Friday, April 17, 2020

A 1960s Poem For These Times

Though personally I am not aggrieved or inconvenienced by the social distancing rules that are now in force across the country, I know that many people, unused to bountiful free time, find it hard to cope.

Thinking about those souls who find the lockdown trying,  a poem I read many years ago – back in the 1960s – came into my head, and struck me as being curiously appropriate to the situation of being stuck at home all the time.

It is called Summer With Monica by Roger McGough, a kind of love poem published in 1967.

Summer With Monica
by Roger McGough

They say the sun shone now and again
but it was generally cloudy
with far too much rain

they say babies were born
married couples made love,
often with each other
and people died
sometimes violently.

they say it was an average ordinary moderate
run-of-the-mill common or garden summer
but it wasn't

for I locked a yellow door
and I threw away the key.
and I spent summer with Monica
and she spent summer with me

unlike everybody else we made friends with the weather
most days the sun called and sprawled all over the place
or the wind blew in as breezily as ever
and ran his fingers through our hair
but usually it was the moon that kept us company

some days we thought about the seaside
and built sand castles on the blankets
and paddled in the pillows
or swam in the sink and played with shoals of dishes

other days we went for long walks around the table
and picnicked on the banks of the settee
or just sunbathed lazily in front of the fire
until the shilling set on the horizon.

we danced a lot that summer
bossanovaed by the bookcase
or maddisoned instead,
hulligullied by the oven
or twisted round the bed

at first we kept birds in a transistor box
to sing for us but sadly they died
we being too embraced in each other to feed them.
but it didn't really matter because
we made love songs with our bodies
I became the words
and she put me to music

they say it was just like any other summer
but it wasn't
for we had love and each other
and the moon for company
when I spent summer with Monica
and Monica spent summer with me.

In October when winter the lodger the sod
came a knocking at our door I set in a store of biscuits and whiskey
you filled the hot water bottle with tears
and we went to bed until spring

in April we arose warm and smelling of morning
we kissed the sleep from each other's eyes
and went out into the world
and now summer is here again regular as the rent man
but our lives are now more ordered more arranged
the kissing wildly carefree times have changed

we no longer stroll along the beaches of the bed
or snuggle in the long grass of the carpets
the room no longer a world for makebelieving in
but a ceiling and four walls that are for living in

we no longer eat our dinner holding hands
or neck in the back stalls of the television
the room no longer a place for hideandseeking in
but a container that we use for eat and sleeping in

our love has become as comfortable as the jeans you lounge about in
as my old green coat
as necessary as the change you get from the milkman
for a five pound note

our love has become as nice as a cup of tea in bed
as simple as something the baby said
Monica the sky is blue the leaves are green
the birds are singing
the bells are ringing for me and my gal
the sun's as big as an ice cream factory
the corn is as high as an elephant's
I could go on for hours about the
beautiful weather we're having
but Monica,
they don't make summers like they used to…

Roger McGough was part of a trio of Liverpool poets popular back in the 1960s. I have a copy of Penguin Modern Poets #10, The Mersey Sound featuring a selection of poems by Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten in my personal library.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Easter Weekend–Thank Heavens for Horse Racing

qe stakes_winx 1
Winx – QE Stakes 2017

As we’ve never gone anywhere at Easter(or not for many decades), the Covid 19 lock down hardly makes a difference to the Cat Politics domicile, we being content to stay home and kill the time with our usual occupations.

In my case I’ve always enjoyed watching the races which thankfully are still being run, albeit without public attendance.

This Saturday’s race meeting at Randwick marks the first anniversary of Winx’s final race in her illustrious career in the 2019 Queen Elizabeth Stakes. She went out a winner naturally, achieving the rare distinction of winning the QE Stakes for the third time. I was fortunate to witness in person her first QE victory in 2017.

As well as the Queen Elizabeth Stakes there are three other choice Group 1 events on the program – Sydney Cup, Australian Oaks and Coolmore Legacy Stakes.

The Oaks is the first to run and appears a match race between New Zealand filly Probabeel and new filly on the block Colette, with Shout the Bar, Nudge and Toffee Tongue all a good chance as well.

Verry Elleegant won the Australian Oaks last year and is one of the fancied contenders in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes this year. At her last start a fortnight ago she won the Group 1 Tancred Stakes spectacularly by over 4 lengths, though was beaten narrowly by English horse Addeybb in the Group 1  Ranvet Stakes at her previous start.  Addeybb is again one of her rivals in the QE Stakes, so it will be interesting to see if she can turn the tables on him this time round.

Both will have to defeat the classy Japanese contender Danon Premium whose form against such leading lights as Cox Plate heroine Lys Gracieux and Japan Cup winner Almond Eye is excellent.

Overall the 2020 Queen Elizabeth Stakes field is a doozy with the likes of New Zealanders Te Akau Shark and Melody Belle, Melbourne Cup winner Vow and Declare and highly regarded import Master of Wine all in contention. It looks a fabulous race and one not to be missed.

The Sydney Cup like its Melbourne counterpart is run over 3200 metres. Top chances are Young Rascal, Mustajeer and Raheen House, among others.

Run over 1600 metres, the Coolmore Legacy Stakes for fillies and mares has attracted  a top class field that includes shock Doncaster Mile winner Nettoyer, the classy Alizee, Victorian mare Miss Siska, the in form Positive Peace and sole filly Funstar having her first start against the older mares. 

So that’s my Saturday afternoon entertainment settled, even if I can’t be there in person.

Update Sunday Afternoon

It was an interesting afternoon of racing that I watched on my computer yesterday.

Colette, a small but tough filly, a daughter of 2014 Golden Rose winner Hallowed Crown, won the Australian Oaks impressively by a couple of lengths from Toffee Tongue and Quintessa. She’s one to watch for in the spring.

New Zealand mare, Etah James now trained by Ciaron Maher, won the Sydney Cup from fellow New Zealander The Chosen One.

As expected the Queen Elizabeth Stakes was exciting and resulted in British horse Addeybb getting the better of Verry Elleegant once again. The hyped Japanese horse Danon Premium was left wanting on the heavy track and finished third.

The Gai Waterhouse trained, former American mare, Con Te Partiro took out the Coolmore Legacy with Funstar unable to overtake her in the straight. Danzdanzdance, another New Zealander finished third.

might and power 7

Rest In Peace Might and Power who died yesterday evening after suffering a colic attack from which he could not be saved.

He had an illustrious career on the track winning the rare treble of the Caulfield Cup, Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate, as well as several other Group 1 races.

I was at Moonee Valley when he won the 1998 Cox Plate and still remember the occasion vividly.

He was a long time popular resident at Living Legends and was often to be seen on race days at Flemington, which is where I took the above photo in 2016. He was 26 years old.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Surviving In the New World

bingo_window 3
Bingo at the window gazing at the world outside

So far, so good in living in the new reality of the covid19 pandemic. The photo above of Bingo strikes me as appropriate for the lockdown across Victoria – watching the world go by from isolation.

I’ve hardly stirred from the house all week, but on Thursday took a death defying trip to the city to do some shopping at Victoria Market via public transport.

The Ivanhoe Station was deserted – in fact I think I was the only person waiting for the 11.44 am train to the city.

ivanhoe station_020420
Deserted station

Likewise with the train – empty!

Empty train carriage

There was one other person in the carriage I travelled in and at every stop there were virtually no people, so the carriage remained empty all the way to Flinders Street.

With the city  pretty well depopulated as well, it was easy to maintain social distance as I walked from Latrobe Street to the Victoria Market. Even so I was not complacent and took care not to touch anything and sanitised my hands frequently.

At Victoria Market there were a few more souls shopping, but numbers were certainly down from a normal Thursday, so I whizzed through the deli, meat, and fruit and vegetables sections and just managed to catch the 1.06 pm Hurstbridge train  home from Melbourne Central.

This train was pretty empty too, so there was no trouble keeping a wide social distance from other like minded commuters.

I’ve been spending most of  the last week playing a new (for me) computer game, an odd Cyberpunk futurist adventure called State of Mind, which has kept me bemused and engaged with its story of transhumanism. I like the off hand references to William Gibson’s Neuromancer and the weird but effective graphics.

Though racing is barred for public attendance, it still continues in Melbourne and Sydney, with the latter forging ahead with The Championships.

This Saturday at Randwick features four excellent Group 1 events, including the great Doncaster Mile and TJ Smith Stakes.

I was going to preview the Doncaster/Derby Day meeting, but time has slipped away and I have neither the time or inclination to write it now.

With the weather turned wintry for the weekend, I am glad to stay inside and watch the racing action on my computer today.

Bingo is thriving and his usual pestiferous self, driving us to distraction with his demands for affection, warmth and food.

We learned recently that he has a remarkable memory, when he was due for his annual booster vaccinations.

He was asleep on my lap on the bed, when B, as quietly as possible, took out the cat carrying cage from a cupboard, preparatory to taking him to the vet.

Bingo heard the faint squeak of Brent lifting the cage lid, freaked, and hid under the bed. He knew what was in store, even though it had been almost a year since his last vet appointment. He totally loathes travelling in the cage, and also knows that he’ll be taken to the vet, where he turns into a different cat – a scaredy puss.