Some like iridescent peaks
as daylight fades through fondant veils
of rose and peach
and alphorns and laryngeal arpeggios
echo in the feudal valleys
and summon sprites from peepholes
to the land of fairytales.
Here, scarlet toadstools spring,
edelweiss, blue gentian and alpen-rose,
and cowbells clank their altitude
in misty, leather-bonded notes,
Habsburgs, long forgotten, and life itself
Zwingli, a faded legend,
and Rome's hard-pinching shoes.
And some seek empty, bone-bleached skies,
inlets where Mother Earth nurtures
swan-chicks and grebes,
and stately reeds and velour rush
stand sentinel about the shell-cooped
brood corralled beneath a snowy pen,
rapt in harmony with nature.
The grebe pilots her zebraed sprigs;
their lesser vectors print the nursery tide,
estuary-bound, where billows buffet,
and rasped hulks of fishing boats
careen upon the pebbled shore
beneath tufted dunes, sea-kale and holly,
and those beribboned rockpools
in which hermit crabs reside.
But many seek exotic climes,
where zephyrs kiss sun-burnished skin
and agitation fades.
All that was is gone, a broken, fretful dream.
And why was it, and where was it?
Where did it go, usurper of content?
For this is surely Paradise, as meant.
Light-cut aquamarine floats in,
promise glints in silken sand,
palms whisper healing incantations.
All is divine fruition, slaked thirst, bounty:
elemental memory plumbs deep,
when lung and limb came up for air
and strove through fecund loam
to cognitive reflection.
Taken from the 'Rhapsodies' section of The Twain, Poems of Earth and Ether (Paperback)
Downloadable PDF £1.99
The Berkeleys strive to press home their advantage whilst they may...but with some opposition from above
Mrs Price stormed off to her kin in an uppity frame of mind. The dust settled upon the cornices and the spiders scuttled out from their bullet-hole webs outside the sash windows.
Lord Berkeley’s reception for the Prince of Wales went off without a hitch. It was a refulgent day. The band of the South Gloucesters struck up their martial tunes arousing morale in every patriot breast. A quartet played chamber music while His Highness partook of the multifarious delicacies laid out to tempt the gourmand. Mary was formally presented to the Prince for the first time and found him impossible to dislike.
“Your ladyship’s hospitality is something to behold,” he enthused. “And I have ever maintained that your husband’s cellar is better than mine! A heart-warming occasion.”
“Your Highness is too gracious,” Mary replied, bestowing upon him a breathtaking smile. The earnest blue eyes caught hers in a glint of intimate appreciation. I may observe that his lordship’s discernment of the vine is capped only by that of wives! Ah, but I see I am making you blush most becomingly. Tell me, ma’am, is that Lord Dursley entering the tent over there?”
“It is, sir. Perhaps Your Highness would be good enough to allow us to introduce him.” Caleb Carrington was leading the boy towards the Prince accompanied by Lord Berkeley who made the introductions.
“So you are the Younker,” said the Prince (meaning the youngster who is to inherit the family honours). “Fine boy! You will do the line proud. Any tips for Epsom next week?”
“No, sir, but I have a mare called Phoebe who’s a fine goer!”
The Prince exploded raucously and punched the boy’s shoulder. “Son of your pater, eh? To say the truth, young fellow, I don’t have the blunt to go to the Races any more. Can’t even afford to punt upon tick!” He turned to the Earl. “He’ll do, Berkeley! A spell at Eton will finish him off!”
“Fitz has musical abilities and a fine singing voice,” said his mother.
“Then I would esteem it a privilege if he would give us an air or two. What say you, Lord Dursley?”
“That would make me very happy, Your Highness. Your wish is my command,” said Fitz, a tad precociously. “I have just the song, sir.”
Freddy was summoned to the oyster-walnut clavichord and wriggled about on the seat in front of the keyboard. His fingers plunged into a chord and his brother began to unleash a confident treble voice with all the innocence of a heavenly chorister.
On Richmond Hill there lives a lass
More bright than Mayday morn,
Whose charms all other maids’ surpass
A rose without a thorn,
This lass so neat
With smiles so sweet
Has won my right goodwill
I’d crowns resign to call thee mine,
Sweet lass of Richmond Hill.
Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill,
Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill,
I’d crowns resign to call thee mine,
Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill!
Applause broke out on all sides when he had run the gamut of three full verses. The Prince wiped a tear from his cheek. “Bravo! A most sprightly rendering! Berkeley, your children are accomplished out of the common way. I hope they may pay regular visits to the Opera.”
The day was a resounding success. Doubts were being diluted. The fable was nailed to the wallchart of history. The Prince had endorsed the Berkeley version of their genealogy.
The King was less persuaded when his Heir apprised him of the story. “Your Majesty should know that Berkeley did confide in me years ago and enjoined upon me the necessity of silence. He stated that Miss Tudor was his wife and the worst used woman in the world.”
“Smells fishy,” said the King. “What! If the woman was ill-used years ago, she must be a thousand times more so by now! Don’t believe a word of it! We have noticed his temerity in trailing his dubious establishment under our nose. Most improper!”
“Even the King may not fly in the face of a gentleman’s solemn word. The house of Berkeley is an ancient and noble one. It stands for our English heritage and all the values we endeavour to safeguard so zealously.”
His Majesty would not be moved. When Mary drove out in a curricle upon the sands, he did not salute her. The Berkeley crest was screened from his vision and members of his Court were encouraged to follow his lead. The Berkeleys knew this reaction was only to be expected. Time would acquit them.
Mary refused to be insulted or deterred. There were marriage lines to support her now. Nothing, but nothing, was going to stand in the way of Fitz’s inheritance.
The Berkeleys follow the Royal Court to Weymouth and all goes according to plan...at first
In the scorching summer of 1797, His Majesty agitated to be breathing the ozone of his beloved Dorset coast and the Royal Court removed to Gloucester House in the little port of Weymouth, along with menservants and maidservants, a train of acolytes and half the beau monde. The King’s brother, the Duke of Gloucester, had built the residence (some years before the Earl of Berkeley espied the butcher’s daughter) in response to the enthusiasm of that arbiter of good living, Ralph Allen of Bath. Allen delighted in the place and its freely available panacea which he enjoyed from his trend-setting bathing machine. The Duke of Kent was present that year and two of his brothers. A notable absentee was the Prince of Wales. He had been lampooned out of Brighton and his office as Colonel of the Light Dragoons, ridiculed. Worse still, invective had been hurled in the streets of London over his treatment of the Princess Caroline and there were calls for an Exclusion Bill to disqualify him from the Succession. He had gone into retreat at Critchell House, some miles from Weymouth, and from there made expeditions into the town in his phaeton, eluding his parents as best he could.
The South Gloucesters were based outside Weymouth and the Berkeleys took a house overlooking the bay. It was an ideal opportunity for Mary to intermingle with society and for her face to become familiar.
The minute they arrived in Gloucester Row, Mary tossed off her bonnet and hoisted up a sash window. The sky was Mediterranean blue, not a wisp of cloud. The natural crescent of the shore described a safe harbour. Gulls were gliding on thermals and swooping on titbits scattered by promenaders, as clamant as the species which fastened on the plough.
“Oh, Fred, we shall be happy here, I know it!”
The Earl fell into pensive vein. “My dear, I know it is a lot to ask – but you are quite equal to it – I wish to invite HRH to dine as soon as you are settled in.”
“We are to host the Prince! I see I am to be launched at the deep end!”
“He is a good-natured buffoon, a rag-bag of fine feeling and talent. If he accepts our situation, others will follow. He has always been well-disposed towards us and we must preserve that.”
“He is not in good odour at present.”
“With the people, no. But, it is not they who shape the nation’s charter. That is why we’re in head-to-head conflict with France.”
“Tis hard to remember we’re fighting a war,” sighed Mary.
Innumerable scenarios engrossed Berkeley’s waking hours to do with Fitz negotiating his path to the peerage. The prelude must be carefully orchestrated. “The Prince of Wales is the future, Polly. The King will lose his wits, or die, his day will be done. With His Highness as our ally, the children stand the best chance of obtaining their rights.” Besides, thought Berkeley, we may already owe him more than we know!
Learning that Colonel John West’s regiment was stationed on the isle of Jersey, Mary had written to invite him to spend his leave with them in Weymouth. She told him Berkeley had a secret to communicate. “Twould be a fine idea,” Fred had said, “to let him disseminate our news. He may till the ground, as it were.”
The Colonel arrived
exuding health and vigour. He beamed with pleasure to be re-united
with cherished friends and exclaimed what a fine set of cubs they
were rearing! Gus scaled his back and went charging around the garden
at a rollicking pace with shouts of glee. Fitz could only roll his
eyes and deplore the imbecility of adults, which, now that he was
nearer eleven than ten, struck him more frequently than was
comfortable. They breakfasted late the first morning and the Colonel
found himself alone with his hosts. He reminded Mary she had said
there was something important to relate.
“Do tell West the secret now,” she besought Berkeley.
The Earl caught up his wife’s hand as delicately yet intricately as if they were dancing a minuet. “Allow me to introduce you to the Countess of Berkeley!”
“My lord, I am overcome. It gives me the greatest satisfaction and delight to know your lady is the Countess. Pray forgive my boundless curiosity: when could you have done this? When could you have introduced her by that title?”
“Eleven or twelve years since! Did I not promise that in time you would know more of the business?”
“Indeed so, my lord. Then I am to understand that your eldest son is legitimate?”
“I mean you to understand that is positively the case.”
“That is the best news I’ve heard in years! Will you allow me to talk of it abroad?”
The Earl’s eyes were blazing with amusement. He inclined his head in noble condescension. “You may, West.”
The gossipmongers at Weymouth examine Colonel West's astonishing disclosure, but, closer to home ,mutiny begins to brew
The Colonel could
hardly contain himself and made off without finishing his dish of
chocolate. He knew the Prince of Wales was in town, staying with the
doughty Frederick of York. When he knocked at the door and presented
his card, he was admitted to the drawing room where a small gathering
was assembled around the royal brothers, one of whom was Madame
D’Arblay, née Fanny Burney, indefatigable scribbler and former
lady’s maid of the Queen’s retinue. She had married a General of
the French Artillery and had been interned with her husband for some
“Ah, West!” cried the Prince in bumptious form (as was always the case when he and Frederick put their heads together). “This is a signal honour! What tidings from the Channel Isles? Have you routed the knavish Gauls?” He turned to Frances D’Arblay who took the comment in good part. “Beggin’ pardon, ma’am. The fence ain’t a comfortable place to sit, I am sure.”
The Colonel bowed low before the Princes and acknowledged the rest of the company. “Your Royal Highness. Prince Frederick. I bring no news of surrender, at least not by our foes. But here’s a devilish thing: the Earl of Berkeley tells me he is married and has been covertly so these twelve years! The eldest son is Lord Dursley!”
Astonishment rippled around the circle of friends. The Prince of Wales opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, then declared: “You mean Fred Berkeley has hoodwinked us all these years?”
“It rather seems that way.”
“That surely cannot be!” exclaimed Lady Pitt.
“Poor Miss Tudor! To have sustained a most awkward façade for so long!” remarked Colonel Addenbrooke, West’s particular friend.
“I beg you will tell us what reasons,” demanded the Prince, “were cogent enough to warrant a ruse so injurious to his family.”
“I am not party to them, Your Royal Highness. I have to say that Miss Tudor has been accorded the respect of the Countess in every particular. I have observed it all along.”
“A decorative little piece, it is rumoured,” said Sir William Pitt, shrinking under his wife’s glare.
“She is more than that, I assure you. The lady has close supervision of the nursery and reveals a powerful acumen in managing the estates. Many’s the time I have ridden out with her when staying at Berkeley and Cranford. She knows all the cottagers’ names, every timber and stone, and which phase of the lunar cycle to plant wheat. She knows prices per bushel and cider by the firkin.”
“Trade!” snorted Lady Pitt.
“Trade!” concurred her spouse. His eyes lit up. “By Jove, a matron with brains and beauty! How did the old rake contrive that?”
“More to the
point, how can he have kept it under his coronet?” wondered Madame
D’Arblay. “It is an unconscionable period of time! Before the
The Prince of Wales felt a surge of equatorial heat. There were aspects of the Berkeley affair George did not wish to ponder. It was too near a replication of the Maria conundrum. He neatly rallied attention, veering away from the topic.
“À propos of the French, I am greatly exercised as to how we can keep them from getting into Ireland by the back door while the country is in ferment.”
“Ah, the eternal Catholic question,” said Sir William.
“Infernal would be more of an operative word,” said the Prince.
“An uninterrupted British presence in Dublin would need to be guaranteed, Your Highness,” put in Colonel Addenbrooke.
“Exactly. And while you fellows are straining to beat back the enemy, I have proposed to His Majesty and Mr Pitt that civil constraints upon Catholics there be lifted. I have offered to undertake the Government of Ireland.” Heroic deeds in this vein would impress Maria!
“Our father which art on the Throne has not deigned to reply,” Frederick informed them.
“Neither has the scoundrel, Pitt,” added his brother. “I ask you, what am I to do?”
There was nothing constructive to engage the Prince’s energies and an invitation to be fêted by the Berkeleys came at just the right point to help repair his ego and boost his spirits.
Mr Carrington had gone down to Weymouth with the family for those first weeks of the vacation and received an invitation to his lordship’s grand fête in the tents of the South Gloucesters. Mrs Price, on the other hand, was not invited. One reason was that she had made plans to spend her allowed leave with her cousins near Bristol, but her employers could be forgiven for thinking this fortuitous: her social skills were not finely tuned and a certain discontent was festering beneath her tight-laced form. It was the consummate slight to find that her colleague was to be presented to His Royal Highness when she was not.
“They must know very well that I would be willing to postpone my visit for a contingency of that magnitude! She has always had it in for me, Mr Carrington, I do not exaggerate. Her slack standard of honesty does not accord with my forthright views. And he, he is her mouthpiece. He does as he is told!”
“If I were you, dear lady,” advised the cleric, “I would bridle my tongue. It is impolitic to bite the hand that feeds.”
Wild Olympic flame
gathering energy on
banishing our ruined dreams
fresh vision kindled
The nation focused
of our heritage
gone the touchstone of its soul
the flint and tinder
struck by our forebears
tillers of the untamed earth
servants and soldiers
merchants, miners and martyrs
bringers of quick light
the hope of saving glory
no securities gilt-edged
faint hearts overwrought
Seams, today seamless
our lottery's tarnished coin
spent and spent again
the lure of medals hinting
Seize the pick, the pen, the spade
the simple plough and harrow
bind up wounds, support the sick
life's not fair's true sportsmanship
our children's gold tomorrow!