Thursday 22nd March 2018

Busy busy at Compton Verney today . 60 year 1 and 2 children from St Lawrence School Napton with Anne and Myself in the studio doing China. 30, 14 yer old young men with Claire doing Mysterious Landscapes. Jo had a further group doing the same. Forest School early years with Hanna, Amanda, Tim and Vix. A group of young girls doing dance. And Anne and I also had 40 university students on teacher training follow us to see how we work. Then after all that I went to read my poetry at The Stagey Fox in Leamington Spa. The evening was recorded for Stratford Words Radio.

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A cycle of songs imagining the final thoughts of Captain Scott and his polar party has been composed by Cambridge graduate Jake Wilson – with the help of the University’s Scott Polar Research Institute.

These songs are one of the most evocative responses to the story of Scott to have come out of the centenary.
Wilson has composed All’s Well, a cycle of five songs, from the point of view of the men who died on their return journey from the South Pole 100 years ago: Edgar Evans, Lawrence Oates, Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, and Captain Robert Scott himself. The songs aim to capture the different responses of these five men as they realise their deaths are inevitable, and are dedicated to the memory of Jake’s mother, and his friend, the writer Russell Hoban, both of whom died while he was working on All’s Well.


Jake’s interest in Captain Scott’s final Antarctic expedition was triggered when he discovered an edition of Scott’s journals in his parents’ house. After reading this gripping first-hand account of the expedition, he went on to immerse himself in the diaries, letters and biographies of Scott and the other members of the polar party.

But what started as an academic interest changed when Jake’s mother was diagnosed with untreatable cancer.

He said: “Suddenly I was faced with the brutal reality of what Scott and his men must have gone through – my mother was also in a race against time, battling against her own body as it failed her. And her response was extremely similar – organising her affairs, writing letters to people who she felt needed to have heard from her, and facing death with dignity and courage.”

Jake’s determination to complete the songs after his mother’s death was reinforced by support from his close friend, the author Russell Hoban.

“Russ encouraged me to write these songs from the start,” said Jake. “I sent him draft lyrics to comment on and took my guitar to his house to play him work-in-progress. Even when he was in hospital he found the energy to listen to my demo recordings and give me advice about how to improve the songs.”


Folk fiddle legend Dave Swarbrick, who has been collaborating with Jake since 2009, has also played a key role in the project. Swarbrick has described Jake as one of the finest guitarists and songwriters of his generation and has recently produced recordings of the songs. These will be released soon under the title All’s Well, with the support of the Scott Polar Research Institute.

Heather Lane, Keeper of Collections at the Institute, said: “These songs are one of the most evocative responses to the story of Scott to have come out of the centenary. The Scott Polar Research Institute has been pleased to work with Jake Wilson on this project. His moving tribute to the men should have enormous popular appeal.”


The songs have also met the approval of relatives of the team members in Scott’s polar party. David Wilson, great-nephew of Edward Wilson, said: “With All’s Well, Jake Wilson successfully recasts the South Pole story into a new genre. Evoking the distinct characters of each of the Pole Party in word and tune, he accomplishes in modern folk music what Beryl Bainbridge took an entire novel to achieve. A cultural masterpiece for the Scott centenary.”

Jake will perform All’s Well at the Polar Museum on March 27, alongside Cambridge poet Kiran Millwood Hargrave, who will be reading from her latest collection The Last March, also inspired by the story of Scott and his men. The poems will be published by Pindrop Press to mark the centenary of Scott’s death.



Captain, o captain, is our journey done?
Did we struggle so far to find the prize already won?
Must we trudge empty-handed back to the ship?
Can a dragon still fly when its wings have been clipped?
Far from home … home…
Did we haul our way south, battle hunger and cold
For the Norskies to dash, the Norskies to dash
For the Norskies to dash all our dreams at the Pole?

All it takes to cross the line between death and life
Is a slip of the foot, or a slip of the knife
And there’ll be no flag to wrap me in my unmarked grave
No earth below me, and above me no waves
Oh for home … home…
To be back in the Gower, to glimpse Rhosili Sands
And I’ll try not to fall, I’ll try not to fall
I’ll try hard not to fall, when it’s too much to stand

I pulled and I pulled ’til my strength was all gone
Then I made myself walk ’til I just couldn’t carry on
And when you went ahead, had your lunch and brewed your tea
I crawled through the snow on my hands and my knees
To get home … home…
To the land of my fathers, my children and my wife
But I’d pulled to the end, I’d pulled to the end
Oh I’d pulled to the end…

Capt Oates and pony "Snippets". October 1911


Last night I slept and woke with pain
I almost wished no more to wake again
And oh for an opiate trebly strong
To drug down this blindfold sense of wrong
But no surrender, no surrender
No surrender, no surrender

Like Napoleon under Russian skies
We lost our battle with the snow and the ice
No hero’s welcome, only retreat
No hope of glory, only defeat
But I soldier on, I soldier on
I soldier on, I soldier on

Now the grave seems bright to me
Stepping outside seems right to me
For a pick to the head, or a bullet to the brain
You can do it to a horse, you can’t do it to a man
But maybe some time, maybe some time
Maybe some time, maybe some time
Oh I may be some time, may be some time



The bird circled high, the bird circled high
All alone
It was too far south, we were too far south
To get home
And the snow it fell, the snow it fell
For days
And the colours they fade, the colours they fade away
But all’s well… all’s well…

My spirit is willing, and my faith is strong
To the end
But my flesh is weak, and I almost long
For the end
Thy kingdom comes, and thy will is done
Though the colours they fade, the colours they fade away
All’s well… all’s well…

Oh Ory my dear, my life seems small
To me now
Oh Ory my dear, our love is all
To me now
And though death draws near, I’ve nothing to fear
As the colours they fade, the colours all fade away
All’s well… all’s well…



I’d rather go with no ski than the Norskie way
Give me good old-fashioned British manhaul-sledging every day
And the snow it may blind and the frost may bite
But I’ll battle on, I’ll keep fighting the good fight
And with God as my guide, I’ll head straight towards my goal
And when the pulling is all done, then I’ll just sleep in the cold

With Christ as my companion and the harness as my friend
I’ll brave every crack and crevasse, I’ll struggle to the end
And the ice may break up and the orcas circle near
But a catch in my breath will be the only sign of fear
And if the wind it should change and my luck it doesn’t hold
I’ll float calmly out to sea, and I’ll just sleep in the cold

Now our fuel is running short and the food is almost gone
But I’m far from finished, oh I still feel strong
And the darkness may close in and the shadows threaten me
But death will have no sting and the grave no victory
For I’ll never get tired and now I’ll never grow old
I’ll lie happy in my bag and I’ll just sleep in the cold

H.G Ponting. Captain Scott+s Antarctic Expedition 1910 - 1912. 7th October, 1911. Profile view of Captain Scott sitting at his desk as he writes his journals in the Winterquarters hut.


White were the nights, and white were the days
White was the path that we trod all the way
White were our thoughts, as we hauled and we dragged
But black was the flag, black was the flag

White were our dreams, and white was our sleep
White was the hope that I struggled hard to keep
For black were the shadows of the doubts that I had
And black was the flag, black was the flag

Red was the blood of the ponies that we drove
And white was the snow that it stained
Blue was the sky so clear above
But black, black was their pain

White was the dawn, but black was the day
Black was the dog on my back all the way
Black were the leaves, pressed hard in the coal
And black was the flag that we found at the Pole

Black was the flag that fluttered at the Pole
But red, white and blue
Red, white and blue
Is my soul


On Reading Nietzsche

I feel its best to be a simple man
For education only leads to discontent
I try to study the way of it all but it flies over my head
It raises nagging negatives
I close my eyes to the lines I cannot fully grasp
Great holes appear in my soul
I wished that I had begun to know myself earlier
Or I had had the means to do so
Why was I condemned to a life that would only
Leave me asking more questions?
As I begin seeing the reasons
I realise I have learned it all too late
Education leads to the self
The self leads to loneliness
Loneliness leads to thinking
Thinking leads to questions
Questions lead to disillusion
And a wish, yes a dream for an alternative solution
A way out
An escape route
There is none
We are all condemned to nothing
This I have learned from self education
O how I wish I was but a simple man
For education only leads to complexity

John Bishop June 29th 2016-06-29

The Day I Spent in Auvers-sur-oise

She appeared at the top of a dusty steep track
That peeped out among dry stone walls and foliage
Onto the Rue Victor Hugo
She on an after thought could have been
Ursula Andress coming out of the sea
To greet Shaun Connery in the scene from Dr No.
Indeed it was such a strange sight.
“Avez-vous le chemin de la maison du Docteur Gachet”?
“Direct”! I pointed the way ahead.
“Yes” I said” it’s direct”.
She was slight very, very slight
She could have easily been a model or a film star
Everything about her reminded me of someone
I have no idea who it was
She told me her name was Marianna
She grabbed my arm and held me tight
One of her high heels that was so thin and delicate broke
She held onto me while she did a fast repair
She was immaculate in pearls and diamanté
Her hair glowed in the sunlight
“Allez-vous à une danse”? I asked her as I was so amazed at her attire
“Aucun,Chic” she answered
We escorted each other to the house of Dr Gachet where we sipped champagne
She introduced me to the mayor and a poet and some artists
It was a premier and we drank more champagne
Chatted and laughed and had a splendid afternoon
On leaving her at the same steep track I said “goodbye-au revoir madame”
She turned and fixed me in her crystal blue eyes.
“No John Marianna”.
Arnold on the other hand was so much bigger than his slim frame
Arnold was loud very loud and he commanded me to look at him and his past
He had paintings outside on easels which were terrible
Blotches of paint and stippled colours
No forms at all Van Gogh attempts
A sign said café fermé but he sat in his studio in a garden
That was cracking in the afternoon heat
I was shown in and sat down while he hunted manic like in the draw of a cabinet
A hand full of images black and white of his children
Images too of his youth spent in Montmartre
He looked great every inch a rebel
He spoke of his family all living in London all doing well
One in Richmond with deer and ducks
He laughed loud very loud pointing at me and laughing
Fou Fou I thought. “I am Paris, Paris is Paris, I miss Paris”!
“Montmartre and my youth I miss it all”!
He showed me pictures of himself with princesses and glamorous
Ladies that offered him a different life
“No I was married with four children how could I”?
He said laughing again laughing loud
A cigarette unlit in his had pointing
“Politics” he shouted showing me a photo of a man standing on a box
“Politic, Politic Change nothing will change
Around and around
You take they want
The want they take”!
Loud laughter “nothing changes”!
I said “goodbye -au revoir monsieur”
I took a quick selfie of us together
The artist and the fool
And headed to Paris


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