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Showing posts from February, 2020


Perhaps it was the result of a long and fraught few months. Perhaps I was just tired. But I came home from Sam Mendes' movie, 1917 ,  hardly able to speak or to articulate my feelings about it. But a week later, and some time to think and I'm a little more cogent, at least to myself. I know something about the First World War, or at least, I am as conversant as a lifetime of books and films and documentaries would allow me to be. I had a few relatives who served, but none who ever talked much about it, so my imagination of what it might be like - on a personal level - for the millions of Tommies and Jerries who suffered through it was, I now realise,  limited. Sam Mendes rectified that. The movie tells a fairly simple, linear story. Lance Corporal Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) is serving in the trenches of France in April, 1917 when, because all communication lines have been cut,  he is ordered to take a message to the commanding officer of another regiment, in orde

Innocence and Experience

William Blake's earliest works include his short book of poems Songs of Innocence and Experience . These were originally printed separately ( Songs of Innocence 1789 and Songs of Experience 1794) and contain illustrations made using Blake's innovative printing methods.   The two short books were combined because they belong together, illuminating as they do two states of human consciousness. In writing them, Blake was reacting to the mythical dualism of Milton's Paradise Lost , which Blake greatly admired. Rather than following the pattern of Creation and Fall , Blake perceived the human condition to be a tension between two states, Innocence and Experience which worked in a dynamic tension in each human soul. The two states are portrayed in the book by pairs of contrasting poems. So, in the Book of Innocence we have the poem, The Lamb : Little Lamb who made thee           Dost thou know who made thee  Gave thee life & bid thee feed.  By the strea


We sit on the park bench under the pergola. He is eating a bag of potato chips and his big sister is playing on the swings. "Are they good, Teddy?" I ask, by way of conversation. He nods, imperceptibly, the faintest inclination of his head, which says "Good is hardly the word. These things are absolutely delicious. Never, in all my years, all two of them, have I tasted anything as great as these." He spontaneously holds one up for me. He's that sort of kid. Too soon the packet is finished. "Teddy go on swing now," he says, more by way of information giving than of request. He gives me the empty bag, jumps down off the seat and makes his way towards the swings, which involves him clambering across a row of large stones. I turn to put the packet into the trashcan when his voice rings out with increasing urgency, "Papa," he calls. "PAPA!" I run to him, imagining that he has somehow fallen and got stuck or, maybe, hurt himse