I’ve always liked how travel writer H.V. Morton would not only describe places in the present day, but also paint a word picture of caravans, ancient markets and battles. Truly we can add a certain appreciation to travelling in our everyday world by imagining, say, characters from English literature, or, The Earth Under the Martians which was part of the 19th century classic of H.G. Wells.
There is only one real world—how mundane!—but we can imagine many worlds. As we did at my weekly Friday Free Fall on December 7th, Pearl Harbor day… Laura-Jean, who is a young mother, imagined boys at puberty learning to like girls; Paul imagined a nurse driving a pilot to an undamaged aircraft during the tumult of the air attack. It was a good meeting. Today I present one of my pieces from that day, and then two relevant poems.
when do I see the pretty birds?
Did I ever tell you about the time I went to a place that Mary Poppins did? “Twas a place that I have had in my mind ever since reading Red Planet, (by Heinlein) where they wanted to put a boy’s pet in the London zoo. Yes, I was in London, time to go to the London Zoo. After all, I had already walked around some exotic “real English streets,” and before that I had been on Primrose Hill where one of the invading Martian cylinders had landed:. H.G. Wells had walked to the top of that hill to survey the London sky-line, seeing the gash in the dome of Saint Paul’s cathedral.
Later, I was to go home and write poetry about the zoo being awash as the Martians destroyed the drainage systems, and the plight of the animals. But now, this sunny day, it was time to enter, for the first time in my life, the London Zoo.
I went straight to the information counter, just in from the gate. I walked up as an excited tourist. “Where,” I demanded, “would Mary Poppins take the children?”
They didn’t know.
Truly the zoo had changed since those days of barred cages lining the streets. Now there were natural enclosures, and you watched creatures at a distance, and—I couldn’t believe it—a human sized tunnel complex to show a ground hog colony, complete with little domes, water proof, where you could pop up and look around. Next to it was apparatus for the children to play like primates.
At last, accidentally, I stumbled upon a penguin slide, and a big penguin pool: Everybody knows that in the movie version Ms Poppins plays with the penguins. So there were the walks and slides, but no little black-and-white flightless birds. The whole edifice had to be kept in place, deserted, because it was a heritage site. Well. I see the British like their Mary Poppins heritage.
Maybe those folks at the info counter will be a little wiser when the next Poppins movie comes out, very soon, starring that lady with the nice voice from Gnomeo and Juliette: Emily Blunt. Something the British have over us is lots of stages, giving their film actors lots of practise, probably more practise than the ones in Hollywood get.
I wondered where the pretty birds were. The term is aviary, often using a net for a ceiling. I did a Martian poem about that too, with the net hanging desolate.
This poem happens when the terrible Martian fighting machines, high on three legs, have moved on from London:
London lived by a delicate mathematics.
Rain fell to grass on Primrose Hill and seeped to grates
and flowed downhill past the canal by the London Zoo
past canals sturdy and straight, or winding in public gardens
with measured populations of ducks
through covered roadside pipes, along calculated gradients.
In the canal along the zoo
a red Chinese restaurant once floated.
Now it is burnt to the waterline.
The canal has been blasted,
quicksilver shimmies across the zoo grounds.
A rare Peking swan will never breed:
feathers matted, cold body twisted,
caught on still rubble, as waters flow by.
The Martians couldn’t know.
No one could have guessed.
Nature would have her revenge.
This poem happens when the Martians have recently departed the British Isles’ during a time of peace and finally enough food, but still no money for anyone to travel to Africa.
Near the Zoo
With the London Zoo desolate,
black nettings torn and drooping,
I may never get to witness a covey of cranes.
How comforting to think that over in Africa
there are still prides of lions.
How nice that over here we enjoy droves of fat sheep.
Nobody ever said a “phalanx” of Martians,
not when towering Tripods
were spreading out across the land as individuals,
I cherish a memory:
On primrose hill a Fighting Machine stands mute,
as a few crows circle the cowling
where so many hop and peck.
Not a murder of crows:
a vengeance of dark angels.
~On the BBC News homepage website, down on the right, there are 10 “most read” pieces to click on. No time for sports or entertainment in that news column, except… On December 9 it was legitimate news: There would be no Doctor Who series (season) in 2019. A lot of people wanted to know.
~Some years ago, I was moved by a little story that was published all around the British Commonwealth. According to my memory: Instead of giving an actress’s long entertainment biography of shows and plays, and instead of often referring to her by her real name… They kept using her character’s name, to share with the world the news: Doctor Who’s long time companion, Sarah Jane, had died. Such a legacy. All around the globe people mourned.
~ (link) Here is a six minute Youtube audio, with still photographs, of the tenth doctor, David Tennant, in his own natural accent, reading aloud his forward to her book.
From the above Youtube comments:
When I first watched "School Reunion" I only knew that Sarah Jane Smith was a very popular companion from the classic series. After I had watched the episode I instantly understood why she was so popular. Elizabeth Sladen brought a kind of magic to that role. You couldn't help but feel with the character. While I was already hooked on Doctor Who at that point, it probably was her performance that made me the complete and irreversible whovian I am now.
When she passed away I had only known about her for about 3 months and I still cried.