I don't normally approve of dressing up animals - I think it challenges their dignity - but this Easter someone popped a pirate's hat on Beezle and he seemed to rather like it.
This nautical theme is rather apt because I have been persuaded to write a biography about my grandfather Captain(Skipper) Chapman who sailed the seven seas in square rigged sailing ships at the turn of the last century. His tales at sea are wonderful and include being one of only 14 survivors when a hospital ship he was on was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine during the first world war. The submarine tried to destroy all evidence by shooting the nurses,doctors and crew whilst they were still in the water.
Here is my grandfather as a fourteen year old boy (top left) when he first went to sea.
The title of the book at the moment is The King of the Picnickers which we children named him as he adored taking us out on picnics. Here is a picnic extract.
The picnics always involved some sort of activity. Primrose picking in spring, when we made little posies we tied up with green wool that he kept in the dashboard with a packet of Murray mints. Cricket matches and building of sandcastles if we were on a beach. Well – sandcastles is an understatement. Whilst every other family built sandcastles – The King of the Picnickers built sand volcanos. They were huge and he scooped out tunnels from the sides and the top leaving a central chamber. When the volcano was ready he would crumple up some newspaper, put it down one of the side tunnels and light it with a match. Smoke billowed out of the top and attracted every child on the beach like he was some sort of Pied Piper. We loved it. We were proud and we felt very important. He belonged to us and he had made something wondrous.
We had two traditions on the picnics. One was that every time we drove under a bridge he’d shout “Duck” and we had to drop our heads and hold our breath until we came out the other side of the tunnel. The other was to test him on the time. “What’s the time now Grandad?” we’d ask and he would say whatever time he thought it was. Then he’d take out his big silver pocket watch, flip open the cover and show it to us. He was always right. He was not even a minute out. Years of navigating at sea and watching the position of the sun, the ebb and flow of the tides gave him a natural inbuilt instinct for the time.
When he eventually died one night aged 84, he was at my sister’s house which was next to the village church in Pangbourne. As he lay on the landing after a heart attack his last words were “It must be nearly one o’clock” He died and a moment later the church clock struck one.
Pixie has been renamed Piglie or affectionally as Piggles since she took and ate two avocado pears from the fruit bowl (high up) which we had saved for our supper, half a pack of butter which I'd foolishly left on the kitchen work top and a quantity of small eggs hidden in the garden for the easter egg hunt. Avocados are surprisingly, very bad for dogs as well as chocolate - we are all surprised she is still walking around.
Pixie's very interesting fact is that Blackbeard - the most famous of pirates (apart from Capt. Beezle) had a peg leg because he lost his real leg though diabetes.
Well, as Capt. Beezle and Rabindranath Tagore would say "You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water."
Pocket (quarter Bengal) has offered his services as ship's cat. Very useful as hundreds of rats run along the ropes when the boats are in harbour and nibble the sailors' toes when they are asleep.
Meanwhile back at the farm, absolutely miles from the sea, The Rookery is a cacophony of baby rook calls and general rook chit chat.
I found this trawling through my collection of poems for something nautical that I wrote years ago.
The only reason for posting it is that it is titled Pirate's Chest because other wise it's a bit of nonsense.
A pirate’s chest inlaid with filigree
Blue enamel, a sea sand script written
by an ancient hand
by an ancient hand
a curious shape not a square nor a
rhomboid but something
which is yet to be given a name.
The sort of box Pandora might
Perhaps it is filled with winged troubles.
It looks very smug.
Ah – a smuggler’s chest then.
A gold star
not a tarantula
fallen from the cosmos
or grace as it orbited round
It glistens and twinkles
it’s five points
aimed at the five of us left
Pointing the finger