Yesterday the Abingdon Share a Poem group met via zoom and read poems on the theme of Autumn.
Before lockdown, these meetings took place in the Hearth Room at St Ethelwold’s House, and we each paid £5 towards the hire of the room. Now the meeting are free and St Ethelwold’s House is not getting the income.
Most poems were by established poets, but some people read their own poems, and they were very enjoyable.
Pauline, who leads the group, read a poem she had written about Venus – the planet, seen early one morning. Justin read a poem about swallows preparing to leave. David read one on roasting chestnuts.
The garden at St Ethelwold’s is looking autumnal, but a lot of flowers still remain,
and there are vegetables ready to be dug.
After two poems on blackberry picking (Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney and Blackberrying by Sylvia Plath), we got talking about the farm, on Milton Heights, where Pauline’s daughter had picked a lot of cherries this year. That reminded me I took two pictures through the hedge at that farm: one of blossoms in the spring, and one a few days ago, at the same location. It doesn’t look like the plums will be picked this year.
On 6th March 2008, The Abingdon Herald reported that the Abingdon Share a Poem group had produced a book for the Abingdon Arts Festival. The poetry group were 10 year old and still going strong. In September 2020 they are still going – if a little older.
At the September 2020 meeting of the group, on Zoom yesterday, Justin Gosling read one of his poems …
The Thames at Abingdon
I love the Thames at Abingdon –
The wintry roar below the weir;
The angry mud race swirling past
St Helen’s round to Culham Reach;
And then the surge to burst its banks
And seize the Isle of Andersey
And all the fields to Culham Bridge –
Triumphant arching salmon leap
From river to resplendent lake.
I love the lazy summer Thames,
Placid now between its banks,
With empty cartons, coots and cans
And boats and bottles bobbing by,
And regal swans
In stately eddies drifting down
Between the meadows and the town.
I love the cool autumnal Thames,
Still beneath the thin white mist;
And far, yet near, the cooling towers,
Each with its plume of shining cloud;
The guardsman poplars, tall and bare,
Turned copper by the sinking sun.
Stormy, empty, busy, calm –
I love the Thames at Abingdon.
© Justin Gosling
I am always interested to discover old Abingdon poems and verses and recently found a verse in a book on The Abingdon Fire Service (1871 – 1945) by John Hooke.
During WWII the Abingdon Fire Service helped in the national effort and went to places to put out the fires after the Blitz bombing. They arrived in Coventry after a 60 mile journey. It was complete chaos. ‘See those Almshouses, Leslie, the incendiaries have only just started their work of destruction. We could put them out with a drop of water – but there is no water in the mains. Look out! A stick of bombs fall on the cross roads where we had been standing only seconds before, two firemen just disappear.’
Town fire services were nationalised for greater efficiency and central control and to ensure uniform standards. The Abingdon Fire Service became part of National Fire Service No 15 (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire).
Getting water appeared a problem for the fire service. In Abingdon a static water tank was put in the Market Square and aroused some criticism. A verse appeared in the North Berks Herald and is reprinted in the book …
A hole has appeared in the Market Square!
Now who in the deuce could have put it there?
Everyone is ‘hollering out’
And asking ‘What is it all about?’
The ‘whole thing seems extremely rum
Oh! Is it to be an aquarium?
Or maybe a Lido they’ll install
(High diving from the old Town Hall!)
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
William Shakespeare (Sonnet 73)