Beltane Friends - and Spirals…..People Connecting/Connecting People - Steps To Fame….

by Bernie Bell - 09:17 on 01 May 2023


Beltane Friends


Through the brightly coloured silken fronds, swirling

and plaiting around the old ship’s mast,

flashes a vision: Fresh-faced young sailor,

            dancing the hornpipe.


Now, with grey beard and boots strapped tightly, to hold

aching ankles, your legs again take flight,

sending you skipping, with pigtail flying,

            around the maypole.


My smile meets yours, as we duck and weave, ribbons

of laughter flicker through the dusk,

squeezed accordion notes impel our feet

            on to the end.


Beltane fires send out sparks, like shooting stars, and

light up glowing faces, raised in prayer,

ignite hope in our hearts, for we leap, hands clasped,

            over the embers.


When we leave, the ritual ended, you are lighter

of step, although tired, we are wreathed in serene smiles,

a dark shadow has lifted, dancing strangers become friends,

            in the magic of

               this night.

Wendy Alford         11th May 2011


...and Spirals…




People Connecting/Connecting People……

It started when me old mate Mart told me he’d recently found Ian Marchant's novel "In Southern Waters" in the local Red Cross shop, described it as being….. “ An engaging lark” and offered to post it to me.

New reading material is like gold-dust to us these days. We used to get a lot of books from charity shops but – Covid Cautious, we don’t go to charity shops now – we drop things off, but don’t stay to rummage.

So I said yes please, and told him about Ian’s more recent book….  http://www.spanglefish.com/berniesblog/blog.asp?blogid=16220

‘In Southern Waters’ arrived – I read the blurb on the back and it looks like it might be loosely based on when Ian and chums finished at Lampeter University and moved to Brighton, as Brighton was the happening place at the time – the time being the early ‘80’s.

The quote … “It was a misprint.  It should have said “Must be a smoker, non-vegetarian.”  Sorry.’  …. reminds me of many years ago when  I applied for a job with the Welsh Agricultural Organizations Society in Aberystwyth.  I wrote about it here…


I wonder if it’s still a going concern?  It was, all-in-all,  A GOOD THING.

The arrival of ‘In Southern Waters’ was timely, as I’d nearly finished plodding through ‘The Name of the Rose’ by Umberto Eco – which is well written and interesting – but a bit of a slog in places.  So I quickly made an end of the miserable monks – who make a good job of making an end of each other  -  and moved on to read about Marchant & Co in Brighton - which looks like being much more fun.

‘One Fine Day’ is waiting to be collected from  ‘Stromness Books & Prints’ …. so Mike can embark on that when he’s finished reading ‘Reality Is Not What It Seems’  by Carlo Rovelli – the blurb on the back of which describes it as being… ‘A paean to the wonder of the natural world.”  Can’t say fairer than that!


Steps To Fame….

I mentioned to another old friend that I was rattling through ‘The Name of the Rose’ – aiming to embark on Southern Waters as soon as poss. and Julian told me that, when living in Bologna he met Umberto Eco!  Having recently had a go at reading ‘The Name of the Rose’, and having drink taken, Julian was emboldened to say to  Mr Eco….''Well, what was that all about, Umberto?''.  He doesn’t recall what the answer was, and he wasn’t asked round to Mr. Eco’s flat again!

I answered Julian…

“Have you come across that thing whereby you connect with a famous person, in steps?  I can now connect with Umberto Eco in two steps.

One of my Great-nephews (I is well-old)  is doing a History Degree -  he told me he was working on an assignment about Queens Victoria, and I answered…..

“Here’s Mike’s link to Queen Vic…..

When Mike was a little boy his family lived in Tring, Hertfordshire.  His parents bought a property called Goldfield Millhouse which consisted of what had been the Miller’s cottage, joined to the old granary.  The granary had been extended and converted into a house while the Mill itself, minus its sails, was over the fence in someone else’s garden.

Goldfield Milhouse came with a sitting tenant, Miss Thomas, who lived in part of what had been the Miller’s cottage, and paid a peppercorn rent to Mike’s parents, while the Bell family occupied the rest of the building.

Miss Thomas lived to be 100 (a much rarer thing in those days) and remembered being at Queen Victoria’s funeral when she was six years old,  in 1901.  Mike to Vic, in 2 steps! 

I can then take it further, because Queen Vic is said to have remembered sitting on her uncle’s knee when she was small - that uncle became George the 4th.  Mike to George the 4th in 3 steps – sort-of.

Queen Vic was a dreadful woman – her people were in poverty while she took no notice.

That’s an example of the Bernie Bell guide to historical figures!

AND…..as a young woman, Miss Thomas had been Personal Secretary to Lord Rothschild, who set up the Tring Natural History Museum – there was, and probably still is, a photograph of Miss Thomas in the Rothschild Room in the Museum.

Lord Rothschild  owned Tring Park where, earlier in the century, he used to ride about the Park in a trap drawn by zebras!  A sight which Miss Thomas remembered seeing many times.

As Secretary to Lord R., Miss Thomas travelled with him to Germany in the 1930’s and actually met Hitler and his cronies!  The story doesn’t relate why Lord R. was meeting with Hitler.  So, Mike to Hitler in 2steps.

Funny old world.”


As to what ‘The Name of the Rose’ is about -  something to do with the power of words?  Or of laughter? Or of both together?

Did Jesus own things?  Does it matter? 

Summing it up – I’d say it’s a warning to beware of twisted people and not let them get into positions of power/control.

Somewhat relevant to the times we’re living in – humans don’t change much do they?

I’ve started ‘In Southern Waters’ and it’s as Mart said it would be – ‘an engaging lark’ – clever, funny…..’human’, and a perfect antidote to reading about the miserable monks – who were doing much the same things - but being miserable about it!

By the way – Julian also writes historical novels….


Maybe you’ll be hearing about them, sometime….


Here’s one I made earlier… https://theorkneynews.scot/2021/01/01/a-short-mooch-at-howton/


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