Thursday, 30 June 2011

Being Mad in Nature.

I went for a walk today to have a long, imagined conversation with the rare and special person. Long walks are best for that, I find.

On the way back I sat on a stile in the sunshine for ten minutes or so, and found myself idly fingering the long grass growing on the verge between the lane and hedgerow. Being a gardener who occasionally has to weed flower beds and vegetable plots, my instinct was to pull one of the blades of grass out. Fortunately, I came to my senses in time. I looked at it and realised that there was no reason to pull it out. It was living its own life, however innocuous it might seem to us, and I had no justification for interfering with that process. More than that, though, I got a sense of how beautiful it was, and what pleasure there was to be had in gently stroking the leaves. So I stroked the leaves instead, and left it growing happily away.

You can see why I live alone, can’t you?

Great Junk.

Two good junk e-mails today.

The first purports to come from PayPal , and the subject line reads: Your account has been temporarily limited!

Note the exclamation mark. If nothing else, that's what gives it away. You don't fool writers that easily.

The second supposedly comes from Jennifer Aniston. Oh, right. Give that one a miss, then. I never found her attractive.

A Time for Nothing.

No late silliness or reflection from me tonight. The combination of last night’s fireworks spectacular and a two-day dearth of sleep has left me weary, so I’m heading for an early night.

I will just say, though, that I wish I knew what the hell is going on in my life at the moment. I really don’t, you know. It’s all mysterious, coincidental connections, poorly defined prospects, great gains, equally great losses, false dawns, malfunctions and sudden calls to action of one sort or another. Things seem to be moving about all over the place, and yet a sense of being in limbo predominates. Nothing appears to be moving forward – at least, not yet. Things start, and then falter. Maybe it will all become clear in due course. For now, I’m bemused. The motto for the moment seems to be:

Prepare for nothing. Anticipate nothing. Expect nothing. Nothing is almost certainly what you’ll get, but you never know.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Keeping My Promises.

You get used to not having things. If you’ve never had something, you’re unlikely to miss it. What’s worse is acquiring or being given something, and then having it taken away again. It’s happened to me a lot down the years, but at least that way I got something from it, even if only for a short time. I find the worst of all is being promised something and then having the promise retracted. That’s happened to me a lot, too, usually with those four terrible words – spoken or unspoken – ‘I changed my mind.’

It’s why I never go back on an undertaking unless something material has changed to justify it. A mere change of mind seems cruel and inadequate.

Rare, Special, Unbelievable.

Last night a rare and special person paid me what was arguably the rarest and most special compliment I’ve ever had. And as always happens in matters of this sort, the cold light of day brought with it doubt and disbelief. It feels almost as though planet earth has reversed its rotation, and I need to tell myself that it's all just an illusion. Things like this don't happen; maybe it was a dream or an alcohol-fuelled reverie. Nevertheless, I’m finding it hard to concentrate on anything else today, which is why this is the best I can manage by way of a blog post at the moment.

I’m going to sit in the garden with a cup of tea, and muse.

Being Denied Company.

My dear old demon cropped up in an e-mail again tonight. Do you realise what having that creature in my life means? It means, as near as makes no difference, that the only love I can expect to be afforded is the platonic variety. That’s a heavy cross for a Romantic to bear.

It also occurs to me that I’ll probably die alone, but that’s OK. Dying is one thing I don’t mind doing alone.

I wrote most of this over an hour ago, but then I got sidetracked by the most spectacular fireworks display. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.

This is Where.


A current favourite.

I Forgot...

Something good did happen to me today. I needed some new summer socks, so I went into a shop and found they had packs of seven cotton-rich pairs for £5. That seemed OK, so I picked one up and took it the checkout. I gave the cashier a £5 note and she gave me £4 change. Seems the socks were in a sale at £1 a pack. £4 might not sound a lot, but the principle is gigantic. It almost paid for Helen and my coffees. It even compensated for the conversation I had to sit through between the daft old lady and her neighbour on the bus, the one that culminated in:

‘How’s John these days?’

‘Ooh, his legs have all broke out now. They gave me some dressings, but the pus keeps coming out.’

That was the point at which the sniggers elicited by her earlier battiness erupted into ill-disguised giggles. And then I had some lunch, believe it or not.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Another Ad Worth Mentioning.

Sorry, couldn't resist this one. Irrespective of what the ad's for, the question it poses is:

Who doesn't like fast and loose?

Answer: Guess.

Thank You, Whoever You Are.

Somebody has given my novel a five star rating on Lulu.com. Now, I wonder who that could have been... Somebody with more loyalty than discernment, perhaps?

You made my day.

Only Reminders.

Nothing much that was interesting came out of my trip today, except that I was reminded of three things:

1) That I find functional ineptitude extremely irritating.

2) That I’m driven first to distraction and then helpless amusement by daft old ladies.

3) That glamour, however expensively contrived, is just another form of cheapness.

Nothing new, unfortunately.

Frustrated.

I do so want to tell somebody something, but I can’t e-mail and she hasn’t read my blog in ages. I dislike frustration. Off out for the day soon; maybe I’ll have tales to tell when I get back. Or maybe I won’t.

Today's Second Revelation.

I’ve discovered that the note you get if you blow over the top of a Sainsbury’s St Cervois lager bottle is perfectly in tune with Deep Forest’s ‘The Sound of Africa.’ Better still, it’s the dominant. Makes for a surprisingly musical evening if you’re bored. Especially if you got rhythm, like what I have.

Today's Revelation.

I swear if I live to be a hundred I’ll never stop learning. Let me tell you something.

All my life I’ve held certain attitudes and opinions on a matter of great import to me, and I’ve always pushed them away. Why? Because they were inconvenient, they didn’t fit in with the received attitudes and opinions of the time, they caused problems for me and other people, and most of all because I believed them to be the result of outdated and essentially wrong cultural conditioning.

Suddenly I’m comfortable with them. I see them now as my truth; they’ve always been my truth. Oddly enough, I never hid them from the people I was close to, but now I can stop hiding them from myself. I can stop pretending to be somebody I’m not.

That’s a good feeling, if for no other reason than it removes a source of conflict. It explains a lot of what’s been going on lately. And I suppose it also means I haven’t given up on myself. Well, mad people don’t, do they?

Monday, 27 June 2011

Being Introspective and Slightly Mad.

How aware of a person can you be when you’re in their heart but not their life? Isn’t that a bit like being unable to see the wood when you’re stuck in the middle of it? This is something that’s been much on my mind these past four and a half weeks.

Maybe I should explain whether I’m being objective or subjective here, or maybe I shouldn’t. The question is valid either way.

No answers expected, though; it really doesn’t matter. This blog has been rather too introspective for a while now.

On a more upbeat note, I was explaining to my beetle friend (the one that’s taken to living under my shoes in the kitchen and has to keep moving every time I put them on) how much better it is to be mad than sane. He was half hidden under the tumble dryer at the time and had his back to me, so I don’t know whether he was listening or not.

There. That’s much better.

A Hopeless Ramble.

Ants and flies, thousands of them. I’m talking about my garden in today’s second nod to sub-tropical sultriness. It’s all over now, though. Early evening brought a few growls of distant thunder, then the temperature dropped, then the rain came. And the darkness fell early.

Tomorrow it’s off to the city for coffee and croissants with Helen. Well, coffee anyway. That stuff’s dear enough in coffee shops as it is without taking out a mortgage for accompanying pastries. It’s H’s birthday on Thursday (odd how I seem to get on so well with Cancerian women. I’m not supposed to. I think I’d get on with Scorpio women, too, but I never got close enough to any to find out.) I got her brandy and a book. My book. She did say she wanted one.

So now I start the diurnal descent into my dolorous time. (Lancelot’s castle was called Dolorous Garde in Mallory, if I remember right. Or it might have been Tennyson. I’m told it was modelled on Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, and was given the appellation ‘Dolorous’ because it was where he ran off to after losing Arthur and Guinevere. I reckon he must have been a Romantic, poor chap.)

I could do with a set of tide tables.

I'm a Mongrel Man.

The TV listings for tonight include one of those silly crime shows, and one of the crimes featured is that of a woman who was duped into buying a dog based on a fake pedigree certificate. Poor woman. Can you imagine being a victim of a crime such as that? I have such sympathy for people who think a pedigree is an indicator of a dog’s worth.

The Wrong Time of Day.

It's the wrong time of day, Gromit!

I’m usually anything but soppy at this time of day (just past lunchtime and about to brave the heat and do some gardening.) But, ever one to go with the mood of the moment however untypical, I have to say this:

I’m being haunted by a far off spirit of loveliness.

Essentially ephemeral, determinedly mysterious, unintentionally exotic.

It lingers on the low spring tide, calling the senses to longing and to lassitude.

It’s a bugger being a Romantic, you know. It really is.

Right, the battery pack for the hedge trimmer should be fully charged by now. Off to give some overgrowth a hair cut. Back later.

Poetry and Life.

The reason I’m glad I’m not a poet isn’t because I don’t want to be one. It’s because I have that image of male poets being pale, fragile, effeminate beings in frilly shirts. Well, that’s one image. The other comes from my time at the theatre when we occasionally had local poets in to do readings. Three words never failed to impress themselves on me: Ego, pretension and self-obsession.

Which is a shame really, and probably quite unreasonable if not hopelessly prejudiced. I don’t, for example, see Ted Hughes that way. But then, look what happened to Sylvia Plath. And Dylan Thomas seems to have been my kind of bloke, even though I don’t understand a bloody word of what he wrote (except the easy bits.)

Maybe I’ll write a poem one day. It would be nice to exchange words with life. But there’s the rub, you see. Life has never written a poem about me, so why should I write a poem about life?

The Right Way to Learn.

I learned a lot more from my daughter than she ever learned from me. Occasionally she would ask me to do something which she knew I would find difficult or objectionable, and I used to complain that it was unfair of her to do that.

She always said that there was nothing unfair about it as long as she was fully prepared to accept ‘no’ for an answer. And that was when I realised that it wasn’t her unfairness I was railing against, but my own fear of being too weak to refuse.

When she asks me to do something difficult or objectionable now, I just say ‘no.’

Ha!

A Little Garden Mystery.

I mowed the lawn today. The grass was quite long after the recent rain, and there was a line in the middle where it had been flattened. The line was about seven feet long, slightly curved, and roughly the width of a motor bike tyre. It started in the middle of the lawn and finished before it reached the edge.

So, come on. What’s the explanation for that one?

Just to be Clear.

And while I’m on the subject of standards, I’d just like to say (though I shouldn’t need to, since I’ve said it before) that I don’t see them as having anything to do with morals or the mores of a judgemental society. Standards are about respect – respect for oneself and respect for the rights and sensibilities of others. That’s all.

And on a related subject, there’s something else I’d like to make clear. It won’t have gone unnoticed that I’ve had a lot of romantic relationships in my life. Somebody asked me not too long ago whether I was a good womaniser. No, I was never a womaniser; I was always a Romantic. Being a womaniser is about predation and opportunism; being a Romantic is about courtesy, respect and the search for an ideal. It would have been a lot easier if I had been a womaniser, for both me and the women involved. Women know where they are with a womaniser. Nowhere.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Balmy Twilights and Party Memories.

The promised ‘heatwave’ arrived today, and this evening was truly balmy for the first time this year. At 10.30 it was still warmer outside than it was in my house, so I made the most of it. I sat outside until well beyond sunset with my guitar, a mug of fresh coffee, and oh so many thoughts.

There’s something almost indescribably splendid about an English country garden on a warm evening surrounded by the heavy, vibrant growth of high summer and just the softest breeze to animate the lighter tree branches. There was no traffic on the lane for two hours, and even the planes coming over to approach East Midlands Airport sounded quieter than usual. And so I sat there, watching the world darken imperceptibly and the western sky fill with colour until the bats flew and the barn owl called the start of his nocturnal adventure.

For some reason, my thoughts turned to parties. I’ve only been a party animal twice in my life. The first was when I was in my teens, and my schoolfriends – later ex-schoolfriends – used to hold a party once a week. They were good, decent, clean affairs – nothing sordid, threatening or unpleasant. The alcohol flowed, of course, and we danced, joked and flirted, but nothing more. The boys respected the girls, the girls understood the line between what was attractive and what was provocative, and we all respected the parents whose house we were using. We even did our own washing up before they came home at about two in the morning. The nearest we ever came to drama was when I had to step in and prevent a fight between Slim and Bazzer, but that was an extremely rare occurrence and all over in a matter of minutes. Enjoyment and mutual respect were the keywords. Isn’t that how life should be?

Interestingly, the next time I got myself involved in the party scene was nearly thirty years later with the actors from the theatre. And do you know what? They were pretty much the same. Enjoyment and mutual respect. Nothing more.

I have the impression that things are very different now. Teenagers seem to have got themselves into such a sordid, dirty, dangerous mess these days. Or is it the Establishment that has failed them and set them on a sordid, dirty and dangerous road? It seems that any concept of standards is hopelessly passé now; there is only peer pressure that o’erleaps itself and falls on the other.

How I got onto that subject sitting in an English country garden through a balmy twilight escapes me. But I did.

Message for a Sad Lady.

OK, so I get soppy at this time of night. So what. Go with the flow, that’s my rule.

If thoughts could fill you with content
My own could not be better spent
And if my thoughts could ease the pain
I’d think and think them all again.

Not much of a poem for a poet, I know; but it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

You’ll miss me when I’m gone, you know. (Bell’s is on special offer at Sainsbury’s, by the way. Yum.)

'The Polish Flag.'

I want to set a Polish flag
Upon a Polish pole
And stick it then without delay
Into a Polish hole.

Don’t ask me why I wrote that. I haven’t a clue. That time of night, I expect.

Fixing Things.

Nearly every piece of equipment I’ve got has malfunctioned recently, and the latest example is the fan heater in the bathroom. It started cutting out a few minutes after being switched on, and since it doesn’t have a thermostat I assumed it must be overheating. So today I took it apart and cleaned up the fan, ventilation grills etc. I also made sure that all the internal contacts were secure while I was at it. I used it tonight and it doesn’t cut out any more. Better still, a problem it’s had ever since it was new is fixed as well. Good, eh?

But, here’s the best bit:

Remember me saying in a recent post that I caught sight of my body in the bathroom mirror and didn’t much like what I saw? It occurred to me that I might as well give up my daily exercise routine, since it was only fuelling a foolish delusion. I didn’t; I stepped it up instead. And guess what? I caught sight of the old bod in the mirror again tonight, and it looks like it did twenty years ago.

Wheee?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Bats, Branches, and More Reflection.

I have a good arrangement with the bats. I talk while they catch flies. Suits us both very well. I explain the differences between humans and bats – the relative merits and drawbacks and so on – while they have a hearty feed. And a good time is had by all.

They didn’t stay too long tonight, though, and when they’d gone I found myself watching the trees until it was almost dark. There’s something about the murmuring and swaying of tree branches in a breeze that says something fundamental about the essence of this mysterious thing we call life, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. It’s as though I understand it up to a point, but I can’t describe it to myself. Which is probably as it should be. I can feel it touching me, but I can’t quite touch it back. Whatever it is, it’s peaceful and awakens the perception of beauty without any obvious visual stimulation. That can only be good, I’m sure.

And then, as ever, I wondered whether life would be easier if I lived it almost exclusively at the level of Id and Ego, as most people seem to do. I’m sure it would; but it wouldn’t make it better, would it? So I’ll stay as I am. Not much choice, really.

I said it was a day for reflection, didn’t I?

Reflection.

Such a gloomy, lifeless sort of day today. A heavy grey sky lumbered reluctantly north eastward, like coal smoke on a dead December evening. Rain was ever close by and the breeze was neither sharp nor soft, but merely dull and indifferent.

It was a day for reflection. On desire and decay, on demons and destiny, on ragged revelations, on thoughtless thrills and the unquenchable nature of thirst. On purity and priestesses and the poverty of idealism. On loss and languishing and lassitude. On real dawns and false dawns and dawns that hang too long between night and day. On revival and remission, on good and bad, on pure and adulterated, on positive and negative, on subjective and objective. On goddesses and ghosts, on old and young. Especially on old and young.

And I’ll bet there’s somebody out there, somebody in a far off mental place, who is mightily embarrassed by things she said. How can I know, since reflection can only really look inward?

OK, that’s that off my chest. Time to go and talk to the bats.

Revamping the Workforce.

The weather forecasters were brimming with confidence last night. Today would be the start of the heatwave, they assured us. One actually said ‘I promise.’ They advised us to have strong sunscreen available as the sun would be high, hot and potentially dangerous.

Well, it’s 4.30pm as I type this. So far the temperature has been mild at best. It’s been breezy and we’ve had some rain; the water is still lying in the puddles on the road. We haven’t seen so much as a square centimetre of blue sky, much less the high, hot sun we were warned against.

Sometimes I think we should do away with weather forecasters altogether and employ a few more style gurus instead.

Thank You, Jennys.

I spent a most pleasant half hour last night trawling through the Wailin’ Jennys tracks on You Tube. They’re good, and some of the photography on a few of the videos is spectacular. What’s more, the content owner hasn’t disabled embedding, so thank you ladies.

And the name intrigues me.

Not Worth a Title.

To paraphrase Admiral Beatty:

There seems to be something wrong with my bloody blog today.

It’s all rain, rabbits, rambles and inconsequential rants. No raw angst, no railing against real injustice, no rear end philosophy.

That’s OK. I’m not complaining. I’m not. Don’t want to tempt fate, do we?

One interesting observation, though. I’ve noticed lately that I look older when I get up than when I go to bed. That’s odd, isn’t it? And as good a reason as any for being content with sleeping alone. An even better one is the fact that a woman would have to be very damn special to share my bed, far too special to regard me with anything more than disdain. And that would be on a good day. There's only one I want anyway, and she isn't available. Make that two. Er... three.

Ha. Had you going there, didn't I? Back to one.

Damn! I’m doing the woman thing again. It’s the alcohol, you know. Every glass is full of floating, faceless, female forms. The eyes are the only recognisable feature, and they’re enigmatic.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Making the Best of the Weather.

We’ve had a uniformly grey sky all day today, and the rain started to fall towards the end of the afternoon. It was good rain – gentle and windless, just the sort the garden likes best. So, instead of joining my wild rabbit pal (who was oblivious to the rain as he continued to eat my lawn) by sitting in a sodden garden getting wet, I decided to take a walk and get wet instead. Up the lane in the gathering gloom, through a small wood that borders the road, and out into a young cornfield that overlooks the valley.

There’s a brick barn on the far side of that cornfield, one I’d seen from a distance but never taken much notice of before. It would make a superb little two up, two down cottage – ideal for a hermit like me. Lots of work and permissions needed, of course, but if ever I win the lottery I’ll be making enquiries of the owner.

They’re forecasting temperatures in the mid seventies over the weekend, possibly even reaching eighty. They’re calling it a heatwave. Those of you who live anywhere south of the Canadian border or equivalent may giggle. We are on the same latitude as Labrador, you know.

The Mystery of the Missing Knives.

Do you remember that post I made a couple of months ago about the missing penknife, the one that had been missing for months and then miraculously turned up one day in the middle of the lawn? I hung it from a branch in Fey Corner, and searched out my late brother’s old Boy Scout penknife that I knew to be lying in a box of mementoes somewhere. A drop of oil and a sharpening stone soon had it functioning perfectly and I’ve been using it ever since.

A couple of days ago I used it to trim some growth in the garden, and then put it in my pocket. When I came to use it again it wasn’t there. I searched the undergrowth where I’d been working, but found nothing. Today I needed to take a trim of comfrey for the compost bin, so I went and got a serrated kitchen knife to do the job. When I’d finished I put it in my pocket, and when I went to use it again it wasn’t there.

This is becoming a habit. Is the universe trying to tell me something about knives, or is there an invisible and mischievous pickpocket around?

Being Denied the Daily Rite.

As a result of some late night correspondence last night, followed by a period of feeling unsettled, I didn’t get to bed until 3.45am. The sky is lightening appreciably by that time, and I’ve mentioned before that I dislike going to bed when it’s getting light. I thought about it today in an attempt to understand why it causes me a problem. What I came up with was this.

To me, going to bed isn’t simply laying down to rest. It’s much more than that; it’s a rite. Settling into bed and switching off the light is the point at which my subconscious mind says ‘Today is over. Now I enter the limbo state of sleep. Tomorrow will begin when I wake up.’ But I also consider the day to be partially over when darkness falls, and the new one to begin when daylight returns. And that’s where the conflict lies.

If I go to bed when it’s getting light, it means that the new day is beginning before I’ve accepted closure on the old one. They overlap, and that seems wrong; the rite is being negated. It also means that I’m being denied the ‘limbo’ element of sleep because the melding of the days has closed the limbo period, so I feel cheated of something. The opposite happens if I have to get up while it’s still dark, something I’ve always hated doing. In that case I’m being forced to function before the day has begun, which causes a sense of being outside time and therefore out of place.

I’m curious to know whether this is some form of neurosis or just a harmless foible.

Colourful, but Not Important.

The BBC’s flagship magazine programme is called The One Show. It occupies the prime time 7pm slot on their main terrestrial channel. Tonight’s principal ‘guest’ is the British style guru, Gok Wan.

Now, it doesn’t bother me unduly that we have people with such laughably inane occupations as ‘style guru.’ If life is simply a matter of passing the time, why not have some colour in it? There’s enough that’s troublesome going around, so why not have a bit of inanity here and there?

What bothers me is that we treat such people as though they’re important, and make them very wealthy into the bargain. Now that’s dumb.

Meanwhile, the priestess continues to try and screw up my nervous system with her blog post titles. I wish she’d stop it.

Trust and Fidelity.

'But that means you don’t trust me.’

So said several women during my life. No, I don’t trust; of course I don’t trust, not completely. I don’t believe there’s a person alive, however faithful they are or think they are, who isn’t capable of being seduced into infidelity given the right combination of circumstances. Isn’t the explanation given for the rise of the Third Reich somewhat similar?

Sorry to be going off on a woman thing again. I’m not entirely to blame this time.

Nostalgia (Bless Its Pointlessness.)

I just read my old post 'Being Honest' again, mainly because somebody else did. Those were the days! Whatever happened to dear Dominique?

Did I say recently that life can be a hard Mistress? I think I did.

Bugger this, I'm going to bed. We're set for a fine weekend. I meant to make a post about the blankets of mist that were hanging over the meadows between the copses on the other side of the valley last night. So now I have. Another bed time post that didn't get backspaced. Aren't you lucky?

One Bed Time Post That Didn't Get Deleted.

My life has more in it than I have a right to expect, and nothing like enough to meet my expectations. Isn’t it always the way?

An Uncomfortable Reflection.

I read the Wikipedia biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley tonight, encouraged by a bit of poetry I heard in a TV drama. I found the similarities between him and me a little uncanny, and maybe even disquieting. Fortunately, I can’t write poetry to save my life.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Shifting Seasons.

One feature that’s been apparent about the British climate over the past few years has been the increasing incidence and strength of summer winds. We often get wind in the summer nowadays that used to be associated almost exclusively with spring and autumn. Somebody else remarked on the same thing to me recently, and today is a good example. Although not quite gale force, the wind is enough to take the edge off the warm June sunshine. We also had an early start to the growing season this year, with unusually warm weather in March and April.

I saw the effects of both today when I went for a walk. Half way along Church Lane a mixed copse borders the roadside and the surface was littered with arboreal debris, including a large number of horse chestnut seeds prematurely dispatched long before they were big enough to have the potential to germinate. There will be a dearth of conkers for the kids to collect this year. The blowing leaves sounded old, too, making the sort of sibilant sound normally associated with late summer when they’re turning dry and ready to fall. And there were two sycamores nearby that had brown leaves on them, a most unusual sight in late June.

It occurs to me to wonder whether the seasons are not merely changing, but shifting backwards. I’m reminded of how early the severe winter started in late November last year, and how spring began early in February. I wonder whether this is the beginning of a new pattern, or whether it’s merely one of those oddities of climate that happen now and then. Time will tell, I suppose.

Experts.

The latest bunch of experts (from the British Institute of Psychiatry, I believe) says that ‘older’ people should drink no more than the equivalent of one small scotch a day because their bodies can’t process alcohol well and it might interfere with their medication. More rule by numbers. More inane presumption.

Don’t experts talk a load of absolute bollocks sometimes? So much IQ that they’re disappearing up their own anuses where the view of what life should be about looks more than a little bleak.

I’ve had stomach ache for several hours now. I’ve no doubt it’s due to the rich, healthy, home made soup I had earlier. Healthy food sometimes has that effect on me. Scotch doesn’t.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Not My Kind of Thing.

I went into Ashbourne’s main bookshop today to enquire whether they’d be interested in taking a few copies of my novel. They said they would, but only if I was prepared to get behind it. Get behind it? Yes, I’d have to be willing to supply a lot of copies and have a book signing day.

I objected to that on the grounds that I regard book signings as an ego thing and a bit unsavoury. The manageress said that if I didn’t, nobody would buy it. And then the assistant piped up and said that people would want to talk to me about why I wrote the book, why I write generally, and so on. Can you imagine that? I see a paraphrase of that famous line from All Creatures Great and Small looming:

‘Oh, Mr Beazley, what a lot you do know about goddesses. And rabbits...’

I think I’ll give it a miss and rely on Amazon.com.

Leaving it Unsaid.

You know that type of frustration you feel when there’s something you desperately want to say to somebody, but you know the probable effect would only be to irritate them so you keep quiet? Happens to me all the time. I’ll bet some foreign language has a word for it.

Lightening Up.

It still weighs heavy that I can’t share my corner of Avalon with the person most likely to appreciate it, but never mind. The sky must be lightening a little because I’ve started to make silly noises with stubby beer bottles again. Squeaky ones. The sort that make little boys like me giggle foolishly. And I’ve even made a stab at writing a second rate limerick, since ZZ complained that I don’t do it any more.

There was an old man from Capri
Who went for a sail on the sea.
He’d just come about
When his dentures fell out
And bit him quite hard on the knee.

So now it’s that time of night when I write a deep and meaningful blog post, and then delete it.

Echoing Down the Years.

I’ve withdrawn my novella from prospective publishers three times because I fell out with them for one reason or another, so now I’m thinking of self-publishing it with Lulu.com. I think I’ve probably learned enough about their strange ways to have a relatively simple ride next time. With that in mind, I started editing it today, and came across this on page 22. It’s part of the preliminary description of Natalie, the heroine of the piece, who is in her late teens.

There was no doubting the advantages nature had given her. She was certainly very good looking, and the lure of her seductive hazel eyes coupled with the lustrous glory of her long, raven-dark hair would have been mesmerising in one inclined to be content with the simple value of such gifts. I had always thought it sad that she could have been quite beautiful, but chose instead to be merely pretty and cheaply alluring.

Well now, that was written six or seven years ago. How interesting that it should have reverberated all these years later. Says a lot about my prejudices, maybe. Or should that be ‘sensibilities?’

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A Form of Dishonesty.

For reasons which I needn’t go into, I decided to find out today whether I could access the UK Electoral Register free on the internet. I typed ‘free access to the electoral register’ into Google and got lots of returns, many of which explicitly offered a free service. I clicked on several, only to find a load more returns come up. All the ones I went to charged a fee.

In my book that’s dishonest, and it reminded me yet again of the level of institutionalised dishonesty that exists at most levels of our ‘civilised’ society, particularly the political and commercial ones.

One interesting side effect of my searching, however, was that I found a satellite picture of my house on Google Maps, and it occured to me that anybody who knows my address could do the same.

The Daily Non-Post.

I’ve developed an odd habit lately. Every night I spend about the last half hour before going to bed musing on and writing a blog post. And then I delete it unposted. Last night’s read something like:

‘There are two sorts of people in your orbit. There are those who expect you to be what they think you are, and there are those who expect you to be what they want you to be. Being yourself risks losing both.’

Even after a beer and several scotches, I knew that things aren’t quite that simple. And I was also troubled by the realisation that my objective and subjective views of the statement were different. That produced both uncertainty and the awareness of a potentially dangerous complication. So, as usual, it didn’t get posted. That sort of thing has been happening nearly every night for about two weeks now.

I could do with finding a better outlet for my late night energies, couldn't I?

A Little Thought of No Significance.

Remember when I used to go on about my Flag Counter? I don't any more because it's pretty useless, but I just took a gander and found that I now have 46 of the 51 American flags (50 states + DC.) So am I now going to paistakingly work out which five are missing? Nope.

Expecting Too Much.

I rang my dentist four times today. Fortunately it was only to query something to do with my next appointment, because the first three times it rang out for ages and nobody picked up. The fourth time I got a voicemail message telling me that the surgery was now closed and their opening times were 8am – 6pm. It was 5.32.

Modern culture just gets better and better.

See Kiev and Die.

I want to go to Kiev. I had my first (as far as I know) visitor from Kiev today. I always thought the name grand and noble with just a hint of Slavic mystery about it. The Great Gates of Kiev. I wonder whether they’re still standing.

So then I had a look at the post which the person from Kiev had accessed. I had trouble understanding it, so heaven knows what sort of an impression the poor Ukrainian went away with. I’ll bet he or she has never had a yen to travel to Ashbourne. As far as I know, the only gate on the outskirts of Ashbourne is the one that accesses the footpath to Sainsbury’s car park. Nothing grand and noble with just a hint of Anglo-Saxon mystery there.

And talking of things Russian, I think I’ve got a low level dose of toska tonight. It’s all these American women beating me up.

And talking of women, I caught sight of my body in the big bathroom mirror when I was changing my wet clothes. Good heavens! No more women for me in this life, I think.

(This is the point at which you’re supposed to earn your brownie points by making a nice, encouraging comment. It’s all in the script.)

Monday, 20 June 2011

Honouring the Goddess, But Not the Internet.

I decided to have another fire in honour of my favourite goddess, Aine. I’d heard that Aine’s feast is on Midsummer Eve, which is today, but I’d also heard a reference to it being on St John’s Eve. What does one do when in doubt these days? Look on the internet, of course. This is what I found.

Some references said it was on the eve of the summer solstice, some said it was on June 24th, St John’s Eve. But I also read that John the Baptist’s feast day is on June 24th, which would mean that St John’s Eve should be on June 23rd, since ‘Eve’ denotes the day before. Or could it be that the information was incorrect and the Baptist’s feast day is actually June 25th? Blowed if I know.

I decided to go with Midsummer Eve. Whatever the true date of St John’s Eve, it’s no more than an arbitrary date dreamed up by the early Christians to take it six months back from Christmas. I felt that Aine would be more inclined to favour a natural point of cosmic significance than something conveniently invented by the Christian Church. So I had the fire tonight. It poured with rain throughout and I had to change nearly all my clothes when I came in, which I thought typical of Aine making her presence felt. I’ve associated her with water ever since that strange episode in Ireland fifteen years ago. I’ve been expecting it to rain ever since I decided to have the fire.

I’m digressing from the main point of this post, however, which is that the internet – so relied upon by schoolchildren these days – is a pile of shite when it comes to getting reliable information. Why don’t we just go back to using proper books?

There Are Jokes, and There Are Jokes.

It seems I might be in a little trouble over my post ‘Language!’ so I’m going to make one more stab at explaining my position before accepting my seat on the tumbrel.

The post was not about criticising Americans in general or one American in particular over their use of language. It was a joke, just a joke. It was a typical Brit-style joke, innocently meant. Does anyone really imagine I would use a phrase like ‘the devastation wrought on Shakespeare’s blessed iambic feet’ if it had been meant any other way? It is true that I respect the ‘rules’ of grammar and generally follow them. That’s because I believe they serve a useful purpose in providing consistency and aiding the more accurate conveyance of expression. It doesn’t mean, however, that I believe we should be slaves to those ‘rules.’ I accept that everybody has the right to consciously break them if they so choose. There, I just split an infinitive! OK? I’m not a grammar Nazi, and I don’t go around seriously complaining that Americans are killing our beloved language.

(By an amusing coincidence, however, I was reading a short story by MR James at lunchtime and came across the following bit of dialogue. ‘It was written in no style at all – split infinitives, and every sort of thing that makes an Oxford gorge rise.’ Fortunately, I’m not an Oxford man. That’s one of the benefits I gained from my stepfather’s refusal to allow me to continue my formal education beyond age sixteen.)

Do you know, writing a blog sometimes reminds me of that famous joke about the three deaf old ladies:

‘It’s windy today, isn’t it?’

‘No, it’s Thursday.’

‘So am I. Let’s have a cup of tea.’

A National Characteristic.

I think it might be helpful to explain something about the British.

We Brits mock, criticise and insult each other all the time. When we do so in public, it’s nearly always in a tone of levity. It’s a national characteristic, part of what makes up our national sense of humour. And because we’ve grown up with it, we almost infallibly know whether it was meant seriously or in jest. Because we take it so much for granted, however, we tend to forget that people of other nations sometimes find our characteristic incomprehensible. They take things seriously when they weren’t meant that way, and so they take offence when none was intended. This has happened to me a lot, but I still forget occasionally. So let me just say this.

My blog is not an instrument for mocking, criticising or insulting private individuals. Public figures, maybe, but not private ones. Apart from anything else, it’s bloody bad form and would offend against my standards. I can’t say it will never happen, but it will be an extreme rarity. If I want to mock, criticise or insult anybody for real, I’ll do it by e-mail where it’s just between the two of us. Or face to face if the person happens to be close enough.

Right, I’m off the soap box.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Language!

You Americans are disrespectful of infinitives. Imagine the devastation that would have been wrought on Shakespeare’s blessed iambic feet had he written:

To be or to not be

Terrible.

David Cameron.

Our esteemed Prime Minister is fast revealing himself to be Britain's answer to George W Bush. Aren't we lucky?

Riding the Big Dipper.

Life is a rollercoaster. Tired old cliché, I know. Where it gets interesting is when I realise that even my madness has its very own rollercoaster. High madness, low madness. Whacky madness, destructive madness. Light madness, heavy madness. Wise madness, foolish madness.

‘Madness’ is one of those words that sound sillier and more abstract the more you say them. It’s indefinable, too.

Rollercoasters within rollercoasters. Who would have thought it?

An ad on my Hotmail home page asks whether I dream of working in the city. Another asks whether I can afford a Jaguar. And an MSN headline poses the profound question 'Does your phone make you ugly?' What? Three good reasons to welcome a healthy madness, I'd say.

PA Variations and Some Displacement Rambles.

Mania
Pennsylvania

Manic
Pennsylvanic

Maniac
Pennsylvaniac.

Mm...

Connections can be very unpleasant, you know. They’re good when everything’s OK, but when they’re not it’s like being a dog on a choke chain.

Which has absolutely nothing to do with Pennsylvania.

I’m becoming cagey about going to bed these days. I hate that bastard who keeps waking me up. And you wouldn’t believe the things I want to write to this blog, but don’t. The Buddhists say that a hurtful truth should only be told if it’s also a useful truth. I venerate the Buddha above all beings, so I try to follow his advice by and large. I usually fail, but sometimes I get it right.

Not long to go now.

And I’m having trouble getting used to this optical mouse I bought a couple of weeks ago. It doesn’t behave like a proper ball mouse.

The moon is shining through an uncurtained window.

Splat.

The Grass is Always Greener, But at Least We Have Cucumbers.

Two occupations have appealed to me for most of my life: railway signalman and lighthouse keeper.

That was when I knew lots of people, most of whom irritated or at least bored me, and I thought I was a loner. I used to think how good it would be to spend my life cocooned in a confined space well away from irritating or boring people, performing just the necessary routines and having the rest of the time to myself. I thought it would be wonderful to have all that time alone to do the things I liked doing: reading, writing, listening to music, musing on the state of life and the elements, being just who I am with no interference.

Well, now I sit in this house with only a computer for company, so I suppose I sort of got my wish. It isn’t quite how I imagined it. (Try reading Charles Dickens’ The Signalman, by the way.) The problem is, even more people irritate or at least bore me now. You really can’t win in this life, can you?

Guess what I just had. A cucumber sandwich. Now, that’s what I call civilised. And irrelevant.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Demon Again.

No bad dreams last night, or none that I remember. But I did wake up early being suffocated by that damn demon again, his face close to mine and mocking relentlessly. He always mocks after he’s forced me to witness the unbearable.

Is this some empathic sense I have, or an example of karmic rebalancing as I’ve long suspected, or merely a psychological aberration? I can’t believe it’s the latter since I can find no possible root for its genesis, and the first of them worries the hell out of me.

I wish I could make public the story of our relationship, but I can’t until he’s either dead or at least locked securely away. Besides, how do you tell a story when you don’t know where it began?

Standing Apart.

I saw three middle aged women ramblers walking up the lane today, and it occurred to me that we had something in common. Cultural conditioning. It led me to wonder how on earth I can expect to relate to today’s young people, since every fibre of their early conditioning was so different from mine. When I was growing up, love songs were about love. Now they seem to be about sex, stress and suicide. I look around and see a world that is largely more sad, sordid and superficial than the one that nurtured me. Maybe that’s just my jaundiced perception, or maybe it’s the reason why retro has become fashionable. I know it isn’t that simple because I know how much I’ve rejected even my cultural conditioning. And I’ve run out of Ss.

I’m reminded, though, that a teenage girl said to me not long ago ‘I want a past.’ Well, she’s going to get one, but it’s one I probably wouldn’t recognise and certainly wouldn’t want to observe. Going with the crowd these days leads to dark, dreary places that my generation knew nothing of. Seems I’ll have to stick with those who stand defiantly apart.

The Dreaded S Word.

I just coined a new phrase, or rather constructed a paraphrase:

A pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled.

What’s going on with me lately? What is this sudden thing I have about sharing? I never had it before; I’ve always put great store by self-reliance, so I hope it passes soon. If it doesn’t I’ll have to see whether Ashbourne holds ‘Grab a Granny’ days. Imagine that!

Setting My Own Standards.

I was thinking today that I’m not at all bothered whether people think me a good writer or not. I don’t even know what a good writer is in definitive terms. I wrote stories because I wanted to, and because I had something to say that was valuable to me. I get pleasure from thinking that somebody else derives something from them, be it entertainment or whatever, and I’m happy to be considered ‘thoughtful.’ But I have little interest in, or sympathy with, an establishment that feels it has the right to set models of creative excellence for others to follow. Why should I mould myself to other people’s standards when I can establish, hone, live up to, and be content with my own? What else should matter to me?

And the same is true of life, I suppose. My standards pertaining to certain aspects of life have gone up quite a lot lately, or at least become better clarified. I’ve come to have a lot more respect for the concept of standards generally, but I don’t feel it entitles me to be thought a ‘good person.’

This post needs to be about ten times longer to explain it fully, but I can’t be bothered. It’s one of those situations in which I feel the need to talk to somebody in person, rather than by blog post or e-mail. It’s the old problem of my mind becoming impatient with the speed of my fingers.