Friday, 18 August 2017

On Loners and Relationships.

My lady fair
The Lady Fu
Is ever coy, though not oblique

From iv’ry hair
To iv’ry shoe
She’s all a gentleman might seek

The Lady Fu is my 18" high statuette of a fine Chinese lady. I'm very fond of her. So...

I keep thinking lately about members of my family who’ve gone now – grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, my half brother, my only full blood cousin… Most of them died early between their forties and their seventies; only a few of the women made eighty. And when I do think about them I’m struck by the fact that when they went, I was one of those people in their orbit who was left behind to carry on. One day it will be my turn to leave and everybody else’s function to carry on.

Not that there are many people in my orbit, of course; I’ve never been the sort to make commitments, connections, or even close friends of any stature. Maybe that’s because I’ve never known what the word ‘love’ means, not even when it comes to grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, brothers and cousins.

Actually, that probably isn’t quite true. A psychotherapist once suggested that the only normal (whatever that means) relationships I ever had were with my daughter, my dogs Em and Penny, and Dylan the tomcat. Maybe that’s what love is. It would be nice to think so.

I suppose the salient point here is that children and animals are relatively simple creatures who give their affection unconditionally, and that means they can be regarded with a reasonable amount of trust. Adult humans, on the other hand, are too informed by cultural and environmental conditioning, a feature which produces the kind of flaws guaranteed to keep an idealist like me a bit at arms length. There have been – and still are – a very few special people whom I’ve been able to greatly like, respect and want to be with, but I doubt that would be anybody’s definition of love.

(Maybe there is one person who might qualify, but I really don’t know. I avoid the question because there seems little point in committing to a ghost.)

So is being the perennial loner a good or bad thing? It’s a pointless question. A life is a life and in the end we have little honest choice but to be authentic. Besides, being a loner encourages the tendency to observe. And if my suspicion with regard to the purpose of life is right, that probably isn’t a bad thing.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

A Source of Tragic Confusion.

How do I write a blog post after a day of technical malfunctions and frustrations which I haven’t got to the bottom of yet? Such a day puts me in sombre mood, and then I read about Barcelona.

Horrors like Barcelona – and similar attacks elsewhere in Europe this year – not only disturb me, they confuse me because I don’t know what the Islamic terrorists are trying to achieve. This isn’t the same as the terror attacks by the IRA and the Basque Separatists. They had a simple objective: they wanted independence from what they saw as an occupying foreign power.

Islamic terrorists, on the other hand, must know that they are never going to achieve territory or influence by murdering innocent civilians in Europe. It makes them visible, certainly, but it only serves to vindicate attitudes of prejudice and intolerance towards Muslims in the minds of the bigoted.

So what is the aim, exactly? This is important because Tillerson can spout all he likes about ‘bringing them to justice,’ but it won’t stop the horrors happening. To do that you have to understand why it’s happening, and then set about addressing the cause. What politicians mostly do in these circumstances is address the popular hunger for revenge, and it won’t work.

It makes me wonder – just wonder, that’s all – whether there is something behind these outrages that we don’t know about. And I suppose I’d better stop there.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Something to Talk About.

I got drawn into a conversation in the coffee shop this afternoon with two young women (one of whom I knew) and a middle aged couple. It started off as a discussion on the price of tattoos and ended with me having to explain the significance of the serpent in Gnostic spirituality. They didn’t get it, you know. They never do. If only it had been raining.

But the two strange dogs were fun. They both wanted to be my friend, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was so intent on showing me that he was the very bestest friend I could ever possibly have in the whole wide world that he took to proving it by chewing my fingers. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not known for nibbling softly.

And what about the story of the woman and the two shopping trolleys? Not enough substance to justify bothering with the details, so I’ll skip to the bottom line. As the years pass I become more and more of a fruitcake. How I long to go back a couple of decades when I could at least pretend that I was a little bit fruity.

Not Exactly Waterloo.

I read a news report this morning about a battle between Chinese and Indian troops in a disputed border area. Apparently the soldiers lined up and threw stones at each other, causing a few minor injuries.

An image formed in my mind of millions of Chinese and Indian women standing together, rolling their eyes and intoning ‘boys are useless’ in a dozen different languages.

A Tiny Epilogue.

Do you realise I haven’t mentioned the T word today? It’s hardly crossed my mind. Such relief.

(The Lady B has, though. And I was standing on the lane at twilight when a little bat suddenly appeared a few feet in front of me. It flew up and over my head, and then flew away again. I said ‘hello back.’ Such a thrill.)

Electrical Connections.

I’ve had several electric shocks in my life because I’ve always exhibited the strange tendency to suffer bouts of extreme thoughtlessness and stupidity. Like the time when I touched the element of an electric fire in a boarding house to test whether it was getting hot yet.


And then there was the time as a kid when I decided to re-invigorate an old magnet. I got two pieces of wire, wrapped one end of each around the poles of the magnet, wrapped the other ends around the live and neutral posts of a plug, then pushed it into an electric socket and threw the switch. There was an almighty bang followed by the clatter of the plug and magnet hitting the opposite wall. And the socket was all brown and melting.

My mother came up to my bedroom and asked what the ‘strange noise’ was. I made up some implausible lie on the spur of the moment and she went away satisfied. Aren’t mother’s weird?

But then I’ve become ever weirder myself as I’ve got older, seemingly in proportion to my increased circumspection around things electrical. Maybe there’s a connection.

Kate's Fans.

One of the nice things about listening to a Kate Rusby track is that you can read the comments without fearing that you're going to be turned even further off the human race by a bunch of pea-brained, angry bigots who have trouble spelling a three letter word but insist on putting ten exclamation marks at the end of every hate-filled statement.

That was a long sentence, wasn't it? Long sentences sometimes work. Don't argue with the writer! (Whoops, an exclamation mark.) 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Another Probably Pointless Muse.

I was wondering today what life would be like if we didn’t have a physical body, if all we had was a disembodied consciousness. A voice came from somewhere over the rainbow and asked a question:

‘How would you move about if you didn’t have a body?’

‘Easy. I reckon consciousness is able to move a lot quicker and more easily than a clumpy old physical form. And it can go anywhere.’

‘Fair enough, but how would you experience things like pleasure and pain, and that wonderful feeling you get when you sate a heavy thirst?’

‘No problem. All sensation is essentially abstract and so exists solely in the consciousness.’

‘I realise that, but what medium would you use to trigger the abstract, which is what bodies do? You couldn’t, for example, build a wall and feel the resultant pleasure of achievement, could you?’

‘I think you could, yes. It would be a matter of learning to harness the latent ability of consciousness to manipulate dense matter. I’ve long suspected it was what the ancients did before humans became engrossed in their bodies and forgot the knack.’

‘OK. Think on and we’ll talk some more sometime.’

So that’s what I intend to do. (Although I do admit to sometimes wondering why I bother.)

*  *  *

So should I now make the post on why I think being well off and comfortable tends to lead to an insidious process of ethical, sociological and spiritual stagnation? Don’t think so. Somebody I know might read it and think it’s aimed at her. Besides, I tried it on one person recently and her only response was: ‘Yes, rich people become too obsessed with material things.’

No: missing the point. Obsession with material values is a universal condition affecting all classes in the wealthier parts of the world. There’s a lot more to it than that. Maybe another time.

The Charlottesville Irony.

The right wingers in the US routinely use the First Amendment – in particular the right to freedom of speech and peaceable assembly – as constitutional justification for spouting an ideology which is at least racist and often Fascist.

Logically they have every right to do that, and the dividing line between justifiable free speech and incitement to hatred and prejudice is indeed blurred. The irony is that if the alt-right aficionados were to get their way and create what would essentially be a Fascist state – or at least something resembling South Africa before the abolition of apartheid – free speech and peaceable assembly would be the first casualty.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Old Stuff and New.

It isn’t only Trump and the Lady B who have been dominating this blog lately, it’s also been the special quality of twilight. Clearly I need to find something else to be obsessive about since obsessives become boring after a while, but tonight’s does deserve a brief mention.

My special friends the bats gave me the best show they’ve given me for a long time, swooping and swerving to within a foot of my face at times. I like to think that they’re giving me a special welcome, but I suppose it might just be that I’m surrounded by tiny flying things attracted to my body heat. Whatever it is, it feels like a welcome and that’s good enough for me.

And then there were the snails, three small ones creeping along the window sill outside my office as the darkness descended and the rain came on a little heavier. There’s something childlike about snails, something of the essence of innocence which makes them such endearing creatures. And 3 is my favourite number, so it isn’t so surprising that I should stand mildly in awe of them until the rain persuaded me that it was time for a hot cup of tea and a closing of the curtains for the night. 

*  *  *

So, just to change the subject:

Today I gave somebody my standard autumn gripe, the one that runs:

Autumn: season of falling light, lengthening shadows, chilling air and a landscape clothed in the colours of death and decay. I’m a spring and summer man to the core. If humans can invent the pause button, why can’t nature?

She nodded earnestly and then said: ‘And all those leaves you have to sweep up. Just when you think you’ve finished, you turn around and the place is covered again.’

Message missed, maybe? Who knows and why complain?

I’d also just seen an elderly man with a much younger woman of obvious south-east Asian extraction, and assumed from their body language (without any evidence but instinct, you understand, so I might have been wrong) that he was a man of some little wealth and she a Thai bride. So I asked my young companion whether she would be prepared to marry a man of eighty and move half way across the world to a different culture, just so as to have a more comfortable lifestyle. She looked genuinely interested and said: ‘I’d need notice of that question. I’ll think about it over the next two hours of my shift.’

I talk to her most weeks. She has that unassuming brand of prettiness and a delightfully light air about her. What’s odd is that this seems to be happening a lot to me lately – attractive young women have suddenly started to seek my company and want to talk to me enthusiastically. I suppose it’s all down to advancing years. And I’m not complaining.