Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Fort Langley Graveyard Garden Party

Sunshine, spiders, Seeger, Jack Daniels, Rupert Brooke, really old trees, and a Rendezvous with Death.
"In that rich earth a richer dust concealed"

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Life and Times of Edward James Sellwood

TALES MY FATHER TOLD ME when I (Beryl Sawyer, Pigeon's mum)asked him “What did you do in the war, Daddy?”

Actually, my Dad loved to tell his many stories when we had guests to tea – we, the family would groan, but our guests would enjoy hearing them.

I never really heard my father complain, I think he must have been a fairly good natured soldier. He was underage when he signed up. Born in March, 1897, he was 17 in 1914.

He fought in Europe until he was wounded in the shoulder – a bullet went straight through. He was sent back to England to recuperate. When he was on the street in England strangers would come up to him and ask why he wasn’t at the front.

We have heard of the soldiers in the trenches on both sides stopping fighting on Christmas Day and taking part in a soccer game, resuming the war the next day. My Dad said that on Christmas Day where he was the men stopped the bloodshed, got out of the trenches and offered cigarettes to each other. The officers were angry because they felt this behaviour showed the enemy where the Allied trenches were.

Dad was passing the time chatting to a fellow soldier in the trench one day, he turned away for a minute and when he turned back he found that his companion had lost his head – shells came over all the time.

In war, there always seems to be stories about latrines. The conditions in the trenches were so terrible. The men were fighting, eating, sleeping, if they could, in the deep mud in the trench. Dad told of one man who went to the latrine (which was a deep hole with a plank across) when a shell came over and the poor man went over into the hole, backwards.

He and some others were on patrol at night, bringing up supplies on mules. Suddenly, the animals stopped and could not be persuaded to budge. When the men checked they found their way forward had been booby trapped.
So, the mules saved their lives.

The only other story I remember is when Dad returned to the front, but this time in Salonika, fighting the Turks.

I remember he said they used to go out on patrol near the Turkish lines at night. Feeling hungry one night and not daring to show a light, he felt for his canteen, opened it and ate the bread he had in there. He found it very tasty, quite salty. Later, when he was able to look into the canteen he found it full of ants.

Four years of war and that’s all the stories I remember.

My parents were married in 1921. Joan was born in 1922 and Teddy was born two years later. Both Mum and Dad worked in the hotels in Park Lane, the Grosvenor was one. Dad lost his job and was out of work for a long time. He came to Canada during the depression, probably in 1929. As he had been a seaman (merchant navy) he probably enlisted on a ship to Halifax, then jumped ship. He had many tales of his two years riding the rails across Canada, working at various stops, nearly freezing to death because of getting on the wrong part of the train. Reaching Vancouver and going to White Rock where he knew Jack and May were living. Getting halfway up their path and turning back as he was down and out and was too shy to go in to see them. He stowed away in Vancouver harbour, avoiding the harbour police, hid for two days on the boat, then worked his passage.

Even after returning to England, he was out of work for years. He was bitter about the depression, for, having fought for King and Country for four years, he was asking the question, “Who and what did we fight for? His answer was “to keep the privileged classes in their place of privilege!” Remember, he worked in the Park Lane hotels where only the rich and famous could stay and party. Everyone else worked hard and long and only just barely scraped by. There was no safety net.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

West-ern Remembrance of Human Attitudes

"So it was not until now, when it happened to my friends, when it was my dear Chris and my dear Margaret who sat thus englobed in peace as in a crystal sphere, that I knew it was the most significant as it was the loveliest attitude in the world. It means that the woman has gathered the soul of the man into her soul and is keeping it warm in love and peace so that his body can rest quiet for a time. That is a great thing for a woman to do. I know there are things at least as great for those women whose independant spirits can ride fearlessly and with interest outside the home park of their personal relationships, but independance is not the occupation of most of us. What we desire is greatness such as this which had given sleep to the beloved."
(Rebecca West, Return of the Soldier, p.70)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Trench Tune

In My Little Wet Home in a Trench

In my little wet home in a trench
Where rainstorms continually drench
The sky overhead, clay and mud for a bed
And a stone that we use for a bench

Bully beef and hard biscuits we chew
It seems years since we tasted a stew
Shells, they crackle and scare
But no place can compare
With my little wet home in a trench

Our friends in that trench cross the way
Seem to know that we're here to stay
They shoot and they shout
But they can't get us out
Tho' there's no dirty tricky they won't play

They rushed us a few nights ago
But we don't like intruders you know
Some departed quite sore
Others left evermore
Near my little wet home in a trench

So hurrah for the mud and the clay
Which leads to Der Tag thats the say
When we enter Berlin
That city of sin
And make the fat Berliner pay.

Yes we'll think of the cold slush and stench
As we fought with the Belgians and French
There'll be shed then I fear
Redder stuff than a tear
For my little wet home in a trench


White Feather Reflection

The combination of patriotism, the need for men at the front, and the prior oppression inflicted on the women of Britain (patriarchy)was just what the war needed. The army could not rely on the first two conditions alone. To get the men out, it was necessary to utilize the female guilt trip. And, like Compton MacKenzie opined, they guilted their unappreciative, abusive, or just plain uninspiring bed buddies into the war and out of their hair. Let the Sisterhood prevail! I wonder if, for a second, the thought of "gender-cide" warmed their hearts? Or if women in the Industrialized world had ever come so close to overseeing their own lives? Did they ever dare to wonder at what cost their temporary freedom came?

Japanese Ginny - Woolf and Ki-sho-ten ketsu

If I understand correctly, the Japanese writing technique " ki-sho-ten-ketsu" requires that the reader take responsibility for connecting the various parts of a text together to give it its cohesion - much like what Woolf requires of us when we read "Jacob's Room." I wonder, are we Westerners too accustomed to having things handed to us in nicely wrapped conclusive packages? I prefer to think that, like the consumers of ki-sho-ten-ketsu, we are quite capable of drawing meaning from unwoven threads of ideas. We are endlessly trying to make sense of the world, give it meaning (coincidences...karma...history) and gleaning meaning from Woolf's JR, for us, is unavoidable. Theorist Stanley Fish thought along these lines and tested his ideas on his students at Harvard. Fish wrote a list of names on the board ("Jacobs-Rosenbaum, Levin, Thorne, Hayes, Ohman") and told the class that the list was a poem. The students all found meaning in the "poem" once they learned of the structure they were to work with. He tried this with many classes to the same end.
I'm convinced we create meaning from everything - even Woolf's writing - it may be the case that, in lieu of practice, we just aren't confident enough in our own interpretations.

Lady Lingo

Here is some insight into l'Écriture féminine. Ann Rosalind Jones (professor at Smith College) writes:
" Symbolic discourse (language, in various contexts) is another means through which man objectifies the world, reduces it to his terms, speaks in place of everything and everyone else--including women." Jones explains that women historically, reduced to mere sexual objects by the dominant male voice, "have been prevented from expressing their sexuality in itself or for themselves." Finding a female form of expression would succeed in revealing the phallocentricity Western language. As I understand it, feminine expression appears de-centralized. Women experience the world sensually with their entire bodies whereas men tend to transmit and receive from their "antenae" located just below the belt. Male language = logical, linear, even. Female language = contradictory, ambiguous, inconclusive. Theorist Luce Irigaray contends ""She" is infinitely other in herself. That is undoubtedly the reason she is called temperamental, incomprehensible, perturbed, capricious-not to mention her language in which "she" goes off in all directions and in which "he" is unable to discern the coherence of any meaning."

No wonder the divorce rate is so high.

Monday, June 05, 2006 12:02:19 AM