Saturday, 31 December 2011

A Little Review of 2011.

With less than six hours to go to the end of 2011, I suppose I should be thinking in terms of a review of the year. Should I? Would there be any point, since not much of what happened didn’t find its way onto the excessively inflated pages of this blog?

A very brief one, perhaps.

It’s been a year in which isolation has not only built, but been observed, analysed and rationalised. It’s been a year in which demons and general disturbances have been ever to the fore. It’s been a year of inadequate sleep, anxiety and fits of the horrors.

But adversity must be used as a learning tool, and learned I have. I’ve learned to be more authentic, to stop playing roles, to look for the thing called ‘me.’ And do you know what? I’m more lost now than I’ve ever been, and I regard that as a damn fine thing, because when you really get down to the big question, a human life has very little objective reality. The great conquerors amount to nothing. Success, as it’s perceived in human culture, is but an illusion. Self-aggrandisement is a pointless falsehood, and ambition a path to nothing but perdition’s flame.

But, by way of offering a positive thought, let me give credit to the special people of 2011, the ones who made the year worth living by giving me the little things of great import – M’Lady S, the Priestess, and the Woman in America (arranged strictly in alphabetical order.) And let me honour them with one little example from each.

M’Lady S, for doing her Hermione impression when she demanded ‘Come closer so I can hear you properly!’

The Priestess for bringing her sublime presence to my life again, albeit briefly.

The Woman in America, for uttering that magical phrase I shall never forget: ‘Yes, yes, you may.’

Blessings to you, ladies. You made 2011 hard, but special. Where we go in 2012 will be up to you; I’m in your hands. And where else should a mere man be but in thrall to a special woman?

The scotch is talking now. It’s a 12-year-old Lochnagar, and it’s very, very nice. Time to make dinner, I think.

Happy New Year.

A Friendly Defence.

For the benefit of those who didn’t read it, I got the following anonymous comment on a blog post last night:

Finally, when I was almost ready to give up .. worn out with your recent spate of whining .. finally you say something magical indicating that you do understand the importance of treasuring the special people who randomly come into our lives. You have a gift for writing. Get back to work.

This pleased me a lot because I like plain speaking and I appreciate the unpretentious eloquence of the statement. I would, however, like to make a small point.

Highly sensitive people get frequent build ups of emotional pressure. It comes with the territory and we have to find a way of dealing with it. Whining is simply the sound of excess pressure coming out of the release valve. Those who don’t let off that pressure are the more likely to buckle; the whiners are the ones who usually bounce back reasonably quickly. It’s how kids function, and I’m just a big kid at heart.

As for getting back to work, I don’t know to what the commenter is referring. The only work I feel driven to do, apart from the practical stuff, is following my instinct and the perceived needs of the moment. Sometimes it’s for my benefit, and sometimes for the benefit of others. Much of it involves writing, but not always. I wouldn’t know any other way to be.

Nevertheless: whoever you are, commenter, I thank you sincerely.

Tired Old JJ.

I wonder why somebody searched Google for ‘poor old jj.’ I realise I’m not the only jj in the world, but it still seems odd. Is it a known phrase, or something? Anyway, whoever it was landed on an old post of mine entitled ‘Poor Old JJ,’ and what they got for their pains was a little ditty about me not going to India. I hope it was worth the effort.

Right now, poor old JJ is a tired little guy. Not only was he woken at 3.45am with a fit of the horrors, he also had to get up rather earlier than usual. And JJ can get a bit cranky when he’s over-tired.

I remember refusing to take a bath when I was a little boy because I was tired. I remember being very belligerent about it. I remember my mother’s bemused expression at the ferocity of my refusal. And yet, you know what? I don’t remember whether I took the bath or not.

Friday, 30 December 2011

After Night Falls.

There’s something about darkness I dislike – something to do with being aware of what’s lacking. And yet there’s also something disturbing about artificial light – something to do with its artificial nature, I suppose. Maybe this explains why I so dislike cities at night – something to do with an unwholesome artificiality filling an unwholesome void.

I’m just musing here, you understand. I was travelling through a city tonight and wondering why I found it so repugnant. Now I’m trying to explain it to myself.

The Right Kind of Connection.

I went with Helen and her two brothers to visit some old family friends of theirs today. They’re people I’ve met several times before so I’m quite familiar with them, and yet after about two hours the pressure started to tell. Frankly, I’d had enough by then.

It seems I don’t do the routine social thing any more. When a group of people comprising different ages and types get together, the conversation is inevitably geared towards trivialities, the lowest common denominator. It’s all about skimming the surface of reality, and only runs smooth as long as all participants hold broadly to the axioms endemic at that surface, or can at least play the appropriate role for as long as the occasion lasts. I used to be quite good at that, but not any more. My axioms are moving further and further from the conventional, and I have little tolerance for role playing now. And so today was spent observing rather than connecting.

Connection is what I miss these days. It needs to be one-to-one so that the dynamic is undiluted, but what little I have is either infrequent, as in the case of Helen, or tenuous. I know where I could find it. I could find it three thousand miles away across an ocean, or half a mile away across three fields. It’s just that I’m not in a position to force the issue, and I wouldn’t want to do so anyway. Precious people are more difficult to come by than precious jewels. You can’t buy or steal them, you have to wait for them to fall from the sky like life-giving rain.

Morning Note.

I was awoken in the early hours by a jolt of extreme and seemingly inexplicable horror. It took me by surprise because I remembered being in the middle of a perfectly innocuous dream. I switched on the light and looked at the clock: 0345.

I hate it when that happens. I got it once when the Japanese tsunami struck, and I always have the obvious sense that something terrible has happened somewhere. Unsurprisingly, I grow fearful that it might have something to do with someone I care for.

Oh well, I’m off out shortly and won’t be back until tonight.

Be good while I’m away!

Approaching 2012.

I have a real yen to ring in the New Year with company this year. Me being me, of course, it would have to be a rare and right sort of company. And since I’m generally more comfortable with one to one situations, it would have to be a lone individual. Where would I find such a rarity at such short notice?

I could offer hospitality in the form of scotch, rum, beer, mince pies and Christmas cake. I could offer a warm fire and a warm heart. And my neighbour is planning to be away so there would be no noise restrictions. We could giggle, guffaw and give vent to any manner of silliness. We might even sit in silence and exchange glances as Big Ben beats the bounds to another mile post along the conveyor belt.

I think the appropriate phrase is ‘hey, ho.’

Coining a New Phrase.

I had one of those strange itches tonight, on my left side somewhere in the vicinity of where I think my waist used to be. They’re strange insofar as there’s nothing apparent to explain them – no rash, no bite, nothing external to irritate the spot. I decided it had to be a fairy with a feather; there’s simply no other rational explanation. And you know what Sherlock said: “When you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

And so I hereby inaugurate a new phrase. Instead of saying ‘I’ve got one of those strange itches. There’s no rash there, or bite, or anything external to irritate the spot,’ you simply say ‘I’ve got a fairy with a feather.’ (And if some dubious looking bloke replies ‘Aren’t you the lucky one? Would you send him my way when you’ve finished with him,’ walk away quietly and decline to get drawn into a difficult conversation.)

You may begin rehearsal.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Law Being Furtive.

I’d walked about two hundred yards down the lane on my ramble tonight, when a vehicle pulled slowly out of Church Lane a little way ahead and turned in my direction. Since the road is narrow there, I stepped onto the driveway of the Old Rectory to let it pass. It didn’t come past me; it stopped with its headlights on full beam, and then switched to dip. And it remained stationary, the occupant apparently watching me.

Eventually I decided that this was a silly game of soldiers, and was about to step out and walk past it, when it moved forward and drew alongside. A voice said ‘Good evening, sir,’ so I turned the torch on the vehicle. It was a police car.

‘Ah, you’re the police,’ I said.

‘Just out on patrol, sir,’ came the voice from a shadowy head.

‘Jolly good,’ I replied. ‘I wondered who was behaving furtively. Hahaha.’

I don’t know whether he was impressed or not, since he drove on without another word.

Still, at least somebody spoke to me today, which doesn’t happen very often. But then, when you’ve got a face that looks like a map of Clapham Junction from the air, badly etched into a piece of crumpled old leather, you’ve no right to expect anybody to talk to you, have you? No.

And I’ll tell you what’s difficult. When you’re walking alone along a dark lane, and you pass a cottage with lots of lights on and no curtains drawn, it takes quite an effort of will not to idly glance through the windows. Fortunately, I have a strong will. I did sneak a quick look at the teddy bear, though. He still had his back to me.

Thinking It's April.

I was surprised this morning by the sight of my neighbour’s cherry tree in bloom. In December. Mad. The blackbirds are singing like they do during the mating season, and the stormy weather we're having is what we would normally expect around the equinoxes.

I’m not all sure that this is a Particularly Good Thing.

The Glamour Question.

I’ve had my say on the question of glamour before. It would be nothing new to state that I regard the whole glamour obsession and the cosmetics industry that inflates it as nothing less than fraudulent. I’m sure I could expand on all the arguments if I had a mind to, but I haven’t because it doesn’t really matter that much to me. Other people can do what they want. As long as it doesn’t affect me, why worry?

There’s one point I would like to make, though, just for the sake of making it.

Glamour, by its very definition, can only ever create a false face. It can never enhance true beauty, as the paint peddlers would have us believe, because true beauty is a lot more than skin deep. All glamour can ever do is hide it. Hasn’t anybody noticed that when little girls don make up to emulate the grown ups, they suddenly become a lot less pretty, a lot less adorable? Adults might consider taking that fact under consideration.

And on a personal note, one of the things that so appeals about M’Lady S is that she’s truly beautiful and doesn’t hide the fact with paint. That makes her authentic. She’s got it right.

A Dubious Phrase.

A lot of small press publishers don’t pay for the stories they use. That’s usually because they’re doing the whole thing for the love of it and expect to make little or no profit. I don’t mind that as long as they’re up front and say ‘we can’t afford to pay you.’ What I dislike is their use of the phrase ‘Pays exposure.’ Exposure might be a desirable outcome, but it isn’t payment. The phrase is, therefore, effectively an oxymoron and tantamount to being fraudulent.

Breaking Down.

Blog posts have been a bit thin on the ground by my standards lately. That’s partly due to tiredness, and partly the usual mixture of frustrations, doubts, unanswerable questions, large measures of self-reproach, and all these bloody holes that keep opening up in my view of the human landscape!

So I’m vegetating. Becoming compost.

And, on top of that, Ashbourne provided no inspiration today. Ashbourne was drab. There was one strange woman in the supermarket who had a funny walk and was talking to herself in a foreign accent, but I think I would be guilty of mocking the afflicted if I made her the object of levity. (The next sentence got deleted.)

And, on top of that, something is bothering and bothering and bothering me.

I hate the way modern society treats women. It isn’t the way men or the law treat women as such; that, at least, has improved somewhat since the days of the suffragettes. It’s bigger than that. It’s the way in which society at large shows flagrant disrespect for the sanctity of the feminine principle. And I can’t decide whether it bothers me more or less that the vast majority of women in the modern world show the same disrespect. To my mind (assuming I have one,) it’s one of the ways in which we’re sinking into the mire of mindless, materialistic mediocrity. And, obviously, there’s a hell of a lot more to it than that.

Never mind. It won’t be too long before I’m ready to be spread on the garden, and then the world can do what it wants. Until I return and take over, that is. Then things are going to be different. Avalon will rise again out of the mists.

Shutting up now.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Three Animal Bits.

I read a news report today about a famous chimpanzee who supposedly starred in some of the early Tarzan films, and who has just died aged eighty. The announcement made reference to his personality traits, and claimed that he was ‘soothed by Christian music.’ This raises the obvious question of just what was meant by ‘Christian’ music, but let’s assume the obvious and ask the second question. Why did the writer of the announcement not use the more secular term ‘church music,’ or even the more general ‘sacred music?’

Could it be that he or she wanted to imply that there was something about the Christian connection that was instrumental in soothing the savage breast? That would be a little fanciful, I think. Could it go even further and be intending us think that the ape was a Christian? That would surely be beyond the bounds of credibility, though whether because or in spite of the chimpanzee’s high level of intelligence must be for the individual to decide.

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There was another news report about a salt water crocodile at a marine reserve somewhere in Australia, which apparently took exception to the sound of an industrial sized lawnmower being used nearby. It climbed out of the water, grabbed the machine, and then dragged it back into the water to ‘drown’ it.

I know how it felt. I’ve felt the same way often. I even wonder how much a salt water crocodile would cost, and whether I could dig a pond big enough for it to live in.

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The last and nicest: I saw a greetings card today with a picture of an animal on the front that looked just like Sarah. Had to get it for her as a New Year card, didn’t I?

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Epilogue to the Teddy Bear.

Guess who I got to see in the daylight today. The teddy bear who sits in the window in Mill Lane.

He wasn’t looking out onto the lane at all; he was sitting with his back to the glass and looking into the room. What can this mean, I asked myself, and came up with three theories:

1) That he’d been sitting like that all along and it had only looked like he was watching me.

2) That he’d deliberately shifted his position so as to throw me off the scent. (I listened for a nonchalant, tuneless whistle, but didn’t hear anything.)

3) That his human had deliberately turned him that way to transmit a signal which might roughly translate as ‘I’m turning my back on you now.’ He was still sitting that way when I walked past the house tonight.

Number 1 seems the most likely, number 3 the most believable.

I think it’s time I stopped rabbiting on about surveillance by teddy and made an attempt to say something interesting for a change. But I’m trying to get somebody’s attention here, you understand, and it isn’t working.

Nostalgia (and Other Bits)

... not something I’m very often prey to these days. Nostalgia is such an empty, frustrating emotion – quite pointless, really.

But this afternoon, while I was getting the fire started, I listened to Julie Fowlis’s album UAM, something I haven’t heard since last winter when I used it as the regular accompaniment to Mists of Avalon and Possession. It speaks of freezing nights spent by a warm fireside, of cigars and port and the priestess.

I miss the priestess. She’s sleeping soundly now in a sacred space, while her temple gets turned over to the more secular interests of the Saxon hordes. At least, I assume that’s what it’s being used for. Can’t say I have much interest in money changers or barbarians, especially when there are more pressing concerns to be met.

Have to go and prepare dinner soon so I can have it out of the way before seven o’clock when I have a phone call booked with Helen. One has to book phone calls with Helen. She’s busy.

And while I have barbarians in mind, I read that a government minister says we should un-ban hunting with dogs. I’m laying plans to have him set down somewhere in the vicinity of a pride of lions and see how he gets on. I’ll raise a glass and exclaim ‘Gentlemen, I give you today’s Minister.’  

The Language Problem.

It concerns me a bit that a lot of people from non-English speaking countries read this blog. I wonder what they make of the language; I even wonder whether the occasional one here and there is using it as a language learning tool.

The fact is, the style I write in varies from the simple to the sloppy to the sharp to the formal to the idiosyncratic, and sometimes contains elements of several styles. I even make mistakes sometimes (gulp!) I suggest, therefore, that it probably doesn’t qualify as being suitable for use as a learning tool.

Maybe I should devise an advisory symbol that means  

Non-English speakers may regard this post as being a reasonable representation of half-decent English. 

And maybe another that means  

Persons of foreign identity shouldn’t read this because it’s crap.

But then, I can’t really call them ‘foreign,’ can I, because they’re not foreign where they live, are they? We British do that, you know. We call everybody else ‘foreigners’ whether they’re in our country or their own. Bit silly, really.

Balancing Considerations.

One of the things I find most difficult in life is getting the balance right between my own needs and those of others. I confess to being not entirely the self-sacrificial type, but at the same time I would consider it a gross dereliction of the duty incumbent on a compassionate human being if I didn’t hold the interests of others to be of substantial consequence.

This in itself can sometimes make choices difficult, especially if the person being considered doesn’t talk to me, however much I understand and respect their reasons for not so doing. Then it becomes tricky, and I have to hope they don’t run away flinging firebombs in their wake when I get it wrong sometimes. And it becomes doubly difficult when such a person is not only an object of concern, but also someone of whom I’m extremely bloody fond!

Phone calls now, then an onion bagel for lunch. Yum.

Un Petit Franglais.

I’ve been getting some visits from La Baffe, Lorraine recently. This is very edifying, but the problem is that every time I see ‘La Baffe,’ I also see the word ‘barf.’

So then I remember an actress friend’s anecdote of how she was outside a Geordie nightclub, having had one purple vodka too many, and was followed by another girl who asked (you have to imagine the Geordie accent here) ‘Are y’allright, pet? Are ya puk’n?’

And then I come full circle and wonder whether the French equivalent would be

‘Comment ca va, cherie? Pukez vous?’

No?

OK.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Covert Surveillance and Gluttony.

The teddy bear was watching me again, but this time from a darkened room. I reckon that proves there’s something shadowy about his motives. Or he could have recently watched an old spy film or something and just be play acting. It’s hard to tell with teddy bears.

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I’ve noticed that there are certain stretches on my walk where I get the strongest feeling of not being alone.

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When I got back I wanted something to eat, so I looked round at the options – there are plenty to be had at the moment – and didn’t fancy any of them. That told me, as if I needed any reminding, that there’s a difference between wanting something to eat and being hungry. I have some sympathy with the view that one should only eat when hungry, and that the modern mania for stuffing mouths full of goodies just for the sake of it is a principle symptom of true decadence. In fact, I think it a major contributor to the warped sense of priorities currently proliferating in our culture.

Having said which, I have been known to fail in this respect myself occasionally. But not often.

In at the Shallow End.

I just tried to watch one of the ‘highlights’ of Christmas Brit TV – a new version of The Borrowers starring some of the biggest names in the business.

The Borrowers could be such a magical tale, full of mystery and imagination and ripe for the presentation thereof. But what do they give us? A tale set in the grey environs of 21st century western culture, replete with all the stereotypes to be found here. The grandmother of the house is dull and pragmatic, the boy of the house is soft and suburban, the academic wants to find the little people in order to enhance his reputation, the girl Borrower is the typical teenage-girl-with-attitude whose greatest pleasure is to walk down the street in a leather catsuit under the ridiculous delusion that it somehow makes her attractive, the Borrower boy in the marketplace is the typical teenage-boy-with-attitude who sees the fact that he’s just run the teenage girl over with his motorbike as being significant only because it gives him a chance to score. Etc, etc, etc. Grey, grey, fucking grey.

’Scuse the language.

Please, when are the media people going to start looking through the window and showing us what lies beyond this culture, rather than forever holding up a jaded mirror that merely reflects the shallower parts of it?

I switched it off and tried to read some Tennyson instead, but by then I was so irritated that I couldn’t be bothered. So I came and wrote this post instead. And now I’m going for a walk to see whether the teddy bear is still looking out for me.

A Personal Message to the Remotest Person.

A blog is a public platform, and not really the place to post personal messages. But here’s the rub: I have a problem and don’t know how else to address it.

I think I owe M’Lady S an apology. I think I misinterpreted her words and misunderstood her meaning. I would like to apologise, therefore, but don’t know how, since the potential for contacting her is even more remote than it is for people living on the other side of the world. Weird, that.

So...

If you read this, M’Lady, I owe you an apology. The detail will have to wait until, and if, I ever bump into you again. What else can I say?

Not Debunking Christmas.

I was going to make the long post about why I think that what the Pope said in his Midnight Mass sermon was both silly and fraudulent. It was going to be about why the whole Bethlehem nativity story is almost certainly a fabrication. It was going to be about the question of why people not only believe what they read in the Bible, but also how they’re told to interpret it.

If I did that, it would have little effect because it would be seen largely as a miserable old git’s debunking of Christmas purely for his own miserable old gittish reasons. And that’s something else that wouldn’t be true. So let me just say this.

Let’s take both the commerce and the religion out of Christmas. We can still keep the name for old times sake because it’s cosy and we’re used to it. But let’s see it in terms of its true origins – as a social tradition celebrating the cycle of the seasons.

Nobody has a clue where Jesus was born or under what circumstances, and nobody knows what his real motivations were or what he really taught. So let’s take the dear chap – for whom I have a lot of respect based on my own suspicions – out of the picture and get back to basics. Then Christmas can mean something profound and I can shut up.

A Little Recap and Ramble.

So that was Christmas.

‘A year older and not a penny richer.’ E Scrooge Esq.

But I do have a bottle of rum now, which I didn’t before – one of the bottled Christmas presents. I’m not a rum drinker; it tends to give me a headache. But at least if ever I have a visitor, and I say ‘Would you like a drink?’ and she (she?) says ‘I only like rum,’ I can say ‘Well, fancy that. I have rum. Should we splice the mainbrace now or later?’ And then she can giggle and say ‘Oh, Jeffrey, you are a one!’ and I can say ‘Not any more I’m not. There are at least twenty seven people in here. Which one would you like to communicate with?’ And then she’ll frown and I’ll wish I’d said something different.

Do you know what I found in the oven this morning? Cobwebs. That’s how much I use the oven. I’ve had this cooker for three years and I’ll bet I haven’t used the oven more than about ten times – and most of them were to make apple and rhubarb crumbles to use up some of the rhubarb in the garden. The word ‘oven’ sounds expensive to me, and at least it means I haven’t had to clean it yet.

I wonder whether Sarah survived the Christmas Day she didn’t want to take part in. She hasn’t dropped onto the blog tonight, which is either a gross dereliction of duty, an indication that she isn’t happy, an indication that she’s too happy to be bothered with me, an indication that she’s too tired to press a few buttons, or an indication that I’ve offended her.

‘Dereliction’ is an odd word. It suggests there should be a verb ‘to derelict.’ Must look it up.

I was going to make mention of the Pope’s Midnight Mass message, the one I thought was pretty damn silly, but I don’t want to go into Christian dogma at the moment. After all, my dears, it is Christmas.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Two Little Updates.

Remember me saying I wanted a really, really nice e-mail? Last night I got a really, really nice e-mail. Top drawer. Thank you life.

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Sir Gareth didn’t have to kick the shit out of the big guy after all. Turned out the big guy was no such thing, just a young lad togged up in all black to make him look impressive. It was all a ploy by his three brothers, apparently, and Sir G had already sent them packing anyway. When the final battle came, the ‘big guy’ fell off his horse and it was game, set and match. Sir Gareth was champ and married... er... that’s the problem. Nobody knows whether he married Lynette or her sister Lyonors. You’d think Tennyson would have finished the bloody story, wouldn’t you?

Conspiratorial Bears and Weird Weather.

It seemed I was being watched on my walk tonight. There was a teddy bear sitting in an uncurtained window, and it appeared to be looking outwards – at me. I wondered whether teddies might be able to communicate telepathically, and Berlioz had maybe asked his pal in Mill Lane to keep an eye on me. I did say Berlie suffers from anxiety problems, didn’t I? Or maybe the appearance of the teddie had a more nefarious purpose...

Teddies are all male, right? Or else they wouldn’t all be called teddy bears. There’d be tanya bears, and trudy bears, and theresa bears. So, that being demonstrated, where do new teddies come from?

I put my usual winter coat on when I went out. Long before I got back home I was sweltering. It’s unbelievably warm for a December night out there. This time last year we were under heavy snow and getting night temperatures as low as -20C.

Postscript

I just had two squares of The Famous Grouse Truffle Bar, courtesy of Helen. Scrummy!. So was the double shot of Irish single malt whiskey I had while the dinner was cooking - also courtesy of H. I could get into this. But then I'd take it for granted... and I'd get fat... Best stay poor, it's healthier and probably better for the soul. 

The Feasting Farce.

It was a splendid Christmas lunch, yes indeed. (Damn, I’m doing the Welsh thing again. I think the Welshman is about three generations back on my ancestral line. Or it might have been a Welsh woman; things are a bit confused on my mother’s side.) It was so splendid, in fact, that I felt the need to go for a daytime walk – along Church Lane (the quietest and best of the lanes in this area,) across two fields, over two gates, and back along Mill Lane.

The thing is, though, it was no bigger than any normal main meal (apart from the addition of a few roast potatoes.) What precipitated the perceived need to walk off a few calories was the extra thick double cream I had with the Christmas pudding. And this is what I don’t understand.

Why is it that people find it obligatory to make the main Christmas meal at least 50% bigger than a regular main meal? And then, having done that, they feel further obliged to stuff themselves silly with mince pies, Christmas cake, stollen, chocolates, and heaven knows what else, until they’re bursting at the seams, horribly uncomfortable and very nearly immobile. Where’s the pleasure in that?

It’s a good job I’m not a Viking or a mediaeval potentate. I just don’t understand the feasting mentality. I remember being told that the Romans used to eat and eat until they were stuffed to the gunwales, and then force themselves to vomit in order to make room for some more! What a silly way to carry on. Bulimia has a certain (if unfortunate) logic to it, but the Roman habit is just plain daft.

JJ is being boring again, isn’t he?

No, he isn't. He just doesn’t do things he’s supposed to do merely because he’s supposed to do them.

Christmas Day.

Had one of my classic five hours sleep again last night, followed by waking into an extreme state of anxiety. More difficult dreams.

I know what it’s about. It’s about having the two most fundamental needs unfilled – one I’m still searching for, the other is unattainable, I think. It’s about the inevitable fact that the brighter a light is, the deeper the shadow it casts. It’s about the demon that lives in that shadow, and what I know he is capable of taking away from me. And it’s about Old Father Time pointing ahead and whispering ‘Can you hear it yet? The sound of the cogs at the end of the treadmill?’

This isn’t a depressed, or even particularly impassioned, post. It’s just another muse on the state of things as a turbulent year draws close to its end.

I’m off to prepare the ingredients for a splendid Christmas lunch now.

Yuletide Greetings to all, especially those who are passing the time in the drunk tank, waiting to sober up. That’s my (serious) Christmas joke.

Best Christmas Song Ever.

I’ve just watched the video of The Pogues and Kirsty McColl’s version of Fairytale of New York, and I had a sudden thought. Maybe life is nothing more than a night spent in the drunk tank. That’s how it feels sometimes: just passing the time while trying to sober up.

And there are at least two connections here with the Woman in America. Her presence presses all sorts of buttons; her silence haunts me mercilessly.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Being Bob Cratchitt.

M’Lady S is either late or she’s not coming tonight.

‘Sarah not coming? At Christmas?’

This is the point at which she’s supposed to leap out from behind the curtain and say ‘Boo!’

Christmas Eve.

Do excuse the inane nature of the last two posts. It’s what happens if I have alcohol before dinner. Future libations of my precious port will be taken as dessert.

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Television is a mirror that reflects the culture which produces it, and the programmes people choose to watch are those which reflect the areas they identify with.

Tonight has been the first Christmas Eve in all my life when there was nothing on the TV I wanted to watch. That says it all, no doubt, and maybe explains why I’ve felt the most urgent need to have somebody here to talk to. That’s uncharacteristic of me at Christmas.

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I just had a small piece of the Christmas cake Mrs Next Door baked for me, and that’s another reason for wanting somebody here. It’s very nice, but it’s big. I think I might still be eating it in June if I don’t get help.

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I still don’t know why the Lady Lynette doubts Sir Gareth’s prowess. I wasn’t in the mood for Tennyson after all.

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The local weather forecast for tonight was ‘clear skies, mild and dry.’ How I managed to be constantly assailed by a stream of falling water throughout the duration of my walk shall, therefore, remain a mystery.

One Moment More...

Nearly time for the home made soup and roll, then it’s back to Tennyson to find out why the Lady Lynette doesn’t think Sir Gareth can kick the shit out of the big guy.

These are good posts, aren’t they?

At This Moment...

... I have port and a cigar. I have Loreena McKennit’s album of winter music – To Drive the Cold Winter Away. My neighbour and the dogs are visiting family overnight, so I can play it loud.

It all feels very ‘me’ – this sentient creature who’s so aware that he doesn’t really exist.

I’ve decided the problems can go hang themselves until at least tomorrow.

A Skewed View of Christmas.

My mind just idly wandered to the question of what time it was in Sydney, NSW. 4.15 on Christmas morning.

It had me remembering my childhood, and how I used to wake into the cold, dark silence of the 6am slot, and then go in search of my presents. Sometimes they were as close as a sack at the end of my bed; sometimes I had to search further afield and find them stacked under the Christmas tree.

I would then spend the next two hours revelling in them – eating at least one item from the chocolate selection box (Christmas was almost the only time I had chocolate,) reading some of the obligatory Rupert Bear annual, trying on the new item of clothing, becoming impatient because it was too early to go out and kick the new football around... As soon as it was fully light I would wake my parents with a cup of tea, and Christmas went rapidly into decline. There was still the hearty breakfast and Christmas lunch to come – and I admit, I was very partial to a turkey dinner – but that was about the end of it.

Christmas was never a family affair in my house, it was about me living the magic and expectation of the days leading up to it, and then the brief thrill of Christmas morning spent mostly on my own. Christmas lunch was about the only thing we did together in which I felt I had any stake. Some time in the afternoon we would visit, or be visited by, friends of my parents for Christmas tea. Mr and Mrs Greenwood, bless ’em. It was always salad, and I disliked salad. Then I would spend the hours of Christmas night sitting in the corner of a stiflingly hot and smoky room, listening to the grown ups talking grown up trivia. Going to bed on Christmas night was the final, depressing descent into disappointment. Now there was another year to wait for the brief, solitary magic to come around again.

I wonder whether that’s why I grew up to be such an anti-social git, constantly questioning the nature of existence and my own place in it. Maybe the solitary Christmas was just the right thing for JJ to grow up with. Put me on the right path, so to speak. Maybe it’s even why I feel so connected to the Woman in America at the moment. You won’t understand that bit. Sorry.

Don't mind me. Hope everybody has a wonderful Yule.

Whoops, America!

Immediately after I wrote the little muse on the question of existence, I read that violence and disorder has broken out across America ‘from California to Georgia,’ over access to the latest Nike running shoe.

It would be redundant to state the obvious, wouldn’t it?

A Little Existential Muse.

I’ve been musing this morning on a long post around the equation:

Stability + Routine = Stagnation

I know that I like having a stable base, I know that I even like having a certain amount of routine for when I can’t be bothered to explore, but it isn’t enough. Stagnation drives me to the laudanum or the opium den.

And so I mused and mused, and it became ever more complicated. Angles kept appearing that didn’t quite fit with any simple resolution. I asked ‘If one achieves Enlightenment, where does one go from there?’ The obvious answer to that question is ‘That’s the point at which I wouldn’t want to go on exploring. I’d be content.’ Would I? I don’t know. And it occurred to me that the Holy Grail isn’t anything tangible – palpable or otherwise – but a state of mind.

And that brought me full circle to what I’ve said before: that the ultimate goal of any individualised being is to cease being individual. No more separation, no more ownership, no more being either object or subject, no more first person pronouns. No more first person.

That made me a bit sad, so I stopped thinking about it. For now, I need to embrace life if she’ll let me. I think there are a few more revolutions of the wheel to experience yet, and I hope I’ll be able to enjoy them, even though that statement probably sums up the very essence of the entrapment. One day, no doubt, the light will go on and the bell will ping.

And so I didn’t write the long post around the equation.

Happy Christmas.

Voices in the Vernacular Style.

The first verse of Raglan Road is becoming commonplace now, trite even. And yet every night when I hear Luke Kelly singing it, the freshness returns almost unabated.

I suppose that’s why he’s highly regarded as a ballad singer in the vernacular style.

The Woman in America has an appealing voice in the vernacular style. I've heard her sing. Just saying.

A Sarah Post.

Mademoiselle de Mill Lane declines even to talk to my blog these days, and hasn’t asked the obvious question: ‘Why Shu-Shu?’

Because it sounds Japanese to me, and I imagine her looking excellent encased in a kimono with her face painted white and a knitting needle stuck in her hair. I doubt she would agree.

And since I haven’t seen her since the day after Noah’s Ark ran aground, I thought the fact might be worth commemorating with a ditty.

My dear Lady Sarah
Now, should I compare her
To sunshine and moonlight and stars?

Or would it be fairer
To say that she’s rarer
Than fairgrounds and fig trees on Mars?

Friday, 23 December 2011

Bottles and I.

So now I’ve got four Christmas presents. Three of them are bottles.

It’s all about association, right? People who know Helen always get her birthday cards with dogs on. With me, it’s bottles. ‘What shall we get Jeff for Christmas? I know! A bottle.’ JJ = bottles. I wonder why.

I’m not complaining, you understand.

I was thinking today of the times when I got so drunk I passed into unconsciousness, and yet I never had a hangover. I did get a tongue wagging from the better half once.

‘Do you know you drank nearly a whole bottle of whisky in six hours?!

‘Did I?’

‘Yes, you did. You could have died from alcohol poisoning, you idiot.’

‘Could I?’

‘Yes, you could.’

‘What’s alcohol poisoning?’

‘Poisoning you get from drinking too much alcohol. It can kill you.’

‘Can it?’

‘Yes, it can.’

‘Oh, right. I didn’t know that.’

I never drank a bottle of scotch in six hours again. I remember the feeling I had just before I began to sweat, shake and fall over – like my stomach was about to rise and run away screaming. I didn’t like that bit. And I also noticed that the process of getting inebriated happens in stages. First there’s the relaxed phase, then the talkative phase, then the silly phase, then the ‘I wonder who all these people are’ phase, and after that you’re just drinking out of habit. Eventually you feel sober again, so you drink some more, trying to start the phases all over again. It doesn’t happen a second time. You just break into a cold sweat, feel sick and then fall over. Not much point, really, so I keep it sensible now.

Honest.

Bye, Everybody.

OK, here’s the big confession, the one that should ensure my blog receives about as many visitors as the condemned cell of a mass murderer with extreme body odour, halitosis and continual flatulence.

Ready?

I like teddy bears.

They have so much character, you see, so they’re easy to talk to. Berlioz, for example, who sits on a chest of drawers in my bedroom, looks constantly anxious and has to be constantly reassured. Bedlington, on the other hand, the painted concrete one who lives in the garden, is a little tough guy who scowls at everybody. I like to keep him happy by moving him around so he gets a different view every day. And I have to clear the snow off his head in the winter because wearing a white fluffy hat makes him scowl even more.

So there you have it. Please shut the door quietly on your way out.

Being a Weed.

It’s amazing what a difference mood can make to the level of stress imposed by Irritating Things. When you’re in a good mood they slip off as matters of little consequence, but when the mood is low or tense, every little things climbs onto your back and drags you ever further down. Or maybe it's just me.

My troublesome molar is being troublesome today, and it just occurred to me that there’s nobody to whom I can say ‘my tooth hurts.’ That’s terrible. Would it make any difference, though?

And yet I’m actually in quite a good mood for some reason.

I think I should get on with some jobs and stop wasting time making trivial blog posts.

Being Wonderful.

I fell asleep for an hour over the keyboard last night – between 1.30 and 2.30 in the morning, to be precise. When I woke up I was so disoriented that putting the house to rest and going to bed was a real struggle. And yet I still managed a quick e-mail to somebody special with whom I need constantly to touch base. I impressed myself. I don’t do that very often. I would have told myself how wonderful I was if I’d had the energy. I didn’t, so I’ll do it now.

‘Jeffrey, you’re really pretty wonderful, you know?’

(Just trying to love myself here, you understand. I’ve heard it’s good for a person.)

And this morning, merely by way of subscribing to the illusion that my point is demonstrated, I was pleased to discover that the Lady Shu-Shu had visited, if only through the medium of cyberspace, at 8.25. I do wish she’d bring the little princess to cover my quarry tile floors in cute muddy paw marks. One day, maybe.

Lunch now.

Now.

Ephrata, Pennsylvania continues to generate a spark of electricity that sets the adrenalin flowing, but the only anagram I can manage for Ephrata is ‘rat heap.’ Hardly a fitting place for the Woman in America, she who oftimes holds me in thrall like car headlights a rabbit. I wonder if she knows that we have an ‘our song.’ If she doesn’t, it isn’t ours, is it?

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My walk tonight wasn’t entirely uneventful. There was a group of loud, uncouth blokes walking up the lane making loud, uncouth noises and disturbing my nocturnal idyll. I don’t know who they were, where they’d come from, or where they were going, but I hope they don’t come back.

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I’ve just had a lettuce and mayo sandwich, which readers of long standing might remember is a particular favourite of mine. There’s something about the cold crispness of the lettuce, the warm softness of the bread, the mellow creaminess of the butter, and the sharp richness of the mayo that makes it a classic snack, in my opinion. Bit like the ideal woman, really.

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The combination of five hours sleep plus nightmares plus lots of driving, lots of walking and a little shopping has left me a bit spaced out. Must get up the wooden hills early. The scotch is working its magic easily tonight.

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I was given a Christmas present today. Now I have two.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A Sort of Christmas Post.

I was thinking about the bit of Zen wisdom quoted earlier, and also about the definition of ‘contentment.’ The problem, it seems to me, is that humans define it as ‘having the things we want.’ That means we see it as an outcome of favourable external factors, rather than a self-contained state.

So what of the notion that God created a material version of itself in order to experience low vibrational pleasures? It would follow that the concomitant creation of the state of wanting would be essential to the exercise. It would also follow that the route back to the Universal Godhead, or whatever you want to call it, is to learn to stop wanting things – including contentment.

As I recall, the Gospels would have us believe that Jesus preached just such an ideal. It’s one of those bits of Christian doctrine, along with such things as turning the other cheek and the meek inheriting the earth, that most Christians conveniently choose to ignore. And it’s one of the reasons why I suspect that Jesus was actually preaching a radical new approach to spirituality based on Vedic principles, and that the subsequent dilution of his message into a mere Judaic heterodoxy augmented by the concept of Redemption has meant that two thousand years of Christianity has been completely missing what he was really trying to teach.

But at least some of the carols have nice tunes. And I’m as guilty of wanting things as anybody else.

Debrief on Today.

The Red Renault is now home but still not Running perfectly. Nigel the Mechanic says he can’t fault it, which is the sort of thing Nigels say. I can, but the imperfection isn’t too serious, so as long as it doesn’t get any worse, I’ll live with it. And I must say, it is a nice car to ride in and one of the more elegant models Renault have produced down the years. And it’s red; I like red. All in all, then, it’s nice to see him home. Despite the many aggravations, I have grown quite fond of my Frenchie pal.

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Certain other business didn’t get concluded today, as I suspected it wouldn’t.

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Had a splendid solstice fire this evening, just after dark. The exact time of this year’s winter solstice was 0530 GMT this morning, so at least I made it within twelve hours. Which gives me a thought. Presumably, the time of the solstice must be the same for the whole northern hemisphere. In that case, Americans living in the eastern time zone would have had the celebration on 22nd (being 0030 EST,) but those in the other time zones would have celebrated on 21st. Weird place, America.

And while I’m on the subject of solstice fires, I have to say that it would have been nice to have company: say, somebody from Mill Lane?

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I met my first ever Russian in Nigel’s garage. Her name was Vera and she was very friendly.

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And one of the things I bought on my trip to the big town was next year’s appointments calendar. I wasn’t overly impressed with the choice, but settled on a rather nice one featuring the art of Mackenzie Thorpe. I was torn between that and a Zen Buddhist one, but the MT calendar had better pictures for eventual framing.

I did like what it said on the front of the Zen one, though:

The moment you cease to seek contentment, it will happen automatically.

They do say some brilliant things, these Zen people.

Brief Morning Note.

Had a sleep replete with nightmares last night. Woke up after five hours, breathing hard and shot through with the horrors. Something deep down is obviously getting to me and scaring me witless.

Have to be out all day today. I have no confidence in the outcome.

Back later, all being well.

Tonight's Notes.

I’ve got that ‘night before’ feeling tonight. You know, the one you get when you have to go to bed knowing that when you wake up you have to do something you really don’t want to do. Imagine what it must have been like for those condemned to be burned to death on the morrow. Did they sleep?

I could do with a really, really nice e-mail before I go to bed. I don’t get many really, really nice e-mails.

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I feel terribly attached to somebody, and it doesn’t make any sense at all. I suppose that sort of thing rarely does.

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Tonight’s walk was singularly uneventful. No fresh blooms strewn across Mill Lane, no renditions of Raglan Road, no new lighting displays. One of the local owls was being unusually vocal, and there was another, unidentified sound that caused me to think of An American Werewolf in London. I do that sort of thing when it's very dark and I'm alone.

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The supermarket had a special offer on Bell’s whisky today – two litre bottles for £26. That’s cheap. And I also discovered that extra thick double cream was also on a special, which made it cheaper than ordinary double cream and with a longer use-by date. (This is to have with my Christmas pudding, you understand, and is therefore not insignificant.)

Odd, isn’t it? There you are experiencing constant existential crises, suffering fears, anxieties and confusion, singing sad songs at the drop of a hat in inappropriate places, and hoping against hope for a really, really nice e-mail, and still you get excited about the price of double cream.

Depending on how you look at her, life can be either a very beautiful woman or a bag of boundless mystery. Or both.

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Going to bed now. I might or might not be in a better mood tomorrow night.

At the Ashram.

Is this the essence of enlightenment?


It gets better as it goes on.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Can't Get Started.

I have the blogging block at the moment. Too many questions, too many anxieties, too many irritations, too many uncertainties – getting caught up in too many whirlwinds and wondering whether I’ll ever make it back to Kansas.

Is life in the ascendant or the descendant at the moment?

Has Dorothy got a new computer, maybe?

I’m going to sit in a bathtub soon (hopefully one with hot water in it.) I don’t suppose it will make any difference to the problems, but at least I won’t smell of kitchen grease (I’ve been reading the story of Gareth and Lynette in Idylls of the King, and I’m being fanciful, as is my wont.)

Later, maybe.

Solstice and Separateness

I’m planning to have my usual solstice fire on Thursday (the winter solstice is on the 22nd this year.) It’s a tradition that Helen and I used to keep, and she usually comes over to share it with me. She’s working this year, though, so I’ll be on my own. This being-on-my-own thing seems to be going from strength to strength.

I don't need to be alone, of course. My solstice fire is open to all-comers. The same cannot, however, be said of the Beltane fire.Too much at stake.

I wonder whether the solstice is the point at which the trees and shrubs wake up and start preparing for spring.

If I had a field with a single tree in it, I would have to plant a second one to keep it company. But are trees susceptible to the illusion of separateness? There are those who say they're not, but how would they know?

A Little Muse on the Power of Will.

I’ve often heard it said that any of us can have whatever we want if we want it hard enough. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but I do have a little story.

Many years ago I was sitting in my living room when a spider appeared and walked across the carpet in front of me. I decided to try exercising my will to force it to walk towards me. I concentrated hard and, sure enough, the spider changed direction and headed for my feet. At that point I felt guilty. It seemed wrong to exercise control over another creature, and so I relaxed my concentration and the spider resumed its original course.

Was that just coincidence? Maybe, I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve gained a lot of things in life that I had no apparent right to gain, sometimes without even putting in much effort. My six years of being one of a small number of people making a living from landscape photography is a good example. There are others, and they were all things I wanted particularly strongly.

This worries me a little when it comes to people. I don’t have a predatory mindset and I’m not a control freak. I hate being controlled myself and I don’t want to control others. But if the will is there, and the will is strong, and will is power, how do you switch the process off?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Being the Poor Minstrel.

What’s a chap supposed to do, eh? I was on the phone to Helen for quite a while tonight, so I was late going for my walk. It was around ten o’clock when I sallied inscrutably past La Maison Shu-Shu. (Shu-Shu?  I meant Sarah, of course.) (Shu-Shu!!!???)

So anyway, on the out lap I realised I’d forgotten the bell (I’ve given up on the ladder idea now. The spectre of linen bonnets and granny shawls is too horrible to contemplate.) Plan B: on the return trip I sang the first verse of Raglan Road. Loudly (and rather well, in my opinion.)

Did I get the whistle? Did I get the single red rose cast demurely into my path? Did I even get the sound of one hand clapping?

Guess.

I did have female company part of the way home, though. Cassie, the pub dog, decided to walk my way. A car came down the road and slowed, and I could only imagine his reaction. Some bloke in a tatty old coat and grey woolly hat accompanied by a scraggy Lurcher cross? I thought he might have thrown a couple of pound coins in my direction, but he drove on. They’re a mean lot around these parts.

Better than Voices in the Head.

We all have situations where we prevaricate over whether to do or not to do something. Usually it’s just the arguments and counter arguments going back and forth, or it’s alternate sides of our nature battling for supremacy.

I have something different occasionally – an apparently external influence directing me with firm, powerful, nagging instructions that I must or must not do a certain thing. It’s so strong that I always eventually give into it, and it’s always right. I’ve learned to tell the difference now between that and the usual, psychological reasons for vacillating. This thing is tough and insistent, and it makes me do the right thing.

It happened again last night. I was about to send an e-mail to somebody, a message into which I’d put a lot of time and thought. The pointer hovered over the ‘send’ button for ages, while this ‘presence,’ or whatever it is, held me back and told me over and over again ‘do not click the button.’ I didn’t; I went into my inbox instead, and found there an e-mail from the intended recipient. It made my message not only inappropriate, but very badly timed.

This is no ‘voices in my head’ stuff. This is something deeper, subtler and unceasingly insistent. What it directs me to do or desist from doing often flies in the face of all reason. And yet it’s right. So what is it? Instinct? Some form of telepathy? I’ve no idea.

A Pain in the Pocket.

One of the things I find most difficult to get on with in today’s world is text messaging on mobile phones. Helen’s a texter. I’m not; I’m an e-mailer.

Helen sent me a text message today. I didn’t pick it up for over four hours. That’s because I hardly use my mobile phone, keeping it only for back up and the odd convenience now and then if I’m out and really have to call somebody. It sits unnoticed on my office desk all day, so I only hear the alarm if I’m in earshot. I put about £10 a year credit on it, that’s how little I use the thing.

And there’s another problem. Because I use it so infrequently, and because I have no need of fancy gadgets and apps, I haven’t renewed it for more than eight years. The letters have all but worn off the keys now, so I have to mentally work out where nearly every letter is, which makes texting substantially slower and more cumbersome than one-finger typing.

I try to discourage Helen from texting me; I try to discourage everybody from texting me. I only text back if a reply is essential, and I keep it as short as I can.

Should anybody ever want to send me a message, one of my e-mail addresses is on my profile page. And if anybody out there has my mobile phone number (come to think of it, there are one or two,) please call. Don’t text. Thank you.

Posting for Posting's Sake.

The (self-imposed) obligatory lunchtime post:

Too late going to bed last night, too much scotch, too late getting up, too much to do.

I’ve already dealt with today’s crisis in my association with a financial services company. I now have 1½ hours to make a trip to the recycling bins, do a small job on the car, and then trim more shrubs while the frost stays away. That will take me up to getting the coal fire lit, then it will be dark.

The days are too short at the moment.

More later.

One bit of news, though, if anybody’s interested. The Woman in America is still there. Yay.