memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Posts tagged ‘nostalgia’


Autumn has rolled round again

I used to love this season

The fall of the golden leaves

The smell of roasting chestnuts at the corner of

Santa Catarina and 31 Janeiro

Walks in the park with the soft sun-beams

Filtering through the trees.


Time to get back to work

After the stress and sloth of summer.

It was the season of renewal

Academic years began

New jobs were started

New projects were initiated

New challenges to face

New meat to be trained up

Ruffled feathers to be smoothed in the staff-room

And on Saint Martin’s Day we would gather together

To eat roast chestnuts and drink the new wine.


Things would happen in autumn,

That season of sweet melancholy.


(By the way have you noticed that not even Nostalgia is what it used to be?)

Dover Beach

During the early nineteen sixties the Port of Dover still had medium-priced respectable hotels with names like The White Cliffs with potted plants in the lounge and middle-aged bow-tied pianists playing sub-Cole Porter numbers with rolling eyes and a sort of louche panache.

The town itself with its tangy sea-air, its cries of sea-gulls and its dazzling white cliffs seemed to offer shelter and solace from the long and confusing journey through childhood.

And later, as the ship edged out of the stone harbour of my boyhood to meet the butting pitching sea, I would linger in the stern watching the shoreline of England – those famous gleaming white cliffs – receding to the horizon and feel an unfamiliar ache in my heart.

(I have since discovered that the Portuguese language, that melancholy vehicle, encapsulates that emotion in one single word – saudades).


But let’s bury these memories and share with me one of my favourite poems.

Written by Mathew Arnold in 1869 it is called DOVER BEACH

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; – on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Molyneux Bunny


About a couple of miles from my home-village of Thurlstone lies the hilly market-town of Penistone in the churchyard of which, propped up casually against  the dark stone wall of the old church is the mossy old 18th century head stone of a certain Molyneux Bunny who:

served with distinction in the wars

Of King William and Queen Anne,

And was a gentleman born.

I remember that from time I would leave the windy High Street and pop through the lych-gate into the old cemetery, hearing the rain begin to patter on the leaves of the sheltering sycamore-trees to examine it …

(Have you noticed, by the way, that these days not even nostalgia is what it used be).

I have a tree

I have an idea.

I have things, I have books, I have a son – I peeped into his book – he wrote about Galileo.

I have an old book about Galileo about the refutation of the accusation of the Inquisitors.

I have an idea, I have things,

I have an itch, I have notions.

I have a friend in China. She writes to me every year sending me pictures of China. Lin Lee is her name but that is all I know.

I have memories, which I select like cards slipped from the shoe.

I keep pictures from the past in a shoe box, slotted into decades.

I have a tree outside, slowly stirring in the early spring, its buds growing in the dark.

I have notions.


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