Categories
Miscellaneous writing

Night Mail

This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,

Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.

Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient’s against her, but she’s on time.

Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,

Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from bushes at her blank-faced coaches.

Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.

In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in a bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens, Her climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends,
Towards the steam tugs yelping down a glade of cranes
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In dark glens, beside pale-green lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers’ declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep,
Dreaming of terrifying monsters
Or of friendly tea beside the band in Cranston’s or Crawford’s:

Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
But shall wake soon and hope for letters,
And none will hear the postman’s knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

W. H. Auden 1936

Categories
Miscellaneous writing

Into the infinite Michael Collins

On clear nights, whenever I have the chance, I like to look at the sky. At stars whose names I know not; the Southern Cross whose location continues to perplex; at planets whose orbits remain a mystery to me. To look with thrilling hope I may spot a shooting star or, and for this I have an app, the International Space Station blinking as it chases through the blackness. The disorder of the night sky with its clumps of what I suppose are galaxies seems to mirror the state of my mind, even though I know there is a beautiful symmetry to it all, a mathematical code so simple it has eluded us for centuries.

When the Moon is bright and full, or nearly so, I reflect on those who have travelled there, walked the surface, left mementos of home. Yet the one I think of most is the one who never landed. I think of Michael Collins who, as his companions cavorted for the first time on lunar soil [no woman’s ever been] was the loneliest person in the world as he flew round the dark side.

What’s it like to be truly alone? I was seven when Armstrong and Aldrin walked the Moon like it was a Sunday stroll. I remember being at school, herded to come and watch a TV that had been set up outside under cover on a warm concrete floor. I was transfixed, unable to look away even though others near were bored, fidgeting, being told to shush by the teachers, some of whom, too, were impatient to return to their lunch. I though was drawn to the picture box with its doors opened wide, the first time a TV had been switched on at school, even though the pictures it displayed were like shadows.

[copyright John Pitt – written 2018]

Categories
Miscellaneous writing

Title page

On opening a Penguin copy of Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pecuchet [1978] that’s been unopened on my shelves for years, opened today as I am near finishing Sentimental Education and speculating on what next to read.

On the title page this inscription:

To … The Marx Bros. films & this book are all I need to survive in this stupid, humorless world…and sex, yes, I can’t forget sex. I hope you like it. The book that is, not sex. Well I hope you like sex too, for that matter. Enough of this. I really must be going…Hello, Hello, Hello! Love …

All capitals by the way. Inside a bookmark inserted at p.49. This advertises a New York bookstore Bookshelfwe sell new and used paperbacks. Address for any American readers out there: 135 Windsor Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215.

I don’t remember if I bought this book in New York – which would have been 2000 – or in the UK. Spelling of humorless suggests inscriber was American. Either way, this Flaubert has well travelled since 1978.

Categories
Miscellaneous writing

Ingenuity

On clear nights, whenever I have the chance, I like to look at the sky. At stars whose names I know not, the Southern Cross whose location continues to perplex, at planets whose orbits remain a mystery to me. To look with thrilling hope I may spot a shooting star or, and for this I have an app, the space station blinking as it chases through the blackness. The disorder of the night sky with its clumps of what I suppose are galaxies seems to mirror the state of my mind, even though I know there is a beautiful symmetry to it all, a mathematical code so simple it has eluded us for centuries.

When the moon is bright and full, or nearly so, I reflect on those who have travelled there, walked the surface, left mementos of home. Yet the one I think of most is the one who never landed there. I think in particular of Collins who, as his male companions cavorted for the first time on lunar soil [no woman’s ever been] was the loneliest person in the world as he flew round the dark side.

What’s it like to be truly alone? I was seven when Armstrong and Aldrin walked the Moon like it was a Sunday stroll. I remember being at school, herded to come and watch a TV that had been set up outside under cover on the warm concrete floor. I was transfixed, unable to look away even though others near were bored, fidgeting, being told to ‘shush’ by the teachers, some of whom, too, were impatient to return to their lunch. I though was drawn to the picture box with its doors opened wide, the first time a TV had been switched on at school, even though the pictures were like shadows.

Categories
Miscellaneous writing

Launch time

The orange moon is not orange.

More rust than orange.

There are clouds too.

They didn’t mention clouds when

They said go watch the orange moon.

It’s more rust than citrus actually.

Categories
Miscellaneous writing

Icarus moment

About suffering they were never wrong,

The Old Masters: how well they understood

Its human position: how it takes place

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting

For the miraculous birth, there always must be

Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating

On a pond at the edge of the wood:

They never forgot

That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course

Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot

Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse

Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may

Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone

As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green

Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,

Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Categories
Miscellaneous writing

Change of name

To those who have subscribed under All About Lettering, an explanation.

All About Lettering has been extant 10 years – the anniversary was November 2020. In that time I published more than 350 posts on lettering related themes. These remain.

However, as I stated at the start of this year [2021] I am eager to explore other areas. I have therefore taken the decision to rename the site All About Creativity, which expresses where I am now.

I hope you will continue to follow, but understand if this change of direction is not what you are after. Take care and thank you for your interest.

To new subscribers of this blog.

Do browse the historic posts on lettering and other typographic related areas. You may find something of interest.

Categories
Miscellaneous writing

Snow

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes— 
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands—
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Snow by Louis MacNeice

credit: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/91395/snow-582b58513ffae

Categories
Miscellaneous writing

Dover Beach

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

First stanza of Matthew Arnold’s poem of 1867

From https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43588/dover-beach

Categories
Miscellaneous writing

Seaborne: ever more

For Alfred Wallis, who drew and painted without ever moving from his native Cornwall in the English west.

My thoughts turned to Wallis after reading about the Ever Given stuck in the Suez, with economists tearing their hair out at the prospect of gaz-illions being lost in trade – mostly trade in stuff we don’t need.

Wallis painted on left over scraps: he couldn’t afford much. But he knew the sea and he knew boats and he knew the people who sailed the boats and he painted what he saw, what he remembered.

I was thinking about Alfred Wallis after I had been thinking about John Skelton and after I’d been thinking about David Jones, both of whom you’ll find mention elsewhere in this blog if you search.

I’d also been thinking of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, which has modest collections of Wallis and Jones, through the zeal of Jim Eade.