Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Romford Market

Romford is quite famous for its market. Shoppers come from miles around to buy fruit, vegetables, fish, clothes and many other items. It takes place three times a week and there has been a market here for over seven hundred years. In days gone by the stallholders, many of them thoroughbred cockneys, were known as costermongers. The above shot was taken at dusk on an autumn day.
It is possible to buy fresh fish straight from the central fish market at Billingsgate in London. On the left are some sprats, a traditional fish popular with older people. They are a sort of miniature herring
Probably the most popular stalls in the market are those that sell vegetables. They used to come from the most famous market of all - Covent Garden, but that has been closed for many years.
You can buy lots of colourful and attractive flowers as well.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Strange Vagabond of God

I would like to write a bit about a strange man who seems to epitomise a form of Christianity that was common in the Middle Ages but is rarely seen today. John Bradburne was a sort of wandering anchorite, a man who cared nothing for those things that seem so important to most of us. He cared nothing for money, possessions or power.
He was born in 1921 into an upper- middle-class family in Skirwith in rural Cumbria, a beautiful region of England that has the English Lake District within its borders. His family was a distinguished one. Terence Rattigan, the playwright, was a cousin and another was Christopher Soames, the last governor of what was known as Rhodesia.
He had s distinguished military career in World War 11, during which he worked with Gurkhas in Burma. After the fall of Singapore he and a fellow officer sailed in a primitive sampan all the way to Sumatra. He was decorated for his bravery.
After the war he converted to Catholicism. He tried three times to enter monasteries but failed every time. He spent a lot of time wandering around Europe and the Holy Land, doing odd jobs and sleeping wherever he could find a couch for the night. He was obvious a restless seeker after God.
He realised that material things can never really satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. He would express his deepest feelings in verse, some of it surprisingly good.
This sonnet seems to sum up his feelings.
No more, my Lord, to dream away Thy time,
Among the fading blooms of pleasure's lawn,
No more to slumber heedless of the chime
Which keeps untiring watch from dawn till dawn.
No more the quest of this world's finest views
Which can but fill the eye with fresh desire,
No more the crowding vanities and news
That keep from souls Thy Holy Spirit's fire.
No more the wanderer way, the wide unrest
And weary search for joys that will not cease;
No more, good Lord, to turn from Thy behest,
No more! We know Thy will to be our peace.
To thee we tread the road that Christ has trod,
So rest our hearts in His: Thy heart dear God.
In 1969 he found himself in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He said he was seeking a cave where he could pray. A friend, Heather Benoy, suggested to him that he could be useful looking after small leper colony at Mutemwa, an area to the east of Harare. When he got there he found a scene of utter dereliction. The lepers were dirty and hungry; their sores were suppurating and primitive huts had roofs that let in the rain. John looked around and , "I'm staying." He kept his word and spent the rest of his life in selfless service to these outcasts. feeding them, washing their open sores, tending them in sickness and reading the scriptures to them.
In 1979, at the height of the insurgency against the Smith regime, he was abducted by a gang of insurgents. They took him to a secret location and tried to tempt and humiliate him. Young girls were offered him , but he simply held his peace and quietly prayed. A smaller group to him away into the bush and shot him in the head. He was found the next day clothed simply in his under pants by a rural road.
I include a part of another of his sonnets, probably his best, that seems to sum up his life.
Your heart's desire is nearest, though unseen,
Your haven of perfection close at hand;
And that drear quest was as a fevered dream;
God's love within you is your native land.
So search none other, never more depart,
For you are homeless, save God keeps your heart.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Thou art indeed just, lord, byGerard Manley Hopkins
I would like to introduce one of my favourite poems. It is based on the Latin translation of Jeremiah 12:1. It is, in my opinion, the most poignant and sad poem in our language. Hopkins manages to write in the strict sonnet form, a form that can be so artificial, and yet he is able to express his feelings and thoughts in an intensity that is almost searing in its power. Art and feeling combine to make a satisfying artistic whole.
It is the plea and cry of a desperately sincere man, who towards the end of his life, finds his life and religion so empty and disappointing. Perhaps the struggles he had with his sexuality and the rigours of his life as a Jesuit produced a suffocating legalism that almost drove his to despair. The last line contains a prayer that every Christian understands: "Mine, O Thou Lord of life, send my roots rain"
My advice is; read the poem aloud several times in order to understand the inversion and the intense brevity of his style

THOU art indeed just, Lord, if I contend

With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.

Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must

Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost

Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust

Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,

Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes

Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes

Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain,

Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.

Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.