Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Rites of spring... and some older wrongs

April 1st meant only one thing in Frome: forget fool tricks and mystic elevations, the market is back! Frome Independent had to cancel its original spring return due to the slush-fest that heralded March, but on Sunday the sun shone, the crowds came to enjoy the stalls and the snacks and the musicality that makes Frome so special, in streets in the morning and in bars during the afternoon and evening.

Next day we were promised thunderstorms but luckily, since the river was already spilling, they didn't arrive. I usually go to Mells for the daffodil festival, but this time went on an Edward Thomas walk based around Tellesford village and weir, with exceedingly good refreshments at the mill. This old flocking mill has been superbly renovated by  Rachel Feilden and Anthony Battersby, and now generates enough electricity for 80 houses, yet the location still looks exactly as described by Edward Thomas from his journey In Pursuit of Spring. John Payne read some of the relevant prose sections of this book, with related poems interspersed by me & Martin Bax. This Easter Monday is 101 years to the day since Edward Thomas was killed in the Battle of Arras, so it was especially poignant to read his 4-line poem: In Memoriam:  
The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood 
this Eastertide call into mind the men,
now far from home, who with their sweethearts should
have gathered them, and will never do again.

Hunting Raven Books on Tuesday had a big audience for David Lassman's Frome launch of The Awful Killing of Sarah Watts (written with Mick Davis) - a richly researched and thrilling account of the days when Frome was seething with pickpockets, cheese-rustlers, and ruffian gangs with names Dickens would envy (was Magwitch, in Great Expectations written 1861, inspired by the Maggs gang terrorising Frome in the 1850s?.... just a thought!)  'Crime capital of the kingdom' may be a tad hyperbolic, but certainly Frome was in a desperate state after the cloth trade collapsed, with around 97% unemployed workers and no professional support for the duo of citizen constables, as Somerset inexplicably ignored the County Police Act of 1839 for seventeen years. This fascinating tale will rank with The Suspicions of Mr Whicher as a vivid and informative show-reel from the past - interestingly, Mr Smith, the London inspector sent to solve the crime, was a friend of Mr Whicher, preceding his colleague's legendary visit by nine years.

Apart from these outings, if you've turned to my blog for a roll-call of the never-ending stream of Frome's events you'll be disappointed: I'm still on short-time for another month. I couldn't resist Al O'Kane and Rivers of England at 23 Bath Street, but other than that I've been self-exiled from the temptations of the town, so have missed most of the excellent music acts around last week.

Instead here's a picture of what spring appears to be doing, from one of my thinking-plods. Nietzche said all great thoughts are conceived by walking, and I bet he kept to his deadlines... mind you Douglas Adams claimed to love deadlines because of the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. I may have to learn to love that sound too.

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