Monday 28 May 2012

Community First Panels

I didn’t notice there was to be a public meeting to begin to recruit a Community First Panel for the Yarborough Ward (which is most of the area served by St Michael’s), but now learn that only five people attended it, so I may well not be the only one who missed the relevant announcement in the local paper and the local authority’s website.

The Panel is still in formation, but the first members have established some priorities for the Ward - recognising that this was a holding operation ahead of a funding deadline and that these priorities might change as there is wider community engagement in setting them and in developing a Community Plan. The four priorities are: activities for children and young people; creating safer streets and neighbourhoods; helping older people live more active lives; and getting more people involved in community activities.

The very small amount of funding available (an initial grant has been made to Brownies in the Laceby Acres area) may not be that important in itself if in fact this proves to be the catalyst for filling a major gap in the local authority’s Neighbourhood Development strategy by having some sort of representative forum (or ‘Forward’) for the disparate communities of this particular Ward; it is difficult to think of the credibility of a Community Plan without such a body.  Following some of this through, I see elsewhere on the local authority’s website that 'the function of Neighbourhood Forums' is spelt out as 'far more than just being a user group for service providers, nor is it just about holding service providers to account - its function is collaborative, so that all parties round the table can contribute to achieving best outcomes for all parts of the Ward'.

It is getting on for a year since I blogged about what was then called Neighbourhood Management
( and it would be really good if this was taken forward. I'll go along to the Panel meeting int he middle of next month and see.  I find that Voluntary Action North East Lincolnshire (VANEL) has got even further stuck into supporting these sorts of development by hosting a new platform at on which it hopes a whole picture of the Ward, Community First and Neighbourhood Development will accumulate, and I ought to look into how to contribute to tht as well.

Meanwhile, Freshney Forward continues to flourish in the neighbouring Ward (most of which is the area served by St Nicolas’) and was able to act as the body to appoint members of the Community First Panel there for which there were more applicants than places. The five priorities there are: to provide sustainable activities for the full range of residents with particular emphasis on young people; to promote social well being in a safe and secure environment; work towards improving and promoting pride in the local environment; to reduce health inequalities; and to increase the cohesion of the diverse communities within the Ward, thereby improving the economic well being of all. VANEL’s new platform has been established there as well at

We spotted this inscription about earlier forms of community involvement when we were in Stoke-sub-Hamdon the other week.

Monday 21 May 2012

A thousand splinters of moon

A thousand splinters of moon

By moonbeam-barricaded
bedsides, shards of crafted light
wait to pierce our naked soles,
yet look left, just off centre
as the heart is, in chaos
a star cluster spews, sprouts, foals,
cloudy-edged, joyous, required
confusion’s wild scattering;

the still pools, the perfect bowls
of your imagination
have been, the moon says, the snare
for jigsaw habited souls:
a thousand splinters of moon
won't piece back together whole.

After Chenzin Jiang’s literal translation for The Poetry Translation Centre (•_metaphor/literal) of Chen Yuhong’s poem.

When Ian Crockatt spoke about poetry translation at Nottingham University earlier this year ( he not only put emphasis on reproducing the original structure of the poem (so that the new reader experienced something of the force of the original) but was also very sniffy about those whose primary focus was instead on a literal rendering of the original words. At the time I was a little wary of the way in which, for example, the choice of the English rhyme words demanded by the structure could lead the translator too far from the original ideas of the poem (so the new reader heard too much of the ideas of the translator). But I saw his point more clearly when I came across the Poetry Translation Centre’s website’s literal translations (adjusted and polished by a panel or poet) which are clear and faithful but which, at first reading, seemed to lack some of the poetic sense. So, for what it is worth, my version of Chen Yuhon’s poem has been an attempt to give one of those literal texts a more English poetic structure while aware of the dilemmas involved in doing so.

Having heard Simon Armitage at Lincoln Cathedral a couple of weeks ago, I have been revisiting his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He draws attention to this dilemma in his Introduction. His example is the lines about Guinevere The comlokest to discrye / ther glent with yyven gray (the loveliest to see / seen by gray eyes) where he would see a literal translation as only giving ‘the cold facts’ of her beauty. Instead he takes a hint from a reference to the ‘best gemmes’ in the previous line, and bows to the demand of the alliterative structure, by giving But not one stone outshone / the quartz of the queen’s eye, although the words beginning with q don’t appear in the original. My spews, sprouts, foals (where the literal translation only has a sense of process), and my the still pools, the perfect bowls (where the literal translation does not spell out any content for 'your own confused imagery'), both of which are partly squeezed in to meet the demands for rhyme at these points, are the only places where I’ve named something which Chen Yuhon had not already named, and I hope benefit from ‘the Armitage defence’ despite my wariness.

Meanwhile, the pictures of the mediaeval dovecote at Stoke-sub-Hamdon come from a lunchtime stop there when going down to take services for my Aunt in Yoevil Crematorium and South Petherton Parish Church in the week; we had a five hours drive down there before lunch, and a return journey the following day to be back for my new colleague's licensing in the evening.

Monday 14 May 2012

New to me last week

A campaign is under way to bring this mediaeval chess piece (which was discovered in Habrough churchyard, a little north of here, in the 1980s) to the museum at Immingham. It was striking to learn that it exists and how beautiful it is, and I’d really like to think it might be roughly contemporary with Rognvald jarl Kali Kolsson (who died in 1158) the first and second of whose poems in the Orkneyinga Saga which I’ve been trying to translate boasts of his chess playing prowess and tells of his being stuck in Grimsby on a trading trip. The archaeologists who worked at the back of St Michael’s, Little Coates a while ago told me that most work for people like him isn’t on major projects but is simply done following those digging a pipeline, and it turns out this is exactly the circumstances in which the Habrough piece was discovered.

The only surviving copy of the mediaeval text of an alliterative Morte d’Arthur is held in the Cathedral Library. It appears that a fifteenth century Yorkshire squire copied it, one of his descendant’s husbands gave his manuscript to Durham Cathedral in the hope of preferment, and a Canon of Durham brought it with him when he became Bishop of Lincoln; it isn’t the only work which would not have survived but for his copy. The opening of Simon Armitage’s new translation of it, about which we heard him speak when he came to talk in the Cathedral Library in the week, includes lines which I think would do well as a prayer at the beginning of my next sermon there is due course, and I look forward to reading further into it:

May words trip from my tongue at this time,
not hollow and vain but in honour of Him,
and which profit and please every person who hears them.

Hearing Armitage speak about translating poetry prompted me to spend part of my Day Off putting some of the things I’ve tried to translate and write in order, including having a go at creating a new haiku:

Half the blossom falls
half clings to the Spring branches
making a lace tree.

David Hockney remarked in a documentary about the way in which the invention of metal tubes for paint (patented in 1841) changed art. He said that Constable (who died in 1837) did most of his work back in his studio taking a long comfortable time trying to represent clearly what he had seen, while the Impressionists (who exhibited in the 1870s and 1880s) were able to paint in the open air and thus worked faster. I wonder whether art historians also speculate about the way photography was becoming common at exactly the same time; a sub-conscious reaction might have been that, since exact reproduction could now be done as it were automatically, art should move to a more atmospheric approach.  I like the way that factors in the 1840s and 1850s which were quite divorced from painting itself might have been what shaped its development.

New Scientist reports the discovery that, say, 2.5 million years ago a human genetic mutation which doubled a particular gene happened to enable the brain to make far more connections and thus made modern humans possible.  Reading this with my brain, it seemed disconcerting to be discovering something about this previously elusive step, as well as to know how much is richly new to me every week as a result.

Monday 7 May 2012

Kay Mullins

I’ve been trying to write a piece about my aunt, who died last week, but, re-reading the first drafts, it is obvious how contrived it is and how badly it scans, so I’ve put it aside.

The central Jubilee conceit of the piece was that the new young Queen’s expressions of sympathy at the time of the Harrow Rail Disaster bound her to a sixty year task of repeatedly expressing her nation’s grief for Aberfan and Zeebrugge and all the places in between, while the loss there of her husband of sixteen months (an earlier Peter Mullins) set my aunt on a parallel sixty years of working out the implications of such losses in active widowhood; that she would have been widowed that long come October takes some comprehending.

But ‘active’ is by far the more important word than 'widowhood' - from many years of district nursing to commitment to her large local church in Bexhill including such things coordinating its pastoral care scheme. During over twenty years of retirement in South Petherton she has continued at the same pace - for example, the Community of St Francis (who until recently had a house near by at Compton Durville) has been remembering ‘her support, friendship and her wise and practical help’.

By good fortune we were able to call on her only three weeks ago when we were staying at Malmesbury, and we noticed then again a subtle Franciscan virtue: knowing for some years that she must be near the end of her life, she continued to divest herself of her possessions. On a previous visit I came away with her husband’s childhood photo albums. This time quite a bit of the best furniture had clearly vanished from her tiny bungalow (she spoke with affection of the person to whom one piece had gone) and we were given to take away a book stand he had made and a brass pot which had been my grandmother’s.

We give thanks for every remembrance of her.  There will be much sadness, story telling and rejoicing over the next few weeks of funeral and thanksgiving services.  I'm sorry I can't capture more of it in what I write.