A Nod To Little Gidding


Today I scanned the final photographs of the Henley – Newark row/walk of July 2003. The last leg, from Nottingham to Newark was 25 miles in length.

Sam set off without James, and I trailed in his wake. It is hard to believe that I managed to keep within sight of him as he rowed along the River Trent, but these photographs would seem to prove it. Perhaps the cattle would bear witness.

As the rower moved into Farndon, James, Louisa, and Gemma set out to greet him and to follow him towards

Newark Castle station 7.03

Newark Castle, first passing the railway station;

to be greeted by his reception committee as he docked. Louisa, as requested, handed me two pints of beer – all for me.

Perhaps this was a lap of honour alongside the castle ruins. This 13th century castle was originally built for the Bishop of Lincoln. A Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, ‘in 1646 the garrison surrendered, but only after a direct command from Charles I. Parliament ordered the castle destroyed so it could never be held against them again, but fate took a hand; plague broke out in Newark town, and the destruction of the castle was halted.’ This quotation is taken from  http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=93 which contains a more complete history in very readable form.

So, what has all this to do with T.S. Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’? From this, the last of the poet’s Four Quartets, I have borrowed

‘What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from………….

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time’.

The reason is that I do not have the negatives of the last of my photographs as they are prints, which must have been produced by our friend Alison, or her sister, Rosemary, both of whom were there to send us on our way.

Sam took delivery of his boat at Henley where he and James set about preparing and stocking it for the journey. Note the black bin behind my son,

which I strapped on with the rather optimistic intention of collecting sponsorship money.

Pacific Pete left the mooring,

and we were under way. This was to be the last sound footpath I trod for the next eleven days.

This evening we dined on Thai inspired fish cakes from Tesco served on Jackie’s succulent bed of sautรฉed onions, peppers, leeks, mushrooms and manges touts; noodles; prawn toasts and spring rolls. The Culinary Queen drank her customary Hoegaarden and I drank more of the madiran.

P.S. See Mike’s bitaboutbritain comment below for a much fuller illustrated history of Newark Castle

51 responses to “A Nod To Little Gidding”

  1. I love this poem and these are the best lines ever written I think. Particularly fitting for your marathon effort on behalf of your lovely son! I’m particularly taken with the photo bearing the sign for Newark Castle.

  2. Ah, I’ve awoken early enough to see the end, and the beginning all in one, before I head off to be a plumber again. The Newark Castle looks fascinating.

  3. I detest this poem. When I was studying in Boston one of my professors – Sebastian Moore – annually recited Little Gidding. He got a standing ovation. I thought it was a load of nonsense. I prefer Eliot’s cat poems!

  4. I was led to this, from Robert Frost, Instructor and Flight Controller at NASA (Wow!)
    The oldest reference to it, I know, is in the 1936 movie Rhythm on the Range starring Bing Crosby. Bing sings a song called “I’m an old cowhand (from the Rio Grande)”, written by Johnny Mercer.

    The song is about a cowboy that isn’t really a cowboy. Very appropriate for that scene in Die Hard because Hans had just called the New York cop a cowboy.

    Yippie-i-o ki yay is used in the song, about 24 seconds in, you can hear it in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=IFS6UXi4DB4

  5. I have always found those lines so moving, and the same is true for this series of posts. Bravo to Sam, and bravo to you! Very inspiring.

  6. What a long and sometimes difficult walk you had! Your photographs recording it and your son’s journey are wonderful – I love the photo at the beginning of the post of your son rowing hard past the herd of cattle who are lazily resting on the river bank or cooling off in the water.

  7. I reckon Jackieโ€™s succulent bed of sautรฉed onions, peppers, leeks, mushrooms and manges touts; noodles; prawn toasts and spring rolls. would be fine; have my doubts about Thai inspired fish cakes from Tesco though after my few experiences with them in 2005. Tesco’s that is not their fish cakes probably thrown together in someones backyard.

  8. Great finale to the journey Derrick, drawing together my current home county and the home county of my youth. I remember walking to Little Gidding when I was 16 or 17 and reading the poem. Pretentious? Moi?

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