Sunday, November 02, 2014

Jemmy Downes's Irish wife

Alton Locke continues his journey from the Dean's castle, probably in Lincoln or Peterborough to Covent Garden where we are introduced to another character, a villain. An Irish lady trying to convince him to re-join a 'sweater's den'. I would really wonder how many other 19th Century novels would include an Irish character. I don't really mind that she is trying to trick Locke. Kingsley is very clever to give her a complete sympathetic overview.

She recognises Locke as a tailor according to his gait. I'm not sure about this but I am fairly sure tailors worked cross-legged. She then gives a marvellous speech to him to convince him to join her:

“Och then, it's I can show ye the flower o' work, I can. Bedad, there's a shop I know of where ye'll earn – bedad, if ye're the ninth part of a man, let alone a handy young fellow like the looks of you – och, ye'll earn thirty shillings the week, in the very least – an' beautiful lodgings; - och thin, just come and see 'em – as chape as mother's milk! Come along thin – och, it's the beauty ye are – just the nate figure for a tailor.”

Jemmy Downes worked with Locke until the owner died and the owner's son decides to close the shop and let all the workers work from home. He then opens up competition so that only the worker who promises the lowest price will get the work. Unfortunately his wife was pregnant and he had no choice but to open up his own sweat shop – and a dire dungeon it turns out to be. If anyone is the villain it is Jemmy, not his wife. As a Belfastman myself I can still hear the Irish lilt in her voice but 'bedad' is a complete unknown to me, this would obviously be a gem of a book for a linguistic detective.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Letter to Horace Field from Charles Kingsley

 I opened the book of Kingsley's letters at random to find this wonderful letter. It is worthwhile that you should read something written 147 years ago advising a writer to read Darwin. Field's book is called 'Heroism, or, God our Father, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent'. Also advising him to avoid sounding like he is proposing medieval superstition. 

To Horace Field, Esq.

EVERSLEY, November 3, 1867

I have just read a book of yours called 'Heroism', sent to me last April but mislaid. Pray excuse my seeming rudeness in not having before acknowledged it.
I have been not only surprised, but deeply touched with much of it. It re-echoes much which I have felt and thought about the mystery of life; here and there there is (it seems to me) great wisdom and insight, and everywhere honesty and original thought and speech. I regret much that you have used the Swedenborgian nomenclature, and even spelling. Conjugial for conjugal, though allowed for a few latin examples, is a pedantry on Swedenborg's part, which must not be followed, save for those who wish to make themselves answerable in the world's eyes for all his peculiarities. So of 'angels' and 'devils' – quite agreeing with your general meaning, and of 'heaven' and 'hell'. I must say that in the dense ignorance and stupidity with which we are just now surrounded, you had better not use these words as you do, without previous definition, or you will be supposed to be a mere supporter of the very popular superstitions of the medieval church, with which you exactly do not agree. But of your belief in a special providence of a perpetual education by men by evil as well as good, by small things as well as great, I cannot speak too highly. If I did not believe that, I could believe nothing; and your book is delightful to me, because I find one other man in England who does believe it. The explanation that you give goes for little with me. It is as good as any other Iever heard perhaps better; but what comforts me is the recognition of the fact by one pious man, who yet believes in physical science and political economy.
If I were to advise you – it would be, read and study Darwin. In him you wll find a justification for much which you have said – and an explanation – without troubling your mind with merely medieval devils (who have no ground of existence in any facts known to me), of much which you have said.
I would very much like to hear from you, and beg you to forgive the seeming neglect of my not having acknowledged your book until now.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Alton Locke

There is a difference between reading a historical novel and reading a book that was written by a contemporary author. There is a different feel, a different set of values. This is definitely the case for Alton Locke. When I started to read I thought it would be quaint and old-fashioned. I was in for a shock. Kingsley has written this book in defiant mood and it is as shocking today as it was when it was published – about 170 years ago.

Victorian London was a dirty, terrible place and there is a feeling and a sense that I have never experienced before. Add in the fact that the novel was a relatively new experiment and Kingsley occasionally adds in his opinion to the story. The writing is fresh and exciting. It is more appealing to feel the author is there with you putting his slant on the story than the novels we get today that are mostly objective and the writer does his / her best to disappear into the background. B. S. Johnson comes close to this in some of his short stories when he stops the narrative to tell a joke.

Kingsley is angry. Furious about the way the working class are being treated and about the rigid class distinctions. Even more angry about the way they are treated by the church. This is a religious book but it is as critical of religion as it is religious.

I would encourage everyone, religious or not to find this book and give it a try. You will learn things and read things that will shock you and it is probably more engaging than any book I have read recently (over the last 170 years.)

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Apollo Alliance

I don't normally do this - comment on the world situation but I feel today I need to say something. I would like to start a new type of blog post - 'organisation of note'. I would like to write about:

We all know the news today and the crisis in the middle east. The Apollo Alliance (inspired by the Apollo space program) is an organisation that wants to make USA energy independent, bring back alternative, renewable energy and bring back the industry that this will create. If only this had been championed before, we might not be at this crisis point where everyone depends on oil for energy. I wish the UK could start something similar. Self-reliance is one of the fundamental pillars of American thought, this is truely an **organisation of note**.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Three Fishers

I am excited to have come across a book with letters and memories of Charles Kingsley. In the book they have a 'fac simile' of his poem 'The Three Fishers' which was turned into a folk song and became an anthem for the Christian Socialist Movement.

- For men must work and women must weep

Here is a text of the poem:

Three fishers went sailing out into the West,
Out into the West as the sun went down;
Each thought on the woman who lov’d him the best;
And the children stood watching them out of the town;
For men must work, and women must weep,
And there's little to earn, and many to keep,
Though the harbor bar be moaning.

Three wives sat up in the light-house tower,
And they trimm’d the lamps as the sun went down;
They look’d at the squall, and they look’d at the shower,
And the night rack came rolling up ragged and brown!
But men must work, and women must weep,
Though storms be sudden, and waters deep,
And the harbor bar be moaning.

Three corpses lay out on the shining sands
In the morning gleam as the tide went down,
And the women are weeping and wringing their hands
For those who will never come back to the town;
For men must work, and women must weep,
And the sooner it ’s over, the sooner to sleep—
And good-by to the bar and its moaning.

 According to wikipedia in the last line the word 'bar' refers to the sand bar in the harbour and the tradition that it is a bad omen to hear the wind wailing over the sand bar.

I do have an interest in Kingsley and I must admit I haven't come across this song / poem before but it is certainly striking. Apparently in Victorian times the song was quite popular. Kingsley was involved in the Christian Socialist Movement and this poem could probably be said to have started a movement that woulld change the world.

Here is a picture I have taken of the handwritten version from the book I have just discovered:

You might have to click on the picture to expand it.

There are a couple of youtube videos of the song, it is an incredible song. This is a version that I like by from 'Live at Barry's House'. The singer, I believe, is Hannah Lynch from Dungannon, a fellow Norn Irelander.

Joan Baez also sings a greater version. Click here.

Delirium feriarum 14 and 15

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Delirium feriarum 10

My pilgrimage to Cabo Blanco

Whilst in Mancora, Peru I just happened to overhear in conversation that across the bay was a place called Cabo Blanco where Hemingway had visited. I have a reverence for Hemingway that is quite serious and I jokingly called this a 'pilgrimage'.

Cabo Blanco is a place that is not easy to get to. Although it had some wonder days in the 50s and 60s, the Cabo Blanco Fishing Club was a place for celebrities like John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe to visit. Today Cabo Blanco is quiet but busy. A centre for oil and surfing rather than game fishing.

The reef of honeycomb sandstone is one of the fiercest rocks I have ever seen. I would not like to be smashed into that.

A lonely quiet place, the town receives 3 hours of water per week. The Fishing Club is now a wreck and I didn't get to see it. In the Black Marlin Restaurant, there is a set of old pictures.

The beach is a lonely powerful place. From September you can see whales. The surfing is one of the best in Peru with an almost perfect 'tube' wave. It is certainly possible to feel the atmosphere of Hemingway.

I certainly enjoyed my walk on the beach, thinking of the month Hemingway spent in 1956.

I thought you would all enjoy this pic. We came to visit the 'Restaurant Cabo Blanco' and it was closed – but we took a fun pic anyway.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


I am now on twitter - find me @igneosgeos. Hope to get some more updates on in the next few days because it has been a busy summer. I hope you are all well.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Story of Pelican Books

I love Pelican books and this new series looks to be better than ever! Let us hope that they go back to the original style of the 1950s.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


See the following for the concluding paragraph from Hiromi Kawakami's 'Blue Moon' in the recent Granta issue 'Japan'. Probably doesn't grasp the beauty of this essay but it is well worth a read.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pertamina Energy Tower

This skyscraper looks to be quite awesome and is certainly worthy of note and something to keep an eye on. This will be the first 'net-zero energy' tower in the world. It will embrace wind power, solar power, possibly geothermal power it will be a mini-city with 20,000 inhabitants. I am quite attracted by these new projects and it will be good to see how it turns out in reality.

See the SOM website

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bertrand Russell - Secret of my Success

This quote comes from Ved Mehta's 'Fly and the Fly Bottle' about his conversations with British philosophers. At the end of his meeting with Russell he told him the following:

"'When I was an undergraduate, he said, sucking his pipe, 'there were many boys cleverer than I, but I surpassed them, because while they where dégagé, I had passion and fed on controversy. My grandmother was a woman of caustic and bitter wit. When she was eighty-three, she became kind and gentle. I had never found her so reasonable. She noticed the change in herself, and, reading the handwriting on the wall, she said to me, “Bertie, I'll soon be dead.” And she soon was.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Clarice Lispector

New to Penguin Classics

Clarice Lispector was born in the Ukraine, moved to Brazil, lived in relative obscurity and has been described as the new Kafka. Hard to believe? Well I thought it was until I started to read 'Near to the Wild Heart'. 
I would probably have to disagree with the comparison to Kafka because I dislike those form of comparison status remarks. Lispector deserves her own status. The writing is vivid, mysterious and it makes you question your own existence, what it really means to be alive. 

“Just as the space surrounded by four walls has a specific value, provoked not so much because it is a space but because it is surrounded by walls. Octávio made her into something that wasn't her but himself and which Joana received out of pity for both, because both were incapable of freeing themselves through love, because she had meekly accepted her own fear of suffering, her inability to move beyond the frontier of revolt. Besides: how could she tie herself to a man without allowing him to imprison her? How could she prevent him from developing his four walls over her body and soul? And was there a way to have things without those things possessing her?”
Lispector had a unique style of internal monologue that made many critics in Brazil compare her to Joyce. Comparisons should be limited in literature.  

Bonhoeffer - To the strong

"It is the nature, and the advantage, of strong people that hey can bring out the crucial questions and form a clear opinion about them. The weak always have to decide between alternatives that are not their own."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 'Resistance and Submission'.

What do you think?