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THE VIEW FROM THE BASTION

With her new camera, a  Christmas present,

and with the intuitive surety,

at not quite nine, of how to make a picture,

she makes a sunlit panorama of Pest

from the Fisherman’s Bastion in Buda –

a Magyar edifice of walls and towers

built in the nineteen hundreds to celebrate

the permanence of the Habsburg Empire.

In a wall’s shadow she shows me the screen,

and what she has angled by chance. I note

the parliament building, the Great Synagogue,

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BÖLCS VAR: THE HOUSE OF WISDOM

Formerly Buda’s town hall, courthouse, prison

and school, newly refurbished throughout

and re-named The House of Wisdom, it is now

bookshop, café, bistro, conference centre

and an esoteric museum –

in an eclectic city of museums

ranging from Marzipan through to Murder.

The refurbishment finally repaired

all the damage done by stray Red Army

artillery shells, and uncovered stonework –

exhibited behind glass now – not seen

since the Ottoman Empire ruled Hungary.

 

Eschewing the conundrum of hailing a cab –

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ALWAYS WITH YOU

On a snowy January Saturday

we were delayed for six hours or so

at Ferenc Liszt airport, Budapest.

Except for the purchase of a Pick sausage

and a small box of Gerbeaud chocolates

in Heinemann Travel Value/Duty Free

we spent our time in the Leroy Bistro

with its international fast food cuisine

from nigiri sushi to Wiener Schnitzel.

 

From my seat in the bistro I could see

continually an advert, a fifteen

by forty feet video with,

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2019

‘O what fine thought we had because we thought

That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.’

NINETEEN HUNDRED AND NINETEEN, W.B. Yeats

 

Where the four main thoroughfares of our erstwhile

Roman city meet, a many-legged dragon,

in vivid gold and red, curved and reared, to gongs,

drums, fire crackers on a February day.

Dancers whirled long white ribbons, a whorl

of streamers like a wild, wispy sky.

This was the year of the omnivorous Pig,

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MARTIN MERE WETLAND, LANCASHIRE

Before the marsh on the coastal plain was drained –

to turn the dark, rich glacial soil

into the broad fields of market gardens,

selling fresh produce south to the port city

burgeoning daily from mouth to mouth –

the mere was vast, eight square miles and more.

 

Family groups wandered the margins –

to fish, collect eggs, snare birds. Settlements

became hamlets, became villages:

cutting the reeds for thatching, cutting the peat

for cooking fires from the ice age bogland.

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LORD WOOLAVINGTON’S HOUSE PARTY, AUGUST 1922

Jimmy Buchanan, self-made whisky tycoon,

became Lord Woolavington of Lavington,

Sussex, in January ’22.

He acquired his peerage, it was said,

with a post-dated cheque signed ‘Woolavington’.

To celebrate he hosted a lavish

grouse-shooting party that Glorious Twelfth

on his moorland estate near the Moray Firth.

 

To prepare for the party, heather had been scorched

so young grouse might fatten on the new shoots.

The corpses of polecats and pine martens

had been hung on gates and from fence posts,

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