Wednesday, 21 October 2015

AN AUTUMN VILLANELLE

Trust not this joker in his gaudy clothes.
He steals the daylight and he cools the sun.
He kills the lily and he blights the rose.

Storms are his claim to fame. He blasts and blows
and robs the mariner of all he’s won.
Trust not this joker in his gaudy clothes.

He strips the green from ev’ry tree that grows
and paints the garden brown and when he’s done
he kills the lily and he blights the rose.

Insolent spoiler,  see him thumb his nose
and drown a country wedding - not just one!
Trust not this joker in his gaudy clothes.

He fills the skies with seagulls and with crows
and bids the swallows flee,  the hedgehogs run.
He kills the lily and he blights the rose.

He breathes his chill on fingers as on toes
and pockets all he finds of summer fun.
Trust not this joker in his gaudy clothes.
He kills the lily and he blights the rose.


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Saturday, 17 October 2015

AN EXPOSED LIGHT

One of the duties of World War One coast watchers was to report exposed lights.  The Defence of the Realm Act included a Lighting Order that required householders to obscure lights that might be visible from the sea.

On the third of July 1915, at about a quarter past one, William Cordey, a Sidmouth coast watcher, ( I'd like to think he was a little boy scout but he probably wasn't.) noticed a light shining from a window at General Hopwood's house.  The house was "right on the cliff".  Only three nights before the general had been cautioned with regard to a light shining from the same window.

William Cordey and James Greenwood, a reserve constable, knocked at the general's door.   The general answered the door and the constable told him a light was shining from a window on the ground floor. The general said it was not so.  I suspect it was a Plebgate moment.

The general was wrong and the constable was able to demonstrate to him that a curtain had been pulled aside and a candle was shining into the night and out to sea.  The general blamed Nellie Hillry, his housemaid, but months later, in court at Ottery, Mr Michelmore, his solicitor, said that General Hopwood had been giving a party that night and it must have been a lady visitor who had unwittingly moved the dark curtain. Only a few inches of the curtain had been moved and it was only a candle.

The magistrates fined General Hopwood five pounds.


(Reported in the Western Times 14th April 1916.)