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Monday, December 17, 2007


A view over the fields to our 13th century village church (click to enlarge)

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years!(1) Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel

"In the lonely barton
(2) by yonder coomb(3)
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

(1) This poem was written in 1915
(2) A farmstead
(3) A valley

I have recently read Claire Tomalin's excellent biography of Hardy, which has prompted me to read all his wonderful poems again. This one cleverly parallels the Christmas story (The oxen, the stable, the shepherds sitting around the fire) without actually mentioning it. It also, for me at least, encapsulates Hardy's Wessex - the folk tale told around the fire by the old men of the village whilst watching their sheep. The last line goes to the heart of Hardy's agnosticism and emphasises his hope and essential spirituality.

This Friday, 21st December our family and friends gather here to enjoy our annual "Scrooge Night". Mulled wine, brandy, mince pies and cream - whilst watching that best of all Christmas films "Scrooge", with the inimitable Alistair Sim. ( There is a "Daddy, my Daddy" moment, when he asks the forgiveness of his nephew's wife in the last scenes!)

And so, "God bless us, everyone" as Tiny Tim exclaimed


Sunday, December 02, 2007


This post is for Vita really since she is convalescing!

The time has come for me to re-arrange the motor cycle fleet.
(click to enlarge)
The 1982 BMW (on right) has been with me for 22 years now and it would be like losing a leg to get rid of that - that will be around until I can no longer get my leg over (so to speak).

Of the two "trailies" I sold the XL125 Honda (centre) after buying the Honda XL185 (left) from an old friend who had had it since new.
Two things decided me to sell the one on the left too:

1. Recent legislation in this overcrowded island is killing off the use of "off road" vehicles over our ancient track ways . I count myself lucky to have had their enjoyment for over 40 years.
2. Approaching the age of 69 I ask myself if I should still be bucking, jumping and slip-sliding alone along these ways. (Know thyself).

So one aspect of my motorcycling life ends, but one has to compensate. Thus a new baby joins the BMW in the garage.

This is a 1978 Honda 400 four cylinder with only 18,000 miles under its wheels, for me to enjoy as a light, nippy and manoeuvrable machine for country lane bend swinging. I had one of these machines back in 1977 and have always hankered for another. They took Britain by storm, but were never popular in the States for some reason, so Honda killed them off after 4 years in 1979. (They are reputed to have lost money on every one they sold!). The way the four exhaust pipes swing down together still stands as some of the finest chrome-work ever seen on a motorcycle, many feeling that the design would not look out of place as furniture or pure art.
However inflation has meant that for the one I bought in 1977 for £700, I have now had to pay £2,000 for the "new" one. (I kid myself that the sale of the two trail bikes almost equals the cost of this one!)
Motorcyclists reading all this will understand that I am not particularly enamoured of today's modern "plastic rockets", posing as motorcycles!