November 23rd, 2008

Einstein And Eddington

Einstein was a world bestriding genius with a puckish streak of mischief,  Eddington was the straightest man in England : together- though physically separated by the first world war- they established the Theory of General Relativity.

It was a clunky play-  a succession of stand-up confrontations and meaningful exchanges- and remarkably un-lifelike.  Was Sir Oliver Lodge really such a flouncing diva? I doubt it. Still it taught me a bit of history I hadn't known- and I had the pleasure of watching my two favourite actors in action.

David Tennant holding himself in, restraining his inner demons as Eddington, Andy Serkis letting his rip as Einstein. What an adorable imp Einstein was- and how remarkably fearless!   Now I want to see Serkis play Picasso. He has the eyes for it.

Clergy Conference

This picture comes with a poem attached

I was at a retreat for members of the Deanery clergy, sometime in the early '80s. One afternoon I went for a walk on the hills above the retreat house (which was later sold to the footballer Phil Neville) and took my camera with me. It was lovely weather when I started out- as you can see-  and then a storm blew up and I got very wet. It's no joke being caught out on the hills in bad weather. Especially if you're lost- as I was. You could get yourself killed.

Anyway the heart of the experience is in the poem,

                                    CLERGY CONFERENCE


                                    A soft-voiced bishop was speaking to us

                                    In the music room.  It was stuffed with vicars

                                    Mostly in mufti.  A marble Venus

                                    Standing in roses up to her hips

                                    Gazed in at us and a little stream,

                                    Tipped from the hill, went clattering past

                                    Down a stepped cascade.


                                                                            When the session ended

                                    I found a path.  There were purple shadows

                                    On ochre fields.  There were bones of sheep

                                    In the tough old grass and a barn or two

                                    With their roofs knocked off.  When the storm grew over

                                    I hadn't even a coat to keep off

                                    The beating it gave me.  I came back down

                                    With shoes full of water.


                                                                             I'd missed the session

                                    On urban mission.  A god as loving

                                    And hard to pin down as the city council

                                    Had not been much to my taste in the hills.


                                    It's not that the rainstorm broke my faith;

                                    That took much  longer.  It's only that after

                                    The conference I could remember nothing

                                    The bishop had said.  I had only the droning

                                    Mellifluous tone of his voice to counter

                                    The shout of the cascade under the window,

                                    The roar of the rain and, after it stopped,

                                    The slap-happy sound of a hillside, drinking.

Not An Elegy

This poem is related to the last one I posted. It was written a few years later- and belongs to my "angry" phase. The anger is something I now longer feel entirely comfortable with. These days- insofar as I care one way or the other- I'm sorry rather than pleased that the Church had to sell its pretty, Jacobean retreat house to a footballer.



Seen from the air, in this online photo

The hills look like nothing, like ripples in sand,

But me, I’ve climbed ‘em. I’ve weaved and I’ve wended

From valley to valley. I know they can kill you.

I once had them try.  The day is yellow

With inky blue cloud shadows speeding off east.


I point at a gap in the boskage, “And that,

Is Crawshawbooth.” It’s a smear of brightness.


“Phil Neville’s place ?”


                                      “Well no, the retreat house-

My faith took sick  there.”


                                      “It’s  been sold on.

He’s cut the big trees down to let in light.

The whole of Man United came

To his housewarming party. The limos and sports cars

Were bumper to bumper.”


                                      (I’m stood with the others

Under the grimy old plaster-work ceiling

With pendulous knobs, and the Bishop of Manchester,

Dead now, says,  “The body of Christ”

And places  the host on my tongue and I’m praying

“Dear God, just for once let this not make me think

Of fellatio.”)


                             Well, the things I grew up with

Are passing away. This is just one instance.


Out go the parsons and in comes the shining

Great swarm of the footballing Joes with their gals

And celebrity pals.  It makes me so glad.