Colour 20 – Purple

Linked to Life in Colour: Purple – by Heyjude from Travel Words.

Nearly the end of May and I can still only find flowers to illustrate the colour purple. Nothing else catches my eye on my walk through the town so here are just a few garden flowers.

First up is the everlasting wallflower (Erysimum Bowles), much too big for its position right by my side gate and creeping over the steps, but the butterflies and the bees love it so here it stays. It’s not really purple, it’s what my generation would call mauve.

Erysimum Bowles or Everlasting Wallflower to give it it’s popular name.

Favourite pansies next, one bordering on blue perhaps but edging towards the purplish I think.

And lastly, lavender, without which no garden is complete. This one is a particular favourite and I’ve taken a cutting from a more sprawling version in the garden to have it outside my bedroom door.

Life in Colour 21

Linked to Travel Words here.

I know the Life in Colour Pink has long since gone but I came across this photograph of an enchanting little girl who was taking part in the children’s parade in the Trinidad Festival a few ears ago when I was there. I can’t resist adding her to Life in Colour or should it be Perfect in Pink?

Perfect in Pink

And then I found some more pinks so here goes:

Italy’s Cable Car Tragedy

Cable-Car Map at Stresa on Lake Maggiore

The terrible accident yesterday in Italy sent me to my photographs of the time I spent there just over two years ago. The Italian lakes are beautiful at any time but my week there was exceptional, especially in the town of Stresa with its access to so many other towns along the lakes and to so many lovely walks in the mountains and hills around.

One of the Hiking Trails

The Cable car ride to Mottorone above Stresa was one such and I wanted to put just a few pictures up to show why people go up there in summer. Winter, of course, can be for skiing, but summer is for walking among the trees and looking at the amazing views down to the lakes.

Summit

I had often though of returning to do that trip again but when an accident like this happens, one’s faith in machinery takes a bit of a knock!

Hachikō – Tokyo’s Iconic Dog

I’d like to set the scene as Maria in Sound of Music suggests “Let’s start at the very beginning” but maybe it’s better if I tell you first that this is Hachikō, the most famous dog in Japan, and that people come from all over Japan to visit his statue in central Tokyo. We tourists also come, led by guide books and the moving story of the faithful dog who waited at the train station for his owner to return from work, every day for nearly a decade.

Hachikō was a golden brown Akita born in November 1923 in Japan’s Akita prefecture: a year later, still a puppy, he was acquired by Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor who taught at Tokyo Imperial University and lived in the Shibuya neighbourhood of the city.

The pair formed a close bond and their life became one of routine. In the morning Professor Ueno would walk to the Shibuya Station, Hachikō trotting alongside, and take the train to work. After finishing the day’s classes, he would return by train arriving at the station at 3 p.m. on the dot: there Hachikō would be waiting for him.

This continued until May 1925 when the Professor died suddenly at work, having suffered a brain haemorrhage while teaching.

Hachikō, who had come to meet his master as usual on that day, was left waiting at the station. Day after day for nigh on ten years the dog returned to the spot where he had always waited for his owner, patient and loyal despite not being welcomed by the station employees.

The loyal dog, one of only 30 purebred Akitas on record at the time, never gave up hope and although reportedly given away after his master’s death, he regularly ran off to Shibuya Station at 3 p.m. hoping to meet the Professor. Days turned into weeks, then months, then years, and still Hachikō returned to the station each day to wait.

At first, the station workers were not all that friendly to Hachikō, but his fidelity won them over and they began to bring treats for him and sometimes sat beside him to keep him company. Soon, the lone dog and his story began to draw the attention of other commuters. His presence had a great impact on the local community of Shibuya and he became something of an icon.

It is thanks to one of Professor Ueno’s former students, Hirokichi Saito, who also happened to be an expert on the Akita breed, that we know much of this story, because when he got wind of the tale he took the train to Shibuya to see for himself. When he arrived and saw Hachikō there, as usual, he followed him from the station to the home of Ueno’s former gardener, Kuzaburo Kobayashi. There, Kobayashi filled him in on the story of Hachikō’s life.

The student wrote articles about the situation at the Shibuya station one of which was published in the national daily Asahi Shimbun in 1932. The tale spread throughout Japan bringing nationwide fame to Hachikō and people then began to arrive from all over Japan to visit the dog who had become something of a good-luck charm. Many travelled great distances just to sit with him.

For the next nine years and nine months, Hachikō came to the station every day at 3.00 pm on the dot. He was found dead in the street in March 1935, the cause of death (not discovered until 2011) later found to be a cancer. His death made national headlines and after cremation, his ashes were placed next to Professor Ueno’s grave in Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo. His fur, however, was preserved, stuffed and mounted and is now housed in the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo.

The stuffed Hachiko in the National Museum of Nature & Science, Tokyo

The original bronze statue of Hachikō was raised from donations and erected in the exact spot where he had waited for his master for so many years but after World War ll erupted the statue was melted down for ammunitions. In 1948 however, the current statue was erected in Shibuya Station.

The death of Hachiko: Credit Shibuya Folk and Literary Shirane Memorial Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

There is a similar statue, erected in 2004, in Odate, Hachikō’s original hometown, where it stands in front of the Akita Dog Museum.

On the 80th anniversary of Hachikō’s death, in 2015, the University of Tokyo unveiled yet another brass statue of the dog.

Just one Person (or two) in Cuba

It took just two children in Cuba to take me back to a childhood I’d forgotten. So many years ago, when I was younger than these children. I was probably about 4 years old and trying to master the art of spinning a top, something which most people will never even have heard of. In the days when one’s birthday and Christmas were the only times when presents appeared, the spinning-top cost about a penny I suppose, the stick could be anything from a twig to a cane with a piece of thin string wrapped around it. But oh, what joy when the top – which you’d decorated with coloured chalks – spun out and around and around.

Cuban Children playing with spinning tops

Cuba was even poorer than it is now when I visited it last, the blockade was in operation, no paint was allowed into the country as it was all owned by DuPont whose estates the Cuban government had nationalised, and for the children, spinning tops were the most fun to be had. They did however, have an good, free educational system, unlike the rest of the Caribbean.

Cuban Schoolboys

A Blogger’s Return

Maybe I should add “in hope” to the title, as my screen is not showing me what I normally see when I log on to WP. It’s an all-white interface but I’ll continue just for a sentence or two and I will know when I hit publish if it’s working or not.

I made the changeover from one computer to the other with just a little difficulty – like transferring my Sonos system, which I prefer to operate from my desktop as my mobile phone is invariably in another room when I need it. Plus not all of my music made the transfer successfully. The music did but the titles didn’t and it took me some time to fix it.

I took a break from reading blogs and from blogging as I was doing this, as I decided I was spending far too much time online while books piled up on my desk and on the floor and my favourite hobby of reading was somehow being side-lined. Now that bookshops are again open, I can only see the problem increasing as I have a long list of books to check out and buy that I will really need more time for reading.

If this mini-blog works though, I will be back tomorrow, hopefully with a more sensible use of my online time – especially now that I can go out to lunch again!

Hope you’ll all enjoy the fact that lockdown has eased a lot for us, at least here in the UK. Foreign travel may still be a no-no for most of us but there is a glimmer of light at the end of that tunnel.

New Computer Problems

Well, I finally bit the bullet and bought the new computer (HP All-in-one 27″ dazzler) which, of course, had to have Win 10 and the new MS 365 so I have two new systems to get used to. The computer itself is great and I’m spending hours in the day just looking at my photographs which show up so well – even the bad ones – on this great screen. I bought it direct from HP which turned out to be the cheapest in the end as they gave me a good discount.

I haven’t read or commented on any of the people whose blogs I follow as I just haven’t had the time nor have I posted anything,. It is taking so much longer to transfer everything over than I thought it would, plus there are the everyday problems that life throws at one to contend with as well. This is sort of a round-robin apology to those whose posts I read and comment on but I will be back soon.

At least I hope so, as I haven’t managed to get WP up on the new computer. I can’t log-in because it won’t recognise my email address – which has been the same now for about 8 years – and without access to my blog I can’t do anything. I have put a query on the site but as it isn’t coming from my own blog site I don’t know how long it will take them to sort out the problem. I know it’s probably my fault – most things like this are – but I find that coping with the new machine, the new systems and having to work with the two computer screens on the desk is not helping. I could do a blog on this old computer which is still working but I have to get the other one up and running so feel I must concentrate on that.

I’ll be back.

Just One Person – in Madrid

Linked to Just One person from around the World at Cady Luck Leedy

I was reminded of this man and his 100-year-old leather glove-making shop when I read a recent post of Cady’s so I dug out my photographs and scanned them in. I have no dates on them, no details, but I know it was a long time ago. I still have the gloves I bought from him and I remember the shop so well because it was a very extravagant purchase: they are in very unserviceable colours but I’m a glove nut and just had to have them.

I can’t remember the address but I could take you there if we were in Madrid. There are a few famous glove shops in this area but this one was just a few steps away from the Puerta del Sol and the 4th generation member of the family who attended to me, told me that it moved to its current location in the early 20th century from its first location in the famous Plaza itself  

The proprietor and some of his hand-made stock

See that shocking pink pair on the top shelf, and the blue ones on the right? Well, I bought those two pairs, plus a burnt orange pair and a navy and white pair – my entire spending money gone in one purchase! The orange, pink and blue gloves are still wrapped in tissue paper, still pristine, as they are not the sort of gloves you wear very often but the navy and white ones have seen a lot of service since that spend-up day in Madrid.

Why I bought them I’ll never know. I think it was just the excitement of seeing so much beautiful leather worked into gloves and, as I said, I love gloves – even if I never get to wear them. They are a bit like books to me, to have and to hold is reward enough. And can you imagine the smell of soft leather in that shop? It probably softened my brain a bit!

The working part of the shop, sewing-machine on table

My burnt-orange gloves are in the middle of the bottom shelf and they fit like a dream. Soft, pliable, luxurious leather lined with silk. I like buying gloves in Spain because they stock small sizes and as I take a size 6 I find it nearly impossible to buy them in the UK.

This shop, where time seems to have stood still, retains the mirrors, the counter, the old cash register and the sewing machine – everything is the same as it was in the mid-20th century. Above all, the attention to detail, the understanding of the customer’s needs and the very personal service is what makes this place special.

When this Covid thing is over and I can return to Madrid, I will seek out this shop again and get full particulars, then come back and insert the details in this Post.

Silent Sunday: Swinburne’s Grave

Swinburne is not one of the poets one hears much quoted today but in his time he was a force to be reckoned with as he upset the status quo being both a rebel and a radical.

Swinburne’s last resting place, Bonchurch, Isle of Wight

Swinburne was a radical character and an alcoholic, with leanings towards sado-masochism, who incensed many of his fellow Victorians, but the main problem for the Vicrorians was that he was an atheist. The poet’s funeral at Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight was also controversial as he left instructions that there was to be no Christian ceremony. However, against his wishes, some of the normal prayers were read out.
As a poet he was a skilful exponent of French verse forms and obscure poetic metres but he was frequently criticised for his concentration on musicality at the expense of sense. (Similar complaints were later levelled at Dylan Thomas.)   Browning famously referred to his work as being: ‘a fuzz of words’.

One of his supporters was Thomas Hardy who was much influenced by Swinburne’s atheism, and who in 1910 wrote A Singer Asleep whilst sitting next to Swinburne’s grave.

A short excerpt from one of Swinburne’s poems.
From too much hope of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving 
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river  
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

From The Garden of Proserpine
The last known photograph of Swinburne