Friday, 23 February 2018

Looking up Love

I needed a thesaurus to understand how you make me feel:
your fluent locomotion exceeds the extremities of what's real.
It's commonplace for me to admire the architecture of your chasis:
the way you've swept me off my feet demonstrates true efficacy.

Your transcendence expedites my pursuance of adequate terminology
as I struggle to find your equivalent among any known philosophy.
To declare with confabulation in what regard I hold your semblance
is more problematic than seeking, from air and water, independence.

so, I've no words, and it comes down to simply this
you're the best of all birds - now give us a kiss

Friday, 9 February 2018

new obsession

sadly I have a new obsession: decades-old Russian/Soviet propoganda art, especially the posters that glorify the Space Race 

Glory to the workers of Soviet science and technology!
It is sad to think of the disparity between the ideals depicted in these beautiful images/the goals aspired to and set out in the slogans versus the crippling poverty and drudgery that people reported from behind the so-called Iron Curtain.

yet it is becoming an obsession - my own curtains drape for Stalin now, though I know he was a killer - I have covered my windows in slogans also

In the Name of Peace
I find it hard to be unaffected by the glory. It's religious almost. It's patriotic and political of course. But the sense is of something beyond everyday, something majestic. I'm a sucker - as with religious icons, here these designs get right under my skin.
Soviet Aviation  - Pride of the People!

I don't know the language and wasn't even born when they were made, but I get inspired - the urge to work hard (always weak in me) rockets skyward

Long live the friendship between the peoples of the USSR and China

the ideology may be all wrong/the context you could misconstrue: it's just colour that I like, and optimism too

through worlds and centuries
these pieces of art were made to indoctrinate and publicise but at such a remove of time and place they look gorgeous to my eyes

In the name of peace and progress!

For anyone else who enjoys these images, there are far superior blog posts on them here (from the BBC) and here (from Russia Trek).

Monday, 22 January 2018

George Métivier - Octobre, 1857

This Friday we'll celebrai the vie and works of a Guernsey Poet, George Métivier, in the first Burns Night-style Métivier Night. It's at Torteval Church Hall. Come down from 7. There'll be food and drink and music.  

There'll be a few different musicians performing, as well as people reciting poetry in both English and Guernesiais. One reading that I'll be doing is Métivier's Octobre, 1857. All-round lovely bloke and Guernsey-French teacher, Yan Marquis, will be performing the Guernesiais. Reading over the English version has made me redouble my sense that Métivier deserves to be recognised. Here's the translation that I'll be reading:

Tapping at my window,
the honeysuckles say,
you sleep too much,
your bird with the fiery throat
has called in vain, it’s me, George!
Old October! Old October!
you remind me of time past;
and now you’ve come
to shake loose leaf after leaf from the nut tree,
pluck our scarlet elms,
pull the hair from the hard oaks,
drown our folks like so many rats,
plunging them in their three-masters,

when you rumble, the wave is moved
and wracks and flies and cleaves the sky,
it dances to the sound of the shingle;–
Play, cormorants, foul black birds!
Leafy Goliath! your chestnuts,
I’ve munched hundreds of them,
cradled in your long arms!
Tell me you’ll remember it,
dear giant, my shelter, my dwelling,
my bed, my cot, and let me die there!
I’ll go as I came, proud of a very small (BIG) returnee,
because my root was strong! –
And while we’re waiting for it to die,
let’s swim, let’s swim, further than Ushant!
Let’s jump over the crescent moon!

And here's the original:

A ma f ’nêtre tapotànt,
S’font les suchets, tu dors tànt,
Ten mouisson, l’faeu sus la gorge,
A biau criaïr, ch’est mé, George!
Vier Octobre! vier Huitembre!
Du temps passaï tu m’ramembre;
Te vlà v’nu pour élouaisiér
Fieille après fieille au nouaisiér,
Pliumaïr nos ormes coquènes, 
Halaïr les qu’vaeux ès durs quênes, 
Niaïr nos gens, coum, autànt d’rats, 
Les cliùngeànt dans leux treis-mâts,

Quànd tu gronds, la vague émue
Rouâne et vole et fend la nue,
A’ dànse au son des galots;–
Jouaïz, cormarans, ners salops!
Gôlias fieillu! tes castaïnes,
J’en ai rôgui des chentaïnes,
Dorlotaï dans tes longs bras!
Dis-mé qu’tu t’en souviendras,
Giànt chéri, m’n abri, ma d’meure,
Men lliét, men ber, et qu’j’y meure!
J’m’en irai, coum je sis v’nu,
Fier d’ùn bien p’tit (GRÀND) r’venu,
Car ma rachine était forte! –
En attendant qu’a’ seit morte,
Nouon, nouon, pus llien qu’Ouessànt!
Sauton par dessus l’croissànt!

Friday, 10 November 2017

Métivier Day

I'd like to organise a party to celebrate the life and works of George Métivier. He has apparently been called the 'Guernsey Burns'. I say apparently because I've never really heard anybody call him anything whatsoever. As far as I'm aware, most people have never heard of George Métivier.

This lack of interest in him and his poetry is part of my motivation to organise a party in his honour. Aside from that, I'm looking for an excuse to organise a little shindig (mulled cider and beanjar anyone?). Still, I reckon I can list reasons why I think he - out of millions of people from the past - deserves a special get-together.

(For my sake, imagine the following statements are all prefaced with in my opinion):
His poetry is excellent. He is a local treasure. He could be a national hero for Guernsey. His portrait(s) should be emblazoned across any Visit Guernsey promotional material. We should try to recreate some of the ways of thinking and ways of behaving enshrined in his body of work (that said, I haven't even bought myself a lobster pot yet - I've a long way to go before I'm ready to whistle Norman folktunes while knitting my own Guernsey during breaks from vraic-gathering).

Burns Night is a Scottish tradition with more than two hundred years worth of observance. On 25th January each year, people across the planet host and attend suppers that glorify Scottish food, drink, music and poetry.

Métivier was born on 29th January. That sounds like a good date on which to glorify Guernsey food, drink, music and poetry. (Picture me on Monday 29th January 2018 with my bit gâche, my kazoo primed for a solo performance of Sarnia Cherie (the dog the only audience member) - I'll be happy, and if anyone wants to join me then v'la qui vaout).

I haven't really given any proper evidence regarding Georgie Boy's right to glorification. In order to rectify that, here are some pub-ready Métivier facts for sprinkling into casual banter:

  • his beard was prodigious
  • he translated The Gospel According to Matthew into Guernsey-French
  • his work blends the classical and the everyday 
  • a lot of the oral history and folklore he recorded would otherwise be lost
  • he studied medicine in England and Scotland
  • but gave it up to focus on literature
  • he was close friends with local painter and poet Denys Corbet 
  • and maintained correspondence with Jersey poet Robert Pipon Marett
  • Victor Hugo was the one to name him 'the Guernsey Burns'

The most oft-quoted piece of his work Métivier verse is as follows:

Veis-tu l’s écllaers, os-tu l’tounère?
Lé vent érage et la née a tché!
Les douits saont g’laïs, la gnièt est nère -
Ah, s’tu m’ôimes ouvre l’hus - ch’est mé!

     Do you see the lightning, do you hear the thunder?
     The wind is raging and the snow has fallen!
     The douits are frozen, the night is dark -
     Ah, if you love me open the door - it’s me!  

I would just like to point out that that piece of poetry mentions douits. Could you find me a more locally-referential 19th century lyric? Well, there's plenty more where that came from. The excellent Toad and the Donkey anthology is a really good place to start and the Priaulx Library has loads more to boot.

l'homme Métrosexuel, right? grrr

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Talk About It

I don't have any answers. I can listen though. And talking about it has to be a good idea.

Today I saw a line of seagulls at the very shore. The sand all around a brilliant reflection of the low sun. It seemed orchestrated actually. You know, though, that I'm a raging lunatic. I like that we can share that. I'm not calling you a loony. More like I'm calling you my mate, which might make you unhinged anyway.

You remember laughing like that. We should talk about it. Not reminiscing. Sometimes when that's all there is it feels hollow and sad.

Of course I'm a fine one to talk about sadness. I'm no longer past it, in a numb state. I'm no longer paralysed by fear. But so what. I almost cried at an insurance advert. And I did cry at one for a Thai banking firm. They really know how to jerk the emotions out of me, one shakey breath at a time.

We should share a knowledge that we knew each other then and that we could know each other again. You were happy here. You saw the gulls, too, right?

Of course no-one else saw that view at that moment. There was a pair of German tourists nearby. They were further along at that point and I never saw them look back.

Imagine the regret at the instant you know that you're dying. Having to get off the ride. It's still spinning. Music plays all the while. Bright lights are intoxicating. And you say you want to stop? Let me shut up. I'll listen. You can talk about whatever you want.

They always use the phrase 'bottle it up'. Never do that. Don't bottle it up. Don't stuff the thoughts somewhere unseen. Don't hold on to it like it's something the others will hate. It's not some precious madness that they'll never forgive. They don't want to steal your thoughts either.

Just talk about it. For me, it was that line of gulls on the shore. They were like something out of a postcard. They were like a dream to me.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Pumpkin Recipe for Guernsey-French Class: Part One

Recently I've been taking Guernsey-French classes. Our teacher, Yan, suggested that before the next class we prepare recipes to discuss in Guernsey-French. Notwithstanding my lack of cooking vocabulary, I need to get the process of making something straight in my mind before I can describe it in any language. Hence my need to make a blogpost about what I did with a pumpkin this evening.

The pumpkin (now I do know that one: pang-pang, though that's almost certainly not best to spell it that way) seems an obvious choice at this time of year.

By the way, I'd welcome any suggestions from anyone on how to describe the following recipe in Guernsey-French.

I cut the pumpkin in half and scooped out the seeds.

I removed the skin from the pumpkin and cut it into cubes.

I rinsed the seeds in a colander, removing any pieces of pumpkin flesh. Then I placed the seeds in a bowl with a generous spoonful of olive oil and a teaspoon of baharat seasoning. After stirring thoroughly, I spread the seeds on greaseproof paper in a baking tray. I then put them in the oven (at 150°) for 45 minutes.
While the seeds were roasting, I heated some oil in a saucepan and added in some crushed and chopped garlic. Once this started to sizzle I added chopped onions, some grated ginger, a teaspoon of turmeric and a little water.
I added my pumpkin to the pan. After stirring up the mixture and adding a little more water, I brought it all to the boil, turned down the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

Now it's all been served and eaten, I have to work out how to describe the process in Guernsey-French.
I mean, I know that seeds are groins in Guernsey-French. Could roasted pumpkin seeds be roti groins de pang-pang? I doubt it's that easy. Wish me luck, anyway.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Learn a Poem Challenge - The Lamentations of Damaris by George Métivier

The challenge has gone round at work – 'learn summat! It’s good for you!' (This challenge being part of a campaign to make us fitter, healthier, wiser and more mindful). 

Well, all right then. I will learn something. I’ll even pick something from the list of suggestions. Let’s consider these: “learn how to cook something new”. Daily I slave avail-lessly in an experimental fashion with vegetables and pots and pans trying to make something that approximates to edible matter. I reckon I’ve got that one covered. For the time being. Thank you. Berry much. 

Next: “learn how to fix something” – this I can do. I will do. This I need to do, in fact. 

Come to think of it, I really better get on and fix that bike of mine. With wet weather being so much more common now that winter’s properly in the post winging its way here-wards, the brakes I’ve been meaning to sort properly for a while, well, those are now deadly. And today, out of the blue, the blooming cable for my blinking rear derailleur on my goodness-knows-wonderful bike went and popped off with a pop sound like a pair of trousers splitting on my oversized behind.

I’ll fix that. But I want to learn something else. “learn a poem” says the Health Promotion Unit poster. Perfect! Here goes.

I will memorise and recite part of a Métivier poem (George Métivier: the author of the first Guernsey dictionary, wrote in the local language). I've chosen The Lamnetations of Damaris, which, despite being very specific to the 1820s in this Norman isle, feels timeless for me, as a Guernseyman, especially with its mention of somebody angry at the States knocking something down. Come on. The protagonist/persona of Métivier's poem "bitterly blameth the States" (chés tout-en-travers d'Etats!). It could be set in 2020 for all we know.

Please forgive my reading. Mea culpa, as always. The text, I'll post below. Video pending. Bisous.


Lamentations of Damaris

Old Fountain Street's all in a flutter,
Its dwellers are all in a stew,
There is growling from garret to gutter,
That the old must give place to the new!
Damaris harangueth her neighbours,
And bitterly blameth the States,
For enacting such wide demolition
Like aught but beneficent Fates!

Quoth the Dame: "I have lived in my rat-hole,
In quiet, for sixty odd years!
My blessed, old dirty, old attic,
The hearth of my hopes and my fears!
But the poor must submit to the wealthy,
The humble bow down to the grand;
We had better be laid 'neath the daisies,
In the churchyard of Mister Durand!
"It is said that pride preludes destruction,
But we are annoyed all the same;
Yes, Sirs, you may sulk or look smiling,
But I'll say what I think of your game!
To treat an old creature like me, so,
And pull down my crib as it stands,
Whence one can from the third-story window,
With one's opposite neighbour shake hands!

"My father and mother have dwelt there,
Have eaten their soup and their bit,
Have gathered their bairnies about them,
In that blessed old niche where I sit,
Aunt Ann spent her evenings with glee there,
And there, as young bairns, we were nursed,
Yet you harshly drive out the old woman,
Would it were in a coffin, feet first!"

(translation taken from J. Linwood Pitts’ anthology The Patois Poems of the Channel Islands, 1883)

If you'd like more background on the poem, I'd recommend the Priaulx Library's excellent page on it. Additionally, they have this page here on Fountain Street as it existed in 1763. Clearly, Métivier's not the only one to say that the top story windows in opposite buildings on 'old Fountain Street' came so close that residents were able to shake hands from building to building. Seems like those States Works boys were doing the right thing when they brought those homes down to widen the way. Still, Damaris lost her home, so I can see it from her point of view. (enough rambling).

Before reading this poem I didn't know that Damaris is a figure from the Bible, one of Paul's letters to be precise. She was present at one of Paulie's speeches, it says in Acts.

By the way, the text of the poem I have included above is abridged. My video of the poem, which I'm trying and failing (at the moment) to upload here, features an even more abridged version.

from Patois Poems of the Channel Islands

Georgie Boy himself