“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” ~ John Donne (1572-1631) from Meditation XVII
Photo: Sarah K L Langeveld (all rights reserved)
My grandpa is quite old, I think he’s seven
One day, I’m told that I’ll be this old too
in between I know that I should be
mindful of the bell that rings for you
diminishing the life that’s meant for me
So I should make the best of every day
and follow conscience’ dictate as I go
be grateful for my blessings on the way
and, like my body, know my mind can grow
To know that all about me is my heaven.
The idea for the title of this poem came from Patience Strong’s Collection of poetry, “Yesterdays and Tomorrows”, part of The Patience Strong Treasury. I believe John Donne intended that his brief essay, entitled “Meditation XVII” – whilst it may have sounded very doom-laden in the context of its time – should also be a celebration of life. But, as a preacher, particularly at the turn of the 16th century, he was bound to preach to his congregations, as well as the audiences for his poetry, of the importance of appreciating what you have, whilst you have it.
The lovely photograph, taken by my niece, was one of many from my recent 70th birthday party, arranged as a complete surprise by my three children and my niece. It was a very special evening.
© 2020 John Anstie
All rights reserved
“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult”
As a young man, John was sporting and fit. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines and ethos as that famous Scottish public school, Gordonstoun, where our own headmaster had been as a senior master. This gave shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life.
His fitness was enhanced not only by playing rugby, but also by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, selling ice cream!
His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a fifty-two year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and barbershop quartets. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (stage name of the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 41 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man.
What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how a few humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle.
His sort of strap-line reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iChi iVolunteer ”