Sunday 30 October 2011

Stratford upon Avon

William Shakespeare attended the Grammar School in Stratford..

Thomas Nash's house and the garden where Shakespeare's house, New Place, was situated.

Some Tudor buildings, now The Shakespeare Hotel.

The side of the  Grammar School that Shakespeare attended.

Harvard House. The founder of Harvard University was born here

A gentleman I came across walking the streets of Stratford

A pub in Stratford. NO!!!! it is not falling over

This garden is on the site of Shakespeare's house, New Place, that he bought after giving up the life of a playwright and returning to Stratford. He died here in 1616.

Stratford High Street

 Thomas Nash, who owned this house, was the husband of Shakespeare's granddaughter.

A church next to New Place

Some terraced houses in Stratford.

William Shakespeare near The Royal Shakespeare Company theatre.

Prince Hal!!!!!!!

A jester. Shakespeare wrote great humour within the greatest of dramas, King Lear, Henry V, Midsummer Nights Dream.

Shakespeare's birthplace.

Wednesday 26 October 2011


Haiku Inspirations

About four years ago I had to prepare an English lesson on writing poetry. Children like collecting words about, real scenes and real moments in their lives and recalling their own feelings and imaginings. It is always an exciting process.

I decided to try writing Haikus with them. Haikus are nice and short. They are concentrated pieces of writing. A haiku enables a writer to focus on a mood, a feeling, an object,a scene a moment in time. Every word counts.

The weekend before I had to do the lesson, I was in a bookshop in Kingston upon Thames. I think it was Waterstones in The Bentalls Centre, on the top floor. There, in the poetry section, was a book called, Haiku Inspirations by Tom Lowenstein. Tom had been a teacher too and began to explore eastern religions, and philosophies. Studying these ideas had introduced him to Chinese and Japanese art and poetry. He found Japanese Haikus an aid to Zen meditation and also Zen meditation to be a good source of inspiration for writing his own Haikus. Haikus can introduce imagery, paradoxes and comparisons to children and get them to focus on a tight structure. The book has beautiful, evocative Japanese illustrations and designs. Also it has some beautiful photography . It was just the book for me.

Haikus are made up of very few words. Each word must have its place and be essential to the meaning. They are made of only three lines and have seventeen syllables. The lines go, five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables. There should be a kigo which is a word that suggests a season.Also a haiku should contain a kireji which means a cutting word. A word which brings a statement to an end. The paradox with or contrast to the first statement should then be written. Some writers believed in breaking the rules. Rules have to be broken to progress, adapt and develop.I think, especially in translation, the number of syllables does not have to be exact. The meaning and effect are prime importance.

Chinese and Japanese writing is symbolic. It is picture writing. To translate it into English can never be exact in the purity and essence of the words.

Here is a poem translated from the Japanese. It was written by, Takarai Kikaku, who lived between 1661 and 1707


In the middle of a town

A single butterfly

The first line is sparse and exact, one word. We know what twilight is. We have experienced it but where is this twilight? The countryside, a beach, a coastal scene, they have their particular twilights and give us different experiences. This haiku is set in a town.

The second line begins with , in. It takes us into the interior, it creates an entering of the town. The word, middle, is used which is not the same as using the word, centre. It’s not as exact, so we are left with a vague sensation of where we are exactly. The word , the, is a determiner making us focus on the object, middle. The, is used again determining the word, town. The line if it was written like this, In middle town, might be more precise in the sense of the Zen way of thinking because each word is full of the meaning of the poets intention but it would be awkward and not flow well in English. The line sounds better with the determiners. It has a smoother feel and feels more satisfying to say which is probably just as important.

The last line creates a surprising contrast with the twilight in the middle of a town. Like stars, twilight would not necessarily be noticed with the lights of the shops and street lamps. A single butterfly would be different. Wherever the butterfly was,it would be noticed. It’s bright natural beauty standing out, highlighted against it's background. It starts with the indefinite article, A, which emphasises the word, single. This is a reinforcement of the butterfly’s singularity. The butterfly is natural, bright and beautiful in itself . It is not the man made, garish beauty of the middle of a busy town. Butterflys do not belong in the dusty dirty noisy middle of a town at twilight when revellers are coming out. Is this a paradox between the man made, man inhabited, middle of a town and a beautiful natural butterfly,each existing at the same time?

Saturday 8 October 2011

Sissinghurst KENT


Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, the remains of an Elizabethan manor house, is one of those quintessentially English places. It is a garden and it is a ruin. We English love and worship our gardens. Ancient ruins are so evocative; they connect us with the past. We feel deeply connected to gardens and ruins.
Gardeners are artists in the true sense. With their choice of plants, shrubs and trees they create moods and settings within which we can inhabit and live. A garden has pathways, rooms, colours, textures, light and shadow, large and small spaces. They are full of drama, whimsy, and intensity. Great gardens are theatre settings, painting and drama combined.
The garden at Sissinghurst is all of these things. Created by Harold Nicholson, the diplomat and his wife Vita Sackville West, the poet, novelist and lover of Virginia Woolf, in 1930’s, this garden is their true legacy.
I went there recently and explored the world they created.

There are cottages within the garden rented to those who would like to stay for a while.

A view of the keep.

A garden seat.

Vita Sackville West's library.

Sunday 2 October 2011

The end of Summer in the garden.

In the Indian Summer of these October days,I noticed today that the seed pods at the top of our wild irises, in the pond, have curled open to reveal hundreds of brown polished seeds, shining like little brown jewels. 
Random pieces of slate create dark  shadows and lines of light  around our pond.A leaf, sharply outlined on a stone that is beginning to form green algae patches on it's surface that might eventually lead to moss or a form of lichen.
Dry, grey soil with delicate root tracery going across it's surface, delving through it and forming a sort of net like structure.

Cloured plastic pegs on our washing line with a hydrangea in front of it. The colours are beginning to drain out of the hydrangea blooms making pale pastel reds and pinks with some browns appearing.Calm contemplation amongst shadows, stones, leaves, grass and a rosemary bush.