Francis Jammes
In this blogposting…
* Exam Answers
* A Bite of the Big Apple 2
* Prayer to go to Paradise with the Donkeys
* Le blog à Pépère
Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war….

This viral email was sent to me recently.  It’s supposed to be a list of answers given by a student at an exam.  Although they’re all wrong, they are - technically or literally - correct.

See what you think….

In which battle did Napoleon die?
His last battle

Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?
At the bottom of the page

The River Ravi flows in which state?

What is the main reason for divorce?

What is the main reason for failure?

What can you never eat for breakfast?
Lunch and dinner

What looks like half an apple?
The other half

If you throw a red stone into the blue sea what it will become?

How can a man go eight days without sleeping ?
Easy - he sleeps at night

How can you lift an elephant with one hand?
You will never find an elephant that has only one hand

If you had three apples and four oranges in one hand and four apples and three oranges in other hand, what would you have?
Very large hands

If it took eight men ten hours to build a wall, how long would it take four men to build it?
No time at all - the wall is already built

How can you drop a raw egg onto a concrete floor without cracking it?
Any way you want - concrete floors are very hard to crack

The email suggests that the student ought to have been given marks for ‘cleverness’ rather than the 0% it says he was actually awarded.

As far as I’m concerned, 0% is way too high.  He ought to have been expelled - or taken out and shot - for being such a smug smartarse.

(In fact, this email is a good example of its type.  The story that it’s a student at an exam is patently untrue; no exam in the history of exams ever asked questions like these, many of which are unanswerable.  Someone somewhere wrote it as a string of one-off gags.

Or am I taking it all a little too seriously?  Maybe I should lighten up.)

Or maybe I’m being so cynical because this time of year is said to be the most depressing of all.  It’s still cold and dark, Christmas is a distant memory, everyone’s in debt and Spring is still months away.

So I decided to remind myself of better times by surfing through the 473 photographs I took in New York City last year.  Looking at them, and revelling in my memories of that astonishing and restless city, makes my time there seem like a dream - as if it was someone else entirely who wandered its streets and avenues and gazed, open-mouthed, like some country yokel, at the sheer bigness of it all.
Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France.
Ellis Island immigration point is on the right
Grand Central Terminus and the Chrysler Building
  The corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street
 The roof of the Reading Room in New York City Library
 42nd Street
 The Gandhi statue in a quiet corner of Union Square
 The Gay Rights Memorial outside the Stonewall Inn, where it all started
 Inside the M5 bus
 The shoe-shine boys in Grand Central
 I loved this sign
Maybe it was.

In former years, I used to love going on narrowboat holidays on the canals.  To be honest, I recently got to wondering why I ever stopped; which is why my friend Kathy and I have decided to go on another later this year.  Kathy was with me on my very first narrowboat holiday 32 years ago so we reckon this would be a good year to re-acquaint ourselves with their slow and wandering ways.

Further impetus has been given to the enterprise by a lovely book I’ve just finished reading:  Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, written by Terry Darlington.  It’s the story of how he and his wife (both pensioners) and their whippet Jim (who likes pork scratchings) sailed their narrowboat across the Channel and down through France along canals and rivers to Carcassonne.

It was quite an adventure and Terry’s book is exciting, thrilling, very very funny and quietly thought-provoking by turns.

At one point, they sail past the birth-place of one of France’s most neglected poets and writers - Francis Jammes, who was born in 1868 - and Terry quotes in full this uplifting prayer/poem he wrote.

O God when You send for me, let it be upon some day in Spring when the dust shines in the sun.  I would like to choose my own way, as I did here on Earth, to go to Paradise, where the stars shine by day.

I shall take up my staff and set out on the great road and I shall say to the donkeys, my friends - I am Stuart Robinson and I am going to Paradise, because there is no hell in the land of the Good Lord.

I will say to them, come, dear friends of heaven, poor dear creatures who with a brisk movement brush away the dull flies, and blows, and stings…

Let me come to You Lord in the midst of these creatures that I love so much, because they lower their heads gently, and stop; putting their little feet together in a sweet way, which makes You pity them.

I shall arrive followed by thousands of ears; followed by some with crows on their backs, some who drag carts of acrobats, or carriages with white feathers and silver, some with barrels hunched on their sides, by she-asses full as a leather bottle, with broken steps; by some with little trousers because of the seeping wounds made by the stubborn flies that crowd around.

Lord, let it be that I come to You with these donkeys.  Let angels lead us in peace to wooded streams where cherries tremble, smooth as the joyful flesh of children, and may I, leaning over Your heavenly waters in this dwelling place of souls, be like the donkeys, whose humble and sweet poverty reflects the clarity of eternal love.

I’m not religious at all - just the opposite - but the references to God in this prose-poem seem somehow ‘just right’.  I found it liberating and - in a small way - it reinforced my faith in the goodness and gentleness of human nature.

Anyway, I hope you like it.  And I hope it makes you want to rush out and buy Terry’s book, too.

Don’t forget to keep checking out Serge’s blog.  He’s changed the name but you can still access it by clicking on his image in the Followers box of this window, then clicking on the blog title.

His latest posting includes some spectacular pictures of the Northern Lights, a phenomenon I would dearly like to see but probably never will.

Incidentally, 'Pépère' has been Serge’s nickname since he was a boy.  It means something like ‘unflappable’.

Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com

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