December 11 1931 — The Statute of Westminster

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In one of its more significant and, in fact, truly historic moves, the Westminster parliament in London approved the Statute of Westminster on this day, December 11 1931.

Whilst largely forgotten today, this act effectively began the major phase of reducing the power and reach of the British Empire, marking the beginning of the Commonwealth. The dominions of Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland were granted equal status and full autonomy, whilst still adhering allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain.

A lot has changed since then; Newfoundland is now a province of Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador since March 31 1949), for example. The Republic of Ireland is truly independent, whilst within the bounds of the EU.

Even the integrity of Great Britain itself has come under threat with strong nationalist movements in Wales and particularly Scotland.

Time will tell if the United Kingdom breaks apart, or re-constitutes itself, once outside the of the EU.

Copyright Francis Barker 2020

Turning Point 1711 – Insight into the Origins of Britain as a World Power

united kingdom marching band
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It is remarkable when one looks at a map of the entire earth and notice how insignificant the island of Great Britain appears, hovering as it does off the north west coast of Europe, neither separate from that continent, nor totally attached to it. Perhaps there is something prophetic about that island’s geographic position, looking westward out to the bleak Atlantic Ocean.

According to the historical narrative, relatively small nations had formed huge empires previously. Taking the accepted history of Rome being founded in 753 BC, this small city state expanded to rule much of the then known world by the second century AD. It is said that the influence of this empire is still strongly conspicuous today, especially in language, culture and government.

Spanish Gold

More recently, towards the end of the fifteenth century, the unification of the two Iberian kingdoms of Aragon and Castille, formed the more powerful kingdom of Spain, which went on to prosper the most from the ‘discovery’ of America by Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón) in 1492. Within a mere few decades the Spanish empire dominated the new continent, north and south. Spain became very wealthy indeed during the sixteenth century.

Similarly and perhaps even more remarkably, Portugal, Spain’s feisty neighbour and rival on the western fringes of the Iberian peninsula, not only carved out an empire in South America (Brasil), but went on to dominate trade in the East Indies and to extend its empire to that part of the world and into Africa and its influence as far as Japan.

There are other examples, like ‘Holland’, more accurately called the Netherlands, or The United Provinces at one time, which also was an early beneficiary of trade and settlement in the Americas and the Far East.

Colouring the World Pink

However, no empire was ever as grand as the British Empire. By the end of the nineteenth century it was the empire upon which the sun never set. A schoolboy of the time could look at a map of the world and reflect upon the predominant colour of pink – all those lands, as far afield as Canada and New Zealand, where the British flag flew and the English language was spoken.

It is easy to think of empire building as organic, though this is never the case. A nation, or a people, often have a common purpose, though the vast majority are unaware of it. Nations and empires are steered, often by a few notable individuals and families with ambition and vision.

John Dee, Queen Elizabeth I’s astrologer who chose the timing of her coronation in January 1559, was one such man. I will merely allude to him here, but suffice it to say that he the first to talk in terms of a British Empire, even though technically the notion Britain was only a geographic, not political reality when he was alive.

Tentative Steps

Nevertheless, it was during Elizabeth’s reign that the first tentative steps were taken by English explorers to establish an empire in the name of the queen. Sir Walter Raleigh was one such remarkable individual who made attempts at settling in North America.

By 1707, the crowns of England and Scotland were legally united, officially creating the Kingdom of Great Britain. At the same time a highly significant war was being fought in large parts of Europe. This was a result of Charles II of Spain dying without an heir in November of 1700. The ensuing war is called The War of the Spanish Succession.

The British fought this war essentially to prevent either France or Austria uniting with Spain, and thereby creating a European superpower. Such an eventuality would have been clearly detrimental to Britain’s ‘interests’. It is an early example of a way of maintaining the balance of power – at least that’s the official line.

After ten years of warfare, the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I died in April 1711 and was succeeded by the Archduke Charles, which effectively ‘solved’ the succession crisis, at least in the eyes of the British who began peace talks. This eventually resulted in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which established Great Britain as a naval and European economic superpower. Out of all the belligerents, only Britain could be said to have emerged from this conflict financially intact.

1710-11 – A Major Turning Point

This period centering around 1710 to 1711 was clearly a major turning point in British, European and world history. Astrologically too, we can see clear signs of the turning of a page, or the planting of a seed.

I draw your attention to the three then still undiscovered planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, all representing other (perhaps higher) dimensional (invisible to the naked eye) aspects of the mind, unity and power. As far as we know, these forces were not known at this time, remaining hidden somewhere in the collective human unconsciousness.

Nevertheless when Uranus met Pluto in September of 1710 and remained close, especially during the spring of 1711 when the Emperor Joseph I died, we see the beginning of a new historical cycle, with Great Britain seizing the initiative at an important time of opportunity. Uranus brings new ideas, change, Pluto the idea of collective power.

The Seed of Power Planted

This Uranus Pluto conjunction happened to be in late Leo, also conjunct the fixed star Regulus, which has had a long association with royalty and royal power.

Equally fascinating, the other remaining undiscovered outer planet, Neptune, was for a time in conjunction with the benefic Venus and in very good aspect to Uranus and Pluto from Aries. I think this gave a kind of other worldly blessing to the birth of the new enterprise. It’s fascinating to think that the god Neptune traditionally ruled the seas and from this point on Britannia certainly did rule the waves.

I think the relationship of the three outer planets at this juncture perfectly symbolise the sign of the times, the changing of the guard and setting the scene for the next century or so.

Other significant events at around the same time were, among others, the founding of The South Sea Company on March 3 1711. This was a public/private company created to consolidate and reduce British national debt, something which none of the other participants in the War of the Spanish Succession would have. Remember that important conjunctions are good for starting something new.

The Origins of Steam Power?

Another intriguing development was the invention and application of what was called the ‘atmospheric engine’ by Thomas Newcomen in 1712. This steam driven device was initially used to successfully pump out water from tin wines in the south west of England, particularly Cornwall. It is not difficult to grasp the significance of this invention and its later use in the first steam locomotives later on.

There were also reports of the first successful hot air balloon flight at this time by a certain Bartolomeu de Gusmao. Although this occurred indoors, the fact that it happened at all is highly significant. Uranus, after all, is said to rule the air and scientific invention.

I think there is evidence here of the burgeoning ‘power’ of the three outer planets and their generational influence on human culture, an influence which would gain in impetus as each one was subsequently discovered over the next two hundred years.

Copyright Francis Barker 2020

The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London – Astrology Musings

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It is fairly clear to me that the timing of the opening of the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London, was certainly by design. I contend that this event encapsulated the then zeitgeist, thereby setting in motion a new world at all levels.

We need not be surprised by this. Astrologers had for centuries been consulted as to the most propitious time, astrologically, to begin a new project, a marriage, business, government, reign, or even country.

One of the most well known examples is John Dee’s choice of day and time for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth I of England on January 15 1559. We can speculate as to the wisdom of his choice, although historians have certainly been highly favourable when writing about the so called ‘Virgin Queen’ ever since.

Astounded

When I found out the the date and timing of the opening of the Great Exhibition, I immediately looked at the chart – and was astounded, though not entirely surprised.

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I will begin with the date itself, May 1. May Day has long had traditional pagan associations. In fact it would appear that this date was considered the most important of the year until fairly recent times, so we are told. The festival of Beltane celebrated the turning of spring into summer, usually involving fertility rites, bonfires, even sacrifices.

Then during the 19th century this same date became associated with international workers rights and the advance of international socialism. So at the very least, the choosing of this date is most intriguing. Even Queen Victoria herself made reference to “strengthening the bonds of union among the nations of the earth.” There was an internationalist flavour to this and all world’s fair events like it.

John Bull at his apogee

So let’s get into the meat here. By all accounts the exhibition opened around midday, soon after Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their entourage entered the Crystal Palace. At this juncture the Taurus New Moon was only a few hours old, with both of the major luminaries conjunct the Taurean Midheaven of the chart, the part of the chart signifying goals and ambition.

A new Moon, or the ensuing hours after it, are traditionally thought to be the best time for new beginnings of any kind. In Taurus, anything to do with money or construction will be favoured, as long as it is also well aspected. The Moon is said to be exalted in Taurus, at her most fecund, promising further success.

This is highly symbolic timing for the beginning of this exhibition. It was not only to exhibit to the world the technological, economic and cultural hegemony of Great Britain for the next six months, but was meant to set the course for the remainder of this very ‘British century’, John Bull (Taurus) literally at the apogee, if you will. Taurus loves to establish and have firm footings.

grayscale photo of french mastiff close up photo
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Pax Britannica – Great Britain ruling the waves

Appropriately enough too, royal Leo is on the ascendant loosely conjunct the fixed royal star Regulus. This makes the Sun ruler of the chart, as befits this very royal, if not imperial project. Although Queen Victoria was to lose her consort Prince Albert in 1861, she went on to become probably Britain’s most famous monarch – and Empress of India.

Interestingly, there is also a Venus Mars conjunction in Aries in the 9th house of philosophy, enterprise and long distance travel. The thrust of Mars is given a certain belligerence in his own sign, plus carte blanche to take it to the furthest corners of the earth.

The presence of Venus here adds a kind of benevolence too, maybe even the idea of Pax Britannica, the British Empire on which the sun never set. Great Britain ruling the waves (and pretty much everything else) indeed, as she proceeded to do for the next seventy five years.

Revolution meets irresistible force

However, this chart works on many layers, some of them quite deep. Around six weeks earlier in late March 1851, Uranus and the then undiscovered Pluto made the last contact of their recent coming together in Aries, a sign which is also strongly associated with England and Great Britain.

For example, the Christmas Day chart of 1066 set for the coronation of William I of England, has Aries on the ascendant. Many astrologers believe this chart still has much resonance today, and the Venus Mars conjunction in Aries in the Exhibition chart also links up with the 1066 chart’s action oriented Aries ascendant.

Now Uranus and Pluto meet up around every 172 years, so this represents a highly significant time astrologically. On the face of it, no one knew about the existence of Pluto at the time. Both Uranus and Pluto are still close together in the 1851 exhibition chart, straddling the Aries Taurus boundary. What is more, around the same time Saturn passed over both of these outer planets in late Aries and early Taurus.

With this I believe we get into some pretty deep territory. Since the discovery of Uranus in 1781, this planet became associated with sudden change and upheaval. Hence the revolution in France and the so-called Industrial Revolution, for example. It is as if an awareness of or need for change had suddenly entered our collective consciousness – the notion of ‘progress’, technologically and culturally.

Superconscious, transpersonal – or magical power?

However, if we think of this new discovery as a higher octave, or rather a superconscious (transpersonal) aspect of communicative Mercury, we might also get a better understanding of principles like insight, breakthrough and invention.

Maybe we have here the ability to draw on transpersonal energies – Uranus representing the initial breakthrough beyond the limiting boundary of Saturn, even if Ouranos, the old sky god which the new planet was named after, is in fact, ironically, the father of Saturn in myth.

Perhaps the discovery, or even rediscovery of Uranus, is symbolic of the return of the magical power of the older gods.

If we consider the then undiscovered Pluto to be transpersonal power, as opposed to the personal expression of energy as seen in Mars, and all the potential danger that represents, then I think we get some idea as to the real significance of this new cycle which took place in Taurus in 1850 and into 1851.

Subterranean

It is almost like the magician Uranus utilising the deep power of Pluto for future use without mankind being aware of such subterranean force. Saturn passing over both just afterwards is acting like a coalescing agent of this transformative energy in the material world, a changing of the guard and setting the scene for decades ahead.

Every conjunction of Uranus and Pluto marks the beginning of a new cycle which appears to manifest in our world as a force for social and cultural change, but especially since 1851. The energies of transpersonal change and power come together as an almost irresistible force. People will argue as to the benevolence, or otherwise, of this energy.

desk globe on a skeleton
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It would appear the power of this conjunction was being felt at least a year or so beforehand too. Look at the revolutions of 1848, for example, the biggest uprisings Europe as a whole had ever known, at least according to the known history. And even though little political change actually transpired as a result, the cultural significance in the long run was indeed manifest.

Setting the seal and precedent

We can therefore see that the Great Exhibition of 1851 did indeed set the symbolic seal of the times, showcased in the almost unbelievably magnificent Crystal Palace. The exhibition closed in October 1851. Then, remarkably, the great cast iron and glass edifice was transferred to another site in London. It seems little was beyond these Victorian engineers.

So ultimately, I believe the chart set for the inauguration of this important event is indeed highly symbolic. The next six months encapsulated Britain’s inheritance from the old world, yet more importantly, presaged her empire’s predominance in the world and the true beginning of ‘globalism’.

The beginning of globalism

Significantly, in the same year of 1851, we also see the establishment of the prime meridian of Greenwich, making London the de facto capital of the world.

It was around this same juncture too that one of the most important French literary figures, Victor Hugo, made a prophetic speech in regard to the idea of a united Europe. Even though such a ‘dream’ has never quite come to fruition, we can perhaps see the germ of this idea developing around this time, those first steps toward a global world.

The superpower which was Great Britain at the time was only nominally patriotic, in my opinion. Yes, Britons at the time could be proud of their empire, yet the real reach and purpose of this manifestation was to create a global world where the nation state, ultimately, would become redundant. The pros and cons of this movement are debatable.

The next meeting of Uranus and Pluto was in the mid 1960s. By then the idea of Pluto’s transformative power had entered our mainstream consciousness, having been discovered in 1930. This foreshadowed the next stage of social and cultural change – but that’s another article.

Copyright Francis Barker 2020

Rudyard Kipling Born Today 1865

www.reddit.com/r/FreeEBOOKS/comments/ehka7k/happy_birthday_rudyard_kipling/

He was a man of his time, born in India to British parents, into a culture which was to inspire his output: ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Kim’ being two of his more famous works.

On This Day – The Passing of the Statute of Westminster

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On this day in 1931 the Statute of Westminster was passed in the London parliament.

Over a period of time, it effectively gave total independence to parts of the British Empire, namely Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Irish Free State, Canada and Newfoundland, the latter not being incorporated into the Dominion of Canada until 1949.

In retrospect it could be argued that the passing of the statute and its aftermath marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire and the tentative establishment of what is now the Commonwealth (formerly British Commonwealth), a loose gathering of self governing, sovereign nations with the Queen as head of state of many.

copyright Francis Barker 2019

 

Post Dated

vrpostbox2

I came across this recently, a post box which is at least 115 years old. VR stands for Victoria Regina (Queen Victoria), her reign being from 1837 to 1901. In theory, therefore, it could be 179 years old. I wonder how many times the lock has been changed?

vrpostbox1

What a different world we inhabit now. In 1901 the car had only just been invented and plane flight was still a dream. And in 1901 Victoria was Queen-Empress of an empire on which the sun never set, head of state of roughly one quarter of the world’s population.

Now it’s not even certain the United Kingdom itself can be kept united for much longer. I don’t think she would be amused, but all empires turn to sand in the end. Some sooner than others.

© copyright words and pictures rp 2016.

Short Story ‘The Doll’ Part One

Sketch map showing the situation of the Battle...
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*The characters portrayed in this story are not based upon anyone living or dead, they are wholly imaginary.

**WARNING! SOME READERS MAY FIND SOME OF THE GRAPHIC IMAGERY CONTAINED HERE UNSETTLING.

The twentieth century was only a few months old but Captain Robert Charlesworth had already seen enough of it. Like most of those aboard ship, he was glad to see green Blighty once more.
The hill of Spion Kop had deprived him of several friends, a cousin and the forefinger and second finger of his right hand. His days firing the much vaunted Lee Enfield Rifle were truly over. Perhaps he could learn to shoot left-handed. He had also suffered a much more substantial, though less obvious wound in the same incident, leaving a rather nasty hole where his right nipple used to be. He had known, barring infection in the extreme heat, that he would come through it. Nevertheless, every time he looked at the short stub of his forefinger and the wholly vacant second, he cursed the way his hand had got in the way of that piece of shrapnel, even though more than one doctor had stated that those two fingers may have saved his life.
Only minutes before, his friend Lieutenant Hawtrey, had bought it right next to him, pieces of his friend’s head spattering him and his comrades as they fell to the ground on the pitted slope. Try as he might, he could not get rid of that image in his mind, lying on the scorched, bone-dry earth, Hawtrey, his head with a grievous wound, a head that he had heard shouting behind him only seconds earlier. He had heard of such things, assuming such tales had gathered goriness in the repeated telling. But nothing in his training or experience had prepared him for such utter confusion, such heat, such unimaginable horror.
And like most of the men, he’d had nightmares ever since.
“Paddy! Watch out!!” A foot to the left or to the right and he and Lieutenant Hawtrey might still be sharing a joke together. A foot to the left or to the right – and the shrapnel might well have taken him out instead of Hawtrey. As it stood, it was fortunate that more of them hadn’t been ripped to shreds along with Hawtrey in that same instant. Shrapnel had a way of doing that.
Whatever might have been, the resulting nightmare was the same every time, his friend staggering about without a head, arms out for balance, belligerent Boer bullets tearing into his chest, but failing to bring him down. Each time he awoke, disturbed and sweating, it was as if Hawtrey was unable to rest, just like all those who had been there. His diary entry for January 24 1900, written several days later with an awkward scrawl of his left hand, repeated the same sentence, over and over: “Lieutenant Patrick James Hawtrey, Lancashire Fusiliers, age 22. MAY YOU REST IN PEACE. May I find peace, too.”
There was to be no peace for Captain Robert Charlesworth, at least not that spring. A telegram awaited him ashore: “Wife gravely ill. Fever. Come urgently…”

*

The whistles had gone. Doors slammed shut. He felt the carriage shudder gently forward, almost mournfully slow. Liverpool Street Station passed before him; the madness that was London. They called in ‘The Smoke’, and with good reason. He felt strangely removed from those men in the engine way ahead, fitfully working in the noise, the steam and the sweat.
He pulled out his wife’s last letter from his pocket as the carriage emerged into the sunlight. She had always known that he would return home safely, despite the injuries he had described to her. He had apologised to her for not writing in his own hand. Captain Inglis had kindly acted as secretary. She had said previously that at least the ring finger of his left hand was still intact, the finger onto which she had pushed his wedding band two years ago. The Boers could not destroy that. She believed in destiny, she knew they would be married on the first day they met. The vicarage tea party, the beautiful garden, that wonderful summer’s day in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.
In those days the English, or their ruling elite, were at their apogee. The Queen would seemingly reign forever, the empire would expand to cover the entire globe, removing the need for any other colour than pink in school atlases. A Pax Anglicana – that could never be. How much longer could the queen live? Now, the whole world seemed to have changed. Germany and America, growing in industrial and military strength for several decades, were beginning to snap at the bulldog’s heels.
The England he had left behind at the end of the last century was no more; the government had fallen, the battle for the hill of Spion Kop in the searing South African summer, during the first month of the new century had seen to that, a hill that would have been insignificant, irrelevant among the Pennine hills from where sprung his wife’s family, the Reveleys. Mary was made of strong stuff. The Reveley’s were Yorkshire grit! Their line reached back to beyond the Conquest, hardened by the northern climate. She might live in East Anglia now but you couldn’t wipe out the strength of generations. She would pull through.
But maybe this was wishful thinking. In reality, Mary had not inherited the strong Reveley strain at all. She had always been weak, hyper-sensitive, hopelessly romantic. It seemed the same physical susceptibilities which led her to catching every illness going, also cajoled her to join every good liberal cause.
Her mother had introduced her into the temperance movement. Mary was often out and about with her ladies helping the local working class, particularly trying to help them to stop drinking. Most especially, she was keen to stop young men from starting to rely on the demon drink. She believed in prevention rather than cure.
Mary was also an active member of the Liberal Party, much to the annoyance of Robert’s father who was a fervent Tory.
“The girl’s weak in the mind as well as the body,” he once told Robert while he was writing a sermon in his study. “I simply find it disturbing that she and her mother spend so much time helping the undeserving. What is more, she also advocates the policies of the Liberal Party, which are, in my opinion, threatening the very fabric of this country, those strong, steadfast values which have forged the empire.”
Robert knew better than to argue with his father. He said nothing, staring coldly out of the window of the study which overlooked the garden. The words did not injure him inside anymore. He often wondered what benefit a lifetime of faith had given his father’s cold heart.
Outside of the carriage it was starting to rain. Occasional wafts of smoke flew by and beyond, the rolling landscape was showing signs of turning green.
Robert realised from the beginning that he had been attracted to Mary purely because she was so different to anyone else he had known. He was spellbound by her flaxen-haired fragility, those deep blue eyes and full lips, so unlike the thin-lipped primness of his own mother. Mary, he assumed, had been drawn to his sheer physical presence, the dark moustache, his fierce, yet kindly hazel eyes and that emphatic red lieutenant’s tunic which he wore on that first meeting, in the bright sunlight not so long ago. Everyone said they looked good together – everyone, that is, except his mother and father.
“Robert, my dear, she is too weak to bear children, of that I am quite sure,” his mother told him quietly the day their engagement was announced.
“Forgive me, mother,” he said, trying to channel his anger, “but if there is any reason why you disapprove of our engagement, I do so wish that you would be more forthcoming.”
There was no argument. The Charlesworths never argued. His mother never mentioned the subject again. The criticism all came from his cloth-wearing father.
They had been married nearly two years ago and Mary had still not conceived. Robert had been away for most of that time. He calculated that they had spent roughly nine of those twenty three months together. Mary had busied herself in her temperance and political activities. Robert wondered how his parents had tolerated her presence under the same roof when he was away. They were patient and Mary was saintly. Despite their barely concealed distaste for her activities, which included playing the cello, they acknowledged her aristocratic pedigree, a pedigree which far outstripped anything in the Charlesworth family. Perhaps, he wondered, this was the source of his father’s venom. How could someone of such a lineage possess a bleeding heart? Surely it should be stone-cold, like his? Her family represented the very background of England, like the Pennines, where they had lived for centuries.
At first Robert had been alone in the carriage, for which he was glad. Then what looked like a young family entered at one stop; father, mother and a young son about four years old, he assumed, all well-turned out, clearly upper middle class which was his own station in life. Within a minute or two he detected the young boy’s incessant stare from the corner of his eye. He ignored it to begin with, assuming the boy hadn’t seen too many soldiers in uniform. Robert could have worn civilian clothes but he insisted on his uniform. He wanted to wear it with pride.
Then it occurred to him that the true nature of the boy’s inquisitiveness was nothing to do with the uniform. He looked down and saw that all the time his right hand had been exposed in all its ugliness. He glared back at the boy who sniffed, laying his head on his mother’s arm as she read The Times.
“Arthur, no!” she snapped, forcing him upright. “Your mother wouldn’t want you slouching.” The boy coughed in acceptance, looking up at the luggage rack opposite. Charlesworth had only been away nine months but already he couldn’t recognise a nanny when he saw one. Appearances were truly deceiving.

Outside the station, the gaunt Ridgeley was formally waiting for him. The middle-aged man removed his hat and greeted him dutifully, saying nothing more. The door of the carriage swung open. Robert climbed in, feeling a twinge in his right side as he sat down. A small price to pay, he thought. At least he wasn’t dead, like Hawtrey. The railway station was about a three minute carriage ride from the vicarage.
His father, uncharacteristically, was waiting by the open front door wringing his hands. Robert removed his cap, extending his left hand. His father took it, firmly.
“Robert,” said his father, with a firm nod of his head, “I am afraid that Mary’s been taken already.”
He looked into his father’s eyes. “I see.”
An hour later, Robert was sitting in their bedroom where, he was told, she had lain for a time. He heard the front door shut. He peered down from above. It was Ridgeley, suitcase in hand. He had been summarily dismissed for failing to get the final telegram to Southampton on time. Robert thought this was harsh. He had a feeling she had gone, that there was nothing more he could do. Providence, if it could be called that, had seen to it.
The room had been left as it was, except for the linen which had been washed. There were no letters, no messages. She had been too ill. Lying on the bed was the old parian doll which she had been so fond of, a keepsake from her childhood. The doll was another item which aroused his father’s disdain on account of it being made in Germany.
“Mark my words,” he’d said, seeing it for the first time, “very soon we will all be violently anti-German. They are simply too full of themselves. And they make too many things.”
Robert, on the other hand, was rather fond of it. He picked it up and stroked the face. It was unglazed, a pleasing, if unusual texture for porcelain. Some people called it bisque. The face, though child-like, was not unlike Mary. The blond curls, white skin, with a ready blush and the blue, blue eyes. The dress was a rusty brown, in a style not seen worn by ladies since the 1880s. He would keep it, hidden from his father’s gaze.
“The funeral,” his father said later, fork dangling a fatty piece of ham, “will be at St. Paul’s, next Thursday. Eleven o’clock.”
He recognised his father’s attempt at a question, which always sounded like a plain statement. Robert looked at his mother who had barely eaten anything. “Yes. Of course,” Robert said finally. “That would be fine. Thank you, Father.” He was struggling to cut the meat with only one good hand. He refused any help. “And I meant to say, Father…”
“Yes? What is it?”
“Mr and Mrs Reveley. Are they…”
“A letter came this morning. They are grateful to us and ‘thank God that her final hours were so peaceful’. They are arriving on Wednesday morning.”
Robert wiped his mouth with a serviette. “Yes, thank you, Father.”
All was in order, fully organised. The slow ticking of the grandfather clock punctuated the grey silence.
His mother gave a gentle cough. “Robert, you really ought to make and effort – to see her.” His father nodded but remained silent, too interested in clearing his plate.
“I appreciate your concern, Mother.”
He would not see her, not like that. He had seen enough death this year to last him a lifetime. It was bad enough to have that image of Hawtrey ingrained in his mind. Try as he might he struggled to recall those few short years of friendship, the drinking, the jokes, the scrapes. They were like images from a different lifetime. No, Mary would remain unblemished in his mind forever. The doll would remind him of her.

German Alt Beck & Gottschalck parian doll with...
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THE SECOND AND FINAL PART WILL POSTED WITHIN A COUPLE OF DAYS.

© copyright df barker 2012