Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Long dead, but poet Omar lives on

It’s the anniversary of the death of a poet whose work I have been familiar with since toddlerhood. When I think of the poet, the famous Persian Omar
Khayyam, I am back in the caring arms of a grandmother, swept back to probably well before my second birthday.
My maternal grandmother, the daughter of a seafaring Cowes family, was a retired headteacher who took education seriously, very, and perhaps no subject more so perhaps than verse.
Before I could string many sentences together, I could certainly recite some lines from Omar’s The Rubaiyat which was obviously a great favourite with my grandmother.
In many ways it is surprising that I would recite just a number of lines of that long poem, especially as memory recalls her lying in bed – she was no athlete – reeling off all the Rubaiyat’s many, many verses, from i in Roman numerals to ci.

Quite a character

She was quite a character who seemed to share the mathematician-poet’s feeling about a drop of wine.
My parents were not keen drinkers in those end-of-the-war days. Rationing certainly would have made it difficult.
Memory has an image of her climbing into a taxi and expressing surprise to find she still had a glass of whisky in her hand.
One of the strongest memories from my junior days has her battling a huge poisonous snake, clubbing the thing with her walking stick in the road beside a public seat that is still there in Gardens, Southampton, saving mother and two sons from a ghastly death.
Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventuring book, Sailing to Purgatory, at


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