Two hedgehogs

Sonnet:

We saw two hedgehogs.



We saw two hedgehogs feeding side by side
And it wouldn’t be our fault if they died.

They had been grunting through the summer night.
Safe from traffic – we thought they’d be all right –
In an island garden bordered by woods.
Each evening we offered them special food
In a plastic box wasted and surplus.
They went straight there the first night with no fuss.
Though far too nervous to come out in light:
This their entrench’d anthropogenic plight.
Now mangling their nightly excursions are
(New dreads but) most of all the motor car.

And remember bonfires roast them alive,
As one did a guy on November Five.

North Devon, 12 October 2018

Advertisements

Brute tractor

A monster was coming on at me,
Devouring the world, all I could see,
Such was its all-consuming presence,
That nothing else composed an absence.
Crashing there, pulverising closer.
A beast advanced over the border.

*

Now, sounds of the English countryside,
Herald a fresh hell of herbicide.
An incessant whine of brute machine
Counterpoising the crack, crunch and scream
Of advancing chains flailing hedges,
Even trees and all the quiet edges.

Fields once in early autumn slumber,
Bough and branch in myriad number,
Are beaten into low submission.
Heavy-handed ironbound precision
Bullies countryside’s casual borders
Into tame and abased neat order.

Now reducing full forage hedgerows,
In all their blowsy carefree billows,
Into managed new factory walls;
As close as the jackboot tractor crawls.
Those linear woods, trashed in thoughtless
Haste, make a sad wake in wakes of mess.

These linear woods are all that’s left
Of a landscape that is now bereft
Of the deciduous eternal
Hanging woods which once clothed the feral
Land from east to west, from south to north.
A greenwood cover of endless growth.

Now, ev’ry year hedges try anew,
To regrow once more and save a few.
Hawthorns! Their remembered sweet fragrance
In blossom clouds of creamy cadence,
But there they are, hacked back more and more
Till all that’s left is jagged and raw.

They won’t be laid traditionally.
Every advance drives more fiercely
Into older and thicker timber,
Till the gross impact upon your ear
Is in due accord with the ravaged
Scene: wood and nerves together shred.

Now, never mind the long standing tree.
And farmers won’t see the bird or bee.
For what cannot be seen counts as nought.
Subtle lessons like these can’t be taught
To those immured within tractor walls,
Or logged into cool persuasive malls.

Then his tea, in towered splendour, he sips.
And with insouciant fingertips
Nudges on hundreds of horsepower might.
Never giving one thought to the sight
Of tangled despoilment left behind
After the flailing chains’ savage grind.

Now, with protection wrapped round his face,
Headphones musicking a deaf embrace,
To insulate the remote cabbed man
From all consequences of his plan.
So deafness mutates this crashing hell.
With never a witness left to tell.

Aye, the crashing sound above all else
Has no regard of pastoral sense.
It surely would dumbfound old hedgers
Thankfully safe now in quiet slumbers.
Would they swap craft’s old occupation
For this new gross manifestation?

Now, a poet wand’ring in Nature
Seeks his peace in this secret treasure;
For wind and song are quintessential;
Listen! And be mute deferential.
For there is peace and sweet harmony
In measuring life’s geometry.

Still the brute tractor masticates on.
Jaws chewing; weight thrown about; and strong
Enough to pulverise any foe.
What hope can there be of tomorrow?
Yet wait! The pregnant buds still prepare
To try yet again another year.

Now the ogre leaves the margin’d stage
(And a poet impotent in rage!),
The hedging tree will lick its spirit.
And the only good to come of it,
If calm reflection matters a toss,
Is to help us value what we’ve lost.

(c) Richard Meyer,
Winswell Water, N. Devon, October 2018

Epitaph for the Badger

It’s not new for me! This was published in 1971 in The Lady
(written under the name I used then for Natural History books)

Slide 17

Epitaph for the Badger

A snarling dark shape in the depths of night,
Blundered into whilst on unknowing paths,
Reduces careless ignorance to fright.
And in others may produce mirthless laughs;

For sure, there are few to be had today,
Farmers and ministers have seen to that.
While hunts sabs and patrols, try as they may,
Cannot hope to mangle every cruel trap.

What it is to be feared, yet have no voice:
Found guilty by the company we keep.
It could never have been a badger’s choice
To mix with cows or dung or corn or sheep.

And then a microscopic deadly bug,
Named long ago after some wretched cow,
Untold thousands of needless graves are dug.
Continues the killing from then till now.

*

As the badger noses his woodland track,
And cubs dance among the bluebells in play,
A mercenary with gun on his back
Approaches – sights set on a hapless prey.

Despite frenzied digging, claws long and torn,
There is no escape from the senseless cage.
So the badger lapses, senseless, forlorn,
And awaits the man blind with misplaced rage.

The end comes quick enough, in drifts of mud.
Proclaiming man’s absurd insanity.
An inhuman prison, base mired in blood.
No earthly help to cure bovine TB.

Across all the land, thousands of cattle,
Who – for all their history – stamp and fret
With no thought of misdirected battle.
Leave trails of death we will never forget.

*

And the cows! They go from a stinking byre,
Through crush and syringe to Positive test.
And end their days on a funeral pyre.
Can there be anyone left not depressed?

I’ve been lost and bereft for forty years,
By abrogation of a science law.
And have seen around me good fellows’ tears.
Nonplussed, unbelieving, in fraught furore.

Cool appraisal of the science shows,
However black and white (and neat) it feels,
The badger’s not the enemy they know;
It’s cows which spread the bug from field to fields.

Yet on and on it goes, running amok.
How or when it will end, no-one can say.
But when they’ve killed the last remaining Brock,
They’ll find another neat scapegoated prey.

*

And as though all this wasn’t bad enough,
There, see the man touting pistol or gun,
Who thinks it’s a mark of being ‘dead tough’:
Sporting a quarry shot simply for fun.

Official massacre carries no hope.
A steam-hammer abused will crack no nut;
Blunderbusses trained through a microscope
Can’t stem a bacterial tide like Cnut.

A host called ‘spill-over’ is Brock’s death-knell
Caught up in the saga of bTB,
Looks on from woodland setts where it would dwell:
A hapless bystander in history.

Politicians – government ministers –
Self-imagery of their poor selves made,
Think mainly in terms of ballot papers.
And wildlife can make no Jarrow Crusade.

*

‘Here today, gone tomorrow’, it’s been said,
Civil servants can blithely walk away.
Leaving behind their bloodied trails of dead
Which had no English voice and held no sway.

When they’ve murdered all that the state decrees,
Don’t think it all over, dusted and done.
On moor, or under wooded canopies,
The thugs will still be there with dog and gun.

Sharing between them one medieval
Mindset lacking all imagination.
Corrupted by peer and older evil
Bloodlust thirsting for extermination.

And while one arm of the law tries its best
To save from louts a protected icon,
Another in power and much better dressed,
Finds ways of letting the killing go on.

he law tries its best
To save from louts a protected icon,
Another in power and much better dressed,
Finds ways of letting the killing go on.

Bucks Mills Pebbles exhibition; new Poetry section on website; Literature about children; and public speaking.

20180814_103431

I listened to advice (surprise, as it may be to some, I do sometimes) and Phil my excellent framer gave one of the pebble studies a bigger ‘more generous’ mount; I’d been told my original ones were “too mean”. The two different versions are currently on show at the Burton at Bideford Gallery. Pop along if you are in North Devon; admission is free and there is lots of really good art (I never say that lightly).

Both are available at a measly £145 despite difference in framing, but it’s the art work that’s important, isn’t it?  I feel pleased with this series and also that I’ve broken new ground.  The remainder of the series will go in Recent Work soon – I’ll send a note when that is done (a few test ones are actually up there now, have a look).

Xhibition slide (2)An exhibition of my flower paintings is at RHS Rosemoor from 1st September to 7th October. This is the second collaboration with brilliant ceramicist Eilean Eland. And of course the Rosemoor gardens are always a delight.

Additionally, I’ve been occupied since May with a personal and rather difficult commission.  In fact a painting for a friend which I was most anxious to get ‘right’.  It was difficult in the sense that it is small (A5), a nude figure and I needed to please both my friend and of course myself.  It turned out to be one of the hardest paintings I’ve ever done but I won’t be able to show it  because it is private.

It’s not just this that has been weighing heavily on my mind it is my writing and conservation work too. I’ve published a few recent poems here https://richardmeyer.co.uk/index.php/writing/poems.  I’m finding great release in poetry these days: enabling me to convey observations and reflections in a succinct form which is I hope both exciting and original.

Also finishing my third novel revelling in the fertile imagination of children.  Although stigmatised as ‘children’s books’ they are actually novels about children.  So-called  ‘children’s books’ are the only books categorised by perceived readership not by content: a source of irritation and mystification.  I ask you, are ‘Lord of the Flies’, ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, ‘His Dark Materials’, ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘David Copperfield’, ‘A High Wind in Jamaica’, to name just a few, ‘children’s books’?   I would say not; they are literature which feature children – not the same thing at all.  Maybe you could add your own titles here, and we could explore this subject again more fully.

Finally, on Saturday 18th I was in Exeter taking part in a very noisy public meeting and march through Exeter city centre.  You won’t be surprised to know it was about the appalling Badger cull here in the UK.  I’ve never before stood on a soapbox (in fact a public bench in a sort of ‘Speakers’ Corner) and addressed a crowd through a PA system.  I had 15 mins to summarise nearly 50 years of history) and think I did OK – but certainly no better; not sure that soapbox oratory is my thing.

I hope you may leave the odd comment, if only to show that you’ve read this far!

 

 

New Chris Thomas Exhibition

Chris Thomas catalogue

We took the bike down to the Camelford Gallery for a preview of Chris Thomas’s impressive exhibition Documenting the New Build. The exhibition is exactly that: paintings recording a housing development adjacent to his studio in North Cornwall. From very understandable initial resentment, he soon saw an opportunity to use the experience artistically, in the process becoming part of it, to the extent of being accepted on site by the builders as a kind of hard-hatted, hi-viz ‘artist-in-residence’. From my perspective, this took some guts.

During the course of building 21 ‘affordable homes’ Chris produced a tumultuous body of work: starring large oil paintings (some of them 2-3 metres wide) mainly on board. It is not hard to imagine how, to a casual passer-by, Chris lugging these round the site would have looked exactly like one of the builders. There are also intense smaller studies exhibited and a portfolio of large charcoal drawings. My favourite of all is Study from the studio executed in February this year. – I wish I could afford it. 

There is also a comprehensive illustrated catalogue with illuminating text produced to a very high standard. This was something I could afford and mine – the first to be sold at the Preview – Chris kindly signed for me: it is something I will treasure.

 

Chris Thomas frontispiece

Gratitude also due to artist John Blight for putting on the show at his gallery which, for me, exemplifies precisely what a gallery should be: something not unlike Rembrandt would have recognised: a real working artist-gallery with little concession to commercialism; in other words, not a ‘picture shop’ which so many so-called galleries actually are.

I’ll stop there lest another rant begins!

Henry Israel, Jan 22 1933 – Dec 24 2017

Henry Israel (2)

Henry Israel – A rare and genuine artist

Henry was a truly great artist and teacher. We shared the same birthday but not the same year. He was strong and forceful but enormously kind – and very patient if he thought you were serious. For over 30 years I regarded him as my mentor: he jostled on my shoulder as I worked (and still does) with my brother John Martin and Paul Cezanne – stern but wise mentors all.

He was classically trained at the Slade but not well known beyond a small circle of collectors and students in North Cornwall because he hated attention and fuss. I remember him once saying that he didn’t paint in public because it’s not a performance. This makes him sound a curmudgeon but he wasn’t; he had a dark and mischievous East London sense of humour, which I think comes across in the photo above.

Our painting techniques, from widely different starting points, seemed to converge at the end.  He was always a decidedly abstract painter – stunningly original – but I felt he came to me, but he would say the opposite of course. We had one exhibition together in Camelford in 2005: Henry’s B&W photography and drawings, and my own very un-B&W paintings.  We also had a love of animals in common.

I miss his wise counsel tremendously.  He leaves his wife, Caeria – also a very fine and completely different painter.

Henry landscape

A late landscape: he painted on board and, as you can see here, came to use a painting knife; this gives our work certain similarities. We both evolved the use of under layers of paint as plane boundaries.

£500 DONATED TO THE HIGH COURT JUDICIAL REVIEW TO SAVE BADGERS

Forgive this wildlife intrusion into what is primarily an art site but, as those who know me will appreciate, I’ve had a lifelong passion for the non-human environment, and the cause of the much abused Badger is dear to my heart.

Zoology and writing were what I laughingly call my career for many years, and over thirty ago I wrote a book called The Fate of the Badger, published by Batsford (sadly no more). In 2016 we realised that so little had changed in this dreadful saga through all that time we decided to republish Fate in facsimile form with added new material.

 02                           02 fotb_cover

Obtainable from http://www.fire-raven.co.uk at £9.50 +p&p

I have much pleasure in reprinting the following:

Fire-raven Writing, publishers of the new edition of Richard’s book, announces ‘We are pleased to donate £500 from proceeds of @DrRichardMeyer’s book, The Fate of The Badger, in support of Tom Langton’s badger cull challenges in the High Court.’

For more information on this tremendously important and possibly ground-breaking High Court action directed by Tom please see https://www.badger.org.uk/eurobadger. If you can find a surplus pound or two lurking in your purse or pocket we can think of no better place to send it; Tom and the whole badger world will be very grateful.

***

A personal note from Richard… ‘The fate of the badger has blighted my adult life, occupied much of my time and probably encroached on my good nature, however I do not seek to make any money or benefit in any material way from its plight.’

For an interview I did with Emma Powell https://emmapowell.co.uk/ please see  https://youtu.be/ueSD4HTd3yQ.

Thanks so much for caring enough to read this far!