Month: November 2022

Understand – Refuse – Resist

Carrière des Fusillés Intro to poem
In the summer, I visited friends in Brittany. Amongst the places they took me to was near the town of Châteaubriant.
Just outside the town is a war memorial at the Carrière des Fusillés.
It is a Memorial with quite a story to tell.

In 1941, the Nazis occupied this part of France when a member of the French Resistance assassinated Feldkommandant Hotz,
the Commandant of the German Forces, in Nantes. As a reprisal, the occupiers arrested 27 hostages and took them to a nearby quarry where they were shot. All were members of the French Resistance but none were involved with the death of the German officer. A further 23 hostages were shot elsewhere.
On the morning of 22nd October, the hostages were driven from Choisel Internment camp to the quarry.
All refused to be blindfolded and as they travelled to their death, they sang La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem. The youngest were 17, 19 and 21 and the two eldest were 58.
After the war the Quarry became a place of memorial and today, there is a sense of quiet brooding there. All of the 27 men are commemorated in a moving display around the quarry, telling their story. Each display board commemorates three of the hostages – they were shot in threes and are remembered in that way. The path then leads to an amazing sculpture by the artist Antoine Rohal, completed in 1950. (See above; photo by Mr G)
For me, visiting the quarry was a profound experience and in the quietness at the end of the day it was possible to reflect on the human cost of war. The price so many paid in so many ways. Individuals, communities, countries and our world.
Every act of violence, every war, every hurt inflicted diminishes our humanity but also has immense consequences for all who share our planet with us.  As we are beginning to realize, there is a cost. There is also a debt. Those like the men who died in that quarry in 1941 have a message for us. I’ve tried to express this in the following poem I wrote the other day.

Understand – refuse – resist

Our voices cry out from the ground where we fell,
Comprendre – Refuser – Résister !
The principles of our stand,
written in the blood of our sacrifice.
The message from our yesterday to your today:
Understand – Refuse – Resist!

Your world accepts too much;
making compromises,
and so collaborating –
without heed to the consequences –
for you have forgotten to remember…

Our footsteps tread the ground behind you.
as you hurriedly try to flee your realities.

But we are your reality!
Do not try to escape the past
but in the stillness of our final resting place,
hear our urgent whisper –
for it is about your future and that of
your broken, fractious and fumbling world.

Let our message speak to your acceptance.
Remember and repent – turn away from
your hate-encrusted world and back to God.
Work together and take up our cry:

Comprendre – Refuser – Résister !
Understand – Refuse – Resist !

[Mr G]

Lunar Incantations

I have been a friend of Kay Gibbons for quite some time but recently I have also got to know her art as well. She recently produced the Calligraphy art above. I asked her if she would write something about the personal and artistic process involved

Lunar Incantations by Kay Gibbons

…..’half past three,
The lamp sputtered,
the lamp muttered in the dark,
the lamp hummed ;
‘Regard the moon,
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
She winks a feeble eye,
She smiles into corners,
She smooths the hair of the grass….
The moon has lost her memory ..
A washed out smallpox cracks her face ….

                                                                            T. S. Eliot, Rhapsody on a windy night.       

These descriptive words about the moon inspired me to explore lunar imagery in Eliot’s poetry , especially in this poem, Rhapsody on a Windy Night.

I attempted to paint an image but was dissatisfied with the outcome and left it for a couple of days . When I returned I could see within the image ‘the moon smoothing the hair of the grass,’as in the lines of the poetry  and I played along with the drawn lines and emerging image before me.

I added the words and their imprecise lines seemed symbolic of being lost in the dark of the night, partially visible by the light of the moon across the landscape. A happy accident for the Calligrapher within,  to be able to add a sense of meaning to something which jarred against my need for the perfect line.

My process is one of thought and quiet meditation lifted with the joy of a babbling brook when it all falls into place and my understanding of Eliot’s words is satisfied by the art before me … tinged with a niggling desire to tweek a bit here and there as Eliot would have done too ..

T S Eliot inspires within me a creative welling response to a dialogue between word and image; between poet and artist.
I am delighted to encounter and explore Eliot’s poetry with its imagery and translate it into my own visual interpretation born out of a lively response to his own expression of feeling and emotion.

My work is a personal visual translation of Eliot’s  words and intonations, the incongruities, the dichotomies, the discordant resonance inspiring a intriguing , meditative yet playful reflection on his words . Poet , Artist . Artist , Poet .

The arid dry texts of the ‘A’  level set texts transitioned during lockdown into a passion to interpret visually. Eliot’s words with my own subjective interpretation onto the artists paper .
A dialogue between words and pictures .the pouring out of creative energy in response to an emotional , intellectual stimulus.

An interplay between two destinies ..
Poet and Artist

And so in the dialogue between
La lune and Earth .

Kay Gibbons.

[] Kay is an artist who lives in Oxfordshire. She will be exhibiting there next year.
You can find lots more of her art on Instatgram –

Sheltering, waiting, nurturing

Mid Autumn Reflection
by my friend Gill Henwood who took the photos.

Brambles along the ridge track, Grizedale Forest, are aflame in the pyrrhic victory of autumnal mid-November.

I’m reflecting along the way about glory in the natural world
as leaves fulfil their task of nurturing the trees for this season,
of sheltering wildlife and shading the forest floor.
Trees and their undergrowth are gradually withdrawing their summer lush greens,
through autumn russets to the stark beauty of their varied branches.

The brambles arch and scramble below,
creating spiny sanctuaries for creatures to nestle down out of danger.
Birds and mice have mostly taken the blackberries and carried their seeds
further along the forest edges and field hedgerows. 

Creation is readying for the burst of life starting after midwinter in only a few weeks’ time.
Primroses are flowering already in sunny spots, unseasonally warmed.
Bulbs are waiting, biding their time, just below the leaf litter.

Advent is not far from us – our time to get ready,
to prepare for the explosion of new life into the world at Christmas,
the coming of the Christ Child as the new era dawns and continues…

Gill Henwood

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people; 
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our Peter

The Remembrance ceremony at the London Cenotaph is always a moving occasion. So too the Royal British Legion Celebration at the Royal Albert Hall the previous evening.

For me there are personal  elements. Grandfather Tommy served in the First World War and was wounded when British troops were sent in to the Dardanelles Straights in Turkey whilst an attempt was made to secure a bridgehead at Gallipoli. My parents served in the Second World War and I was brought up during the austerities of the post-war years. Also, I had a cousin who was more like a brother to me, who served in the Royal Air Force, and for a period he was in Aden in South Yemen (of which it is now part). Aden was a British Crown colony from 1839 to 1967 and the Conflict between 1963 and 1967 was between the British Armed Forces and insurgents who wanted to claim it back from us. That is a very simplistic view of it but it is not a conflict that gets much mention. Those who fought there call it the forgotten war. When at Remembrance-tide the many conflicts and wars the United Kingdom has been involved in, are mentioned, you would have to strain your ears to hear the word ‘Aden’!

Yet, for those who fought in the conflict between 1963 and 1967, it was real. Some were wounded, some died, including British school children, and many were mentally scarred. The Insurrectionists did quite a job on those who went in fear of their lives. When my cousin Peter came back home, I saw a change in him. He was unsettled and nervous. I think some of that stays with those involved in such conflicts.

A year ago today, he died of Alzheimers so it has been a particularly challenging day.

I decided to write a poem because Peter, like so many, did his duty and put service before self. There is always a consequence even if it isn’t always obvious.

Our Peter   (An Anniversary poem)

When our Peter,
escorted home by a bobby of the local constabulary,
face blackened by wood smoke,
eyes bright with mischief,
spoke his signature tune, ‘guess what Mar?’,
his twelve-year- old self did not know
that his twenty-two-year-old self
would face a different smoke of acrid bombs,
firecracker bullets, rifle shots.

He cared for aircraft and people
and Khormaksar in Aden
became an indelible memory of danger,
of innocent children
whose party fun went up in flames –
little-ones facing a violence they had not sought.
Airmen and soldiers watched for insurgents,
who slinked in shadows, hid in souks,
ready to strike at any moment
and pick off their victims.

Well-trained and ever-watchful,
our Peter came home.
Behind, mounded in foreign soil,
friends, comrades remained.
They died serving Queen and country.

He served too
but he was one of the lucky ones.
Or was he?
Something inside him perished or festered.
Secured in a pocket of Remembrance,
all he had witnessed endured.
Wherever he was,
wherever he worked, lived, settled,
that wallet of reminding was in his heart.
‘Home’ would always be
where he had served his Queen
and done duty for his country.


Remembrance Sunday, November 13th 2022