My way to William Blake as a small boy was my grandfather, who had seen the apocalypse and treated its victims. He lost his sight late in life but acquired a nicotine and whisky moustache and the habit of sunbathing naked amidst his tomatoes. Between demonstrating how to kill Germans in ditches (“Punch me properly in the solar plexus, and then do the uppercut!”) I remember him declaiming John Milton and much else, and Blake’s illustrations to Paradise Lost were duly dug up in the local public library. My eventual appreciation of both writers was as outriders of Cromwellian republican millennialism, in vogue amongst granddad’s North Welsh Calvinistic Methodist family even after they stopped trying to reform the British state and started considering setting up their own, be it in Patagonia or the marginally more hospitable climes around Bala Lake.
But those otherworldly glories have passed, and now Blake appears to be some kind of post-Vatican II saint, on whose old shrine visiting Catholic girls leave a coin, as they used to do in the Trevi Fountain before the tourist coaches arrived with their bucketfuls of casino fiat:
St. William’s true followers can be identified by their hats and other headpieces, by their flasks of brandy (“Some soda with that?”), and by their enthusiastic but unpractised attitude to unamplified public speaking in this age of mutterers. I vaguely caught a “Brexit” and a “Trump,” so maybe my acoustic megaphone would have spoiled the spell for those of us at the back.
But the millinery. One gent favoured what I think of as Frans Alink’s Westphalian rabbiting look, feathers ‘n’ all. I also like the guy on the right, revelation (not iPhone) held high:
Malcolm Guite’s hat is more conducive to poaching, and perhaps he can skin a bunny:
An Anglican fisher of whatever we call our mortal essence this week:
I will Photoshop out the apartments later:
Philip the Apostle is still the true patron of hatters, and probably of my old brass band, Luton Town.
- “Virginity is an overrated virtue”
Granddad’s Armistice, in letters and recollections. With glimpses ante hoc of Cameronians & Royal Scots in the Eastern Mediterranean & on the Somme; of ambulance trains in Northern France; of 6th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment during the terminal Hundred Days Offensive into Belgium; and post hoc of the aftermath, including an exchange with a German family. With a special cameo featuring Kandy the Maltese terrier.
- The true origins of an 18th century tomb inscription at Zennor, Penwith, Cornwall
“‘Tis glorious misery to be born a man,” generally taken to refer to a hen-pecked husband, is in fact a misquotation of verse by the 17th century Romford and London poet, Francis Quarles, dealing with human mortality.
- Hackney Brook restoration scheme
Iain Sinclair wrote of when “global warming rolls a warm sea [up] the course of the old Hackney Brook.” The flow’s going to be the other way. Let me explain.
- A remarkable gravestone in Waltham Forest Muslim cemetery
If tears could build a stairway / And memories a lane, / We’d walk right up to heaven / And bring you home again.