Archive for February, 2010

Poem: Her Facebook has it

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , on February 26, 2010 by echostains

John Cooper Clarke

I wrote this poem the other day.  I had been listening to the wonderful Salford poet John Cooper Clarke and thought I would try to emulate his style….(as if!)  I have used Facebook as a theme because whenever I go there, I am always fascinated by the massive amount of ‘friends’ people seem to have.  Anyone can apply to be a ‘friend’ , some don’t even know who these ‘freinds’ are!   Some of the profile pictures are hilarious – I’ve even seen Hitler as someones profile picture.  The other thing about Facebook is that people are such liars about themselves, it’s a kind of ‘anything goes’ place.  So that was where the inspiration came from and this is what happened:-

Her Facebook Has It


Her Facebook page is on your screen,

Suppress that smirk as you watch her preen,

Her Day-glo ass like a tangerine –

The Clockwork Orange of a nasty dream.

The grinning mass of her airbrushed face

A sickly mask hiding her disgrace,

Talk about arsenic and very old lace!

She’s there for the kill – forget the chase.

‘Looking for Lurve’ states the brass-faced mare,

(And any old cash that you’ve got to spare)

Abandon hope all who enter there

As she lures you into her bijou lair.

3000 ‘friends’ joining in the game,

Even Pope John Paul’s in her hall of fame,

A barefaced liar that feels no shame.

The greasy embers of a burnt out flame.

Ten years younger than her Dinosaur age,

A Terrorhawk wonder on the rampage

Every profile picture – a darker shade of beige,

Click to see her boogie on a makeshift stage.

Throwing back Sambuca’s in dramatic pose,

Strutting like an ostrich in her too tight clothes

Such a party person –  but here’s one who knows

That when the party’s over it will end in blows.

©L. M. Roberts 2010

John Cooper Clark image by Nick Hider – with thanks 🙂

I’ve wrote a post about this poet HERE

But for a look at the ‘Master’ in action – and how it should be done clickHere and enjoy!

My other poetry experiments;

Haiku: Three for March

Finding the words (freeverse)

Drowned in sound (dark)

Poem: Last Impression

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , , on February 25, 2010 by echostains

I’m beginning to enjoy these little poetry experiments.  I might be the only one, but I don’t care!   I like playing about with meters and seeing what happens.  Here’s one that sprang up, probably influenced from writing about that poor old ice man.


There’s a chill in his gaze 

Just a frosty hint

And the breath from his mouth

Smells of Glacier mint

And his earlobes are red

As they cringe to his head

As they freeze what was said

Like a ghosts  footprint.

© L. M. Roberts

My other poetry experiments;

Haiku: Three for March

Drowned in sound

Her Facebook has it

Finding the words

Titus Groan: Keda

Posted in Flashback challenge, Gormenghast journey with tags , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2010 by echostains

Alas no image of Keda

I’ve not wrote about my re reading of Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake for a while.  But that doesn’t mean that I’ve haven’t been reading it.  I have and am very nearly finished the first book and shall be soon into Gormenghast itself.   But as far as the writing concerned, I am up to the chapter about Titus’s wet-nurse Keda.

This woman seems to alien compared to the other characters – even the Dwellers.  I think this is down to her having a kind of vitality and beauty.  Beauty in the Gormenghast region seems very scarce. The Dwellers have it for such a short time before premature ageing.  They have a hard life and cluster around the bottom of the mountain – like they have been  cast out of Shangri la..

Keda has a past, and she’s running away from it.  Her ancient husband died and she had to choose between two lovers.  She is glad to go to Gormenghast.

With the dark cloth hanging to her ankles and caught in at the waist with the thong of jarl root: with her bare legs and feet and her head still holding the sunset of her darkened day, she was in strange contrast to little Nannie Slagg, with her quick jerky walk, her dark satin dress, her black gloves, and her monumental hat of glass grapes.  Before they descended the dry knoll towards the archway in the wall, a sudden gutteral cry as of someone being strangled, froze the old womans blood and she clutched at the strong arm beside her and clung to it like a child.  Then she peered towards the tables.  They were too far for her to see clearly with her weak eyes, but she thought she could make out figures standing and there seemed to be someone crouching like a creature about to spring…….

Keda had not long ago buried her baby.  She came willingly to be Titus’s nurse, though her first meeting with the little boy was fraught with sorrow:-

Keda stared down at Titus.  Tears were in her eyes as she watched the child.  Then she turned to the window.  She could see the great wall that held in Gormenghast.  The wall that cut her own people away, as though to keep out a plague; the walls that barred her view the stretches of arid earth beyond the mud huts where her child had so recently been buried…..

The relationship between the wet-  nurse from the Dwellings becomes increasingly unbalanced as the story unfolds.  It seems that Keda has two babies to look after (the other being Nannie Slagg who becomes more and more reliant on her).  Meanwhile:-

Titus had stolen the limelight and Keda’s indifference was soon forgotten, for he was beginning to cry, and his crying grew and grew in spite of Mrs Slagg dangling a necklace in front of his screwed up eyes and an attempt at singing a lullaby from her half-forgotten store.  She had him over her shoulder, but his shrill cries rose in volume.  Keda’s eyes were still upon the wall, but of a sudden, breaking herself away from the window, she moved up behind Nannie Slagg and, as she did so, parted the dark brown material from her throat and freeing her left breast, took the child from the shoulders of the old woman.  Within a few moments the little face was pressed against her and struggles and sobs were over.  Then as she turned and sat at the window, a calm came upon her as from her very centre, the milk of her body and the riches of her frustrated love welled up and succoured the infant creature in her keeping.

What a tender moment this is between baby and Keda – the only mother Titus will ever know.

Poem: Finding the words

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , on February 24, 2010 by echostains

I used to write a lot of poetry when I was young.  I would take the day off work, find a lonely spot and lie in the grass and write and write.  I used to enjoy it too, so having read a lot of poetry blogs lately, I thought that I too would have a go.  But what to write about? what subject matter?  This is what happened – or rather what didn’t happen:-

Sitting and

Chewing pens


Thoughts congeal

And flutter by

Yet I

Am still debating


As those words

Float by

I know that I

Am just freewheeling

Though my thoughts

Come reeling

And I grasp

Those words

And clasp them

To my pen



©L. M. Roberts 2010


My other poetry experiments;

Haiku: Three for March

Her Facebook has it    (Humorous)

Drowned in sound (dark)

Authors I have read – Charles Dickens

Posted in Authors I've read with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2010 by echostains



Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors of all time – I just love his characterisations and observations concerning the quirkiness of human behaviour.  I have read nearly all his books, but there are one or two that have passed me by and some, though popular with others, leave me cold. 

Miss Haversham


My favorite book changes from time to time.  It is actually ‘Great Expectations’, but having recently re watched the latest Bleak House remake, I’m beginning to dither…  But no, I will go by the book.  So it’s ‘Great Expectation’ 

Magwitch using the stolen file


Great Expectations 

What I love about it: The marshes, the cruel stepmother, the impervious Estella and Miss Haversham.  I love the idea of the old bride still in her tattered bridal gown – I love the cake which mice have made their home in and the clock that’s stopped.  I love the way simple Pip becomes a snob then changes back when he finds out his real benefactor. 

 Thrills: Magwitch in the graveyard, Pip being saved by the convicts escape, the fire at Miss Havershams.  Magwitch’s daring visit to Pip and the way he drowns.  Last and not least the renting of those dirty curtains from the windows and the scales dropping from Estella’s eyes as she realises that Pip is her own true love!

Pip is told he has great expectations


Oliver Twist 

Oliver dares to ask for more

What I love about it:  the poor woman in the workhouse, the beadle who names the child, Sowerby the undertaker – who in their right mind would like to sleep with coffins, the hideous Claypole who gets his come uppence, the thieves den, Dodger, Nancy and Fagin.  I love the tangled web that is woven, the intricate relationships and the honour among thieves.  The Brownlow connection, trust and betrayal and how everything comes out right in the end. 

Bill Sykes gets a fright


Thrills: Plenty to be had, the Murderous Sykes and the ghost of Nancy on the roof, the workhouse regime, the actual murder of poor Nancy, the match made in hell in the form of Bumbles wife (actually, that’s more comical) and the triumph of Bulleye as he escapes a drowning.  The man who stop Oliver with a punch when he runs off after they think he is a pickpocket – well he deserves a punch himself.  I love the way that all the threads come together in this story.  It is so well thought out and told and what an array of characters! 

David Copperfield 

David Copperfield

What I like about it:  the perils of a cruel stepfather and what happens when his mother dies.  The novel is very like Dickens’ own early life – including the factory.  Betsy Trotwood his aunt who proves a good sort.  Mr Dick is an enigma – I can’t quite make him out.   I love the idea of Peggotty’s relatives living in an upturned boat.  The sweet Emily.  Dora Davids fluffy but useless wife.  Big daft Ham who loves Emily, whose head is soon turned when she sets eyes on Steer forth. 

The Cheeryble brothers by Phiz


Thrills: Not many apart from Ham drowning to save Steerforth and poor Emily’s father searching all over London for his fallen daughter.  The creepy slimy character of Uriah Heep who is slowly plotting his takeover of Wicklow’s firm, swindling all who gets in his way. Ham and  Dora’s death is more sad than thrilling though. 

Nicholas Nickleby 

Nickleby makes himself comfortable at Dotheboys Hall


What I love about it:  Mr Murstone who kicks things off for Nicholas.  ‘Dotheboys’ Hall’, Wackford Squeers and his wife and especially the ridiculous Fanny Squeers who takes a liking to Nickleby.    The horrible uncle Ralph Nickleby, the pitiful Smike, the loyal Noggs. I like the bleakness of ‘Dotheboys’ Hall and the humour and general niceness of the Cheeryble brothers.  I am not keen on the theatrical bits of the novel, although the ‘Infant Phenomenon’ is quite an amusing character.


Thrills: Ralph Nickby who would compromise poor Kate, the cruelty of Squeers to those poor boys, especially to Smike who could have had a nice home and family. Pathos comes from the gentle Smike, secretly in love with Kate and his eventual death – very moving. 

Bleak House

Bleak House

What I like about it: Reputation was all.  I like the mysterious Nemo, the bored Lady Dedlock and Miss Flyte and her birds.  I’m not keen on Jarrdyce versus Jarndyce, which gets a bit monotonous, but I like Esther Summerson and the simple way that she accepts everything, she has no pity for herself at all I also like the way that the court case makes people act in ways they wouldn’t normally act – putting their life on hold for an outcome that is by no means a forgone conclusion.  Skimpole the ‘child’ who is anything but, kind Mr Jarndyce who has seen this Will fever ruin many a poor man.  I like the way that secrets which get into the wrong hands can be lethal – there must have been a lot of blackmail around in Victorian times.

Esther Summerson and Caddy Jellyby by Phiz

Thrills: Absolutely lots!  the opium dens, Krook the rag and bottle merchant who finally combusts literally –  only a pair of smoking legs are left.  the murder of blackmailer Tulkinghorn by Hortense.  This is a wonderful book with a great plot and a very dark and mysterious aura about it.

A Christmas Carol

What I like about it: Who doesn’t like this Christmasy tale!  This story has got everthing really.  It’s sentiments unfortunately are rarely thought about apart from at Christmas time.  Charity and the turning over of a new leaf cheers the reader on and the thought occurs that it’s never too late to trun over a new leaf.

Scrooge and dead partner Marley by Leech

Thrills;   It has to be the ghosts of course: the rattling chains, the ghostly light, the pointing finger, the glimpses into what the future could hold….

Little Dorrit

Fanny and Little Dorrit calll on Mrs Merdle

What I like about it: The exciting glimpse into the Marshalsea prison where debtors carry on like they were at home and are encouraged to do so.  I love poor little Amy Dorrit and despair of her selfish father.  The story is full of lots of little sub stories that make it more complicated than most.  However, Little Dorrit is a lovely character, full of kindness, patience and  self-sacrifice – which are rewarded in the end 

Thrills include the mystery of the paper in the back of the watch case.  The very strange luring away of Tattycoram (what a name!).  The murderous Rigaud and the strangely weird Mrs Clennham and Miss Wade. 

The Old Curiosity shop

daniel cattermole illustration Quilp in the background grinning


What I like about it:  The cast of characters.  The hideous hunchbacked Quilp who lends money to Nell’s Grandfather putting him in debt.  Nell and grandfather become homeless and wander as beggars as Quilp takes their shop.  Kit, Nell’s friend, Dick Swivvler and Nell’s brother all join in the search for Nell and grandfather , aided by the nasty Quilp. 

Little Nell's death

Thrills:  Not a lot, this is a very sad book, as Little Nell dies in the end of fatigue.  Critics said that this particular novel was over sentimental – and so it is in places, the death scene in particular is a real tear jerker.  I still like this book though more than some of the others. 

Martin Chuzzlewit

frontpiece for Martin Chuzzlwitt by Phiz


What I like about it:  It’s alright – that’s about it really.  I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of the other books and I think this is down to  Chuzzlewit’s adventures in America (reflecting Dickens’ opinion). I am amazed that Dickens thought this his best novel.  It is the least popular with most people.


Hard Times

Gradgrind catches Louisa and Tom at the circus


What I like about it:  Very different to other Dickens books.  I have only read it once and found it quite sobering.  it is political, set in fictitious Coketown and about Class, education and trouble at t’ mills.  I can’t remember much about it to be honest, but it is something I wouldn’t read again, but I would choose it over  Martin Chuzzlewit. 

Tale of Two cities

Tale of two cities by Phiz

What I like about this book: not a favorite, but great if you are interested in the French Revolution.  Basically its about one man sacrificing himself for another because he loves the others wife.

Tale of two Citoes frontpiece Darnay and Carton

Thrills; Lots of intrigue and underground Revolutionists.  Sydney Carton who starts out a dissipated man ends up a martyred hero.  It’s not a book I would read again, but it has been translated quite well into very watchable films. 

Pickwick Papers

Mr Pickwick addresses the club


Why I like it?  I just don’t.  I have read this book twice and I cannot for the life of me see what others see in it.  To me it tries to be too clever.  Sam Weller really gets on my nerves.  I know it’s not his fault poor chap, but Dickens gives him an impediment that makes his character hard to read.  Idon’t care much for their ‘hilarious’ adventures either.  But, having said this, I shall at some time try again to read this book – I might actually ‘get’ it eventually 

The Victorian websiteDickens pages HERE

Titus Groan – Nannie Slagg’s outing

Posted in Flashback challenge, Gormenghast journey with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2010 by echostains

nannie Slagg played by June Brown in the BBC adaptation

Back to the story.  I am now more than half way through ‘Titus Groan’, the writing is miles behind though…. This chapter deals with Nannie Slagg undertaking to get baby Titus a wet-nurse from the dwellings outside the castle.

The acacia trees, silhouetted on her right, cut patterns against the mountain and on her left glowed dimly with a sort of subterranean light.  Her path was striped like the dim hide of a zebra from the shadows of the acacia trunks.  Mrs Slagg, a midget figure beneath the rearing and overhanging of the aisle of dark foliage, awakened small echoes in the neighbouring rocks as she had moved, for her heels beat a quick uneven measure on the stone path.

Whenever Nannie Slagg is mentioned,  her height (or lack of it) is always alluded to.  I should still like to know how tall the old nurse is.   I am sure I saw a picture somewhere of her perched on Prunesquallor’s knee and she looked miniscule.

The Dwellers live in mud huts and always ate their suppers out in the open on long tables arranged in rows.  The actual terrain outside the castle walls is curious – drab grey dust and cacti which sounds more like a desert:-

From the lush shadows of the acacia drive Mrs Slagg had suddenly broken in upon an arid world.  She saw the rough sections od white Jarl root and their bowls of sloe wine standing before them.  This long tubular Jarl root which they dug each day from a wood in the vicinity, stood upon the tables every evening, sliced up into scores of narrow cylinders.  This, she remembered with a flutter that her social status was very much in advance of that held by these poor mud hut dwellers….

I have searched in vain for ‘Jarl root’, but it seems to be a delicacy that Peake invented.  I would think it would be like bamboo which panda’s eat or bamboo shoots.  Full of fibre probably. They are using spoons to eat with, so it must be quite soft.  It doesn’t seem very appetising, but it’s all they have.  The Castle people are luckier with Swelter’s cuisine, though it shall be seen that the Dwellers do get a few scraps from those enormous kitchens thrown them 

Nannie is very proud to announce the purpose of her visit to the Dwellers and let’s them know in  no uncertain terms of the honour that is being bestowed upon them.  That a wet-nurse from among them shall be selected to feed the heir of Gormenghast:-

We are all proud.  All of us.  The Castle,’ (she said this in a rather vain way) ‘is very very satisfied and when I tell you what has happened, then you’ll be happy as well; oh yes, I am quite sure you will.  Because I know you are dependent on the castle’

Mrs Slagg was never very tactful.  ‘You have some food thrown down to you from the battlements every morning, don’t you?’  She had pursed her mouth and stopped a moment for breath.

A young man lifted his thick black eyebrows and spat.

‘So you are very much thought of by the Castle.  Every day you are thought of aren’t you?  And that’s why you’ll be so happy when I tell you the wondrous thing that I am going to tell you.’……

It is decided almost immediately who shall be going with Mrs Slagg back to the castle.  Her name is Keda.  Her story is next.

Titus Groan – Fuchsia’s attic and adventures with cake

Posted in Flashback challenge, Gormenghast journey with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2010 by echostains

Fuchsia played by Neve McIntosh BBC adaptation

Fuchsia has gone on an adventure.  She has pulled back her bed, opened a cupboard door and ascended into darkness with only a candle to lead her.  This is Fuchsia’s secret world – her attic:-

One of these narrow beams lit Fuchsia’s forehead and shoulder, and another plucked a note of crimson from her dress.  To her right was an enormous crumbling organ.  It’s pipes were broken and the keyboard shattered.  Across its front the labour of a decade of grey spiders had woven their webs into a shawl of lace.  It needed but the ghost of an infanta to arise from the dust to gather it about her head and shoulders as the most fabulous of all mantillas.

What wonderful imagery!  Peake is so descriptive with his words – he paints with them.  This attic is filled with all sorts of junk – some of it very strange indeed, for example;-

Within reach of her hand the hide and head of a skinned baboon hung dustily over a broken drum that rose behind the dim ranges of this attic medley.

Now where did the skinned baboon come from?   Did an ancestor actually leave Gormenghast to acquire it?  Was an ancestor in touch with other countries, other lands?

I am alone,’ she said, her chin in her hands and her elbows on the sill.  ‘I am quite alone, like I enjoy it.  Now I can think, for there’s no one to provoke me here.  Not in my room.  No one to tell me what I ought to do because I’m a Lady.  Oh no.  I do just what I like here.  Fuchsia is quite alright here.  None of them knows where I go to.  Flay doesn’t know.  Father doesn’t know.  Mother doesn’t know.  Even Nannie doesn’t know.  Only I know.  I know where I go.  I go here.  This is where I go.  Up the stairs and into my lumber room.  Through my lumber room and into my acting room.  All across my acting room and up the ladder and on to my verandah.  Through the door and into my secret attic.  And here it is I am.  I am here now.  I have been here lots of times but that is in the past.  That is over, but now I’m here it’s in the present.  This is the present.  I’m looking at the roofs of the present and later on when I’m older, I will lean on the window- sill again.  Over and over again.

I too used to have an attic that I used to escape to.  An attic full of what most people would perceive as junk or rubbish.  But I didn’t, it was a secret world to escape to – indeed a place to think and talk to myself (I still do that – with no attic).  Every so often I would think ‘I must remember this moment and this scene when I am grown up’  And I do sometimes.  At least I think that I do – memory can play strange tricks.

Further on, perhaps we have a clue to the adventurous ancestor:-

The other walls were less imposingly arranged, fifteen pictures being distributed among the three.  The head of a jaguar, a portrait of the twenty-second Earl of Groan with pure white hair and a face the colour of smoke as a result of immoderate tattooing, and a group of children in pink and white muslin dresses playing with a viper were among the works which pleased her the most…..

She instinctively knows that there is something afoot in the castle, something that they are not telling her.  I had the same sort of feeling when I was eight and my mother was expecting my sister.  I don’t remember how I felt exactly – but I remember that I wasn’t exactly pleased at the time.  With typical childishness my brother and I felt very much left out of things and isolated.

Another revelation is in this book is the wonderful poetry of Peake – unexpected.  The style, I feel,  is a cross between Lewis Carol and Edward Lear;-

The Frivolous Cake

A freckled and frivolous cake there was

That sailed on a pointless sea

or any lugubrious lake there was

In a manner emphatic and free.

How jointlessly, and how jointlessly

The frivolous cake sailed by

 On the waves of the ocean that pointlessly

Threw fish to the lilac sky.

Oh, plenty and plenty of Hake there was

Of a glory beyond compare,

And every conceivable make there was

Was tossed through the lilac air

Up the smooth billows and over the crests

Of the cumbersome combers flew

The frivolous cake with a knife in the wake

Of herself and her curranty crew.

Like a swordfish grim it would bounce and skim

(This dinner knife fierce and blue),

And the frivolous cake was filled to the brim

With the fun of her curranty crew

Oh plenty and plenty of hake there was…..

As usual, it is up to poor Nannie Slagg to spill the beans about the prospect of Fuchsia’s brother.  Needless to say, the girl does not take the news at all well:-

“No!’ shouted Fuchsia, the blood rushing to her cheek.  ‘No! no! I won’t have it.  Oh no, no, no!  I won’t!  I won’t!  It mustn’t be, it mustn’t be!’  And Fuchsia flinging herself to the floor burst into a passion of tears.

 Here is a wonderful detailed extract about the attic by Sebastian Peake, and The Gormenghast website

 The whole of The Frivolous Cake poem HERE