Will Flowers Be In Place At The Start Of The Season?

Some Big Questions to be answered in Big Cricket when the new season starts.  Should Flower stay – or should he go?  Should KP go – or should he stay?  Should Cook … well you get the idea, and you probably have some answers.

But, noticing today that the cherry blossom is already in bloom around the bowling green

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and catching a glimpse of the scoreless but sunlit scoreboard at Fairfield Road through a gap in the hedge

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some other questions occur to me.

Will the mild Winter mean that the sycamores and silver birches at Grace Road will be in leaf (unusually) for the start of the Season?  Will the daffodils in the beds in front of the Pavilion be in bloom?  Will there be a fine sheen of pollen on the outfield at Fairfield Road?

And I find I care far more about the second set of questions than the first.

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January Wildlife Special (featuring the Harborough Otter)

What better to take our minds off the Ashes debacle than some cute pictures of animals (very popular on the Internet, I believe)?  So here are my New Year cuties.

First a pony, snapped on New Year’s Day in front of a huge mound of manure at Burrough-on-the-Hill, and looking pretty much how I felt at the time.  Thought by some to be local hero James Taylor’s battle charger.

Pony

Secondly, a quick brown fox, taken not, as you might think, in Leicestershire but in the City of London on 2nd January (Leicestershire foxes aren’t generally as blatant as this, though they are considerably more cunning).

Urban Fox

And lastly, the Harborough Otter in action.  This Otter (some think there are a pair of them) seems to be living somewhere near Sainsbury’s in Market Harborough and emerges about once a day to put on a show.  On Saturday he swam about for a bit, showed himself off on the near bank, then re-emerged on the far bank with a large fish which he proceeded to eat.  I can’t quite make out the species that he’s eating, but have a slight suspicion that the staff on the fish counter at Sainsbury’s are supplying him with a selection of their finest wet fish to keep the customers entertained.

Harborough Otter

No precise times available for his next appearance, I’m afraid,  but keep your eyes peeled.

Stump Watch For January 2013 (with a contribution by D.G. Rossetti)

Belatedly, the Stump in January, looking a little like a Christmas pudding with sparklers stuck into it:

Stump Watch January 2013

and, as a bonus, the Stump in context.  It does have an awfully long way to go to regain its former glory, as you will see.

Stump Watch January 2013 2

These scenes may, perhaps, prompt a sigh of regret – “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?”  Or perhaps not.  It is one of those phrases, like “whatever happened to the crispy bacon we used to have before the war?” or “I understand he speaks very highly of you” that I tend to slip into the conversation without really knowing what they mean or where they come from.

“Mais, où sont les neiges …” is actually the refrain of a poem by François Villon – Ballade des dames du temps jadis – that was popularised in England by Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s 1870 translation as The ballad of dead ladies.  Rossetti couldn’t find an exact English equivalent for “antan“, so he invented his own word “yester-year”.  The neologism caught on and is now, of course, a great favourite of DJs on oldies radio stations.  Here is Rossetti’s poem:

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Ballad of Dead Ladies

Tell me now in what hidden way is
Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
Where’s Hipparchia, and where is Thais,
Neither of them the fairer woman?
Where is Echo, beheld of no man,
Only heard on river and mere–
She whose beauty was more than human?–
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Where’s Heloise, the learned nun,
For whose sake Abeillard, I ween,
Lost manhood and put priesthood on?
(From Love he won such dule and teen!)
And where, I pray you, is the Queen
Who willed that Buridan should steer
Sewed in a sack’s mouth down the Seine?–
But where are the snows of yester-year?

White Queen Blanche, like a queen of lilies,
With a voice like any mermaiden–
Bertha Broadfoot, Beatrice, Alice,
And Ermengarde the lady of Maine–
And that good Joan whom Englishmen
At Rouen doomed and burned her there–
Mother of God, where are they then?–
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
Where they are gone, nor yet this year,
Except with this for an overword–
But where are the snows of yester-year?

 

On The Town : Late Entries In The Snow Scene Category

Just before it melts, a couple of late entries in the snow scene category.

This is Wilfred Dudeney’s ‘Three Printers’, transformed into three jolly matelots on shore leave and looking for fun.  I think Gene Kelly is the one on the left.

On the town

And this sad modern variant on the traditional lost dog notice.  Lost in snow – White iPod Touch.

Lost in snow

I bet the owner is regretting not having gone for the pink iPod option now.

Snow Scenes of Leicestershire : Grace Road And The Oxendon Tunnel

A quick roundup of how the snow is affecting our region.  First, the scene at Grace Road earlier in the day –

Grace Road in the snow

The sharp-eyed among you will have spotted that this is actually a painting (by Nick Turley) not a photograph and is taken from this year’s Christmas card sold in aid of the Friends of Grace Road.

We are lucky at Leicestershire in that foxes might realistically be seen in the outfield at Grace Road (we had problems with them digging it up a couple of years ago).  A prancing horse at Canterbury might be vaguely plausible, but a bear in the outfield at Edgbaston would be straining credulity and a wyvern at Taunton would, frankly, be straying into the realms of fantasy.

On a homelier level, this is the pavilion at South Harborough’s ground (what Whistler, had he been familiar with Little Bowden, might have described as a Symphony in White and Green).

South Harborough Pavilion in the snow

But then snowfall famously has the power to elevate the homeliest scene into the realms of fantasy.  I saw a sign this afternoon saying that the Kelmarsh Tunnel (along the disused railway line to Northampton now known as the Brampton Valley Way) was shut and the Oxendon Tunnel was dangerous because of icicles and sheet ice.  Inevitably, I had to have a look.

Without that information, where are we here? Narnia? Middle Earth?

Kelmarsh Tunnel 1

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Kelmarsh Tunnel 5

Kelmarsh Tunnel 6

Consecration, by E.W. Hornung : A Poem For Remembrance Sunday

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Consecration
E.W. Hornung
(1919)
 
Children we deemed you all the days
   We vexed you with our care:
But in a Universe ablaze,
   What was your childish share?
To rush upon the flames of Hell,
  To quench them with your blood !
To be of England’s flower that fell
   Ere yet it break the bud !
 
And we who wither where we grew,
   And never shed but tears,
As children now would follow you
   Through the remaining years ;
Tread in the steps we thought to guide,
   As firmly as you trod ;
And keep the name you glorified
   Clean before man and God.
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Hornung, the author of Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman, was an occasional versifier.  Most of his verse was inspired by the Great War.  Oddly, in the light of the ambivalence (verging on cynicism) of the Raffles books towards the idea that cricket was the embodiment of the Englishman’s moral code, he began by writing some fairly awful War-as-the-Great-Game-type stuff, for instance –
The Schools take guard upon a fierier pitch
    Somewhere in Flanders.
 
Bigger the cricket here;  yet some who tried
    In vain to earn a Colour while at Eton
Have found a place upon an England side

    That can’t be beaten !

His son Oscar, who had played cricket for Eton, had written from the front, comparing the War to “putting your left leg to the ball at cricket” or playing in a house match “only the odds are not so much against us here and we’ve more to back us up.”  He was killed in July 1915.  His Father volunteered to work at the front, manning a canteen run by the YMCA and organising a small lending library for the troops.
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(The pictures are of the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Newark.)