Childhood Part Three – Broomlands

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Great-Britain-Geological-Map.mediumthumb

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Years ago, I wrote down these childhood memories.  It was a time when I thought I had forgotten everything.  I started at age eleven, when I built a raft and sailed it on the pond, and worked backwards into time with whatever image arose next from my subconscious. It made me a “geological map”. It was a healing and integrating work.

This post is about when I was 8 – 10 years old.

The landscapes which developed my art and my in-built spiritual path – we moved house a number of times –  are of primary interest to me.  So it is the land and the flavour of the inner world I focus on here, rather than the taste of my mother’s cooking.  She gave me a lot of creative freedom.  The reach of childhood is so vast, that I can only touch on a few inches, here, and in the earlier Parts One and Two.

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Nymph, circa 1957

Nymph, circa 1957

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We moved from Cornwall when I was nearly eight, to a farm in Surrey between a bluebell wood and a string of big sand-quarries.  Broomlands Farm is near Limpsfield Common.

In Cornwall, our “geological backdrop” was the white china-clay pyramids near St Austell – we saw them constantly from our house, changing colour to silver along the skyline – and the granite by the sea.  In Surrey it was sandstone:  the quarries were our playground, russet and old gold, amid the constant scratching sound of the miners.

Limpsfield Common began at a place I called “Treasure Wood” which sprawled into the distance as far as the eye could see.   The Treasure Wood was a place where fields and agricultural control were arrested by a heather-like tide of magic.   My mother did not allow me to go there on my own.   She let me go for my long solitary wanders within the radius of four roads roughly encompassing our farm under the North Downs.

GALLERY – most of these photos were taken on recent revisits to my old home.

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Our house was quite large and gracious in proportion, of mellow red brick with a rose garden in front,  a hen-yard by the bluebell woods at the back,  a long paddock to one side with a couple of tall dark conifers,  and the back door where the boots were kept.  The ridge of the North Downs was about a mile away, and the patterns of bracken and blazed out trails along it became a familiar seasonal script.  In front, between our garden and the quarry, was another paddock where bullocks tethered to posts trod gramophone records of earth around them in their grazing.

The prospect, looking down onto Broomlands,  was beautiful,  particularly when the azure of the sky fell down into the bluebell woods with radiance among the young trees in May;   but my father says this was for him a farm without a soul.  Perhaps it was the quarries in front,  great gashes in the land,  with lorries scratching by.  Or perhaps it was the farm men – he was the farm manager – none of them were skilled or bred to it.  We stayed there, as at Ventonwyn in Cornwall,  for two years.

Cupid and Psyche

Cupid and Psyche

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Here, under peer pressure from my new school, I became “a boy”.  I gave up my beloved dresses overnight.  I wore shorts and aertex shirts, and dirtied my knees.  My romantic passion rekindled with horses.  I saved up all my pennies to buy pony books by the Pullein-Thompsons and Pat Smythe, and longed fiercely to ride. At Broomlands there were at last riding lessons, firstly at Miss Aylemore’s Stables in Limpsfield, which were rather smart – six shillings for half an hour –  then with Miss Rogers in Edenbridge, at the far end of Treasure Wood.

Miss Rogers was a little old lady, a lean and white-haired horse-lover, like a small brown nut.  She wasn’t bossy like they were at Miss Aylemore’s, and she took her pupils on long, enchanted rides over the Chart common.  Her small chestnut ponies were new to me, and heaven to ride.  None of them were lazy.  They frisked along the woodland paths, they were eager fellow spirits.   I remember magical canters over small hills, the thud of hooves, the rockings and droppings along mud paths and bending along the ponys’ necks through glades of low branches.

At home I fostered lambs who had lost their mothers.  One of these tiny ones was called The Brigadier.  I don’t know if The Brigadier survived:  he made a noble effort.  Their bodies are thin, firm-fleeced,  damp and warm,  their thick black legs stand splayed with knobbles,  their smell and bleat is heart-tuggingly sharp, like their baby hooves,  and you can put your finger in their ardent sucking mouths instead of into yours, when you are getting too old for it.

12 matilda's escape 57

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I kept pace with my parents’ love for music.  My piano lessons began at age 8, with Mrs Bickersteth, the vicar’s wife in Oxted.  She taught me the staves and the notes:  Eat Good Bread Dear Father are the lines –  and F A C E  are the spaces between.  Her husband became later on, the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

I heard music always at home. I heard them learn piecemeal to play string quartets; night after night I woke to the “mummy-and-daddy noise” of Beethoven’s Rasoumovsky No.One, in slow motion, note by note like a scrubbing brush.

In bed at night, the soul wrenching realisation would come that I was asleep through the music they played downstairs,  I’d missed it,  I’d betrayed it by not being there.   I got out of bed and sat on the stairs to listen.  There was a terrible urgency in this.  I tried to memorize the tempo of each piece they played, and sometimes even the key,  so as to repeat it to them in the morning.   Sometimes I had perfect pitch.

Music has come with wrenching pathos through my dreams and woken me,  and I realised I’d been dead to it.  I’m chilly and sleepy,  yet I can’t go to back to bed,  or I will miss it.  I’ll miss the joy they are having.   I’m outside, looking in – the jealousy of the outsider who has lost the trail – the jealousy of the child who is sent to bed too early; and the determination with which, on our family drives into the hills or in train journeys through Scotland,  I would force myself to be aware of each particle of the scenery.  If I didn’t, I was unworthy of it, and had missed it – the desolation whenever in my heart of hearts I twigged I was not really interested, it had closed its face and voice to me.

The great deities of my parents were landscape and music.  If I did not admire these with all my heart and soul, I considered myself a philistine.  Quince and Simon were not interested – Quince couldn’t see, and Simon didn’t enjoy long walks.  I flew into a rage with their indifference, being at the same time smug.  We squabbled and bickered with relentless violence in the back of the car until Daddy exploded into a bomb or a mood.  Rage and hate there is, when one is shut out of the house.

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GALLERY –  I obtained a copy of “My War” recently from a bookshop in Cornwall:  
the drawings here are part of the opening sequence.

Mummy was friendly with an abstract-painter called Stephen Szegedy-Szuts.   He and his wife Gwynnedd lived at Caunce Head near The Lizard in Cornwall, and they were magic persons.  I do not know if we knew them first in Cornwall, or later during the Surrey or Somerset periods, when we must have driven there for holidays with them.

Stephen had a halo of white hair, many wrinkles, and spoke in a sing-song soothing way.  He was old and mottled, and a wonderfully agile rock-climber.  He took Quince and me down the gully to the sea, and swam with us around the rocks like a seal.  He coaxed us shivering into the deep stony water among the big waves.  Then we climbed back up the gully to his kitchen, where he fed us every morning with a spoonful of: “When you have a cold,  always eat honey”  out of a large jar.  “In Hungary every child eats honey.  This is special honey from the acacia tree.  This is why they grow up strong and beautiful.”   He was, like many grownups, bossy.

Stephen told us tales of the winding Tisza river.   He had made and bound a book of his line drawings, called “My War”.  He drew in a funny biting way, like Gaudier,  and like the way he laughed.  “My War” was a tragedy, an artist’s poignant stand against “the killing”.  It had a fierce yet gentle earth-brown pungency, crisp on the page, like Jim’s pot-pourri or like rubbed red geranium leaves.

“In Hungary,” he told us, “ we have big fields of poppies and cornflowers, but no sea or rocky coast, because Hungary is quite surrounded by other countries …”  His house was untidy and overgrown with fruit trees.  We slept in his studio at night, we lay on the floor among an eery cabal of “unthought”  paintings.   They were strong guardian-spirits, and rather startling.  They saw in the dark:  he meditated, he emptied his mind to paint:  he painted what flew in and rested there.

GALLERY – these images from “My War” are online.
I don’t know for sure whether the painting – on the same site – is his.
I couldn’t find any of Stephen’s abstract works.  

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(And now I have the book “My War” itself!  It is astonishing how familiar to me and close to my memory the drawings actually are.  I felt them in my being.  Then I got the book, with its thick textured pages – a copy which belonged to John Fowles –  and I can see them for real.)

Stephen’s wife Gwynnedd had rosy cheeks and flat straight hair. She dragged herself heavily around the house because she had arthritis in her hip,  and was always in pain.  She smiled, but you could hear the pain in her voice.   She seemed shy and slow.  She was eclipsed by Stephen’s personality.  They drove a very old car, with a boot which opened up into a little seat behind.  It was called a “dickie”.  They put Quince and Simon and me in the dickie when they took us for drives.

We had a book at home by Kate Seredy, called The Good Master.   It was the story of a very naughty little girl from Budapest, who went to live on her uncle’s farm in the puszta.   It was about how she learned to live in the country, and to love her new family.   At first she was immensely naughty.  She climbed on the kitchen rafters, and threw smoked sausages down at her foster-parents.  She asked where the phone was, and where the taxicabs were.  Her new foster-brother Jancsi thought these were swear-words, and was shocked.

There were descriptions as the story went on, of the decorated Easter eggs and the lovely clothes they wore,  the petticoats,  high boots, and wide white pleated trousers to ride in, the high grass in the meadows,  the poplars,  the geraniums, the shepherd Pista who told stories,  the embroidered featherbeds where they slept.   They had herds of wonderful wild horses, and the little girl learned to ride.

My mother had a book of the Tisza Tales, an old 1930s edition,  with colour paintings in it by Willi Pogany.   I now have both these books.

goose girl & mermaid

goose girl & mermaid

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After Stephen died,  Gwynnedd had an operation and replaced her hip.  Suddenly she came out of eclipse and became a powerful person.  She tidied the house, got a new car, drove around all over Cornwall, and never stopped talking.  She said Stephen was a genius.  She kept My War and the paintings in his studio as a museum I think, because in later years I went back there to visit her, and saw them.  These buried memories just surface now, about the Szegedy Szuts.  I’m putting them here because it seems to be somewhere in our life between Cornwall and Broomlands.  I think I was just learning to swim.  Gwynnedd was eclipsed by Stephen, and then she began to shine.

Peter – my father – says he went to see Gwynnedd and to renew their acquaintance, just before she died,  around 1980.   She was now bedridden, but dignified, collected and lively.  She smoked steadily in bed, but didn’t set the house on fire.  In her youth she had been a very pretty music-hall artiste, she sang and kicked her legs about,  which our family considered rather shocking.  When Stephen married her, she did all the driving, he perched on her shoulder;  but after she became lame, he did all the washing up.

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A painting by Willy Pogany

A painting by Willy Pogany

Memories are bright leaves floating.  They enrich the NOW, for they are roots.  You have memories somewhere like these, or better still.

The sensation unsought of boundary loss, is near to myself.  It would come in my sleep, and sometimes arise and throb as daylight.  I’m a bed of something thick, enormous, red, black, yet colourless and unsounded.  It contains in my fingers, each a foot thick, its own shrill musical note of sound.  It is soft, yet massive like a valley or a round box.  It cannot be recalled, but from time to time over the years,  its echo comes unsought and stops, finds  and fills me.

It is found in the Broomlands landscape, a trace of it.  It vibrates with the gargoyle visions of Daddy’s war, that still sometimes came,  which exploded into a hundred grotesque red grimaces spluttering and flickering,  splitting the second – opening into vistas of golden palaces.   Yet instantaneously, it was gentle, old  and patient.   It only touches the border of awareness.  Its discovery makes me go still, so it is grace.  It comes unsignalled and then fades.

GALLERY – drawings from my “Art Not-Doing” series in 1987.
I had intended here, the red flower one which is about the breath and sensation;
but these were with it in my photo-file, and form a good sequence.

It is me.  I am not.  I am taken over.  It is huge, fat, warm and sharp.  It grinds, like my teeth.  The echo now comforts me, like something always known to me;  a smile within myself.  It has big hills and is the core of the valley.  It stops the clock.  Brave golden clock.  Blow, blow, dandelion seeds away.  A-tishoo.

brave golden clocks 1987

brave golden clocks 1987

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My father’s parents lived at Fairmile in Chipstead.  It was at the edge of London, and not far away.  Mummy called their house  “The World’s Great Snare”.  When we went to stay with Granny and Granpa, we were told to mind we didn’t fall through the spaces of the upstairs landing to the floor of the panelled hall,  far below,  or we’d get killed.

Under the slippery wooden stairs they had a broom cupboard.  Inside the broom cupboard,  in my dreams at night,  more stairs descended,  dark and musty,  to a cellar underneath, hidden within the intensity of Granny and Granpa’s house,  and how careful you must be.  I came out into a long back garden with drystone walls around it.   It was full of blood.   It was full of dead beasts and bodies and white meat and blood and poor sore bottoms.  When Mummy had a baby she had a poor sore bottom.

I stood in the garden.  I had to find my way through.  She stood in the next garden by a wall, I could see her,  she called me.  Beyond her were the open hills and sky.  She wanted me to walk, to come for long walks with her.  I tried, but I could only move so,  so,  so slowly.

Other sensations were the discomfort of “jane”.    This would flood me with some force, and I cannot find it now,  I have to dowse … tentatively …  towards a once familiar misery,  whose imprint seems to have faded from my cells.  Alienation would enter,  a distaste for everything “important” that defines me,  and in which I am trapped.   I am named and placed, and sick.   It is acutely disagreeable, like being scolded and spanked.  It is acutely at odds,  as if I am a separate and phony entity encircled by the real world.  Perhaps it is like being deaf.  I vaguely remember –  yes –  a sense of dislocation.  Things are slanted, striated against me.  And I am too much.

I was fascinated by cruelty – to animals and to Queens.  I wrote stories of suffering Queens, who came back, lifetime after lifetime to the sad Karma of their own increasing beauty:   “She strived against progress.”  Many times I drew John Knox stabbing Mary Queen of Scots with swords, which disturbed my teacher at school – those sketches disappeared!

The inner world of a child is violent, erotic and aware.  The parents’ war memories are processed psychically; long fingers of history and the world’s shadow reach down the long leafy lane to Broomlands.  There is no “sheltered upbringing” in the collective subconscious.

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I walked behind Daddy in the field when we went to look at the sheep.   I put my feet in his prints, in grass, mud or snow.  This annoyed him and he asked me to walk up front beside him.

I became a boy for three or four years.  I wanted to be a jack-tar in a clipper sailing ship when I grew up, and I wished I could have the beautiful muscles of men.  I obtained a pile of illustrated magazines called Shipping Wonders of the World about the great schooners that used to ply the oceans of the world. For a while, they were wonderful in my inner life.

I reared a large lamb called Laddie whose mother rejected him.   We played together when he was full-size; I was his human friend,  he came to no one else.   Then he went to the slaughterhouse with the other yearlings.  This did not distress me, because it was the way of things.  I wished I might be the one to eat him.  I wanted Laddie to pass right through my body, into the lavatory and back into the earth.  My fair-haired friend up the road, Felicity, who did not live on a farm, was disgusted at this idea.

I found it difficult to make friends.   My ideas about life were often indigestible to them, and I was a misfit at school.   But once made, I kept them.   I had a friend called Marion Black who lived very grandly at Compton Chase on top of the North Downs, and kept ponies of her own.  She told me one day at school that she didn’t want to take sides any more with the ones who bullied, teased and mimicked me.  She said “I want to help you”  – like a girl in a school story:  I suspect her mother told her to.  We became close, and went riding together.

Young dancers in treasure wood

Young dancers in treasure wood

We knew the Winnicotts – they were old friends of Jim and Helen Ede, my mother’s parents  – and went to stay with Alice in her seaside cottage in Newquay, West Wales.  She had generously – we were told – left Donald so that he could go to live with Clare in London.  Mummy told us, “Alice is very, very vague.”  She lived on a cliff right over the driving waves, put out her tongue when she talked, and wore droopy cardigans.  She wasn’t a real grownup.  The sea-mist came right into her terraced cottage and put out the fire.  Quince liked the childish songs she sang, but I didn’t very much.

19 sketching at Newquay

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Mummy gave Quince and me our first rock-climbing lessons in rocky amphitheatres which began where the little road along the cliff ended.  I think Simon must have been too little to come on this holiday.    I  sketched pebbles and  rocks on the beach with Mummy’s fountain pen.   We helped Alice with the groceries.  Alice’s fierce sister Pauline Taylor wore a jacket and tie and jodhpurs, lived inland, and kept a Palomino pony stud farm.  I was smitten with these beautiful dark golden ponies, the colour of burnt toffee with their white manes and tails.  I already loved them desperately, and longed to ride.

I’m having an argument with Mummy just now about this.  She says I had already begun to have riding lessons at Miss Aylemore’s in Limpsfield,  but it seems to me that at eight years old, the desire burned within;  the photo in her album, of that small girl in jeans holding by the end of a drooping rope, a dozing Palomino stallion, trembles with an awkward pride as yet unfulfilled;  the pony’s back is bare.

Newquay in Wales is a grey and weatherbeaten place of great charm.  I returned there often in my dreams, thirty years later.  The pebble beaches were now mighty chambers of dark rock dramas, some of them crumbling into the battering sea.  In slumbering harbour pools, I must have been a fish,  because in a dream in 1988,  at a time of breaking inward,  I was hooked with a line through my nose,  and pulled out from the water onto land.  It was very painful.  This always struck me as remarkable.  Fish are our dreams, they live in the deep.  The Companions of the Light in the upper worlds play the line;  they hook us sharply, to awaken into a higher element.  At first, like being born,  we cannot breathe,  for the air,  the hook, is too sharp,  it burns.  And why there?   Why at Newquay in Wales?

There was no more humiliating sight – also in Newquay – than that of two old people sitting in the front of a long old car with its nose pointing uphill on a steep street in Wales – I was eight – and looking patiently out of it while they press its starter again and again.  Sometimes it whines and they have to wait for a while.  This makes me sick.  It makes the blood pour out of my backside.  I want to smash it and them inside it to pieces.  It is the most horrifying and meaningless thing that I know.  It is monstrous and shouldn’t be allowed.  It is obscene.

Mummy and Daddy did all they could to help me with my fear of cars not starting.  I knew the starter was a little horn, which connected electrically to the spark-plugs.  When you pulled or pressed it, it made this sound.  That’s all.  But my rationale couldn’t reach the sick reality.  I think there was always a joy of relief and self-assurance when it started without any trouble.   Is this why I don’t drive a car, to this day? – I took my test three times but didn’t pass.   Inside the car – the in-carnation – there is for me, a loss of independence.

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These mermaids – one on each side of the paper – were drawn shortly after we came to Broomlands.   They appear to have been a gift to Mrs Willis, my primary school teacher in Cornwall – but I guess my mother didn’t put them in the post …

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The farm buildings and abandoned implements at Broomlands were a child’s paradise for games, climbing and exploration.  By now I was fired up by Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to hunt for secret passages.  We got inside the corn-drier through the grid, and crawled up the narrow, curved canal, down which the hot air blew when they switched it on.  By a miracle, this never happened when we were in it.  I often shudder now, to think of it.

We had to put on special old sandpit clothes to go in the great quarries near our house,, and take them off outside,  because the heavy yellow element stained,  it  permeated our fingernails and hair and everything we touched.  Sometimes we set off landslides down the quarry cliffs and ran all the way to the bottom with the plunging fall of sand.  We made a long, long slide where the sand had hardened.  Again and again we flew down it on our sore and tattered behinds.  Steep, rock-hard and perilous it was, till the weather changed and softened it again to wet dust and mud.  We came indoors, dark yellow from building labyrinths of interlocking tunnel systems, letting our hands meet under and over.

bedrock scourings

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My brother Simon was mad about lorries, bulldozers and long-longs.  He intoned their  holy names – Foden,  Atkinson,  Seddon, Dodge,  with the starry-eyed reverence I had for queens;  he knew all their cabs and drivers.  Some of the lorries were very old, rattly and raucous, with snub noses and bitter eyes.   They trundled up and down through the quarries all day long for Simon’s delight,  except on Sundays when they slept.  Bulldozers squatted in the pit like prehistoric monsters.  They slowly and throatily moved mountains and tracked caterpillar-trails across waste land.  When it rained, the gashes filled with long puddles and reflected the sky.  Simon loved anything on wheels that went brrrrrrmmmmm.

Simon had toy lorries and trucks, which worked hard all day.  In bed at night he sometimes sat with his eyes wide and shining, because he saw an angel.  Once, in a great strange bed in a different house, he was found crawling around at the bottom of it and crying: “I can’t find my place for sleeping.”  When life was difficult, or when he needed to be alone, he would go to his bed to booddup.  He rocked on all fours rhythmically, throwing his head forward against the cot bars.  The sound of his boodduping filled the house with a sense of peace.  When he wrote letters to Jim and Mam he told them about the lorries and then said  “I am very tired.  I’m going to boodup now.  Love from Simon.”  He found writing difficult and may have been dyslexic.  He had a lanky striped friend with floppy limbs, greyish head and ears, and bright button eyes,  called Blue Bunny.

the friends

Quince had her large doll called Judy and a friend called Big Teddy with golden fur.  But she could pick up a stick or a bunch of grass or piece of wire anywhere and turn it into a doll or creature, to people her long Tragic Stories, as I called them.  She  chewed grass stems to make hair for a girl,  and bent a piece of wire into legs for a boy.  She walked around all day, eyes and puddocks (chubby hands) busy with her wide world.  It was only discovered years later,  that she was short-sighted.  She hardly ever stopped talking, and when Mummy couldn’t stand it any more,  she made Quince sit on a stool in the kitchen and try very hard to say nothing at all for three whole minutes – sometimes she got through half a minute.

Quince liked eating sloes, unripe gooseberries and other strange sour things.  When she was very little, she made me shout with laughter by putting them in her bottom and pretending to be an Old Woman.  Mummy came up in a fury to scold us for not being asleep in our beds.  She took one look at Quince and burst out laughing herself.

When I wasn’t quarreling with Quince – we fought a lot – I listened to the Tragic Stories,  enthralled.  They were very dramatic indeed, and mostly about school; about friendships, abandoned children and betrayals.  Perhaps they gave me a reprieve from my Queens.

We had hens in the back yard at Broomlands, and kept cats.  We had a herd of dairy cows who were milked by machine.  When it was very hot, Mummy hosed us in the yard, along with the cow-pats. The cowman was called Mr Heritage, and his wife in the cottage down the lane, gave us jelly babies.  In the bluebell woods behind the house lived many frightened pheasants and a game keeper.

the pits, growing over

I went for long walks at dawn, through the woods – where I began to imagine Granpa Adams watching me after he died.

My dawn and sunset walks were mystic journeys.  Sometimes I crossed the boundary of the four roads.  I ventured up onto the rough slopes of the ever-tempting North Downs, to walk those paths that blazed at me from afar.  Or I would explore the whole string of the sand-quarries, easting my way along abandoned clover fields between them.

There was no point in farming these little isthmuses of land.  Here the quarries themselves were silent craters, scantily furring over with grass and willowherb.  Their creeks gleamed through the bushes.  This land is ever a warm land.  It is golden with summer and the slow buzz of insects.  It is intense with the wonder of the explorer who must go just a little bit further, and the lateness of the hour is approaching violet.  Unknown sandy paths entice my quest along secret cliffs to a ridge, a fence beyond which I must not go,  or I’ll be late home and Mummy will worry about strangers and bad men from London.

There are black cranes and dredgers and ugly buildings of corrugated iron, majestically dark against the flaming sky.  Why was the sky on fire?  Why did the sun seem to set in the east?  A horse canters along those gloaming fields.  There might be plains of soft exposed dry mud as far as the eye can see, like the tale of Rapunzel and the wandering prince.  I am taken to dreamland.  Worlds from different patches of time seem to merge and cohabit, and one leads on to another. I came home and told Mummy “I walked six miles.”  But it was probably no further than two.

This is actually a drawing of someone I loved.  But it is a view from the woods near Grubstreet, Limpsfield, down onto Broomlands and the quarries

“Woodland, 1986”. This is actually a drawing of someone I loved. But it is a view from the woods near Grubstreet, Limpsfield, down onto Broomlands and the quarries

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In springtime the blue sky fell to the ground.   The misty radiance of the bluebells pooled around the slender trunks of white  birches.    I got into trouble with Granny – Mother Adams – during her visit I rushed off on a walk or to see my friend Felicity.  Granny was in the car, just leaving, and she said “I am most offended.”  I had not realised she could be angry, but now I saw she was bound to be.  I had done wrong, and I didn’t know what to say. ‘Sorry’ was not enough.

Living now near Fairmile and the Surrey Tribe, we saw quite a lot of them.   Daddy said they all spent too much time indoors watching television, eating white bread, and breeding like rabbits.   His sister Betty had a brood of six, in an enormous property called “The Cottage” at Biggin Hill.   Her husband Jack was disgracefully rich –  he had a thousand pounds and drove a large Bentley  Daddy proposed we should drive past “The Cottage” in our car and call out at their gate, “You’re a Jolly Unhealthy Lot.”  My parents were obsessed with garden vegetables and healthy ways of living, but suffered quite a lot themselves, from colds,  septic cuts,  bad backs and smouldering marital turbulence.

Daddy took some of my projects with my friends at school seriously.  With Deborah Nelson, Marion Black and Sarah Fraenkel,  a “Nature Club” was formed.  “You’d rather be a girl,” they jeered at me when they first came to tea and I had put on my best dress;  I turned into a boy overnight.  We never wore dresses, and we enjoyed tough boyish games.  We conceived our ultimate dare – to walk from end to end of the long railway tunnel through the Downs just north of Oxted Station.  We would lie down between the railway lines if a train came and we couldn’t find a manhole – wearing farm sacks to protect us if someone in the train went to the lavatory overhead.  Daddy supported our plans,  and made helpful suggestions –  to my private dismay and terror.  I was scared of the noise the trains would make.  Daddy was a great tease, and our great initiation at the last minute only, did not materialise.

with marion & friends in broomlands

Sarah Fraenkel and I played an easier game by ourselves, in the school playing-field:   “Let’s climb up each other and disappear!”  We tried as hard as we could, but fell into heaps of helpless laughter.  At the bottom of the playing-field was a mulberry tree where silkworms were studied.    The headmistress was called Miss Pace.   She was a small wrinkled person in brown;  she sang hymns in a quavery treble,  wore a wig, and was  strict but warmhearted.

I earned pocket money to buy pony books,  by scything thistles,  and by walking over the fields and across Limpsfield Common to school,  instead of taking the bus.   I saved a penny-ha’penny each way.

The book I wanted was called We Rode to the Sea.  It was a thriller about children, ponies and thieves in Scotland, the most beautiful country in the world,  and where the most tragic of queens had lived and suffered.  We had books at home about the hills, the lochs,  the skies, the glens and the gneiss.

Loch Quoich

A geological wall map of Great Britain hung in our house, with every sediment a different colour.  We saw the underlying shapes of everywhere we had lived.  Floating splotches and dots of the interweaving rock revealed our well travelled land.   The Yorkshire Moors were an amoeba of ancient pale yellow upon slanting primary-coloured striations.  As a Capricorn child, I am at home upon these shapes.  As a painter in later years,  I would potter absorbedly along a chance brush-stroke;  next to another colour it  brightened,  and I’d get lost in tiny places of wonder,  in the dreamy litany of the pre-cambrian and mesozoic strata that sleep under the fur of heather, field and forest,  and their sudden openings, faults, or “extrusions”.

Glen Trool, from Buchan Burn

Glen Trool, from Buchan Burn

High lochan on Eigg - April 2000

High lochan on Eigg – April 2000

I was proud of my great romance.  The language of the Scots became my passion, the lilting geology of the Highlands.  I had a book of tartans.

At school we had to present a lecture:  I chose Scotland as my subject,  and described each picture of beautiful wild moorland in the book.  The teacher told me I used the word “very beautiful”  too many times.

Most of the children at school had rich parents – the last word in lipstick, pencil skirts and high heels – who collected them in large shiny cars with fine sleek faces.   Mummy and Daddy now drove a secondhand pre-war Rover with a long black bonnet and a tiny starter button.   It didn’t always start well, and I didn’t trust it.

Quince became in those days lame.  She had “cramp” in her right hip. She talked about her leg, how it hurt.  I sometimes felt it too.  Once after riding with Marion in her paddock on the north downs, I walked back to Broomlands, and the empathic cramp in my hip was so painful I barely made it back home;  Mummy came out in the Rover to look for me.

And ice I remember.  Ice in white sighing slabs and pools among the ruts by the sandpit.   What a lot of friendly local boys there suddenly were.  We slid, fell and skated the light fantastic winter sky.  When the year warmed, our games changed,  we became hunters and quarry,  the hare would set off with a bag full of torn-up paper and lay false trails, spoor and signals all across that land,  across the sandquarries and over the fields.   It was our last spring at Broomlands.

oaks in treasure wood

oaks in treasure wood

Daddy was anti-blood sports.   He quarreled with his boss, Major Leverson Gore of Titsy Estate, who wanted to foxhunt across the land and past our house.  In fact it was the hunters’ tradition to stop for lunch at our house itself ;  we arranged to be away on holiday when this was due.  Major Leverson Gore was at first a genial squire, and invited farmer Peter Adams and his young family to Titsy, outraging his mother with whom he lived.

Peter had a curious effect on his employers.  They were drawn to him, and he clearly kept a school tie somewhere, but they couldn’t decide which side of the salt to place us, at table.   Relations with Major Leverson Gore deteriorated sharply over the blood sports issue, and we moved to Somerset.  At the eleventh hour of our notice to quit, Peter got a successful job interview, and found our new home – a rambling manor near the Quantock hills, owned by Showerings, the Babycham people.   Here we settled down.

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In the Treasure wood
are silver beech and golden oak.
Violin and cello, half quartet
sawing Rasumovsky* back and forth,
they carried on their backs the wood for the kitchen oven
to warm unmothered lambs inside.

Decoding “In Parenthesis” by David Jones
they reared brats, shut up the hens,
fed men and braying beasts,
dug garden, quarrelled, hurt their backs and
bashed their hands, picked
primroses, brewed marmalade and
drove to the winter sea for Christmas.

In their wood
with Eliot and Dylan Thomas,
Krishnamurti’s “pathless land”
rained
abundantly.

*Beethoven’s Rasumovsky No 1 quartet – their practice ground after our bedtime

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My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

aquariel link

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012-2013. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/

Childhood Part One – the Brave Golden Clocks

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An "add-on" - for explanation, see the  Comments under the Tao Tree above

An “add-on” – for explanation, see the Comments under the Tao Tree above

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This post is autobiographical.  My roots of alchemy are in childhood, so here are some  transformative impressions, verified by my mother’s letters to her parents, which were kept.  The old alchemists valued what was considered worthless in the world.  The private yet cosmic wealth of our pre-school sensations gets replaced by literacy – the separation and confinement of that limitless feeling into little lines and boxes.  When we are on the verge – four, five, six years old – we embody clear messages of our destiny, which soon become opaque and forgotten.  Pre-school memories are sensations, broad, precise and unique.  I hope my share may inspire a few readers to recapture their own!

My family had to move house six times before I was ten.  We settled in different parts of England:  each is a home of my hexagonal soul.  Here is Part One – because I wrote about it a lot – of my memories of Scotland, the Yorkshire Moors and Cornwall:  1949-55.  (See also my earlier post, The Wrestlers).

Glensaugh

Glensaugh

I am the oldest of three children.  A boy was expected, and my mother says he might have been called David.  My birth on 14 January 1949 at about 7.30pm was rather a difficult one.  I was a deep transverse arrest, and had to be removed with forceps under general anaesthesia.  My mother felt isolated and in despair during her long and very painful labour.  She was not allowed to see me all night, until the 6am feed-time, and was convinced her baby was severely deformed.  My appearance was not reassuring.  My head was grossly disfigured by a blood blister.

Peter sent a drunken telegram to his parents-in-law in Morocco:  MARY IS WITH CHILD NO LONGER GOODY GOODY GIRL CHILD CALLED JANE REMOVED LAST NIGHT O HAPPY FOURTEENTH BOTH WELLER THAN – – PETER and received the following reply: STILL WISH TO KNOW IF SHE HAS YELLOW WHISKERS OUR LOVE TO YOU ALL JIM AND HELEN.  On his visits to the hospital, he found his daughter rather a fearsome sight, and climbed into bed with Mary.  He left mud all over the sheets, and the nurses were furious.

I was born in Ashford, Kent.  My mother was in the middle of making marmalade – Peter had to take over this chore, much to his disbelief.  They had digs near Crundale – two rooms and a pre-first-world-war cooking stove on the stairs going down to the cellar – at Huntstreet. a tumbledown farm deep in the local hills, with Jim and Vera White and their family of growing boys.  Peter’s exams at Wye Agricultural College became irrelevant alongside the active work he did on the farm, assisting Jim White.  When I was nine months old, he got a job on an experimental sheep farm in Glensaugh, Scotland, and we had the first of our many moves.  We travelled by sleeper first class at great expense, because Peter would not allow Mary to breastfeed in public.

My infancy alternated heaven and hell.  There were angels and colic – six weeks of incessant, hideous crying, with projectile vomiting, right across the room.  My mother was at the end of her tether.  An odd child then emerged, white-haired, impressionable, gobbling the breast, and visibly aware of beauty.  There was an inward quality, which my overworked mother cherished, because it had the aesthetic flavour of her parents.  In her letters to them, she said it is “like Mozart” – but then, as some self-assertion developed, she conceded, tongue in cheek,“Mozart of course, would not do this.”  Jim and Helen arrived at Huntstreet for a visit, and came also to Glensaugh.

Snowy Lullaby 

To some extent I thrived on solitude.  I spent long periods in my pram under the trees, the way the seasons moved through them, the sound of all weathers, the skies, the hills. I knew myself inside the sharp white snow, and the warmth of Mummy or Daddy coming.  It was a rich earthing, and who knows what dew it received?  I became an expert crawler:  slow, stage by stage, to walk (20 months) and talk (3 years).  I wasn’t very good at being held. 

I explored and was radiant with smells, earths and roughness of the ground, the tough hill-grass, the rocks and flowing water,  the small flowers my father showed me,  the beasts and the bleak blowy moor;  the whiteness of deep hard snow and sharp frost,  the softness of summer.  Mummy and Daddy walked and worked very hard, and carried trees.  Daddy gave me piggybacks.  I travelled in space, as space.   I didn’t walk until I knew I wouldn’t fall down.

Moss with sheep

Two black and white sheepdogs, Moss and Nell, lived and worked with us.  Moss was the elder:  he had a wide white ruff and markings, was quick-tempered and very fast on the hill.  I was a little frightened of him.  He was my father’s teacher.  He taught him everything he knew about sheep.  Peter writes: “When Moss was not in his kennel or at work,  he lay and guarded your pram in the back ground.  One day Mary looked out of the kitchen window to see your pram tipped forward with Moss balancing it on the handle bar and you hanging in your harness chuckling into his face.  He loved you as he loved us all –  and I really mean loved.” 

Peter also tells me that one day he arrived back pink with pleasure from Dundee, with a doll for his little daughter.  He produced a large round Mickie Mouse made out of black and brown felt, with terrible stiff whiskers, staring white eyes, huge feet, bright brown breeks and a ferocious grin.  Jane burst into screams of fear and horror.  “Come on Jane, it’s a nice doll!”…  to no avail.    Poor Peter’s parental hubris crashed to below his insteps. 

A more immediate success was Mick Mack, a later gift from his mother.  Mick Mack’s long black felt arms and legs, red shoes, green socks and breeks, and cheery red grin have been portrayed with the other Friends in a colourful pastel by my brother Simon when he was about ten.  Could these creatures’ appearance be linked with certain core sensations later described here?  The subliminal flavours intrigue me, for they vibrate in the pre-verbal intimacy of the soul. 

teanninich, glensaugh and suilven

The winters at Glensaugh were harsh.  Snow blew down the chimney and drifted across the floor.  When I was two, we moved – with Moss, Francis the cockerel, Jane, a pair of cats, Nell in pup and Mary pregnant, all crammed together in the back of our Ford shooting-brake, through an icy April blizzard — to Bransdale in the North Yorkshire Moors, where the winters were even worse.   But we had a stone farmhouse there, and my parents now had ‘the electric’ and coconut matting on the floors.  (In Scotland, the floors were cement, and wherever I crawled, I turned black.)  In the summer, there was a little river through the woods where we bathed,  and the flowers came out.    Mummy sang to me in her deep contralto, songs like this:   Dark brown is the river.   Golden is the sand.   Boats of mine a-boating —  where will all come home?

breck photos 14

My sister was born in August, after we’d settled in our new home.  She was a real baby, round and plump with deepset eyes like a quince. They called her Caroline, but ‘Quince’  became her name.  During the birth, Mam my grandmother took me to Cardiff to visit “a very old lady” – Jim’s mother.   In my earliest coherent memory, I am sitting on my pot at some point during this long journey in the train, and Mam is sitting near me on the lavatory in her rock-like way.  After “Calaline” was born, Mam brought me back to Breck, and stayed for a while to look after us.

bumble bee 1954

bumble bee 1954

We lived at Breck Farm in Bransdale, where my father managed some 2.000 acres of sheep.  In the fields, Daddy wore a kilt, and no pants.  The male sheep, the tups, looked like him.  On a narrow path through the heather one day, I came upon a large black and yellow serpent, velvety and striped like a bumble bee, and coiled up tight like an emblem.  As I stopped, it uncoiled and slid away into the ground.  I ran home and drew it for my parents:  but no one knows what it was.

One day – I don’t know in which part of the country this was – Mummy and Daddy left me with a friend of theirs,  while they went to look at a farm.  I left the house, and went to find them.  It was not our home, Bransdale, we were away, staying somewhere, but I was confident that I remembered the roads we had come by.  It took longer and was much further than I expected.  I came to a desolate farmhouse at a crossroads, and knew I was lost.  The house said nothing.  It was silent.  On that grey open crossroads, the landscape in which I was swallowed up, cried and cried with me.  It can never find me again.  It can’t find its way home!

Then in the distance from the end of one of those four roads, a small black car appeared,  and came near, nearer:  and my parents were inside,  they were looking for me.  I got in, I said,  “It’s a long way for children to have to walk.

One autumn at Breck, there was an immense storm, and the tiles were blown off the roof of our house and crashed around in the yard.   Daddy and Mummy strove, bent double into the gale, across the yard and under fire, to shut up the hens.  For my birthday that winter, Daddy made me a red wooden cart with wheels, to pull around the yard, and a strong wooden cradle with rockers and a little hood for Susan, my doll.  I saw him using the wood-plane in his tool-shed at the back of the house, but was told not to look – it was supposed to be a surprise.

A large family of Polish refugees called Kozera worked with us.  Their mother “Mrs Kos” looked rather like baby Quince, and was very fond of her.  She helped with the heavier housework.  She had black hair in a bun, a kind round face and a big bottom.  She worked very hard and her stockings fell down.  She was piously shocked at Gaudier’s naked bas-relief The Wrestlers on the wall, and averted her eyes from it when she ‘did’ that room.  Her big sons had spots, and their names were “Vladisloff” and “Stanislaus”.  Their father, Pop, looked after the farm horses, and Radek from Cowpike Farm (who hated the Kozeras) drove the grey tractor.  The hay was cut, and everyone picnicked at work in the fragrant fields among the bright flowers.  How tall the grass was!   taller than me.

wrestlers

When I was very small I watched the sheep at the Cockayne Ridge farm being dipped, one raw day in early spring.  The men pushed them into the dark water with a broom.  Then I wanted to do it too;  I fell into the deep, black, stinging, tarry disinfectant.  I dreamt about this many times since!  I was fished out wailing, and taken home wearing Daddy’s shirt, teeth chattering.  He worked for the rest of that day bare-backed in the biting March wind.  The lane away from Breck rose and fell in humps, to Mrs Cos’s house. Further still down the dale, was a dank-smelling derelict stone house by the road.  Daddy called this place “The Shambles”.

Hay making: Vladislav, Stan and Pop Kozera, Peter

Hay making in Bransdale : Vladislav, Stan and Pop Kozera, Peter

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At four or five years old, I became quite suddenly a prodigious full-time artist.  Peter says he saw me stare vacantly, two fingers in mouth, at a sheep being sheared, and then draw it accurately eight months or so later.  Mummy made big drawing books out of cheap lining-paper as fast as I filled them.  There is a taste of fresh boiled egg,  as I drew:  and the great scribble of my blue crayon on paper, on the kitchen table.  How white the paper was, rather shiny and rustly.  Mummy would unroll a length across the table, folding it back and forth.  Then she rolled the whole thing the other way to straighten the curl, slit along the folds with a kitchen knife, and stitched them with a big needle and coloured darning wool.   I sometimes drew all day long, eight hours at a stretch, months on end, my inner world – a release of creative tension?

I had vivid dreams and nightmares about Daddy.  He was an intense and red fiery apparition, shocked from the war.  I drew the Babies.  My mother had lost one, and I felt that trouble.   I drew hundreds of enormous pod-head babies and their weary mothers – the ready inspiration was a pile of baby magazines someone had left.   I drew trains and squirrels with big pod-shape tails,  I drew houses and childrens’ parties in purple and yellow crayon,  I drew my daydreams about a great town called Gathertegen, filled with toyshops and the lucky children who lived there – Sarah and Jesus,  the little girls Fingaloo and Crangt, and their nasty brothers Furt and Fart.   Fingaloo had long yellow hair,  and Crangt had black hair and dark eyes.  She was having a party. I drew her running out of her house in Gathertegen into the violet purple night.   All her friends ran out with her, but you couldn’t see them, because they ran behind, and exactly copied her movement.   Crangt had beautiful round black eyes and a ribbon.   Behind her, every window in her house was lit up with her party.  This drawing is coloured yellow and purple like a pansy flower.

GALLERY

I met and played with a neighbour’s small boy called Tom-aas,  and was fascinated by what happened when he sat on his pot.  My mother got tired after a while of my drawing him and of penises like strings of sausages.  Why not draw something else now?  What about a lovely picture of a mummy feeding her baby?  A series of patient madonnas with voracious babies at the end of drooping breasts followed.  I also drew some people with their eyes all over the place, like Picasso’s monsters, which frightened me.  My parents showed all this to their friend Herbert Read, but he didn’t put it in any of his books.  My mother selected and kept a few of the best drawing-books, and many loose sheets.  She said if she kept them all, we would have needed an extra removals van.

I was taken to dancing lessons, for me to learn to be with other children.  But I danced around the room in the opposite direction to everyone else.  Mummy was angry, and took me home.  “I’ll never take you to dancing again.”  Quince,  who was always good,  sucked her thumb shrewdly.

Peter says Quince was never good, but did suck her thumb shrewdly when she was not falling on her nose.   What I actually mean is that she knew which side her bread was buttered.

I loved to dress up.  We had a wireless, which I called The Babies,  because it said This is the BBC.   A vertical line of light displayed red and black markers of European city wavelengths,  but I never could see the Babies inside, however hard I looked.  When any kind of music was played I danced,  especially if Mam had made me a new cotton dress.

the friends, (1957)

the friends, (1957)

I had a collection of elderly teddies, furry creatures,  a black ragdoll called Beadie and one solemn china-doll, Susan.  They were called “The Friends”.  When Susan’s eyes got broken, she went away to hospital in York to have her head cut open, and came back with everything fixed,  and wearing a new blue knitted dress, for my birthday.

Peter & gramophone, by Mary

Peter & gramophone, by Mary

Mummy painted Daddy standing by our gramophone with its big horn.  When my parents listened to The Babies on the gramophone with its big horn, they had to jump up every few minutes to turn over the record, wind up the turntable, and sharpen or replace the red wooden styluses.  The Babies kept them very busy.  The Babies cried and sang,  shouted and loved, like the wind, the curlews and the hills.

There was union with inner things and the things around, as with my parents.  I would later suffer with my separation from that innocence;  the landscape and its visions and sounds.  From an early age I became a hunter for my home,  for the unending “oneness”.

At Breck Farm I am filled with the elder brown contour of the hills across the Dale, and with the tough springy heather around my house.  Those contours are my song.  There is a wood near the house, and a river, dark, golden and gurgling over stones, where we take off all our clothes for bath, in summer.  In winter, we wear a hat-a-coat-a-trousers and trudge in the crunchy snow.  Down the dale, in the village, there was a party with Father Christmas all in red and white;  each child was given a parcel.

Daniel came to stay with us in winter-time.  He was on holiday from the sea-side at Scarborough.   He stood very tall, with long ears, a rough grey coat, and an oaty smell. Whenever he opened up his big teeth, he said HEEHAW.   Mummy tied a sack around him, and put Quince and me onto his back, to ride him in the snow.

Breck, winter '54

Breck, winter ’54

The flowers in the ground were sun’s warmth itself.  I played in patches of dark macadam and grass in the farmyard at Breck, and into the field.  Daddy helped mummy sheep to have their babies.  He pulled them out of their tummies from under the tail.  He took their small wet hooves and they slid out sticky like yellow flowers in the sunshine.  We had a lamb in the kitchen, Mummy put him in the oven to warm up, his name was Rossiter,  and Quince fed him milk from a brown beer-bottle with a rubber teat.   We drank his rubbery warm milk from this bottle too.  My sister ate grass, just like Daniel.  She chewed it into dark green slimy lumps.  When I was little I picked up pebbles and held them in my mouth.  When Mummy came I spat them all out so she wouldn’t see.  People thought I might swallow them, and be ill.

My grandfather Jim loves pebbles.  He says a pebble comes from God before any work of art.  People find and give him pebbles from around the world:  stones.  He carries pocket stones.

pebbles

I wore the grey jerseys and breeks that Mam knitted, climbed the drystone walls and gates,  sang to myself and ground my teeth.  Sometimes the air, the fields, the Cockayne Ridge, the brown moorland, the sky, stopped inside me,  quivered and roared with a loud sound inside my arms and legs,  in all of my being.  It was too huge and I couldn’t move.  And with this strange feeling, I had my own names for the dandelions that stood so tall, like me.  They were Brave Golden Clocks.  Other flowers that flew and shimmered in the air were ‘Butterflowers’.

I had an infant phobia about motor cars breaking down.   We had a battered old Ford, made partially of wood,  which often failed on the high moorland roads,  or refused to start in the dark garage and had to be cranked.  Daddy flew into terrifying rages, swore and kicked her.  I sat inside the bad car, paralysed, pushing the seat in front to make it go.  The wail of the starter, the grinding violent clank of the crank and the stupid helpless family sitting inside it,  went on and on, and still it wouldn’t move.  It was obscene.  It was murderous, and my inside turned to water with sickness, sexual arousal and hysterical tears.  I would get out and run away yelling.   My mother says that they had to leave me in the house while they got the car started, and then come to fetch me.  Even the waiting was a horror.  During the rest of my childhood, with my parents’ help, I worked to rationalise this phobia, learnt about engines, starter-motors, drove tractors and so on.  But until I was well into adulthood, the sound of a cold car filled me with lurching horror and disgust.  I can even now feel that sick hatred, though I am able to smile.

Yet, when the car was not broken down,  our journeys in it were a joy.  I am told – and I do remember – that I sat on Mummy’s lap in the front and sang.  I don’t know what music this was.   I sang the journey as it flowed through me, and what I saw.   When we moved from the Yorkshire moors to the South of England, I sang without stopping all the way to Surrey,  a journey then of many and several hours.  I felt even then, I must keep the record,  tell the story, keep the car going perhaps, for the others.  My singing celebrated the landscape, like a little work of unification.   (I still did this, years later in Somerset:  I hear something of the tune.)

I dreamed of noises that I couldn’t shut out wherever I went in the house, and about stupid little Ford cars across the Dale, toiling at road barriers on steep hills and being punished.  I dreamed – through the fiery apparitions of Daddy opening his mouth wide – of caverns which opened into endless sequences of archways.   They fell open in Daddy’s mouth into more archways, flights of steps and caverns opening into …   It happened in a flash and had no end.   I called them “visions”. With my eyes shut or open, they wouldn’t stop,  and filled the air, red and dark;  they shouted and flickered.  And at other times, a range of high spiky sharp mountains screamed;  they were myself and I rushed to my parents’ bed.

GALLERY of sketches done in 1987

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Sometimes I lost my boundaries into a “roundy” box with no edge, into the vibration, sound and sinew of blood, fury and stillness,  as light and as the gods.   Everything got engulfed as this sensation.   Within it, and as it,  I could do nothing but be patient.   I didn’t really mind it, it didn’t frighten me,  or make me cry,  but it filled the world,  and it was overwhelming.  Slowly only could I walk in it, like the Brave Golden Clocks.

(Much later in life,  I began to recall this again, with a deep throaty breath.  I called it the “hermes sensation” because it brought a blessing of the pre-verbal angel:  the truth before we memorize the words that cover it, and which we cannot quite recapture.) 

 

they've gone (1987)

they’ve gone (1987)

In other early dreams, all the windows in familiar stone houses in our Yorkshire dale would suddenly disappear.  They were blank and I cried with terror.  There was a long back garden, which I reached recurrently through the dark stairway to the cellar from Granny and Granpa’s panelled hallway at Fairmile in Surrey.  I came out into that garden, and it was filled everywhere with blood and offal and sorrow and wounds, like a butcher’s shop.  I had to work my way through all this to reach my mother,  whom I could see by a tree in the next garden.  I dreamed about my little sister trapped on the lavatory trying to give birth,  with great hunks of gristly blood coming out of her bottom.

With helen ede by the "Cossong" near Blois

With helen ede by the “Cossong” near Blois

We went to France to see Jim and Mam in their new house at Les Charlottieres near Blois and the “Cossong” river.  There was a smell of fresh walnuts in the trees.  My mother took me walking, and we saw a row of tall slim trees along the edge of the field. They waved about and cried and cried in a high pitch of pain, and the noise was deafening and I screamed with fear.  Mummy brought me back to them, patiently step by step.  She explained to me that they are poplar trees.  They are not hurt or crying, it is the wind blowing in their shimmering little shiny leaves.

It took a long time to approach them, until I understood.  I love the sound of the poplar wind.  I love their shimmer and song and the way they stretch all their arms up to the sky and wave together.   Perhaps one of them had a smart plaster on it.  I loved having a plaster put on my knee when I was cut or hurt.  And I dreamed about trying to run, and being unable to move except very very slowly.   This is what it feels like, to be a small child between dimensions;  between no-time and time,  between the dew of heaven and the in-car-nation.

me at bransdale (1987)

me at bransdale

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My mother went to hospital and gave birth to another baby sister.  None of us ever saw Bridget.   She died in York a few hours after she was born.  She had “something wrong with her spine”- a pair of gills showing.  She had been an unwanted child, and this was a deep sorrow for my mother,  who was never even given her to hold.

I had to go to school, and where we now lived was too far away from any town.  We had to move house.  There were six long months of snow that winter.  As we packed up in April, the wide patches of snow melted and the grass came through in streaks, dank and brown, and grew green and strong again.   The pale and delicate violet harebells danced and bloomed.    I waved bye-bye with deep feeling, to the harebells.  I knew I would not see them again.

harebells fontmell down by karen woolley

photo by karen woolley

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Quince and I made ourselves useful during the removal.  We worked hard, wrapping up small planks of wood in brown paper, and carried them to the Removals lorry.

We moved to Cornwall, near the sea.   In Surrey we stayed a few nights with my father’s parents Granny and Granpa in “the world’s great snare for mothers of small children” to rest before continuing West to our new home.  They had a lot of unsuitable toys and breakable ornaments on coffee tables.  The people in our new home in Cornwall, had not moved out of it yet, so we stayed a fortnight at Granny and Granpa’s while the Removals lorry sat in Newcastle awaiting orders, with all our stuff in it.

thistle & flowers

The social shock of Caerhays village school and of literacy was tearful and exhausting.  I learned to read at 6, discovered (overwhelmingly) fairy stories, and became a bookworm.   In Cornwall the hollyhocks stood tall. There were jewel-blue cornflowers and vivid scabious, white convolvuli in damp ground-leaves, delphiniums like blue and yellow candles, and scarlet pimpernels so tiny and glad.  The shy herb robert opened rose-pink in the woody hollows,  glad yellow daffodils danced, and shy primroses courted the spring.  Those flowers and their names delighted me.  Mummy and Daddy had first decided to get married when one of them saw a primrose in the autumn and knew only the other would see it too, with the same amazement.   We made them tell us this story again and again.

All these flowers were angels in heaven upon the ground, growing in hosts of summer and spring.  Among them, I drew bright princesses in their gardens.  They had straight Egyptian noses, protruding upper lip and big white teeth – mine were falling out.  They wore their black hair braided down their long necks and past their shoulders.  Their skin was red because they were sunburnt.  Their eyes were downcast,  and they were covered,  covered with jewels.

Here is a sensation which comes to me direct from six-years-old in Cornwall.  It falls on a London pavement now, and fills me with an unconditional wellbeing … our white house at Ventonwyn, and red geraniums with their warm and pungent scent … the joy in the lane, in the warm sun, acceptance of each sound, shape and fragrance of life … even bad noises.   There is an unconditional connectedness. It has no edge.

My new baby brother was born, in Redruth.  He was called Simon.  My mother had a marvellous labour, and a very hot summer followed,  and he lay on the lawn and turned conker brown;  his blond hair bleached snow white.

Obviously I remember the idyllic bits best.  But a child strives with her grownups’ unspoken troubles also, with those of the world:  and farm buildings would turn blank; and great fields of sorrow caught me where I couldn’t explain:  only the wind, the bubbling curlews, the snow.

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harebells on flikr.com

photo on flikr.com by salmando

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My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

aquariel link

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/

Recall at Xmas; Sap of the Tree

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18  Young love & Mum

On Christmas Day …

I didn’t get up till nine this morning!   There are no trains.  It is silent.  But the rain gurgles ceaselessly from grey sky while the street, stunned by festivity, retreats. I saw the cloud to the northwest going ragged with the wind, how lovely it must be on the wet Chilterns, the kiss of the rain, wet fields, mid winter clouds, to walk out there right now.

I am LUCKY to be alone in my small house at Xmas.  Each day then is Xmas present, this one a bit more so.   The truth is, I am never alone, because of the Companions of the Light and the soul room which goes on and on holding me.  In my universe I love the rain in winter –  but in parallel universes (threaded through this one) they are suffering floods, cold homes and Xmas awash.   The rain is both a kiss and a terror.  Really everything in life is.  Every particle is a kiss and a terror.

A fellow blogger across the pond created a new frankincense lotion straight from the sap of a tree, over solstice. (the scars in the wood produce a resinous elixir as they heal.)  He has an alchemical Hidden Map of the essences of trees and the mystery.  I can smell it from here.

The Hidden Map is whatever we are able to develop in our darkroom.  For instance, the blogland is a Hidden Map of  mutual nourishment and synchrony.  The Hidden Map is what I almost see, but feel, relish and know.  It is like being by the sea in the near night, which shrouds the land.   It spreads out atomically through the forms of Assiyah – the everyday apparent currency.   It is just as real, and because it cannot be grabbed, it is holy ground.  It is like the child brought to birth in a stable.

It is a great asset of the world wide web;  but one has to be of a certain development to perceive, handle and appreciate it fully.  We all know the downside.

Today is the space right at the bottom of the turning year.  The sphere touches ground.

Four spheres alchemy

From ‘Ladder’ – Roob’s Alchemy & Mysticism

The Kabbalist symbol of the Worlds, one on top of the other, has the figure of eight twice.  I got a snowman Xmas e-card from Israel – it tinkled and rolled out 3 snowballs.  When I moused them on top of each other, a carrot appeared for his nose, and some coal and a hat, and the whole scene chimed into tinsel and song.  I loved it.

I remember.  I remember now this moment, what it was like when I first met Mr V – in Alex Pollock’s garret in Haverstock Hill, by Belsize Park tube station.

It was October 1969; I was 20, he was 34.  He gave me his address;  the mutual shyness and wonder, an exposed and intimate intensity.  I cherish that in him – and my bud whose growth he was about to accelerate.  I remember the unabashed gravity of his inner child.  We sat cross legged, face to face, after Alexander Pollock introduced us, and talked till four in the morning.  Then he (naturally) tried to kiss me.  I said No not yet.  He wasn’t used to women saying No.  He liked it.

I remember his innocent inventiveness and wacky jokes.  I remember the first time I visited his big blue-and-grey bedsitter just round the corner. Wherever he moved in the room, my body was displaced, shocked and flowed.  I remember my entire womb on fire with the thrust of his Karmic field, and the longing to be pregnant. “I want to fill you up,” he said “with our child.”  I remember how the magical hierogamos became disabled, as soon as we tangled –  the wood was too much wounded.  I remember enormous orgasms in my dreams, over astral landscapes and among trees.

What an interesting thing to remember this morning, at Xmas.

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We had one peaceful Xmas together.  1976.   I was 27 and just four months pregnant, and I felt her move for the first time, during the Eve mass at St Dominics.   I wept during Father Alan Cheales’s sermon about Mary going to meet Elisabeth, the child leapt.  Mine did, at that very moment.  I went home at midnight and told him, and he had a couple of Hungarian friends visiting.   We had a Christmas tree and a big gold star that Xmas, which I had made;  and I listened to Messiaen’s music  – “La Nativite du Seigneur“.  (also see Jennifer Bate’s recording, particularly the long meditation following The Word.)  It was a rare and tender oasis in our years of psychic stress/collision –  a house inside a storm.  All the Watershed had by then been dreamed, which would become my map – my occult and alchemical path.

The big gold star is still here, hung on a thread in my bookcase.   I hardly ever notice it.   It is dusty.  Some of the treasures salvaged from my man in the ravine are lost – a pair of small pliers he painted red, for my birthday.  They might turn up one day, at the bottom of something.

Deep down where it liberates, I love and value Louis V for himself and for the extraordinary learning curve of a lifetime;  not one single accident.

I see our stress/collision, the breaking open of the apricot kernel.  It is a marvellous thing to have happened, even with all the pain, abuse and decades of fallout, as two progressive souls without a spiritual training, crossed swords.  Initiations are appalling.  This was mine.   It couldn’t be any other way.

Main points of synastry in the combined birthcharts of J (green planets) and L (brown planets) - in the frame of J's ascendent

Main points of synastry in the combined birthcharts of Ja (green planets) and Lv (brown planets) – in the frame of J’s ascendent. (L’s is not known.)   Note nodal grand cross and conjunctions along J’s sun-moon-creational axis;  and Venus opposite Venus, Saturn opposite Saturn AND Cheiron opposite Cheiron.  This relationship was a co-dependent Karmic scoop!

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In Alchemy, there is a Hidden Map, and we do not let it touch the ground, or it vanishes into the stiff and stony prosaic.  Alchemy is in the body of the imagination.   Alchemy is the region where all that will manifest, is created and is potent.   Alchemy is the command of the astral kingdom, where it is co-creative.  Alchemy is the twilit hinterland of the psyche, the soul behind the toothy coastlines.

Alchemy is the glowing furnace, way back of my House of Life, and the wonderful way he stirred it.   Had we been successful and happy lovers in Assiyah/Yetzirah, I might not have noticed nor nurtured the alchemy in Beriah.  He had, he admitted, “a problem with women” – he hated his mother.  I was in love with drama – my problem.  Behind our worst times, an angel smiled.

My creativity was excessive already, but the profound Karmic trauma between us sprung open my Pandora box.   Louis was an artist, photographer, writer and recluse.  He said “For me it is like this – go deep, as deep as you possibly can, beyond where you can even speak or write … then come back to the world, and tell the tale.”   This in him – which in later years he lost, under piles of angry litigation – still thrills me.   When I was only 20, I saw how honest I wished to be, I wished for my phony theatre fence to break down, so I could walk clear, and truly love – not just “be-in-love-with”.  I invited his destructive nature.  I couldn’t stop it.

All the time with him that I was mute with terror, and he was a wounded bull, was that land beyond where we can speak or write … the corner stone the builders rejected, which became a Violet Crystal.   Now it is a ruby tincture in the fluid Stone.   It fertilizes the ground.   I am a sea of golden wheat.  The crescent moon under my foot, is a tactile understanding of this lifetime.  I am seated on a stone bench, in a green gown with a red thrust in my heart and the stars around my head:  and my womb is always bearing down, splitting seed, delivering the Child.

bota key 3 Empress

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What can I say to a louis d’or?  “To forgive, I must Give way to the Force.”  I heard and wrote those words in my journal only a few weeks after we first met.  I was intuitively aware of what we were about to receive:   smoke on the Moon’s face.

You cannot get sap without wounding a tree.  You cannot get alchemy and creative joy without wounding life.  So the tree is glad to give the sap, and to heal.

In one of my dreams, I saw on his thumbs, great gaping cicatrices, like canyons.  They were our scar tissue.  He was in prison, he was chained, and I wanted to free him from himself,  in my heart.   In the same dream, were turquoise fishes and he asked a question about astrology.  In life he mocked astrology, which he knew nothing of.  In life he showed me ancient keys to esoteric knowledge which he threw away.   For give, and move on lightly.

the time of fishes

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Boxing Day – The Betweens

Dreams are a marvel and an awesome mystery, aren’t they – the wisdom and teaching they bring, from the endless deep.   I don’t dream like that nowadays.  I write.

Another quiet morning, no haste, no trains – the sun breaking quietly through a lightly veiled sky, very radiant.

What a breakthrough !   Fancy simply valuing us as a whole, like that, as if I return to his promising youth and pick it up from there.  I’ve been living this way for years, but now … the penny dropped further.

Walking the three miles (no buses) to my cher ami’s house on Christmas Day, I wondered whether Louis had died or might be near dying – because 2012 tipping point is close to the edge for many souls –  and whether I was celebrating his thread too, in the subtle Reality and clarity of the hinterland … the bardo borderland of the living and dying sunflowers.   I feel lighter in weight with the atomic fields passing through me:  my allowance with, and dancing with them.  The Consiousness receiving dead souls is vibrant, powerful and light … the release of long, bound-up energies.   Hey, it is like the infinite tides I danced with, on a long-ago rainy November night with him on Hampstead heath.  We were on LSD and wandering about.   They flowed across and through my path, and I am infinite space for their pleasure and vibration.  They are invisible, and the stars are tears, and his voice cracks with awe.  (He recorded the whole thing on a little tape machine – he worried about the tiny needle, was it moving? – I thought it was his compass he consulted, for our sense of direction.)   The compass, polar axis star floats and trembles …  I wondered if I was walking to my death, through and with other deaths into the eternal Life.   It is unedged and beautiful – the tao of Vesica Pisces.  I feel I want to put this Christmas peace present with him in my blog, and tell his name.  I shall tell the Violet Crystal story, to open my planned “Watershed” series.   It will be followed by The Knight.

In the years since, he did a bad thing.  There is no going back;  and he meets his own   reckoning in private.

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compass?

compass?

There is a shift in my subconscious about him.   It illumines everything very gently, leaving nothing stuck or left behind.   There is, at the bottom of the spheres, where the year’s axis turns, the river Styx, the fields of Asphodel, the everland of Hades.  I am released, he is released, and our daughter – who was exhausted –  is relieved of the burden she had to carry.  It is like a death, and is perhaps clairvoyance.  Life collapses to a veil and slides away, off the Art … unveiling the real Art.

When the Art is unveiled, compassion  …  my compass no longer blames that soul for something he did.  It is seen, that soul went astray, but will return to integrity. This is yet part and parcel of the Art.   Art Notdoing.

It is the fact of my salvage – gracious, serene, severe.  Let him be himself.

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A Poem: Smoke on the Moon’s Face

So I go on working in our garden of essence –
a bent and shawled old lady.

The truth of the child’s face
is kept alight, a sweet fertility beneath
the cicatrice we grew.

Can two old people
in this way together burnt
meet, exchange a kiss of peace?

I do not know.  It is a private matter
old as earth is round.  It is the core
of the apple.

In my ground the tree
drops fruit, and leads me
to the secret centre.  “Go deep

you said,
Oh my battered love !
as deep as you possibly can.”

Any place here
may be the gateway opening.
Around you and our compost burning
love, my thought plunges and is still.

As I straighten in the ground
the outlawed intensity of you
is beloved.

Walking by the tennis court, I heard
the players and their pocking balls,
and silently the sea
ran down my face where the lovers played –
bodies of bitter years did devastate
this long, enkindled moment.

The Lovers are bodiless.
The Lovers are where I drown.
The Lovers embrace
and our life is Their shadow.

The Lovers appear as silence
and every story merely points
to the moon’s face, where they embrace
as smoke.

There is no need to explain
to anyone
why you are in my underground
the deepest shaft in London town.

By the tennis courts
near Haverstock Hill,
I heard the muffled
roar of a train deep down;

as bushy brick chimney’s vent,
sunk into the Northern Line
out-spoke:
by a shattered well*
you sat and wept and wrote from hell
your sign;

Stepping out of my shoes, I
yet seeing through your eyes,
am blind.

from Poems of Eclipse, 1999

*In a recent excavation in Egypt, sand/topsoil was dusted away from tall chimneys which turned out to be wells.

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With my cher ami this day near Henly’s Corner, my hinterland resonances stay silent and sweet – a ripened fruit of life.   We had a long, gentle and loving visit.  We played a Xmas game of hosepipe and the Channel tunnel … all the way to Paris and back.

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Alchemy eagle Daat in the Tree of Life

Alchemy eagle Daat in the Tree of Life

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**

My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/