Today would have been the 107th birthday of Dylan Thomas, one of the finest writers (for me, perhaps, the finest) of the generation before mine.
Thomas was very popular when I was a boy and I was lucky enough to be in two different productions of “Under Milk Wood“, as well as doing a solo turn reciting large sections of “A Child’s Christmas“. For decades, at least into my 40s, much of my own work was highly derivative of Thomas’ style, with aggregations of melodious adjectives cascading through the sing-song lilt of a Welshman speaking English.
He was a master poet, able to craft the most exquisite sonnets and villanelles, difficult forms to manage, concerning both the ordinary and extraordinary things of life and death. “The Force That Through The Green Fuse“, “Fern Hill“, and his paean to his father’s death, “Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night“, are sublime beyond measure..
His mastery of prose was equally fine, shown best in “A Child’s Christmas In Wales” which needs to be heard as read by the poet himself.
And then there is the extraordinary masterpiece, the radio play “Under Milk Wood“.in which Thomas’ talent, both as a writer and as an observer of rambunctious village life, are shown to the full. If you can get a chance to listen to the Richard Burton version, then that is an experience not soon forgotten.
Thomas didn’t think much of being Welsh, let’s be frank about it. And in just a couple of weeks we will celebrate the 68th anniversary of his sorry and inebriated death at the early age of 39. But he was an original, a genius, and I suspect he got more out of his 39 years than most of us do with three-score-and-ten.
Tonight I cooked a wonderfully spicy mushroom cream sauce with rotini. Delicious!
Many of you will know that the City of Vancouver is developing a city-wide Plan for future zoning and development; this is the Vancouver Plan.
The next stage of this Plan includes a series of “neighbourhood” open houses. For Grandview, our sessions are scheduled for:
- 8th November between 6:00pm and 7:30pm
- 9th November between 10:00am and 11:30am
You can register at the Eventbrite site.
Given the way that the City of Vancouver is actively limiting or eliminating public consultation on many developments — and forcing through individual projects in advance that should be subject to the Vancouver Plan — these workshops may be one of the few occasions on which you can at least try to make your voice heard on the future of our city.
Therefore, I encourage everyone to register and attend whatever session makes sense for you.
The woman with crow’s feet wrinkles
and smeared makeup
unfolded the billfold
removing the twenties and leaving the fives
— she had doubled her money and was willing
to leave him
cab fare home.
She waited a minute,
sharp ears listening to the spattering rain
and the flight of an early flock
flying north for the summer.
Slipping on the plastic green raincoat
she slipped out of the room,
leaving him undisturbed
in the empty barn
of his sex-sodden dreams.
According to the calculations of Archbishop Usher of Armargh, today is the earth’s birthday. His calculations led him to believe that God created the world on October 23rd, 4004 BC.
Now, there are those who say his math is wrong, but let’s not quibble on our birthday!
Exciting new research has proven that Norse explorers were cutting timber in L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, in the year 1021, exactly one thousand years ago.
Since the settlers’ village was discovered in the 1960s, it has been known that Norse sailors reached the continent around the turn of the first millennium, and the date of 1000 AD is often used as a reasonable estimate. However, a new technique of tree-ring counting has provided a precise date of 1021 for at least three pieces of felled timber at the site.
The new method uses evidence of a solar flare that occurred in 993; a flare that has been found to have affected tree rings all over the world. Counting out from that date to the bark left on the discarded wood provides the exact date on which it was cut — 1021 AD. Other marks on the wood show that they were cut with metal tools, which local indigenous peoples did not have at that date.
“It adds some intrigue,” says John Steinberg, an anthropologist at the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “If the Vikings left Greenland around 1000, as the sagas suggest, L’Anse aux Meadows was occupied at least sporadically for perhaps 20 years, rather than just three years as has been assumed. On the other hand, it may be that it was only occupied for three years but those years were 15 years later than we thought.” Steinberg raises another possibility as well—that the Vikings went back and forth between Greenland and Vinland more commonly than has been believed.”
For historians studying an event that is best known from old sagas and legendary tales, achieving such precision in dating is a grand achievement.
Twelve years ago today, I was called into my boss’s office and told that I was being laid off.
The locally-owned company where I had worked for a good many years had been taken over by a larger American group earlier that year, and they wanted to put their own people into senior management positions. I wasn’t the first or even fourth senior manager to be sent packing, and I had expected this meeting all through the summer. I was almost sixty years old and bored with working for someone else. When the hammer fell, I was greatly relieved and happily accepted the generous severance pay they offered.
Luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the first part of my enforced retirement. I was keen to write a history of Commercial Drive and over the next fifteen months, that’s what I did. Along with this I helped establish the Grandview Heritage Group which kept me busy and interested. At the same time, I wanted to become a lot more involved in local politics, knowing that a Community Plan was about to be thrust upon us. Any regular reader of this blog will know that I was and remain deeply involved in those matters to this day.
The Community Plan experience led to my third book Battleground: Grandview which was published last November,
So, I have been busy these last twelve years. But the genuine sense of freedom has been the really exhilarating feeling. I wake up when I want, dress in whatever I want, spend time with the Everloving, cook, take long luxurious naps, read, write, and relax. We certainly don’t have the money we had when I was working, but we get by OK, and I’ll swap the money for such freedom any day.
It has been a grand twelve years, and I quietly thank my old firm for laying me off when they did.
Quietly intimate now, after, still linked by a fast-fading bridge, the lovers lie languorous in each other’s arms. No breeze disturbs their passion-spent rest, no gusts sway the torn cotton covering of the small window set high in the adobe wall. Slashes of sunlight cut across their tanned and sweated bodies like rivers of gold, like segments of ripe orange.
Outside, the bleaching sun blazes down against the white wall made nearly invisible by the glare, while the black square of the window stares unblinking, like an eye refusing to surrender to the torturer’s gaze. For the desperate starling, parched and exhausted from its fruitless search, the dark-stained block appears a refuge from the sun’s incessant heat, and it alights on the sill, moving swiftly into the recessed shadow.
Cooler now and rested, the young starling, ever inquisitive, explores beyond the shadow, pushing its head through a gap in the thin drapes. Beneath him lies a world of welcome gloom, a map of shadows, an atlas of unfamiliar forms. With barely a glance behind him into the suffocating heat of day, the bird leaps through the curtain into the mote-speckled room that beckons with the image of a forest clearing.
Gliding silently through the heavy air, the young explorer slowly circles the room, unsure now of his direction but certain of his desires. Seeking water, he sees it in the golden sparkling streams that gently rise and fall with slow and certain regularity. He swoops and, landing on what he has no vocabulary to call a thigh, he quickly pecks at the glistening skin.
The meetings are by invitation only for what they describe as the “stakeholders”. Apparently, neither Grandview Woodland Area Council nor any of the community activists who have devoted so much volunteer time on this project are considered “stakeholders”.
The meetings are on Wednesday 27th October, one from 3-5pm and the other from 6-8pm, at the Cultch.
I urge anyone and everyone concerned about this neighbourhood-altering project to write to Virginia@pottingerbird.com as soon as possible and politely ask for an invitation, noting your concern as a local stakeholder.
Today is the 55th anniversary of one of the saddest days of my young life. A rain-soaked and ill-sited colliery spoil tip that loomed over the south Wales village of Aberfan collapsed, burying houses and a school, killing 116 children and 28 adults. Lessons had just begun for the morning when the 34m tip spilled 140,000 cubic yards of spoil into the village.
I didn’t know any of the victims, and had not even heard of the village until that morning. But I remember weeping as the news came over the radio, and I am tearing up now as I type this.
The National Coal Board and several employees were found to be responsible and money was raised. But nothing could replace the lives that were lost due to management’s callous disregard for public safety.
The Royal Meteorological Society have announced the 2021 winners of their Weather Photograph of the Year award. Top prize went to Giulio Montini:
The public favourite was:
Winner in the Mobile Phone category was: