Filling in an earlier gap from NaPoWriMo: I started writing this a while back based on a trip to Temple Newsam House, just outside Leeds. It’s an amazing house – no doubt about it – and it’s great that it’s now in public ownership, with gorgeous grounds to walk or cycle round.
While I was there, there was a concert of Early Music – a series of concerts, in fact – and I sat down to listen to some violin music and then got chatting with the musician (Gina Le Faux, about whom you can find out more here) about her violin (which you can hear in the SoundCloud widget above!).
And that conversation informed the following poem, which I’ve only just finished – and still needs tinkering. But the central idea was this: what do we preserve and what do we dispose of? And, more vitally, who do we preserve and who do we forget?
While it’s a great thing that the house is in public ownership, it also made me wonder why we are still so fixated on the aristocracy of old: I wonder what the people of future centuries will look upon as ‘worth preserving’ – for that preservation starts now.
Oh and ‘Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler’ (pictured above) was called just that on the signs in the House. There was something undeniably impressive about it. And a little bit ridiculous. And more than a little smug. (Oh – we own it now, too, by the way).
Anyway, here’s the poem:
or, Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler (at Temple Newsam House)
Sat, courtly, beneath the gleaming shadow of
Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler
the early music begins: notes overflow
from a Thomas Tilley (Real) violin.
(To me, just a violin, but
as I chat with the musician
about the instrument she’d played
we strip away its ancestry,
how this violin was made:
Picked up from a dealer, who noted
that it actually dates back to 1776;
an uncouth previous owner had coated
it in Vegas-white emulsion Dulux.)
In each room, a day-tripper to aristocracy,
I strip back the varnished gentility. Imagine
what the laminated guide would be for
mine, or any other family. What would we
retain of our ignoble genealogy? Will our IKEA
wallpaper, our B&Q garden furniture,
draw in paying crowds to see?
The centrepiece of my 70s-built living room
was the Orange Plastic Pernod Ice Bucket.
That, Lord Raby, was our bulbous,
spirited, pop-heirloom; or
as close to one as we’d get.
The historic wallpaper’s birds may be pretty
but their songs – territorial, shrill – are rotten:
silver families are laminated, remembered;
Dulux families are all but forgotten.