Thursday, 30 September 2010

New Zedland.

The letter Z has assumed a position of some prominence in my life lately, and it reminds me of a time when I had a fondness for the music of ZZ Top. I didn’t know then that Americans pronounce the letter differently to us Brits. I remarked to somebody one day that ‘Zed Zed Top’ was a pretty damn stupid name for a band.

Storytime.

It’s the last day of the month, so the next story will be up shortly after midnight. This one is a bit different from the others – less apparent substance, less concerted plot. Ultimately it’s about some unanswered questions.

Don’t blame me, though. It wrote itself as they all did. If you think you’ll find it unsatisfying, best not read it.

Did Groucho Understand the Difference?

It won’t have gone unnoticed that the subject of romance has been a recurring theme in recent posts. The reason is simple enough. Having thought that I'd left behind the twilight regions in which the imp of romance lurks, I was savagely ambushed by the little fellow recently. It was sudden and unexpected, it took me completely by surprise, and the means necessary for dealing with it had gone into a state of torpor because I thought I wouldn’t need them again. The result was that old weaknesses were exposed and old wounds re-opened. It wasn’t pleasant.

I should like to let this little leitmotif rest in peace now, and that’s what I intend to do. Unless, that is, the imp has not retreated to his lair in some faraway land, but is simply hiding somewhere. Should he assault me again, I might have to ask your indulgence in putting up with more tedious posts on the matter. And, of course, if I find something to say that I think is interesting, I might resurrect the subject for the right reasons.

One thing occurs to me already. I remember reading a quotation from Groucho Marx once, and thinking that it was amusingly appropriate to one of the difficulties I have with romance:

I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member.

Make of it what you will, but I offer a clue. It’s all to do with acceptance sowing the seed of rejection. I don’t think it should be difficult to work out, not if you understand the difference between a romantic and a Romantic.

Being Cryptic Again.

Another little foray into a peccadillo for which I recently apologised. Do excuse my recidivism. I just came across this quotation from a letter written by Franz Kafka, and it somehow seems apposite.

‘Nor is it perhaps really love when I say that for me you are the most beloved; love is to me that you are the knife which I turn within myself.’

Well said, my friend. We understand one another.

Selflessness and Self-Interest.

A friend of mine intends to do something that is clearly driven by a romantic motive. Romance is an area replete with the most powerful of motivations; it carries the headiest of scents; it can be the most powerful narcotic to those who are romantically inclined; it can blind us to every counter interest that gets in the way.

In this case it doesn’t seem so bad. On the surface it appears relatively inconsequential, innocent even. She claims to mean it innocently, but experience leaves me in no doubt that it carries the risk of causing hurt to herself, the object of her affections, and at least two other parties. You might call them ‘innocent’ parties. She asked for my thoughts on the matter, and so I gave them. I was careful not to advise because it’s none of my business, and because the question of self-interest over selflessness is not as simple as it might seem.

Selflessness is obviously a fine quality, and one to which I think we should all generally aspire. In a perfect world we would all put the interests of others above our own, or so we might tell ourselves. Except it couldn’t work, of course, because we would all be rooted to the spot saying ‘After you.’ ‘No, after you.’ It’s perhaps more realistic to say that in a perfect world nobody would knowingly or recklessly do anything to harm another. But even that isn’t altogether clear cut because the question of priorities comes into play, and comparing one case against another is often not simple.

The basic point to be made, however, is that the world isn’t perfect. It has no perfect people in it. As far as I know, it never has been perfect and there’s no realistic prospect of it ever becoming so. There will always be cases when one person’s driving desire or need will impinge upon the rights, liberties or interests of another. And that can apply to anybody at any time.

This is not a call to excuse selfish behaviour, let alone endorse it. It’s merely a call to exercise circumspection, to consider more carefully the instinct to blame, punish, and seek revenge. There will be times when such instincts will be fully justified; but when we point an angry finger at a malefactor, we should be aware that somebody else’s finger might be pointed in anger at us tomorrow. And we have to accept that there will be times when a man really does have to do what a man has to do. That’s life.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Labels.

Somebody once asked me a question that I misunderstood:

‘Jeff, do you think you might be mildly bipolar?’

I hadn’t heard the word before. We kept the old term ‘manic depressive’ longer in Britain. (We’ve gone over to the Dark Side now. Damn Yankees!) Anyway, I thought she was questioning my sexual polarity, and giggled knowingly.

When I discovered what it meant, I thought about it. It is true that I can be a little prone to mood swings, but they’re rarely too serious. I giggle in one and growl in the other; that’s usually about it as far as the outside world is concerned. And I also admit that the swings often appear irrational, but I’m a bit odd in lots of ways.

So I’ve no idea whether I’m mildly bipolar, and since it isn’t that big an issue, why go to the trouble of putting a label on it and giving myself one more thing to be concerned about?

Questioning the Value of Marriage.

I read today that Ed Milliband, the new leader of the British Labour Party, is coming under pressure over his marital status. He isn’t married. He has a live-in girlfriend and they have one child already, with another on the way. This, it appears, is a Cause for Consternation.

My first thought was one of surprise. The state of unmarried domicility is so common now that I thought only a few hard line zealots even noticed. So then I set to considering why the institution of marriage is still considered important by the denizens of conventional culture. Having often discussed this issue, I’m aware that two primary reasons are given.

The first is religious. Marriages are made in heaven. If the union isn’t sanctified by God, the union has no validity. Well, that’s a matter of faith, and those who subscribe to it are entitled to their position on the matter. It means nothing to me, of course. One of the reasons I so hate church weddings is that the stuff trotted out by ministers on such occasions makes me seethe.

The second has more substance, but it seems to me to be equally nonsensical. There is a conditioned view in the tram line mindset that marriages are more stable than unmarried partnerships. This, claims the received view, is important if there are children involved. I agree that it would be important if it were true, but I don’t believe it is. I’ve known plenty of unstable marriages in my time, and I’ve know plenty of stable unmarried partnerships.

The real issue here is commitment, and people like to think that marriage establishes it. What’s more, they like to have it handed to them on a plate. But marriage doesn’t establish commitment. Commitment resides within the mind of the person making it. You don’t need a ceremony to be committed. If you feel that a commitment needs to be stated verbally, or even in writing, then do it properly. Make the effort. Decide what you want to say, what you consider important, and what you want to commit to, and then say it. And if you really must have a ceremony, design your own. If you’re going to claim that a committed relationship requires effort to make it work, then start with the commitment itself. Reading off a piece of paper and repeating vows given to you by a minister or registrar is, I would suggest, an abdication of the very first line of effort.

There is one advantage to being married. The system is so entrenched in its view that it bestows tax advantages on those who walk the proper line. The system always does reward conformity, of course, and its practice of giving tax breaks to married couples says more about the workings of the system than it does about the value of marriage.

It should go without saying that I’m not trying to tell people they shouldn’t get married. That’s a matter of personal choice and none of my business. What I am suggesting is that they should consider the reasons in terms a little deeper than ‘because it’s the right thing to do and it will ensure a more stable future for our children.’

Meanwhile, Ed Milliband has demonstrated a fundamental weakness in his makeup by promising the country that he will get married when he has the time. And I was beginning to have high hopes for him. Oh well, here’s to Utopia.

Surreal 500.

I had this problem, see. (Why am I writing like a Welshman?) How might I celebrate my 500th post with something completely different? The old brain was in an advanced state of atrophy, and any prospect of success looking increasingly distant.

And then along comes Carmen with a suggestion. Brilliant. Don’t think, just write. I’d heard of this technique before, but never got around to doing it. So I did. I left the brain active, but switched the thought processes off. The result follows. When I woke up, I did go back over it just to put some punctuation in and correct the spellings. Nothing else, though. The writer in me wants to edit it.

I think I might regret this.

The day dragged sadly to a close while Mimi sucked her blanket in the corner. Ben scratched the blister on his ear. ‘Hey Ben, where’d the blister come from?’ ‘Mars.’ ‘What, the one near Venus?’ ‘Nah, the one next to Tesco.’ ‘Never been to Tesco.’ ‘You don’t want to.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘The elephants eat people.’ ‘Is the candy floss green?’ ‘Don’t know.’ ‘So how d’you know the elephants eat people?’ ‘David said so.’ ‘Is he the big bloke with two feet?’ ‘No.’ ‘Who is he then?’ ‘Don’t know. Never seen him.’ ‘So can we go to bed now? I’m tired?’ ‘Where?’ ‘On the moon.’ ‘But there’s no daylight left.’ ‘That’s OK, I’ve got plenty of chocolate.’ ‘My toe hurts.’ ‘Which one?’ ‘This one.’ ‘Oh.’

The big clock on the wardrobe said that ice cream can give you measles, so Mimi cried a bit. And then the window pane coughed, but three days later the men came to fix the washing machine. It wasn’t broken, but the bacon wasn’t frying properly so the rice noodles weren’t happy.

Three days later, several trees wandered down the road and asked Ben what the time was. They said they had a bus to catch and the oranges wouldn’t wait any longer. Ben sat down and played a game of chess with the manhole cover, but the day seemed like it would never end.

‘Try setting it alight,’ said the ball bouncing on the counterpane. ‘What?’

‘I can’t do this any more, cried Mimi.’ ‘You shouldn’t anyway,’ said Ben. ‘Yes, I suppose so.’ ‘How would I know anyway?’ ‘Know what?’ ‘Why buses are all red, of course.’ ‘Are they?’ ‘No.’

Psychic Indians.

It's happened again! One of those empty nights that drag you inexorably towards a lifeless infinity. (OK, now I really am being melodramatic. Point taken.)

Anyway, the fact is that just as I was on the point of going to bed, up pops the Indian flag. This is becoming a habit, Dominique. How do you do it?

One Little Thought.

It’s funny how a woman’s wink
Can turn a man a shade of pink.

But when she smiles upon him, too,
He starts to think in shades of blue.

Don't Bother Reading This One.

Been trying to write a blog today, but a case of writers’ block seems to have set in. I couldn’t get any inspiration at all from the usual themes.

Politics – nothing much happening.
Mad world – done that one to death.
Personal troubles – seem to be in a quiet phase at the moment.
Philosophical ramblings – sometimes you just have to switch off.
General observations – who cares?
Traffic stats – Lucy’s put me off.
Silly ditties – got close, but had trouble finding an appropriate rhyme for Venus. (Which isn’t strictly true, but...)

Maybe I’ll have an early night. Don’t go too far, though. Tomorrow I might drop a bombshell.

Really?

Nah.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Further Gratitude.

I’m afraid this is going to sound a bit pompous, but here goes.

I’m sometimes amazed by the sort of pointless, air-headed comments that proliferate on some people’s blogs. I look at the kind of comments I get on my blog and appreciate how lucky I am to have such people around my cyber space. You’re becoming family.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. I know it takes all sorts...

Approaching the Twilight Zone.

Something reminded me today of an odd little incident that happened shortly after I moved to this house.

I was in the shower one night when I heard loud voices and other sounds coming from downstairs. I soon realised it was a TV, and got a bit cross because I assumed it was my neighbour playing his set very loudly. I decided I would have to have words with him the next day.

But then, when I came out of the shower and went downstairs, I discovered it was mine. It had switched itself on and I found that the auto timer had been set. That was odd since I’d never set the timer and wouldn’t have known how to. It took me ages to work out how to turn it off.

So OK, either I’d somehow done it accidentally, or it was some little electronic glitch. What I found strange, though, was that it happened the night I’d watched the second Ringu film – the one in which the TV sets keep switching themselves on. What’s that theory about electronic devices developing a form of intelligence?

Yet More Nonsense.

There’s a new advert up on my Hotmail home page:

‘Who will you invite for a Night In on your new smart phone?’

Hang on a minute, is it really possible that people will be persuaded to fork out £20 a month to do something they could do just as well with their current phone or a landline?

Why is this crazy world of ours
So clearly off its head?
And who is most responsible,
The leaders or the led?

Monday, 27 September 2010

A Kind of Haunting.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that living with a decision is often harder than making it. I suppose that’s too obvious to need stating, but the process never ceases to surprise me.

For most decisions bring forth not one but several consequences, some good and some bad. Debits and credits. Pros and cons. And of course, because the only way is forward, you aim to focus on the positive. A decision had to be made, you made it, and now you move on. That’s that; you try to forget about the bad bits. You might even try to pretend they don’t exist.

But they do exist, and they don’t go away just because you don’t want to look at them. They exist as ghosts, and they lurk in the shadows of the mind. They creep out and show their sorrowful faces to you, just when you’re least expecting it. They point at you in accusation. ‘Look what you’ve done,’ they whisper. ‘How could you?’ They try to make you feel uncertain, and they don't have to try very hard.

Maybe it’s an awareness that you have caused, or might have caused, an innocent person to suffer in some way. Maybe it’s a sense of you own sorrow at having given up something precious. Maybe it’s both, or even more.

Whatever it is, the mind becomes a haunted place. And there’s little you can do about it except wait for the spirits of consequence to die a second death naturally and drift away on the winds of time. Meanwhile, you find yourself, like Macbeth, murdering sleep.

Rakes & Romantics.

It goes without saying that life is rarely painted in black and white, but is a stepless range of grey tones. Certain statements of observation and opinion are, therefore, necessarily of a generalised nature. This is one of them.

I would like to offer a thought to the young women out there.

If a young man is exhibiting unreasonable haste in gaining access to your knickers, there’s a fair chance that he’s either a rake or a Romantic. They’re two very different animals, and a few of those differences might be explained as follows:

The rake will seek access by any means that are legal. The Romantic has to be invited in. It’s an essential part of the game to him.

The rake will care nothing for the number of men who have been there before him, and maybe not even the number who are there simultaneously. The Romantic is much more likely to have strong feelings on the matter, but they probably won’t show until he’s got there himself.

The rake might well leave you high and dry before the night has run its course. The Romantic will take rather longer. He’s climbing a mountain, and the peak is still to be attained.

The rake will probably injure your pride. The Romantic is capable of doing damage at a deeper level. That’s because the rake simply seeks to use your body, whereas the Romantic is on a mission to explore every part of you.

If I think of any more, I’ll let you know. Take it or leave it. It’s your life.

Lucy Has Me Pegged.

OK, I’m a nerd. I like stats trackers. It probably indicates a severe case of arrested development, if not something more serious. I confess. I have more anoraks than anybody else.

But...

The episode with the missing Flag Counter has thrown up something interesting. As I’ve already said, I got another one. So now I have two. When the original reappeared no worse for it’s incarceration at the hands of a faulty server, I was going to dispense with number 2. But no. It just gets more interesting, because the two Flag Counters give different results. One says, for example, that the last visit was from India. The other says it was the USA. There’s more, but I won’t bore you.

(I already did? Oh, sorry.)

The point is this. Why the hell does hardly anything work perfectly these days?

Numbers.

I was curious to know whether my assessment of distances was somewhere near accurate, so I accessed a website that would tell me. I entered lots of places around the world, places that have become significant to me. I found that the neatest was Mumbai.

Distance from me: 4545 miles

4+5 = 9

9+9 = 18

1+8 = 9

9 = 3+3+3

Sat-Tat-Aum
Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva
Orange-White-Green

I think I’m clutching at straws here. I think it’s what can happen when you make tough decisions. I think I’m in a strange mood. I think I need to talk to somebody. I think I know who it is, but I don’t think it will happen.

* * *

My Flag Counter disappeared today. I did some digging and discovered that one of their servers was down, so I got another one just in case the original didn’t come back. It did, which is why I now have two.

Isn’t that just the most interesting thing you’ve heard all year?

* * *

I think that having your equilibrium disturbed might be one definition of ‘unbalanced.’ I find that kind of thing interesting. In fact, observing myself is about the most interesting thing I do these days.

If this post attracts any comments, I might just eat my hat. Or, to quote a favourite phrase of a Liverpudlian manager I once had, ‘show me arse in Woollies window.’ Fortunately, we don’t have any Woolworth’s any more. They’ve gone out of business.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A Pointless Question.

Did I do the right thing tonight?

It’s a pointless question. What’s done cannot be undone. The moving finger writes, and having writ... But there’s another, less easily comprehended reason.

We come to our decisions, we make our choices, and we take our actions. Once we put them into effect, all other possibilities cease to exist. And if they don’t exist now, maybe they never did. Not only is there no such thing as the road not travelled, there never was. So holds the doctrine of Determinism, which I happen to find compelling.

But we’re human, aren’t we? We can’t help wondering; it’s in our makeup. And wondering whether the road not travelled might have been a better one can leave us feeling quite desolate at times, however pointless we know the question to be.

Considering the Question of Dust.

Somebody sent me one of those round robin e-mails today. This one was about not getting bogged down with the housework habit when there are more adventurous and fun ways of spending time. The bit I liked most was:

Why dust the furniture? Why not write ‘I love you’ in it instead?

It ended with an ironic observation. It pointed out that people spend so much of their lives getting rid of dust, only to die at the end of it and create more dust.

Jack's Back.

Don’t we all hate false springs? Just when you thought the temperature was rising, the land was turning green again, and the birds were singing louder, back comes the winter of your discontent. And all courtesy of a communication that you haven’t even read yet. Its very existence is enough to send the wind veering from west to north, and the accompanying snow flurries are soon snapping at you from its coat tails.

Am I being melodramatic? Probably, but don’t complain or denigrate me for that. It’s what writers are for, isn’t it? If we didn’t feel things more keenly than most people, we wouldn’t be writers, would we?And everybody likes stories.

I think I’ll get drunk. See you all tomorrow.

Damn!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Why Only Saturday Night?

It’s late on Saturday night as I type this. I’ve long had an uneasy relationship with the period covering a few hours either side of midnight - the dark part of Saturday night and Sunday morning. I’ve had some good times on Saturday nights, and yet they seem to lend a certain truth to that famous line from Macbeth:

Present fears are less than horrible imaginings.

Yes indeed, but combine the two and you achieve a shadowland of mind. There’s something dark, dangerous and sordid about Saturday night. It conjures images of damp, shabby streets, lit by unhealthy and unnatural low key lighting. The unholiest form of chiaroscuro, pregnant with nameless menace. There is something lurking in the shadow beyond one of these corners, something that will carelessly rob me of my life without having the decency to kill me.

I wonder where that came from.

Pregnant with Perilous Potential.

Imagine the scene. It’s 1944 and a young woman stands looking out of her living room window. Her husband is an infantryman serving on the front line, and she hasn’t had a letter from him for some time.

She sees the postman approaching and feels the usual onset of a nervous dichotomy. Postmen can bring good news, and they can bring bad. Her anxiety leaps higher as the man opens the gate and walks up the path. And then the ice cold vice of dread grips her somewhere in the vicinity of her heart. The postman is not holding a letter, but a telegram.

She feels light headed as she opens the door. She takes the little piece of paper, pregnant with a hellish potential, from the outstretched hand of a man averting his eyes. His attempt at disinterested nonchalance is unconvincing, and his feeble whistle has a falseness about it that irritates her. She carries the article, so light and seemingly insignificant that a zephyr’s breath might carry it away, through to the living room. She places it with unnecessary care on a small table, and then sits down weakly and stares at it. She feels no urge to cry, just an enervating numbness; and she still hopes against hope that no tears will be needed.

She knows she has two options. She can ignore it and live in torturous ignorance, or she can open it and face the prospect of even more torturous knowledge. Eventually, she decides to open it.

How long, I wonder, did it take her to make that decision, and where did she find the courage?

I have cause to be curious.

Badly Expressed.

When I read the first part of EastWind again, it seemed to be saying something quite different than I intended. Oh, well. Best ignore that one.

Two Little Asides.

A simple question:

If a man hires an assassin to kill somebody, which of the two bears the greater responsibility for the murder?

-----------------------------------

It might have become apparent by now that I am no stranger to emotion. I don’t always like the fact, but I was born that way and I can’t help it. It is interesting, however, that my emotions are often not stirred by the things that stir most people. What seems most able to get me going are two things: release from bondage and the bringing of peace. Seeing a person or an animal set free rarely fails to bring a lump to my throat; and, in the right circumstances, the image of the white dove carrying an olive branch can have the same effect.

Bad Friday.

I just went to fetch another scotch from the kitchen. As I was carrying it into my office, I swear the glass was snatched from my hand. So I just spent several minutes trying to get all the broken pieces up from the floor, which is wet. As are my jeans. They’re cold and clingy. Not nice.

This has never happened before. It really has been that sort of a day.

East Wind.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many times can a girl turn the knife
Before he will stop being a fan?
And how many lives will it take 'til he knows
Which things to allow, and which ban?

The answer, my friend...

...just a passing thought.

It’s been a day of much frustration,
The sort where every situation
Provokes the ire, for, come what may,
The world kept getting in my way.

I haven't been getting enough sleep this week. Later to bed, no later to rise. Having, instead, too much of things that aren't good for me.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Killing Time.

Whoever would think that a visit to the dentist could provide blogging material? Well, I went to the dentist today, and they were running very late so I had time to kill.

I went to the loo at one point. Behind the wash basin was a large sign that said:

Water
Soap
Wash
Rinse
Dry

And each word was accompanied by an explanatory picture. Are we getting a bit into information overkill here?

But then I read an article in a magazine, written by a woman whose hobby it is dress up as Queen Elizabeth I and give talks to groups about Elizabethan England. She gave one talk to a class of young children. She asked them ‘What would you become if you married me?’ One nine-year-old boy put his hand up and said:

‘Frightened.’

Goodnight, Sweet Prince.

I’ve posted this before, but I’m posting it again.

One day I shall have to bid farewell to this thing I’ve got used to calling ‘me.’ I have the feeling that I’m going to be reluctant to let go, since I’ve become attached to it. But I won’t have any choice, and others will have no choice but to dispose of the shell that was once somebody they knew.

When that act of disposal becomes a pressing necessity, I want this to be playing. I want no flights of angels to sing the lullaby. This will do just fine.

I don’t feel as sombre as I probably sound. When I typed the post title I accidentally hit two keys at once, so it read 'Goodnight Sweety.' Got to laugh, haven't you?

Continued Improvement.

In case anybody didn’t understand the earlier post:

An aged person buying sprouts?
Methinks one should be having doubts.
Don’t join them on the escalator
Unless you have a respirator.

Seems my sense of humour is getting back down to the level of a ten-year-old where it feels most at home.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Love Hurts?

I used to think that there were three states of engagement in that area of relationships we might generally refer to as ‘romantic.’ There was infatuation, being in love, and loving. After many years of personal experience and observation of others, I’ve reassessed that view. I no longer see any meaningful distinction between being infatuated with somebody and being ‘in love’ with them. So now I believe there are only two fundamental states: infatuation and love. And I don’t believe the two are even distantly related.

Infatuation is intense, and combines the sweet and the sour in varying proportion. It allows, and even encourages, such attributes as possessiveness and the need to control. They, in their turn, produce corollaries. Suspicion, for example, is the natural child of the union between possessiveness and control mania. It isn’t always that way, of course; it depends on the nature of those who are infatuated. But infatuation holds within itself the prospect of madness, and that madness can range from the sublime to the hideously destructive. Infatuation can, and often does, hurt.

Love is very different. It is essentially gentle, selfless, undemanding and unconditional. It isn’t as intense as infatuation, but it is very much deeper. It, too, holds within itself the prospect of madness, but it can only be a sublime madness. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, there’s a complication.

The phrase ‘love hurts’ has entered the language as an accepted truism. But how can that be, since love in its purest form is selfless, undemanding and unconditional? What is there to hurt? Ego, that’s what. We should all realise, I think, that ego is the source of all human frailty. It’s our biggest weakness. It doesn’t disallow the capacity to love, but it certainly gets in the way. Let me give you an example.

John and Jane were partners. John didn’t know he loved Jane; he only knew that they were romantically involved. He’d never given much thought to what love really is. Until the day when Jane told him she’d had a physical relationship with another man. John was high on ego, and he was an intensely jealous person. Jealousy is, after all, the natural product of mixing ego with insecurity. The revelation sent John over the edge, and for about half an hour he was consumed with what can only be described as a form of insanity. An overpowering physical weakness came over him while his mind entered hideous and incomprehensible realms, the like of which he’d never known. His physical strength returned and he beat the crap out of the walls, the door and the furniture. And yet it never entered his head to attack Jane.

When it was all over, calmness returned and brought with it the light of understanding. He realised that if he had been merely infatuated with Jane, he would simply have kicked her out of his life. But he couldn’t do that; he didn't want to do that. He knew then that he loved her, and no amount of betrayal on her part or madness on his would change the fact. Ironically, it made the pain worse for a while because it meant he had no option but to live with it, but the big revelation was this. He understood that it wasn’t love that was causing him such anguish, but his ego.

This is a true story. I know John very well.

And so I offer the thought that love can’t hurt, but it can easily lead us into hurting ourselves if we’re that way inclined.

And I would also offer a word to young people. When somebody says ‘I’m in love with you,’ it isn't a bad idea to remain circumspect until you’re sure you know what they mean by it. They probably don’t know themselves, but it’s likely to be just infatuation. The term ‘in love’ is just a contrivance to give the more appropriate term added gravitas.

The Drum Dance.

I think my all time favourite scene from the movies would probably be the Drum Dance from House of Flying Daggers. In case you don’t know, the dancing girl is supposed to be blind. It would be hard to imagine a better combination of the elegant and the sensual.

Should I be allowing myself a sojourn back into Cathay? Why not? Memories can’t be laid, only ghosts.

Whoops.

I just got back from the supermarket, where I saw an old lady buying sprouts. I had an indecorous thought. Is that ageism?

Here's Hoping.

This might be premature, but there are hints that the clouds are starting to clear. Just as long as a certain person really has gone for good...

The rest of you will be invited to my rehabilitation party. Tickets are free.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Learning Love in the Language of Mothers.

I listened to this today. At one point it sent a shockwave through me, and reminded me of, or perhaps I should say it reinforced, something I have long believed.

Motherhood, when taken to its greatest potential, is probably the most beautiful and meaningful phenomenon in the material universe. It comes closest to my understanding of the sacred.

How many mothers fall short of attaining that potential, and how many children take it for granted? How moving is it that the truest of mothers allows such a failing in her children because motherhood is essentially selfless, and that when the child finally recognises the fault, there is no need to ask her pardon?

Sublime.

It seems that today isn’t quite over. I just discovered this. Do listen to it, preferably in a darkened room with only incense and a candle burning. Balm to lighten the darkest of black holes. Quite astonishing, really.

I strongly suspect that this might be music to make love to, but I wouldn’t know. I’ve never made love. But that’s another story.

Change of Mind.

I typed another quite long post about my recent descent into the darker realms. I'm still there, but I decided it would be too much. Tedious. Boring. Overkill.

So I'm not posting it. I hit the backspace. I'm going to bed instead.

Why am I saying this?

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Teenage Romantic Angst.

I want to put a word in for young people here. I think adults should be more attentive to, and understanding of, teenage angst. We have a tendency to laugh it off, and we shouldn’t. When teenagers say ‘I love him/her so much, but he/she doesn’t even notice me. I want to die,’ they mean it. It’s that serious; and why shouldn’t it be? Who has the right to insist that fretting over the mortgage payments is a ‘proper’ concern, but suffering over an unrequited infatuation isn’t?

Carmen asks what makes for maturity. Maybe part of it is in learning to understand that the severity of a concern has more to do with the effect than with some partial opinion on the gravity of the cause.

Saying Grace Together.

I find it hard to understand why religious people say grace before a meal. It seems to me that the Bible gives a fairly explicit account of how God created the world, but it’s a little vaguer on the question of why. It would appear from events related in the Old Testament, however, that the reason God created people was to have something to worship him. If that is the case, it makes us at best his pets and at worst his slaves. If people choose to be content with that status, fair enough; it’s their right. But surely it’s the responsibility of any pet owner – or slave owner, for that matter – to provide the being in his charge with the material requisites to enable survival. Why should the pet be thankful? Surely, the pet’s position would be ‘You want me, you feed me.’ It makes more sense to me to thank the food for giving its own life to provide me with the means to keep mine.

Another thing I don’t understand is why people who survive close brushes with death thank God for their ‘deliverance.’ If God is what religious people believe him to be, then he exists at least on the level of spirit, if not above. So why would it be an issue to him whether a person is alive or dead. Living and dead would be all the same to God, wouldn’t it?

These are just two of the more minor reasons why I gave up on that idea of God a long time ago.

Being Honest.

OK, I think it’s about time I was honest.

Why do I feel the need to be honest? Well, that’s difficult to say because it means being presumptuous, and I dislike being presumptuous. It’s what I’m going to do, though. I’m going to presume – based on a flimsy body of evidence, you understand – that there are a few people out there who enjoy reading my blog. I don’t know why they should, but it seems they do. Those people have come to matter to me, and I feel I owe them something. I owe them honesty.

I realise that my recent posts haven’t been very fair. They’ve been cryptic, and the whole purpose of being cryptic is to say ‘Most of you won’t understand this, only the chosen one or two who have the arcane knowledge to interpret it.’ That’s bad. It’s arrogant and elitist. It’s childish. I should be above that sort of thing, and it isn’t respectful to those people who honour me with their interest. Maybe that’s why my cyber space is empty at the moment.

The truth of the matter is this. I did something silly recently. I don’t want to go into detail because it would embarrass me and it might embarrass a third party. Let’s just say that I opened a door I shouldn’t have opened. I should have known better. God knows I’m experienced enough in the matter of life; I should know how to protect myself by now. I’m not being consciously cryptic again here; I’m just being necessarily economical with the facts. The result of my indiscretion was a severe assault on the most sensitive part of my make up. I’m quite tough in some ways, but in others I’m softer than a cowpat after a downpour. And that’s the truth. The hole I referred to in my last post really is there. The analogy was fictional, as analogies always are, but the source of the matter is real enough. And it’s nobody’s fault but mine.

That’s it. I intend to resume normal service as soon as possible.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Holes.

Let’s imagine, for the sake of establishing a meaningful analogy, that you’re an artist. Art holds centre ground in your consciousness. In fact, it holds so much of your consciousness that nearly everything you do informs, is informed by, reflects, or at least relates in some way to your art. Art isn’t quiet everything to you, but it touches everything.

And then somebody comes along, waves the dark wand of destruction over you while you’re sleeping peacefully one night, and you wake up to find you can’t make art any more. Suddenly, the centre ground of you consciousness is just a bloody big hole and you don’t know how to put some substance back into it, at least not for the moment.

That does make sense, doesn’t it?

This is fiction, of course. It’s a process I’m studying at the moment.

Rethink.

See recent posts.

I suspect my Chinese ghost just got laid.

Lo, zombies to the left of us,
More zombies to the right.
And brainless though they surely are,
Those creatures of the night,

They still maintain a mad mystique,
And some can have their way
In laying bare, without much care,
The wraiths of old Cathay.

Oh well, better follow in the Dalai Lama’s footsteps then. I’m sure his judgement is a lot sounder than mine.

You know you like it when I talk cryptic.

Feminine Intuition.

Women can be disturbingly intuitive on occasion. Sometimes they know what I really mean, even when I’ve said something quite different. But sometimes they put it through the wrong filter and get it askew. And some women are better than others at choosing the right filter.

This is an Interesting Thing.

Blogging Oddities.

Blogging’s a funny business, isn’t it?

Yesterday I put up what I thought were four perfectly reasonable posts. They were even respectable! And then, just as I was going to bed, there was one final little nothing of a thing that I wanted to say. I assumed it would be of no interest to anybody; I only stuck it on the blog because it was a positive alternative to talking to the wall.

So, this morning I decided to take it down. But I have a rule, previously stated, that I won’t take a post down if it’s attracted comments. What do I find? The four ‘proper’ posts have apparently gone unnoticed, but the ‘nothing’ post has two comments.

Can’t assume anything, can you?

And another thing. According to Google Stats, I keep getting a rush of visits in the early hours of the morning – my time, of course. Remember Burundi? Last night I supposedly had thirty one visits between 3 and 4 o’clock. To repeat: not very likely. But at least they (supposedly) came from America this time, and at least I know where America is.

Blogger is being a prize pain today - again.

3.15

It’s 3.15 am. I’ve just spent some time trying to write a poem with a little more substance than the usual tripe I trot out, but the final verse refused to settle. My Hotmail inbox remained empty, and the day seemed doomed to end on a note of failure.

And then my flag counter showed a visit from India. Day saved. Phew!

Goodnight.

An Explanation.

In case anybody’s wondering why I’ve developed a sudden preoccupation with old China, I haven’t. It’s been with me all my life.

As far back as I can remember into childhood I was fascinated by Chinese dragons, mandarins with long moustaches and hands hidden in voluminous sleeves, and pretty girls in kimonos. I felt that I belonged in their world. I even used to walk around with my hands tucked into the opposite sleeves. It seemed the most natural thing to do.

And all through my subsequent life I’ve had frustratingly fleeting glimpses of somewhere in China. They’re too hazy to be called visions, but I know them to be in China. There’s something about the texture of the air that is undeniably Chinese. The only ‘solid’ one is of a ramshackle, wooden building – maybe a shop, or at least a place where some form of business is carried on. I feel as though it’s my reason for being there. It’s cold outside, and inside the room is lit by a single oil lamp hanging from the centre of the wooden rafters. The light is yellow and dingy.

And here’s a little story. Twenty four years ago this month I moved to a house in a district I wasn’t familiar with. To save cooking after the rigours of the move, I decided to go to the local fish and chip shop. I’d never been there before.

The shop was empty, and yet I felt that I had walked into old China. I looked around for clues. There weren’t any; it was just like any other English fish and chip shop. But then the proprietor walked through from the back. He was Chinese, and he said to me ‘It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you.’ I know I should have asked him what he meant, since we’d never met. I didn’t because the question felt redundant. Somehow I knew what he meant, I’d just forgotten.

I find that sort of thing intriguing.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Still Looking East.

Supermodels? Not a hope against these girls.

Self-indulgence rules again. You don’t have to watch it, do you?

Present Imaginings.

If you’re in a quiet place, and are of quiet mind, and have the means to comprehend the magic and mystery of the Orient, try this. It takes a little while to load.

I know, I know... So much of this resides in the imagination. But if the imagination is capable of knowing so much beauty, banishing in the process the dull greys and browns of perceived reality, why not grasp it with hands and heart? What is there to lose? What is there to gain?

...it is only through our capacity to meditate, dream and visualise that we can create our own reality, uncorrupted by external forces

The Purpose of Walking.

I find that walks fall into two categories – the observational and the introspective.

Observational walks are essentially extrovert. I see the things around me with a photographer’s eye for detail and the capacity to take in the broad sweep of the vista. I respond to the shapes and colours of everything from a leaf, to a hill, to a cloud in the sky. Sometimes I marvel at it all and feel energised.

At other times a walk takes on a wholly different function. When the cares are settling in, the anxieties pressing heavy, and certain old frailties reminding me that growth can be limited, a walk finds out the introverted side of me. It encourages reflection and introspection. The landscape almost disappears; there is only me and the road I’m walking on. I think a duckbilled platypus could toddle by and I wouldn’t notice.

I often come to tentative conclusions in that situation (can conclusions ever be more than tentative?) but I rarely make decisions. The problem with decisions is that they usually require some future action, and who can know how things might have changed by the time that future arrives?

Hello India.

Oh Dominique, dear Dominique,
I’d like to go play hide and seek.

If only there
Was time to spare,
I swear I’d like you twice a week.

Sinatra style.

I’m being consciously provocative. I’m short on comments, and Dominique hinted that she’s not keen on ditties. ‘Silence is the biggest gift.’ Oh, right.

And provocation can elicit response from the darkest corners, even the ones you thought were empty. Now I'm being cryptic again.

Alternative Version.

I have the impression I’ve been irritating people the past couple of days. Hardly surprising; I’ve been irritating myself. So I offer this ditty to make it up to you.

The owl and the pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat.
The owl became drunk,
Then the vessel was sunk,
And only the pussy could float.

When the owl reached the bed
He looked up at the head
Of two legs
Kicking out, all astride.

Oh pussy, my love,
He said with a smile.
And then, quite contented,
He died.

Yoni soit qui mal y pense.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Life's a Carrot.

I was talking to Helen today. She said a couple of interesting things, as Helen usually does.

She was finishing up some old vegetables, and found the carrots particularly unpleasant. She said she realised that the life had gone out of them, and then decided that the carrot would be her latest metaphor for life. Most people, places and situations have their day, and then the life goes out of them. That’s when you move on. Ah, so that’s where I’ve been going right all these years. Life’s just a carrot. Like it.

And then she said that somebody had told her that there are only three kinds of relationship – those that teach us some lesson we need to learn at that moment, those we attract because they suit a phase of development we’re going through, and those that get inside us and stay there.

So now I’m having an interesting time putting everybody into categories. It’s mostly an historic exercise.

Hello World.

Can I allow myself to trust that my world will be different today? Yesterday was tough. Imagine you’re in a pit with a raging fire close by. It isn’t threatening your life, but it is hot enough to be painful. You find a rope and begin the arduous climb towards cooler realms, but then you discover that somebody has smeared grease on it, just when you thought you were getting out. This has happened before, and you’d forgotten that ropes always have grease smeared on them somewhere. So you fall off and find yourself burning in the pit again. You think ‘Oh, no, not again! What the hell...’ The pit is an interesting place but the interest comes at a price, a price you thought you wouldn’t have to pay any more.

There are certain things I dislike about being me. A propensity towards unchecked candour is one of them. I think it might be better if I weren’t so inclined to wear my heart on my blogging sleeve. Can’t imagine what it’s doing for my reputation, although that in itself is of little import. If that’s the way you’re made, that’s the way you’re made. And it doesn’t seem to matter how far you go down the temporal road of life. Even though you become, at least in some subtle way, a different person with each passing moment, some things just won’t go away. I suppose that’s how it’s meant to be. Life should allow only so much comfort, since comfort breeds only apathy.

I don’t know whether there will be any more posts today. I have to go out for several hours at a most inconvenient time. I have been summoned! Well, it would be more accurate to say that my presence has been requested. Mustn’t be melodramatic, must we? And then I’ve got correspondence to catch up on. Lots of it.

And tomorrow will be another new day.

Another Bonus.

I'm feeling benevolent, if that's the right word. I'm throwing up another bonus story at the other site.

This isn't another of my usual sojourns into speculative imagination. It isn't even fiction, although it was published as such. It's a true story, told exactly as I remember it. It says a lot about my frailties, and a little about the nature of the true Romantic.

More Nonsense.

I didn’t lighten up after lunch. Well, I did, but then things went downhill at rate of knots. The only way I could expand on the problem would be to mutter cryptically about immolation by the breath of a five toed dragon moving south and losing its toes. You wouldn’t understand, and it wouldn’t be edifying. I think I’ve spilled enough entrails in cryptic mutterings for one week. Time to pull myself back into shape. Snakes and ladders can be a most debilitating game.

Oh dear, there I go being cryptic again. Sorry. The greatest of all my weaknesses has become a maelstrom, and that’s the best excuse I can offer. It’s nothing sordid, by the way, just in case you were wondering.

On a sillier note, Google Stats tells me I had eighteen visits from Burundi between 10 and 11 pm tonight. Not very likely, is it? I think Google’s got its cables crossed again.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Weaknesses.

My weaknesses are manifold. It seems that whenever I overcome one, another takes its place. Certain ones abide, however; and although nothing is permanent, certain things are at least persistent and perhaps perennial. One such weakness is the inability to share.

This doesn’t apply to everything. I’m quite good at sharing most things, but two notable exceptions resist all attempts at exorcism. I have never been able to share either my lovers or my living space.

Lovers are no longer a problem of course; those days are over. Any notions I might have in that direction are at best mildly fanciful, and at worst uncomfortably delusional. Nobody worth having would want me any more. Too many of the current bag of weaknesses would prove prohibitive.

The problem of sharing my living space is, however, becoming stronger. And that might cause me some difficulty a little way down the line.

It doesn’t depress me; it just jars a little sometimes. And, at a more general level, I’m content in the understanding that frailty is an essential part of the human condition. How would we grow otherwise? But I sometimes find it unacceptable that certain frailties are too strong for the growth imperative to deal with. I feel frustrated that some fires will ever defy my wish to extinguish them.

I intend to lighten up after lunch.

What's in a Name?

When I was a kid, there was a woman living in my street called Mrs Rabbit. She had ten kids.

That’s true.