Idiots and lunatics at home

‘The 1901 Census revealed a disturbing rise in the number of imbeciles and lunatics, perhaps because the question seemed to tempt householders to classify their dependants as one or the other’

From a review of Simon Heffer’s book, The Age of Decadence in the LRB 30 November 2017

Idiots and lunatics at home

Couples #2

We came across these two in a museum in Volterra, in Tuscany. They are an Etruscan couple – a memory of a society that – as far as we can tell – valued women as equal partners with men.

The figures adorn a funerary casket and I thought this poem from the Dorset poet William Barnes, made a good match. It’s called Wife A lost and is written in dialect:

The Wife A-Lost

Since I noo mwore do zee your face,
Up stairs or down below,
I’ll zit me in the lwonesome place,
Where flat-bough’d beech do grow;
Below the beeches’ bough, my love,
Where you did never come,
An’ I don’t look to meet ye now,
As I do look at hwome.

Since you noo mwore be at my zide,
In walks in zummer het,
I’ll goo alwone where mist do ride,
Drough trees a-drippèn wet;
Below the rain-wet bough, my love,
Where you did never come,
An’ I don’t grieve to miss ye now,
As I do grieve at hwome.

Since now bezide my dinner-bwoard
Your vaice do never sound,
I’ll eat the bit I can avword,
A-vield upon the ground;
Below the darksome bough, my love,
Where you did never dine,
An’ I don’t grieve to miss ye now,
As I at hwome do pine.

Since I do miss your vaice an’ face
In prayer at eventide,
I’ll pray wi’ woone sad vaice vor grace
To goo where you do bide;
Above the tree an’ bough, my love,
Where you be gone avore,
An’ be a-waitèn vor me now,
To come vor evermwore.

Couples #2


Conversations by Oscar Kokoschka (1917)

I think we need more poetry about love that lasts. Here’s a beginning from Kathryn Simmonds (from her collection The Visitations)

We wash up side by side
to find each other

in the speakable world,
and, lulled into sense,

inhabit our landscape;
the curve

of that chair draped
with your shirt;

my glass of  water
seeded overnight with air.

After this bed
there’ll be another,

so we’ll roll
and keep rolling

until one of  us
will roll alone and try to roll

the other back — a trick
no one’s yet pulled off — 

and it’ll be
as if   I dreamed you, dear,

as if   I dreamed this bed,
our touching limbs,

this room, the tree outside alive
with new wet light.

Not now. Not yet.


Independent travel

I liked this picture. It’s a clever illustration of something we usually take for granted – the space allowed for cars on our streets.


It’s by an artist called Karl Jilg culled from this page on Business Insider.

I posted it on Facebook and a friend commented we’d reached this point because – these days – the relentless focus is on choice and individualism rather than the collective solutions offered by public transport. There’s truth in this, but I was reminded too that last night I had read:

‘Walking or riding on a tolerable horse are delights to me; but box’d up in a stinking coach, dependent on the hours and guidance of others, submitting to miserable associates and obliged to hear their nonsense, is great wretchedness!’

It’s from one of John Byng’s journals, describing his travels around Britain in the late eighteenth century. This was noted on Friday August 17th in 1787.

The wish for independent travel is (probably) as old as we are. Our problem today is that cars have opened the opportunity to us all.

Independent travel