Saturday, 8 February 2020

PLODDING AT RANDOM ACROSS THE PLOUGH (PLOW TO U.S. READERS)...



Anyone who's read The WIND In The WILLOWS by author KENNETH GRAHAME will surely be familiar with the chapter entitled DULCE DOMUM, in which MOLE and RATTY are returning home over the fields (after a day out with OTTER) one winter evening near Christmas.  Suddenly, Mole senses his own home which he'd 'abandoned' months before to stay with Ratty (come now, we won't be having any of that kind of innuendo - their relationship is purely platonic), and feels compelled to visit it again.  It's a very touching episode, and speaks about the importance of having one's own place to return to, and the comfort which can be derived from being able to reconnect with one's 'roots'.

I feel like that about every house I've ever lived in.  They call to me, plead with me to return for a visit and relive the memories associated with the times I stayed there during my childhood.  I've mentioned before that, whenever I'm in any of my former neighbourhoods, I almost feel that I could stroll up the pathway to whichever old home it happens to be, insert my key in the lock, and go inside to find everything as it was in 'my day'.  It's an instinct.  I recall that, late one dark night in '83 or '84, I was walking my dog TARA (not to be confused with her successor ZARA) along one of my old streets, when she turned in at the steps of the house we'd left several months before, glanced 'round to see if I'd caught up, and made to ascend the few steps to the pathway leading up to the door.  Instinct (and memory) y'see.  She seemed slightly confused when I walked past and called her to my side.

Like I said, it feels like the most natural thing in the world to me to walk up the path to any of my former abodes as if I still inhabited them, presumably due to a similar 'instinct' to that which animals possess.  (At least, that was my defence in court when I was charged with several counts of attempted burglary.  Relax, I'm joking.  I just claimed it was a case of mistaken identity.)

Tonight, I again felt the 'summons' to revisit the house and area where I lived between 1965 and '72, and I was all ready to do so when I remembered how many changes had occurred in the last 30 years (which seems like only 3 or 4 to me). The alterations had taken place incrementally over a prolonged period, until they eventually overwhelmed some aspects of the street and the surrounding environs, to such an extent that revisiting is not entirely the happy experience it used to be. I want to see the place as it was in my day, not the place it's since become, and which sours things for me to an extent.

So I resisted the call, and instead entered the past via the portal of modern technology - namely my computer.  I have large folders of photos (and some video footage) of how the area used to be in younger and better days, the same as when I lived there, and I found my 'virtual' visit almost as satisfying as my actual ones before the face of the landscape had been altered, in many ways, almost beyond recognition.

Any fellow Mellows do this sort of thing, or am I the lone inmate in an asylum of my own construction?  ("Trapped... in a world he DID make!" would perhaps be the comicbook subtitle.)  Feel free to say I'm bonkers in the comments section - but be polite about it.  (You know what a sensitive soul I am.)

******

What's that - the title of this post?  It'a a line from the first paragraph of Dulce Domum.  Give it a read - you'll enjoy it.
      

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

DOES THE KING'S HORSE RING A BELL WITH ANYONE...?



One day back in the late '60s, my father brought home a book for me which contained various children's stories. The book wasn't new, so he'd most likely bought it in a jumble sale or 'The Barras'.  Amongst the tales within its pages were The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Little Red Hen, one about two kids looking after a hedgehog, and The King's Horse. (Or it may've been The King's Bell.)  There were others of course, but these are the ones I remember.

My favourite story was The King's Horse (or Bell), which was about a King who installed a bell in the town square, for any of his subjects to ring in order to obtain justice in matters where they had been wronged.  The way I remember it, the King had a horse who, when it was no longer of use to him, was turned out into the street to fend for itself.  One cold winter's night, the bell is heard ringing in the square, and when the King turns up to see who needs his help, is ashamed to see that he himself is the guilty party, is overcome with remorse, and the horse returns to its comfy stable to live happily ever after.

The tale is based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem The Bell Of Atri, which has been rewritten as a prose story more than once, I believe.  However, in the original version, the horse doesn't belong to the King, but a knight (or soldier), so I'm left to wonder if I might be mis-remembering the details, or a little artistic license had been taken with events in order to provide an ironic ending to the tale. (Y'know, King who wants justice for others is himself guilty of inflicting an injustice on another - in this case his horse.)

So fellow Mellows, the call goes out. Have any of you ever read the version I remember, or owned the book of which I speak?  If any of you actually have the book, I'd be prepared to purchase it for a more than reasonable price.  You know where the comments section is.

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