming way: plum jam to spread on toast after a brisk winter walk; walnuts stirred into the soon-to-be steamed Christmas pudding; a nip of sloe gin on the coldest of days.
Nature’s had a habit of giving us the right foods for the right season. It’s a modern idea to expect strawberries in November. asparagus in September. All that anticipation, all that enjoyment of a food made special, distinctive by its very limited season has gone. If we listen, we can hear Nature telling us to get back in touch with the way things always used to be. Then we can get rid of all those unnecessary Air Miles too.
This week’s Tanka Tuesday asks us to write on the theme of Lessons from Nature. I’ve chosen the Shadorma form to illustrate what I’ve just been talking about. Mirabelles by the way are rarely seen in the shops. They’re small plums, yellow or rosy pink.
For the last month, I’ve sometimes been a bit grumpy in the evening. It’s the same every year. The longest day comes … and then goes. And inexorably, the days get shorter and I’m reminded that winter’s on its way. I enjoy the season: the gaunt skeletal outlines of trees, the chill in the air. But I really don’t like the short days and the endlessly long nights that come with winter.
So when this week’s #Tanka Tuesday issued the challenge to write a syllabic poem entitled The Longest Day, I knew exactly what to write about, and chose to use the nonet form: a nine-line poem, that goes from 9 syllables in the first line, down to one in the last line.
My favourite station in the UK is Saint Pancras International. It’s a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture and must be England’s most elegant place from which to start a journey. It was opened in 1862, and one of its glories is its immense single span iron roof , designed by William Barlow. That wonderful facade, which includes the Midland Hotel, was designed by Gilbert Scott, and this is what you’ll see as you approach, and then wander among all the fairly up-market shops which line the concourse these days. It’s such a treat just to wander round admiring the structure, listening to travellers chatting in French as they accustom themselves to their English surroundings. Here’s a little gallery to give you as taste of the handsome brickwork, the charming attention to detail.
What a shock, then, to find yourself suddenly facing this statue, The Meeting Place. some 9 metres high. Designed by Paul Day and unveiled in 2007, it’s intended to encapsulate the romance of travel.
This weekend’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge invites us to use a photo of this work as a prompt for a piece of Ekphrastic Poetry (if this is a new one on you, as it was to me, you’ll find out what it is if if you follow the link). For the challenge, it has to be in syllabic form, so I chose Prime Verse. And I think my feelings about this work may be clear…