Tag: covid

One Winter’s Day at St John’s Beacon

Liverpool in fog with the Liver Birds, Bella and Bertie, visible.

Before Covid struck England and shook the economy I worked as a tour guide in St John’s Beacon, the second tallest building in Liverpool. Up there you could see the River Mersey, the Irish Sea, the Welsh mountains beyond the Wirral and, on clear days, Blackpool tower. In summer we had queues waiting outside for us to open and there was scarcely enough time to catch a breath between taking old customers down and bringing new customers up. But in winter, when fog pressed against the gallery windows and the tourists were gone, there were very few customers.

One winter’s day with the city covered in fog my friend on the tour team and I decided on a whim to write a renga. In Japanese poetry the renga is a collaborative form of linked verses that two or more poets complete together. The introductory verse to a renga became what’s known today as haiku after Matsuo Basho pioneered that verse as a form unto itself. On breaks at work I would sketch haiku and tell my friend about it. Sometimes he would count syllables with his fingers and, apropos of nothing, recite a haiku he had probably been mulling over for the past half hour. Once, when I got stuck in a lift with customers for an hour, he wrote a haiku about it because of course he did.

I forget the exact verses of our renga but I remember, by some strange twists and turns, Bigfoot showed up at the end. Why not? Meanwhile, thanks to wind blowing down the Welsh mountains, the fog began to part and the familiar landscape came slowly into view.


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The Waxing Moon

The waxing moon. Credit: Unsplash.

The moon is waxing gibbous tonight. It’s hard not to notice its brightness. Tomorrow it’ll be a full moon and the day after that begin its waning phase. In the unusual circumstances of a once in a century pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns we’ve had to endure, the sight of the moon doing its thing, perhaps ever since our solar system came to be, is a welcome sight.

Fay Aoyagi, a haiku poet, writes in “Moon in the Haiku Tradition”:

[…] you will find many ways to say ‘moon’ in Japanese saijiki [a dictionary of seasonal terms used by haiku poets]. For example, the full moon may be called gyokukon (round soul) or sasaraeotoko (small but lovely man – a nickname for the moon).

So keep your eyes open tomorrow night. You’ll see a small but lovely man in the sky.