An improvised meatloaf that was good enough to try and record the recipe.

400g minced beef
50g breadcrumbs soaked in 4tbs milk for about 30 mins
1 egg
2 cloves of garlic
1 finely chopped onion
1 baby orange pepper (perh 1/2 of a normal pepper)
about 2/3 of a sainsbury’s box of chestnut mushroms (150g?)
1 chopped tomato
a squidge of tomato puree (1 tsp?)
1 chopped anchovy
a sprinkle of Cool Chile Co. dried chillis
a v. small amount of fresh sage – about 1 leaf
a generous amount of fresh rosemary and basil
a splash of balsamic vinegar
a handful of freshly grated parmesan
salt and pepper

(I think that’s everything)

mix and put in an oiled loaf tin, spread a bit of oil on top

cook for 35 mins at 200C

pour off the juice and reserve

It was a bit wetter than I intended, so it didn’t slice very well. Tasted good, though. I poured a bit of the reserved juice over each serving to keep the flavour.

  • Post category:Other

poem no. 6 – Larkin

Cut Grass by Philip Larkin

Cut grass lies frail:
Brief is the breath
Mown stalks exhale.
Long, long the death

It dies in the white hours
Of young-leafed June
With chestnut flowers,
With hedges snowlike strewn,

White lilac bowed,
Lost lanes of Queen Anne’s lace,
And that high-builded cloud
Moving at summer’s pace.

I know that for some people – Matthew Caley, for example – Larkin represents everything that’s wrong with British poetry and Britishness: parochial, reactionary, old-fashioned, pessimistic, unambitious, and nostalgic. And there’s truth in the caricature – his poems have a fairly narrow frame of reference, he’s politically and technically conservative, and gloomily misanthropic.

But he only reads as old-fashioned if you equate ‘modern’ with ‘modernist’. He may be writing in metre and rhyme, but his language doesn’t stray into the archaic or strain for the poetic. The poems read as of their time – the mid/late C20th. I also think his poems are tougher and more clear-eyed than the nostalgic, parochial image might suggest. His own prejudices are never far away, but they don’t seem to swamp the poems. When you read a lot of Larkin poems together, the cumulative effect is misanthropic and reactionary; but the poems taken individually are more thoughtful and more detached than that.

He’s also just very very good at writing poetry. His poems are not generally flashy, and it’s possible to underrate how well he maintains a natural, almost colloquial voice within quite demanding stanza forms. His vivid, immediate description is also more sophisticated than it appears.

When I made a comment earlier that I seemed to have chosen a lot of minor poems by major writers, this was one I had in mind. But I’ve changed my mind. It may be shorter than Whitsun Weddings or Church-going or Aubade, but it’s still a major poem. The colour-theming of white and green, the use of dimeter, the play of vowel-sounds, the eerie way it makes the stillness of summer into something deathly – great stuff. It actually makes quite an interesting companion piece to the Marvell, though I wasn’t thinking of that when I chose it.

Next up – This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison.

  • Post category:Culture

poem no. 5 – Browning

Memorabilia by Robert Browning

Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
And did he stop and speak to you?
And did you speak to him again?
How strange it seems, and new!

But you were living before that,
And you are living after,
And the memory I started at–
My starting moves your laughter!

I crossed a moor, with a name of its own
And a certain use in the world no doubt,
Yet a hand’s-breadth of it shines alone
‘Mid the blank miles round about:

For there I picked up on the heather
And there I put inside my breast
A moulted feather, an eagle-feather–
Well, I forget the rest.

This poem manages to be about fame, and memory, and reactions to nature, and the way our preoccupations affect the way we receive the world; all in 16 lines and without feeling overstuffed.

I like its light touch – the way Browning pokes fun at himself, and the rather bathetic ending. But that lightness doesn’t come attached to any irony or insincerity. Browning recognises the hunour in his own reaction, but doesn’t try to disown it.

The poem is just a couple of insubstantial anecdotes – moments, really – yoked together to make a point. But it’s done brilliantly. I particularly like the way that the two halves of the poem are separate. The first two stanzas could stand alone, and so could the last two. The connection between the two halves is never made explicit, but it doesn’t need to be, because the parallel is so apt.

  • Post category:Culture