Friday, 30 September 2011

Another Invisible Visitor.

I was walking down my path today when a yellow tennis ball came rolling past me. I assumed it was the property of George, the Springer Spaniel from next door. I turned round but neither he nor his human were anywhere to be seen, and then I realised that Mrs Next Door was out and the dogs were shut in the house.

Didn’t something like that happen in one of those iconic horror films, like Poltergeist or something?

What was I saying about there being something or somebody around?

A Note About the Priestess.

It must be obvious by now that the Big P is rather special to me. Let’s be honest, I love her hopelessly – and ‘hopeless’ is entirely the right word. All I can do about it, you see, is weep quietly over my late night scotch. (Which I don’t do, of course, at least not very often!) My feelings are not even of my construction; they go back a long way.

I think she is perhaps the most erudite person I’ve ever known, especially when she’s exercising her almost unparalleled facility for constructive cynicism. She asked me this question recently:

‘...what would happen to you once you found your love, and she was free to give herself to you? How does life proceed? It almost seems to me that there's only a journey to reach that point, so that in some ways the beginning of love fulfilled is already the end. Would you still talk of the same things to each other? Would you talk of your past, because surely the present is shallow and insignificant to speak of - and what future can you possibly see, that isn't dwarfed by the magnificence of such a love?’

I hope she has no objection to being quoted. I think I know her well enough to trust the fact.

We’re never going to meet. By the time she’s ready to accept me into the centre of her life, instead of being obliged – through the honesty of circumstance, it has to be said – to treat me as one distraction among many, I’ll be dead.

But only temporarily.

The Winds of Fortune.

The cyber world is silent today. It’s as though everybody is looking the other way and ignoring me. No visits, no comments and no e-mails. Points go unaddressed and questions unanswered.

I’m coming to think that life functions according the flow of subtle energies over which our control is limited, and such control as we do have is exercisable in ways that are not generally recognised. The system seems to operate like the wind. Most days it’s within modest bounds, but some days it falls calm and on others it blows a gale. So today must be presumed to be one on which the communication energy, as it relates to me, is becalmed. Communication doldrums, no less.

The same seems to hold true for the flow of money. Sometime it pours out, sometimes it pours in, sometimes it achieves a sort of balance, and sometimes it stagnates.

There’s nothing new about this concept, of course. It’s a well established assertion of certain ancient philosophies – an understanding of the workings of perceived reality that modern science simply hasn’t got to grips with yet. Having been brought up in the age of such science, however, it’s new to me.

The Essence of Life.

In order to function normally, a body needs three things: heartbeat, respiration and brain activity. But what of the life force? That’s something altogether more mysterious. I’ve never been convinced that heartbeat, respiration and brain activity produce life, only that they provide the necessary conditions for the life force to function in concert with a body. I can’t prove this, of course, it’s just a conviction I’ve never been without for as long as I remember back in childhood.

I know a doctor who believes that the life force is a fragment of the universal energy, and that when we die that fragment simply rejoins the cosmic soup. But suppose consciousness remains with the life force when it vacates the body, and suppose that consciousness retains the concept of individuality, which would seem likely. Then we have the concept of soul to grapple with.

People occasionally ask me why I’m so convinced of reincarnation, or whatever term a particular tradition cares to use. Maybe I’ll answer that in a blog post one of these times, but for now I’ll quote Edgar Allan Poe:

But it is mere idleness to say that I had not lived before – that the soul has no previous existence. You deny it? – let us not argue the matter. Convinced myself, I seek not to convince.
~ Berenice.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Tram Line Education.

This is going to get few people’s hackles up, but here goes.

My school days were what might be described as successful. I was a good scholar – top of the top form every term (semester) and well set on the road to university. But my stepfather refused to let me go down that road, and continued to refute every attempt to persuade him to change his mind. He wasn’t going to pay good money to keep me sitting on my fat arse in a classroom, he said, and told me I was to go out and work for a living like everybody else.

I was bitter at the time, but now I’m grateful. Had I gone to university, I’m sure it would have taken me longer to develop respect for free thinking. I’m sure I would have been stuck between the tram lines longer, because university is essentially a tram line institution. Maybe I would still be stuck between the tram lines now.

Ever since I started working at the theatre in 1993, I’ve met a lot of people with degrees, including some with masters. What I noticed was how narrow minded most of them were – settled firmly in the cement of either conservative or liberal axioms. The two traditions are, after all, just two sides of the same tram lines. The academics told them what to believe, and academics are clever people so they believed it. And I’ve encountered a few rare, free thinking types who’ve seriously struggled at university, despite their obvious mental capabilities, because being a square peg forced through a round hole is so damned oppressive.

The problem is that modern culture insists on a university education. The piece of paper is the badge that proves a person’s worth. Without it, you’ll never be more than an also ran, even though a lot of what’s taught in university is of little value in the outside world. Ah, but university teaches people to think, I’ve heard. Does it? That isn’t my experience, and I think we’re taking too narrow a road. There’s more to life than the tyranny of tram lines.

The Morning After.

A night dreaming of the Big P. Contemplating the brief glimpse of the unattainable. Accepting what has to be. I’ve never been very good at that; it takes a lot to convince me that I can’t have what I seek. That’s the downside of being an optimist. It’s that old Galahad thing again.

Got to lighten up (and maybe stop talking about myself.)

It’s warm and sunny again. I just had a bird singing beautifully outside my office window.

Sorry About This...

I’m going to talk about myself again. Just because I can. If you don’t want to hear it, switch off now.

I was sitting in the sunshine today (we’re enjoying an unusually warm spell of weather at the moment) and I thought about those questionnaires that ask ‘If you had to describe your three most notable attributes, what would they be?’ Simple. Quick as a flash.

Passionate
Intelligent
Sensitive

Well, that isn’t so bad, is it? Could be worse, right? Think on. Attributes carry corollaries, and it occurred to me that:

Being passionate sometimes finds an outlet in being quickly moved to anger, which can be useful occasionally, but generally isn’t good.

Being intelligent means being able to make connections, forecast the range of possibilities, see the inherent dangers – and that often leads to unjustified fears.

And being sensitive means being uncommonly prey to having one’s state of mind affected by the whims and actions of others. Especially women (bless ’em.)

So maybe it isn’t so good after all. Maybe if I were dull, dumb and devoid of feeling, I would have far fewer problems. Now there’s  a lesson to carry into the next life. Is it mere coincidence that I’m listening to a Chinese woman singing as I write this?

Cow Therapy.

I’ve mentioned the farm pen at the end of Mill Lane which contains a dozen or so young cows. Whenever I walk that way, I always go over to them and scratch the ears and noses of those that will let me.

I was feeling a bit down when I went past there yesterday, and so, for once, I carried on walking. I’d got about twenty yards beyond the pen when I heard a number of cow’s voices raised in unison with a single moo. I turned around to see them all standing in a line, watching me over the framework. It seemed they were protesting at being ignored, so I went back and did my duty. And I felt better for it.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Adding Balance.

I was thinking of those old pairs of maxims that appear to contradict one another, as in:

Too many cooks spoil the broth
vs
Many hands make light work

And I remembered the one that says:

Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses

(...which is nonsense, of course. Glasses mask the eyes, and in so doing they place a subtle barrier there that hints at privacy. Privacy is a very engaging and alluring trait in a woman.)

Nevertheless, it seemed only fitting that the maxim ought to have at least a complimentary, if not actually contrary, twin, so how about:

Men who belch and pick their nose do not attract the girlie-o’s.

I seem to be functioning at base zero tonight. Must be all this emptiness.

Retired...

...is a word that frightens me. In a way, I suppose I ‘retired’ when I was thirty five. That was when I got off the standard employment treadmill and pledged never to get back on it. What we’re talking about here, though, is old age retirement. I dread the day when the local newspaper might feature another UFO sighting or something with the introduction ‘Jeff Beazley, who lives at Roston and is retired...’

No, no, no.

Retired says ‘old.’ Retired says ‘grey.’ Retired says ‘past it.’ Retired says ‘settled down.’ Retired says ‘on the last lap.’ Worst of all, retired says INVISIBLE.

I’m not there legally yet; but when I am, I hope I never accept it mentally.

Still Here.

Right then, as far as I know it’s Wednesday afternoon, and as far as I know I’m not dead. Whether one can be absolutely sure of the fact I’m not qualified to judge, since I’ve completely forgotten what happened the last time I died. Or the time before that, or...

But I’ve been out in the car, I’ve done my grocery shopping, I’ve had a conversation with an old neighbour I bumped into, and I’ve paid in a cheque that I received from a picture library for the rights to use one of my photographs. Everything seemed real enough, so I think it likely that my human body is still functioning.

So it occurred to me when I left the supermarket that the world isn’t finished with me yet, nor I it. It seems there are still things to be done, lessons to be contemplated, and experiences to be added to the pile. And that message I made a post about did say:

There is one more to come yet. Stay ready.

I’m staying ready.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Being Prepared.

Back in August I let a rather special person go, since the relationship – if ever it could have been graced with such a title – had obviously become redundant. Today I let two more go, and prepared for the possibility of saying a final goodbye to the most special of them all. It seems that 'redundant' is my middle name at the moment.

Maybe that was why I did something I never usually do this evening. I was taking my customary twilight walk and admiring the glorious, post-sunset sky, when I found myself standing on the lane looking all around me. I only ever stride out on the lane; if I want to stand and take in the view I go and settle myself on a stile, or lean on a farm gate, or sit on a low wall. Tonight I stood on the lane, and had the strongest sense that I was saying a final goodbye to this physical world I’ve called home for so many years.

I’m sure it was just some psychological glitch, but I couldn’t help wondering whether I was being prepared – or preparing myself – for that day in a not so distant future. It felt oddly peaceful. A little melancholy perhaps, but no sense of panic.

I’m sure I’ll still be here tomorrow. If I am, it seems I have a few vacancies to fill.

Being Driven by Sails.

A message from the Big P:

“Our worlds are not aligned at the moment, and won’t be for another month or so. May we speak then?”

How the hell should I know how my world will be aligned in a month or so’s time? I don’t even know how it will be aligned by six o’clock this evening. That’s part of my charm!

My patience tends to operate in one hour time slots, then I have to put more money in the ticket machine – that’s if I can find some loose change. And if the hold of a ship is empty it needs ballast, otherwise it’s likely to capsize when the sea gets heavy.

My meaning might or might not be obvious.

It seems there are two types of people. Some, like me, are built as sailing vessels. We’re subject to the vagaries of the wind and the mercy of the elements. All we can do is use skill and experience to control our course as best we can. The other type has a trusty steam turbine under the deck and a pair of working propellers.

I suspect I will look back one day and decide that being a sailing vessel was more fun.

The Value of Real Spam.

There was a young man from Siam
Who decided he wanted some yam
The McDonalds he tried
Said ‘We only do fried.
We’ve got burgers, McNuggets or spam.

Believe it or not, spam was still quite a staple in Britain when I was a kid. It was very versatile. You could have it sliced with chips, sliced with salad, sliced on sandwiches, or sliced, battered and made into spam fritters. Who says we Brits don’t do cuisine? That was what gave Monty Python the idea.

‘Haven’t you got anything without spam in it?’

‘Er, we got spam, spam, fried egg, spam, spam, spam, baked beans – and spam. That doesn’t have much spam in it.’

It was one of the things I missed so badly when I became vegetarian...

Monday, 26 September 2011

Alone Again...

...naturally.

I woke up yesterday morning with a dull and depressing conviction that I was no longer useful to a certain person, so I should get out of her life.

What’s that all about? Why stay close to a person to whom you feel connected only as long as you believe you’re serving some need or purpose of theirs? Shouldn’t connection be a two-way process? Is this what comes of being the opposite of a predator? Is it some sort of self-sacrificial neurosis perhaps? Blowed if I know.

I never did get the hang of relating to other human beings. I wonder how much longer I’m going to carry on trying.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

A Bit More Confusion.

The Blogger dashboard features a woman called Rebecca, whose blog was selected for ‘Blogs of Note.’ It includes the statement:

‘After she was Noted, Rebecca received many new followers and emails asking her about her tips for blogging.’

I don’t understand this (seems I’m not understanding much tonight.) Why don’t those people just write what they want to write, how they want to write it – stand on their own two feet and be authentic? What better way is there? Why do they need ‘tips for blogging?’ And who the hell takes it that seriously anyway?

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Two Bits of Confusion.

I found this comment on a blog post tonight:

‘Amazing insight. All that glitters isn’t gold, and all that doesn’t glitter is not.’

I get confused easily these days. I think my brain cells need a polish. Maybe I need a hobby...

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And while I’m on the subject of confusion, I caught a few seconds of a TV advert in which Rachel Weisz was apparently (I had the sound off) extolling the virtues of some overpriced chemical concoction made by those animal torturers at L’Oreal. I gather people regard Rachel Weisz as beautiful. How can they tell? Has anybody ever seen her unpainted? Genuine question.

Seeing the Real Sarah.

I thought I’d relate this seemingly insignificant little fact to counterbalance the entertaining fiction offered in Making the Most of Lines (see below.)

I was putting my wheelie bin out by the edge of the lane at twilight, when I saw the lights of two bikes approaching in the distance. How did I know who it was? I didn’t for certain, but some intuitive sense persuaded me to wait and see.

Up the road came Sarah from Mill Lane and another young woman. The other girl said ‘hello’ which I returned. Only then did the much vaunted Sarah glance in my direction and say ‘oh, hello.’ Then she rode on.

Maybe I should have combed my hair while I was waiting.  Maybe I should .......

Feel free to fill in the blank.

Worshipping Shiny Things.

I was just watching a bit of the F1 Grand Prix from Singapore. It was a night race. They gave us a shot of the illuminated skyscrapers, and waxed eloquent about how smart and shiny and dynamic the place is. All very impressive.

Not to me it isn’t. I’m more impressed by a mother sheep suckling her lamb than a skyscraper. And I find the inaugural flight of fledging birds infinitely more dynamic than any glitzy downtown thoroughfare.

My question is: How many thousands of years have people been on this planet? And how far have we come?

OK, we’ve developed language. The development of language is impressive, but when pompous, anthropologically-inclined celebrities like Stephen Fry and David Attenborough make their turgid documentaries in which they present speculation as established fact in order to seem important and claim outrageous salaries, you have to wonder whether there’s a bit of kidology going on. I strongly suspect that there was a bit more to ancient man, the ancient mind, and the development of Babel than we arrogant moderns care to accept.

(I’m referring to Stephen Fry’s latest money-making and reputation-enhancing TV series. And I might be wrong. And I’m digressing again.)

So, how far have we come? We’ve had spiritual leaders and philosophers aplenty. The spiritual leaders still retain many so-called adherents, but most of those only pay lip service to the core teachings and openly ignore them when they become inconvenient. The philosophers have fared less well, having become largely confined to being the subject of ‘educated’ debate in institutions for clever people.

Meanwhile, we’ve gone great guns in developing a monetary system (which panders to the pre-eminence of the possessive principle,) cars, skyscrapers and other shiny things. It seems the human race hasn’t yet got beyond the stage of drooling over shiny things.

I wonder whether this is how it’s supposed to be. I wonder whether the human experience is meant to stay down here at strictly base level in order to give us a reason to want to get out.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Worshipping Pictures in Frames.

Anais Nin made such a din
You’d think that she’d invented sin.

I’m being frivolous. Not sensible, erudite or knowledgeable. I just grow weary sometimes of the faith people place in icons.

Aha! JJ is an iconoclast, to add to all the other measures of his inadequacy.

Soon be time for a drink, once the moon is over the yard arm.

The Power of Books?

This doesn’t claim the status of definitive opinion. I’m just throwing it out as an idle muse.

I have a series of classic novels that were released under the generic title Books That Have Changed Man’s Thinking, and I wonder just how much books are capable of changing the development of human culture and behaviour. It seems to me that books are capable of influencing attitude, and attitudes are certainly different now than they were fifty or five hundred years ago. But it further seems to me that when the chips are down, what comes to the fore isn’t attitudes but human nature; and that doesn’t seem to have changed in all the centuries of known history, in spite of all the books.

I’ll muse on.

A Personal and Pointless Aside.

I’m in a strangely unsettled mood tonight. My mind doesn’t know what it wants to occupy itself with. I keep reaching for things to consume – a cigarette, a cup of coffee, a cup of tea, a sandwich. I seem to be trying to fill a hole with pointless consumables that disappear into the void. It seems to be all about displacement, and it isn’t working.

I went to the village pub this evening with my new neighbour, her friend Di, and the two dogs. Nice people, perfectly good conversation, handsome dogs, a pint of Marston’s Pedigree Ale... What could be better?

The problem is that my consciousness remains filled with the Big P. Everything else pales to the periphery. The walk home alone was welcome, because she becomes more real when I’m alone. ‘Me. I’m all that matters,’ she says through eyes that sparkle and seduce. Only the words don’t rise to her own mouth; I put them there.

Answering the Question.

If you ask somebody a question face to face, it puts them under great pressure to reply. There are very few people who can easily withstand that pressure, so you nearly always get a reply of one sort or another.

(Helen, my ex, is about the only person I’ve ever known who seems to find it easy to resist. She writes a response in her eyes, and they generally say one of three things:

a) That question is too stupid to warrant any time and effort on my part.

b) I don’t know the answer, so I’m not here. Go away.

c) I know the answer but I don’t want to give it to you, so you’ll have to do without.

Helen’s a real one-off.)

The point of the post, though, is to remark that no such pressure exists with internet communication. If somebody doesn’t want to answer a question posed in an e-mail or a blog comment, all they have to do is not click the ‘send’ button. I find that frustrating because not only am I denied the answer, I’m even denied the reason why the person is declining to answer. So then I start guessing, and we all know where guessing can lead. It’s why I always answer people’s questions.

Making the Most of Lines.

I found a new crease mark on my face today. Not a wrinkle, you understand, just a line. It’s a very small one, positioned at the top of my left cheekbone where it meets the eye socket.

The thing is, I’ve had a small blemish in that exact spot ever since I got hit hard in a fight with an Iranian naval cadet called Razhegi when I was seventeen. (Nice bloke, Razhegi.) Now there’s a line there. I usually get a bit miffed when I see a new line appear, but I’ve decided to call this one a battle scar. When I become rich and get plastic surgery, this one can stay.

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And on a related note, I saw Sarah from Mill Lane in Mill Lane again today. She looked a little anxious.

‘What’s up?’ I asked her.

She looked in all directions but mine, then turned her eyes to the ground.

‘There’s something I need to say to you.’

‘Oh, yes. What’s that?’

There followed a long pause, and then a sudden exhaling of breath that could only be described as impassioned.

‘I don’t think I can live without you any longer.’

‘Really?’

She nodded demurely, while Inca (the cocker spaniel) dodged the oversize tear that was heading in her direction.

‘But I’m too old for you, Sarah,’ I said without very much conviction. ‘Look at the lines on my face.’

‘Oh, but they’re beautiful lines,’ she protested.’ They speak of experience and inner strength. They look so lived in.’

‘You mean they don’t look like a map of Clapham Junction from the air?’

‘Well if they do, my love, then a map of Clapham Junction from the air must truly be a work of art...’

See what I mean about having a fertile imagination. I should write this stuff for a living, shouldn’t I? What she actually said was...

Friday, 23 September 2011

A Visit at Bed Time.

On my way to bed last night – post scotch and not quite 100% functional – I found myself having to sort out three freaky electric/electronic problems that all happened at the same time and were quite unconnected. It took half an hour. By the time I discovered the third, coincidence appeared unlikely.

I swear there was something around, either messing with the electrical vibes inadvertently, or maybe just being mischievous. I lay down gratefully at 3am, switched off the light and spoke nicely to them.

‘You’re welcome to be here, just no scary stuff. OK?’

I got no scary stuff.

A Mundane Post.

Since nothing interesting or amusing happened today, the last post of the night will have to be refreshingly mundane.

Both I and the lawn had a haircut. The lawn’s took a lot longer, but cost less.

I noticed that Sarah’s mother is in the habit of putting a small vase of flowers on the dinner table. Frills: don’t really understand them. And I really must stop looking through Sarah’s kitchen window, even though she gave me permission. Her mother didn’t, and her mother’s the tough guy. It isn’t as bad as it sounds, actually. I don’t breathe on the glass or anything.

I’m curious to know how Cameron can make a speech to the UN calling on the Arab nations to embrace democracy, while colluding with America to block the creation of a Palestinian state. Whose interests does he have in mind exactly?

Can I go to bed in peace now? Can I ever?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Being Walter Mitty.

Having a rich and fertile imagination can be a two-edged sword. Imaginings can be light and uplifting, they can be thrilling and optimistic; but they can also be delusional and frustrating, and sometimes they can have you lingering on your worst nightmares and being driven into a pit of insufferable horror.

I think one of the reasons I wrote all those stories was to both exercise and exorcise the imagination, to turn the subtle reality of thought into the more concrete one of the written word. I got a lot of stuff out in those stories.

My imagination is no less rich and fertile for it, though, only nowadays my imaginings don’t lend themselves readily to fiction, or at least not the sort I could write.

Seeking Compatibility.

If there’s one thing the events and connections of the past twelve months have encouraged me to do, it’s been to go inside and look for the real JJB. It’s been a process of giving up the role playing; no more masquerading; letting the long-suppressed attitudes and sensibilities rise to the surface where they have every right to be. In short, becoming what I always thought I was but probably wasn’t, at least not entirely – authentic.

And what I’ve taken to doing these past few weeks is to go into my own profile and pick up one of my listed interests or favourites, and then trawl through the summaries of other bloggers who’ve listed the same one. Frankly, it hasn’t been a happy exercise. There’s an awful lot of role playing going on out there, an awful lot of pretentious masquerading. Mostly I found that the mere name somebody chose to go under, or some not-so-casual remark, or the picture with which they chose to represent themselves was enough to send me scuttling onto the next one. Occasionally one would pique my interest enough to go into the full profile, and a few of those encouraged a further delve into their blog. Nearly all of them failed the compatibility test.

That’s what my search was about, of course: compatibility. It wasn’t about me taking a superior position. I’m nothing special, and I did enough masquerading of my own in the early days of my blog. It was about asking the question:

‘If I met this person in real life, would I feel relaxed in their company by just being myself? And would they feel relaxed in mine? Or would one or both of us have to slip into contrived ‘positions’ in order to make a stab at getting on?’

In nearly every case, I’m sorry to say, it was the latter. It’s why I appreciate those few people who’ve stayed with me over the last six months or so. And it’s why I’ve come to realise just how ingrained the role playing habit is. I’m sure we all do it to some extent – become subtly different people in one-on-one situations, so as to reflect the needs or expectations of the person to whom we want to relate. Just being ourselves can be a recipe for loneliness, because compatibility is hard to come by that way. Especially if you're as choosy as I am.

Mostly Cold.

My office is cold today. The priestess is cold today. Today’s communication from the bank is cold.

It’s all a bit shivery. Anybody got a woolly jumper they could spare?

Actually, I’m slightly overstating the negative. There is one candle burning in the corner: I learned the word ‘sapiosexual’ today. Thank you, Mei-shan. Seems all I have to do is gather up the brain cells that keep going AWOL and find a way to bring them back in line. Well, that’s stage one. The second stage isn’t so simple.

I get on my nerves when I’m in this mood. And having a government composed of arrogant, socially-disconnected, public school airheads doesn’t help!

Lacking a Component.

I don’t really do adrenalin. With me, things tend to go from tedious to scary without an intervening period of fun.

It does happen occasionally. I remember driving down Shooter’s Hill outside Ashbourne a couple of years ago, doing 85 with Ride of the Valkyries playing full blast on the car radio. That had more to do with being a Romantic, though. When I mentioned it to a friend, she said ‘Did you have the urge to invade Poland as well?’

She was a Libran. My experience of Librans is that they don’t generally understand the Romantic mindset. They’re too practical, too well balanced, they can be romantic but not Romantic. Sorry, Helen. No offence. There are always exceptions.

I think it’s time I thought about going to bed. Wednesday Wasn’t Wonderful.

Hearing Voices (seriously!)

It being 1.15 am and me feeling bored, I’m going to take a risk. I’m going to make a confession.

As a kid I sometimes used to hear a voice in my head. Plain as day it was, perfectly loud and as real as any real voice would be. It was always my mother calling my name, and it was always completely unexpected. It used to quite startle me, but I grew accustomed to it. (I also used to see flashing blue lights in the night sky that nobody else could see.) The phenomenon stopped when I was in my late teens, but there was an odd recurrence of it one night when I was working at the theatre, about ten years ago.

I don’t hear voices in my head any more. I only hear them in my mind now, which isn’t the same thing. More subtle. And they don’t happen very often. There was that time a few months ago when I heard ‘there are secrets here’ while I was standing underneath the big sycamore one evening. Tonight I got another one while I was relaxing in the bath. It said:

There is one more to come. Stay ready.

Well now, there are those who’ll say I’m sensitive, and those who’ll say I’m completely barking. I don’t care either way, because the ‘mind voices’ generally prove to be accurate. So now I’m curious.

Feel free to flee.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Reining Back.

The checkout I went through in the supermarket today was staffed by a young woman I haven’t seen before. The poor girl got one of my minor rants about the state of the great British public, and how reliant it’s become on the overbearing and often irrational guidance of Nanny State. I apologised, of course, once I’d let off steam.

‘No,’ she said, ‘thank you for entertaining me.’

Oh. I decided she was either being sarcastic or giving the stock response prescribed in the Sainsbury’s Training Manual. I would prefer sarcasm of the two.

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And while I’m making a trivial post, I might mention that the newspaper article about my UFO sighting described me as a ‘novelist.’ I never said I was a novelist. I don’t consider the writing of one novel and a novella sufficient to justify such an epithet, especially since they’re both self-published. Nevertheless, I was tempted to wonder whether being a ‘novelist’ might carry some currency in certain quarters. But no, I have to be authentic above all else.

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And I saw a T-shirt in a shop that had printed on it Older Guys Rule. As if I’m not deluded enough already!

Today's Second Rant.

It’s no good. I don’t want this blog to descend into a succession of negative rants, but sometimes the spleen has to be vented and there’s no other way.

There’s something that really bugs me. Hypocrisy. If you’re cheap, admit it. If you claim not to be, then don’t be. It’s that simple.

I know, this is all to do with me being an idealist. I can’t help it. I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life, but once the conviction has become established that a certain something is wrong, I’ve stopped doing it. All my life I’ve tried to live up to the principles that were established at the time, and all I keep meeting is duplicitous shit.

I can’t expect others to be the same, can I? I must try hard not to judge because I have no right, and to do so would make me sanctimonious. What I do have a right to do, though, is be selective in my choice of those with whom I want to associate.

And just to avoid any confusion, these remarks don’t apply to the priestess. As far as I’m aware, she hasn’t made any fraudulent claims. There’s a difference between fraud and fiction. That’s one of the reasons why I honour her and treat her with as much courtesy and consideration as I can manage. It isn’t always enough, but I do try.

Rant over.

Not the Easiest of Days.

How to describe the events of today so far. Three down, none to go?

Let’s be philosophical. When you find that your box is finally empty, you can take delight in the knowledge that there’s a lot of space in which to put new things. Or, to quote Bob Dylan’s alternative, ‘when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.’

That’s the people news. The financial news is that I got a letter this morning telling me I’m worse off now than I was yesterday. I wasn’t very well off yesterday.

We survive, don’t we?

The Joys of Rhyming.

Actual conversation (some years ago, when I had a significant other and wasn’t yet vegetarian.)

‘Is this Boef en Croute?’

‘No. It’s more like Beef Wellington.’

‘Ah, Boef en Boot.’

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I don’t know why I’m in a frivolous mood tonight, I really don’t. I’m still pining for the priestess and feeling highly disturbed that my most fundamental need is not being met.

Life’s weird.

Shades of Vert.

For some reason, I’ve become intrigued to know whether I’m an extrovert or introvert. I did the Myers-Briggs test once and it said I was an extrovert. Tonight I did it again, and now I’m an introvert. So I did another sort of test, and that said I’m 50:50. I gather that makes me an ambivert, which sounds like something a person could get locked up for. Or just boring.

Got to laugh, haven’t you?

'Hey, Bert,
Are you an extrovert or introvert?'

'Dunno. How do you tell?'

'Where do you get your energy from?'

'Eating Mars Bars.'

'Good answer. Chocovert. Nice one.'

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Impoverished.

It’s been suggested that I hold a Giveaway.

What do I have to give that anybody would want?

How about my kidneys when I die? They're hard workers and very experienced...

Help!

One Item Missing.

I don’t see how the list of ‘Interests’ in my blog profile could be complete without some reference to women.

Women have always fascinated me. Sometimes I’ve found them engaging, sometimes compelling, sometimes all-consuming, sometimes frustrating, sometimes cruel, sometimes maddening...

But ignore them I can’t. The second biggest preoccupation of my life has been the search for the right woman. (Seems I’ve probably found her, but we’re never going to meet – which is how it should be, I suppose.)

Anyway, the question is: what am I going to list among my interests that reflects the place of women in my life?

My interests include:

Pretty girls? Hardly! It goes a hell of a lot deeper than that.

Beautiful women? Nope, still nowhere near deep enough.

Women who know their place? That one would be accurate, but can you imagine the eyebrows it would raise? Everybody would assume I meant it in terms of the traditional ‘woman’s place’ as perceived in male-dominated cultures. Which, of course, it wouldn’t. My meaning would be nothing if not respectful. I still considered it, just to be mischievous, but ruled it out.

I have an idea, but it troubles me. It might be giving too much away. Still, if I can get the wording right...

Watch this space (well, that space.)

Shaking the World.

Football. (What the rest of the world calls football, not what Americans call football. Football is a game in which the ball is mostly propelled by being kicked, not thrown, which is why it’s called football. I digress.)

I understand why some people are keen on the game, since it offers the prospect of vicarious success in a life largely chained to a dreary treadmill. And I understand why football fans treat the fortunes of their chosen club and the national team with some degree of seriousness, ‘some degree’ being the operative phrase.

One of the TV channels tonight offers an hour long programme on ‘Barcelona’s Greatest Goals.’ This is followed by another whole hour entitled ‘Twenty Goals that Shook the World.’

Shook the world?

The Japanese tsunami shook the world. The ending of apartheid shook the world. The discovery of Nazi concentration camps shook the world.

Should I go on?

Monday, 19 September 2011

An Alien World.

There’s an advert in Hotmail from one of the furniture retail chains. It says:

£400 off every sofa.

I remember a time when that sort of thing mattered to me. Now, I would rather put up with alienation than go back there. I couldn’t, just couldn’t.

There’s another one that offers me a state-of-the-art TV for £15.99 a month if I combine it with a Virgin cable/phone package. See what I mean? That’s exactly the world I can’t live in any more. It’s full of aliens, eyes wide shut, dripping gadgets and consumed by lifestyle concerns.

Broadening My Horizons.

After the heady stuff in the last post, it’s back to playing the game...

I’m wondering whether to give up television altogether. Now that I’ve got digital, I have a staggering array of channels at my disposal. ‘You’re bound to find plenty to watch now,’ said my new neighbour. Really? I give it a go several times a day. I flick the ‘Channel Up’ button repeatedly, which gives a temporary display showing the programme now playing on each channel. Sometimes I stop at about channel 40, sometimes I persevere into the 100’s. Result: nothing, nothing, nothing.

(Some of the later channels are porn channels, by the way. I spent a few minutes watching them the other night. I would have found them hilarious had I not been so disturbed by the flagrant way in which the sanctity of the Feminine Principle was being trashed. They consist of various excuses for real women – possibly plastic, I’m not sure – lying or kneeling topless on a bed, rubbing their chests, making their bottoms waggle, and pouting at the camera once a minute, apparently on cue. And while they’re doing that, they’re talking to some bozos on the phone who are apparently paying £1.50 a minute for the ‘pleasure.’ I’ve no idea what was being said; having the sound as well as the sight would have been just too far beyond the call of duty. The things I suffer in the name of experience and this blog! I suppose it’s all rather sad, really, but no more of that for me, thank you.)

So anyway, I was flicking through the channels today while I was eating my lunch, when I came across a programme entitled ‘Feng Shui.’

Now, it saddens me to see the trivial commercialisation of these ancient traditions being perpetrated by the business end of the New Age movement, but I do have some faith in their roots, so I decided to have a look. It was none other than a shopping channel – presumably one purporting to sell items that encourage good feng shui. The item they were selling when I arrived was a green leather handbag. Two people were talking very earnestly about it.

All in all, it comes back to my wanting to stop the world and get the hell off.

The Game of Life?

The notions came flooding in again this morning. I was considering the question of life and whether the nihilists have got it right. This is what occurred to me in that moment of insight, or madness, or self-delusion, or whatever it was.

Life is just a game that we play because we want to, because there’s fun to be had. It’s like going out onto a rugby pitch knowing the potential for thrills and disappointments, for successes and failures, for grinding effort interspersed with rest periods. We do it over and over again, knowing that in one game we might score three tries and be the hero of the hour, while in another we might get carried off in the first minute with broken bones and suffer great pain.

And each time we don the shirt, shorts, socks, boots and various items of protective equipment, we forget what has gone before. The real ‘we’ consciously shuts out the world beyond the pitch so we can better engage with the game. And we continue to do so because life has the capacity to provide thrills and spills way beyond what any sport can offer. There are dimensions ranging from the physical to the mental to the emotional to the spiritual. Life’s demons are so much more destructive, and its angels infinitely more sublime.

Eventually, however, the process of forgetting becomes more difficult. Conscious memory remains excluded, but the experience pushes its way through and subtly informs our perceptions. And that’s when we begin to see the game for what it is.

We begin to look beyond it and embrace the concept of spiritual growth, not realising yet that ‘growth’ is nothing more than accepting the knowledge and experience we already have locked away in some deeper part of our consciousness. At this point we find ourselves becoming alienated from the other players, because they’re still wrapped up in the game while we are losing focus. We’re beginning to see the game in a wider context, and maybe we’re even growing tired of playing it. And that’s when the light dims, the noise of the game subsides, and loneliness sets in.

I don’t want to stop playing the game yet; I expect to have further lives. But the time is approaching. I can feel it.

And, as always, I might be completely wrong.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Quoting Rilke for Once.

"...the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke.

This has a ring of truth about it, but I think it’s going to take me at least the rest of this life to understand the practical application. Then again, it could be just an example of that elegant brand of sophistry to which poets and thinkers are occasionally given.

Nevertheless, the prospect of acting with beauty and courage – just once – has a self-contained and seductive appeal.

To Go or Stay.

The western sky was magnificent tonight. I could see the old steam loco with the cowcatcher on the front, heading for Santa Fe.

All my life I’ve felt drawn to just take off and follow the sunset. ‘Ah, but that’s silly,’ you might say. ‘If you did that, and kept pace with sun, you’d end up where you started.’

No. The idea would be to hitch a lift with a skein of wild geese, then jump off when the wind says ‘now,’ and see where I end up.

The system doesn’t let you do that sort of thing these days. Too many men in suits and uniforms, all guarding the free world. And maybe I’ve already landed anyway.

Being an Object of Faded Regard.

So, here’s the question:

You write to somebody and say ‘I can’t see any way ahead for us, can you?’ You get no reply, so eventually you follow it up with ‘I suppose it falls to me to say goodbye, then.’ And still you get no response.

Isn’t that a little discourteous? Not that it matters, as long as she’s happy. And I did get a good phrase out of the whole business:

‘An object of faded regard.’

Her phrase, you understand, and I like it; it’s concise, well constructed, and all the more expressive for so being. Having become such an object, I will now feel entitled to plagiarise it. I do like concise, well constructed, expressive phrases.

I’m only writing this because I’m bored. I’m not tired enough to go to bed and I feel like having a moan about something.

Creatures of Avalon.

The Flying friends were on good form this evening. Three bats confined their patrol almost entirely to the space in front of me where they were silhouetted against an area of sky showing between two trees. There they flew back and forth across my eye line, sometimes diving, sometimes pirouetting, sometimes doing loop-the-loops, and sometimes darting close and missing my ear by inches. Then the Tawny Owl flew across the lane and settled in one of the trees, proceeding to kee-wick and hoo-hoo for quite some time. It was a show to equal anything I might find in a theatre.

I imagine there are those who find bats and owls creepy; such creatures are the stuff of gothic fiction and horror films. I don’t, and I’ve always been a fan of gothic fiction and horror films. And I suppose there are others who would consider the spending of a Saturday evening watching bats and listening to owls somewhat short of invigorating.

It’s all a matter of what you find invigorating. The Saxons can frolic in their mire all they like. I’ll take Avalon any time.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Tea and the Irish Connection.

Fans of Father Ted might be amused by this little snippet of conversation I had with my new neighbour. I went around there a couple of days ago to finish trimming her long back hedge. When I walked through the gate, she said

‘Would you like a cup of tea?’

‘No thanks.’

‘Are you sure? I’m just making one.’

‘No, I’m fine. I’ve just had a cup of coffee.’

‘Sure?’

‘Yes, thanks.’

I weighed up the job and decided I’d need the loppers as well as the hedge trimmer, so I went and fetched them. As I came back through the gate, she said

‘Are you sure you won’t have a cup of tea?’

‘No thanks.’

‘I’m having one.’

‘No, really. I had some coffee literally ten minutes ago.’

‘Oh. OK.’

She looked slightly put out. I did the job and started clearing up the trimmings, at which point she asked me again.

‘Would you have that cup of tea now?’

‘Yes, Mrs Doyle, I’ll have that cup of tea now.’

I didn’t actually call her Mrs Doyle, but I nearly did. And I had the cup of tea. I wonder whether it’s just coincidence that her father was Irish.

Giving up on Murder.

I’ve often thought it would be interesting to go through the TV listings and work out what percentage of the dramas are about murder. I think the figure would be very high. We’re obsessed with it.

It used to be that the subject was sanitised. Dead bodies were clean; they lay in stock positions on the floor, or were slumped over a desk with a knife standing vertically from their back. If there was any blood at all, it was just a token trickle. And they were often presented in the guise of mere riddles. Agatha Christie is a prime example; the body is just a plastic piece at the centre of a game board.

Things have changed now. We live in the age of realism, no doubt encouraged by the plethora of real-life TV shows that must surely appeal only to those with darkly voyeuristic taste. TV dramas have been forced into the same dark, depressing pit.

There is now blood in abundance, there are grieving people, there is mess, mania and perversion. Sometimes you can almost smell the filth. And it seems that the more blood, mess, perversion and grief they show, the more critically acclaimed the drama is and the better are its ratings. Maybe that’s how it should be.

I tried to watch one earlier this week, just by way of passing a couple of slack hours in the evening. I lasted twenty minutes. I don’t want to see that stuff any more. I’m no longer a darkly voyeuristic type. I don’t think I ever have been, but the aversion to it is growing stronger. If I’m to have darkness, I want a more subtle variety.

Cassie's Tale.

The publican of the local hostelry told me that he has to treat Cassie the dog regularly for fleas. He said she gets them through spending a lot of time in the fields. Cassie’s version of the story was less prosaic:

I remonstrated with the flea
That came and said hello to me
While I was out upon the lea
And talking to the rabbits

I told him that if only he
Would stay and my companion be
I’d show him how to find the key
To learn some better habits

Friday, 16 September 2011

Tasting the Real Thing.

I don’t want to labour an old, and arguably overdone, topic, but I have to make mention again of the subtle energy of nature that hangs in the air in my garden at twilight. There’s no point trying to describe it; it’s one of those things that have to be felt to be understood.

Tonight it was particularly strong – almost as strong as it was on Beltane Eve. And as I stood enthralled by the richness and beneficence of the subtle charge that was seeping through my skin and into my consciousness, a big Tawny Owl flew low over my head.

Is it surprising that I have such difficulty finding anything to watch on the TV these days? What reflection of modern urban culture could hope to follow an experience like that? Is it surprising that I’m becoming ever more alienated from said urban culture? How can you go back to drinking cheap instant coffee when you’ve tasted a brew made from the finest, fresh beans? And will there ever be anyone to share it with? Unlikely.

Confused by the Confusion.

Yesterday’s early evening news bulletin on BBC1 gave a great deal of air time to something that is causing grave concern to the nation. Supermarkets are labelling some of their packaged food with two dates: one that says ‘Display until’ and another that says ‘Use by.’ Sometimes they’re not the same, and this is becoming a Matter of National Outrage. Several members of the public were interviewed, and stated most indignantly that they found this practice very confusing.

Maybe I can help. Listen up everybody. The ‘Display until’ date is the date beyond which the item shouldn’t displayed. The ‘Use by’ date is the date by which the product should be used. If that’s still confusing, think of it this way: tomorrow is Saturday, the day after will be Sunday. It’s that simple. Got it?

‘These are small, but the ones out there are far away.’

I think the great British public is going the way of Dougal McGuire. The nanny state is making such ninnies of us that people can hardly function these days without verbal or numerical instructions to guide them; and when they’re given such instructions, they get confused anyway. The ‘Use by’ date isn’t even writ in stone, for God’s sake. I frequently use milk that’s three or four days beyond the date given. If it smells OK and doesn’t curdle in hot tea, it’s drinkable and there’s no way I’m going to chuck it.

The programme also gave a figure for the amount of food that’s thrown away in Britain every year. It works out at over £600 worth per person. That’s not only astonishing, it’s criminal.  It seems that today’s highly educated populace is suffering severe atrophy of the brain, as well as becoming ever more dependent on nanny state to help them make their way through life.

Good Advice.

Just as I was closing down a website, I caught the punch line of an advert. It said:

Don’t tell her you miss her.

Really? I wonder why not. Is this the universe advising me to be more guarded in my correspondence with the odd priestess here and there?

Bit of a problem, though. One of my weaknesses is that I tend to say what I want to say, and I only say what I mean. I’m not very good at being that kind of guarded, although I am getting better.

With God on Our Side.

I was browsing through some blogger profiles again tonight, and came across an American man who listed atheism among his interests.

I find this odd, since I’m not sure how the fact of simply not believing in something can be described as an ‘interest.’ Would it be reasonable to describe ‘not believing in aliens,’ ‘not believing in fairies,’ and ‘not believing the earth is flat’ as interests? Surely, a belief must have an essentially positive slant in order to qualify.

But then, I did say the man was American. I gather (and please, do correct me if I’m wrong) that American kids are indoctrinated from an early age to the belief that there is a God in heaven who supports the American Dream, the American Way, and American Foreign Policy. Bob Dylan wrote a song about it. If that is the case, then I suppose taking the anti stance might be said to have a positive slant.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Flash.

Being at a bit of a loose end tonight, I decided to have a go at something I’ve never tried before: flash fiction. I’ve encountered the term frequently, and knew there was no accepted definition regarding word count. I did a bit of research and discovered that the form is very old, and word counts can vary from fifty five to as many as a thousand. The one I’ve come across most often is the hundred word form, not including the title, so that was what I settled on.

Needless to say, telling even a simple story in such an abbreviated form requires a little imagination on the part of the reader, since some aspects of the ‘plot’ have to be suggested rather than explicitly stated.

It wasn’t as easy as you might suppose – getting it right in exactly one hundred words. It took me over an hour. This is what I came up with:

A Cosmic Connection.

All noise and movement in the bar stopped. The room darkened and the air turned cold. The customers, including Liam’s prospective new girlfriend, Aisling, sat motionless. He watched as a shimmering wraith drifted close. The beautiful young Chinese woman in blood red cheongsam smiled and said:

‘She can’t have you, Liam. You’re mine; you’ve always been mine and you always will be. It’s written. Why do you think all your pretended relationships failed? There is only me, you, and us. You have to be patient, my love. It won’t be long now.’

The bustle returned, and Liam declined Aisling’s offer.

Beauty and the Beetle (and Snacks.)

Alexander has been absent for a few nights, but he’s back. I nearly trod on him tonight when I went into the kitchen to get a drink. I chided him gently, of course, telling him that he really shouldn’t sit where people walk. Without needing further admonishment, he toddled off under the washing machine. Clever boy.

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

Sainsbury’s were out of onion rings. Again!

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

I got talking to an unusually attractive woman in the cobblers today. It wasn’t just her looks that impressed – though she certainly had them – it was her warm, outgoing manner and engaging personality. She talked to me as though we’d been friends for years. But then I noticed a man standing by the counter, and it turned out he was her husband. They didn’t match at all. Married couples usually match, but they didn’t. That confused me. She told me they had five children, though, so I suppose they must get on.  

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Being a RIFT.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people who call themselves ‘free thinkers’ are actually slaves to the pantheon of liberal shibboleths. It seems to me that being a free thinker is all about choosing your own norms and axioms – be they liberal, conservative or completely off the bloody wall – without reference to external pressures, trends or the need to be viewed sympathetically.

I now recognise that I probably only became a free thinker this year; it was one of the many sources of the turbulence that 2011 has been employing to throw me about like a ping-pong ball on the edge of a deep barometric depression. And it isn’t an easy thing to be, especially when it’s combined with a couple of other unfortunate characteristics.

The combination of Romantic, idealist and free thinker produces an apposite acronym: RIFT. A tearing apart. Which probably explains why I’ve spent the last two days feeling disassociated from the world around me, consumed by a sense of missing something I’ve never had and desperately longing for the impossible. Oh, and having an imagination running riot to such an extent that I’m no longer sure which version of reality I’m living in.

I’m tired.