Back in 1970 when the USA was revelling in the Glory of being the leaders in the space race because they put man on the moon, the Russians were continuing to do the extraordinary.  Well, not just the Russians.  The entire Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the CCCP.

On this day in 1970 Venera 7 was the first human object to land on another planet.  The Venusian probe landed hard, it seems the parachute deployment failed.  Initially it was thought to be entirely dead, but the sensors were working and the tapes were recording.  The probe rolled on one side at landing and the antenna was not pointed upward for transmission.

Weeks later radio astronomers pulled 23 minutes of recording from the surface.  The probe confirmed that Venus was too hot for people and contains no liquid water.  It also confirmed that the planet was solid, because the probe landed on a solid surface.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it is in such baby steps that we build our way to the stars.


Theresa May Prevail


On the birthday of William Blake here is what is probably, in England anyway, his best known poem.  It is one of the most popular and patriotic English hymns of the Anglican Church.

It is the essence of what it is to be English.  The English Rugby song is “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”.  Queen Boudica, that very embodiment of Britannia, is portrayed riding her Celtic Chariot.

As the British Parliament prepare to vote on the Brexit deal with the EU it is not the Northern Irish that matter, nor the Welsh, nor the Scots.  This is England Theresa May.  This is the time to embody England, to don the mantle of Alfred the Great.  To hell with those pesky Celts, this is an Anglo-Saxon matter.

Jerusalem: by William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time
walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
on England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

From The Movement


A verse on movement from Thom Gunn, who was a member of “The Movement”; a group of poets who included Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis.

Gunn celebrates his 89th Birthday today although he is not around to mark it himself.  Born the year of the Wall Street Crash in 1929 he passed away in 2004 just before the latest Stock Market collapse.  A man who spans two great depressions.

From the wave; by Thom Gunn

It mounts at sea, a concave wall
down-ribbed with shine,
and pushes forward, building tall
its steep incline.

Then from their hiding rise to sight
black shapes on boards
bearing before the fringe of white
it mottles towards.

Their pale feet curled, they poise their weight
with a learn’d skill.
It is the wave they imitate
keeps them so still.

The marbling bodies have become
half wave, half men,
grafted it seems by feet of foam
some seconds, then,

late as they can, they slice the face
in timed procession:
balance is triumph in this place,
triumph possession.

The mindless heave of which they rode
a fluid shelf
breaks as they leave it, falls and, slowed,
loses itself.

Clear, the sheathed bodies slick as seals
loosen and tingle;
and by the board the bare foot feels
the suck of shingle.

They paddle in the shallows still;
two splash each other;
they all swim out to wait until
the right waves gather.