Monday, 31 October 2011

The Woman in America.

There is a woman in America who is putting me through a mangle and hanging me out to dry. No, this isn’t a tale of romantic angst lifted from the pages of a teeny bopper magazine. This is big. I mean, if you think the Empire State Building is big, it doesn’t hold a candle to this (apologies to D Adams.)

This is about being forced to look back on my very earliest memories and being aware of certain convictions, apparently already entrenched before I was old enough to reason effectively or learn from cultural conditioning. It’s about tracing the development of my attitude to those convictions, first finding vindication for them through religion. It’s about how I subsequently rejected that religion and began to question them; how I moved into a period of conforming to the secular mores of the time in which the convictions were tolerated but not encouraged; how I progressed beyond conventional culture and embraced a more Bohemian mindset in which such convictions were not even tolerated; how I entered a phase of spiritual exploration and followed a tradition in which they were considered of no import one way or the other; about how I broke free of reliance on any single spiritual tradition and almost forgot my convictions altogether; and about how I set myself adrift from my native culture, began to seek the nature of who I am without external influences, and found that I’d come full circle: the convictions were as strong, if not stronger, than ever.

And now my head is swimming because it seems I stand alone. I see no one else who shares my convictions, and the search for my personal Grail looks doomed to failure because all I see is inadequacy and the prospect of perpetual disappointment. I see my convictions mocked and denigrated wherever I look.

This is about the relationship between body and spirit. It's about what I perceive to be the sacred nature of the masculine:feminine connection, and how I can no longer tolerate the slightest adulterating influence on that connection. It’s about how it makes me sick to my stomach when I see the constant assault on it being mounted in the modern world. It’s driving me up the wall. It even has me wondering whether I’m simply a fruitcake.

And my awareness of all this has been provoked by a woman in America. So who is she, really?

Something to Look Forward To.

I just discovered that there’s a Psychoville Halloween special on the TV at ten o’clock tonight. Psychoville is a very rare example of TV from outside the tram lines. Usually dark, but never drab. No posts from me between ten and eleven.

Clever JJ, Desperately Seeking Sarah, and a Hamlet Paraphrase.

We put our clocks back to GMT in Britain over the weekend, so I changed the clock setting on my blog today – in HTML. I’ve never changed anything in HTML before. Admittedly, it was only a matter of realising that +0100 needed to be changed to +0000, but it’s a start!


I went for three walks today, seeking Sarah. I had something important to say to her, but she wasn’t in evidence on any of the usual routes. Just goes to show that we’re often at the mercy of fate to allow or disallow.


I’m still suffering continuous disquiet, not to mention the most giddying, dichotomous swings of perception, over the recently gleaned intelligence that there’s something rotten in the state of New York. I was going to make a whole post about it, but decided it should only be afforded a brief mention. There’s been quite enough TMI for one week.

Approaching Life.

There’s something I’m confused about. I’ve been confused about it all day and I’m not getting any closer to working it out. Never mind what it is; it’s complicated. The point is this:

Sometimes I think we should let go, stop trying to be in control, let fate or the universe, or whatever it is, deliver what it wants to deliver. (That’s what often happens anyway. At least to me it does.)

And sometimes I don’t. And it isn’t as easy an option as it sounds. Among other things, it requires patience and the ability to give up fear. Humans don't easily do something as radical as that.

What’s more, sometimes I wish I could play the penny whistle like a veteran, though heaven knows what I’d do with it.

By Way of a Change.

I could make several posts tonight, but they’re all on the same old theme that’s keeping me fixated and tiring me out. So, I thought I’d post another video instead.

The Storyteller was a series of TV episodes made by Jim Henson, and aired in both the US and the UK in the late eighties. Each story was based on an old folk tale and used a mixture of puppets and live actors. It’s good stuff. The acting, direction, design and scripts are superb, and the sets often have an imaginative, surreal element about them. The one I’m posting is the only full length episode I can find on YouTube, but no matter; they’re all good.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Still, Small Voice.

I made a decision yesterday to give something up. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time; logic and my nature said so. Today I began the process of getting used to my loss, and it still seemed like the right thing to have done. Logic and my nature continued to back me up. But I’ve had this still, small voice nagging at me all day. It isn’t saying ‘This is sad. This is a shame. Poor old Jeffrey. Get used to it.’ That much you’d expect. No, it’s saying ‘This is wrong. You did the wrong thing.’ That’s different.

I’ve had this guy on my back before, and so I recognise his voice. It isn’t the voice of emotion, or even reason necessarily. It’s something else, something deeper, something that maybe has arcane knowledge. The problem is, he isn’t telling me why I was wrong. And until he does, I suppose I’ll just have to go with logic and my nature. After all, he might be nothing more than a figment of my imagination.


Meanwhile, I hope the folks in the north east USA aren’t suffering too much from that crazy snow storm. And my thoughts go out particularly to the protesters on Wall Street who’ve had their generators and heating appliances confiscated, presumably on the orders of a nasty, spiteful, opportunistic little Establishment. Tyranny assumes many faces as it moulds itself to the situation, but it’s fundamentally the same thing whatever mask it wears.

About to Pop.

The programme I watched about Edward Elgar the other night featured an interview with a Venezuelan woman conductor. I took her to my heart when she said that the crescendo in Elgar’s Nimrod still moves her to tears. Me, too, even at the hundredth hearing.

Nice moment.

I don’t know why I’m posting this. I feel like a soap bubble – empty and about to go the way of all soap bubbles.

Americans, Desirable and Undesirable.

I heard on a TV programme tonight that the Pilgrim Fathers weren’t all they’re cracked up to be. The common notion that they went to America to escape religious persecution isn’t true, apparently. Rather they went there because they objected to the religious tolerance being observed in England at the time, and wanted to found a state in which they could ban all sects but their own. They even executed a woman in the early days for no other ‘crime’ than that she was a Quaker. How very Christian of them.

If this is true, it seems they belong with Columbus at the head of a list of Undesirable Early Americans. Maybe Americans know that already. I didn’t.


I’ve been like a 90-year-old with dementia today. Too many difficult e-mails. Too many distressing prospects. Helloes hurt; goodbyes hurt; being in touch hurts; you can’t f*****g win! Back and forth between the sublime and the sordid. The American Way, maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just losing track of reason.

But the Red Renault got cleaned, as promised. He’s now a bright, shiny red again. All over.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

A Little List.

Let me append a bulleted list of some simple facts.

1) The government continues to cut back on welfare expenditure, making it even more difficult for the elderly, the incapacitated and the unemployed to get by even at subsistence level. The winter fuel allowance paid to the elderly, for example, has been reduced by 20%.

2) The cost of fundamental items such as food, heating and private sector rents has increased way above inflation. This matters little to the rich, since they have plenty of slack to take up, but it’s devastating to the poor who have nothing left to cut.

3) The salaries and bonuses paid to the directors of the FTSE top 100 companies have gone up by 50% in the last year. Other statistics show that the rich have generally been getting richer at a rate above the level of inflation.

4) Mr Cameron says ‘we’re all in this together.’ Mr Cameron is a rich man.

5) Those who take to the streets to protest against corporate greed are deemed ‘irresponsible’ by the Establishment.

That’ll do.

I was supposed to be writing about bats, trees and cocker spaniels, wasn’t I? Later, maybe. I haven’t recovered from the operation I referred to yet.

A Possible Project.

I was suddenly hit today by the notion that I should be writing another novel – something about the human condition this time, rather than the magical, mystical, paranormal stuff that’s usually my stock-in-trade. I’m sure there’d be lots of insightful things to go in there, if only I could think of a bloody story to attach them to! At the moment I can’t.

Recent posts have been terribly self-indulgent, haven’t they? Must try to write something nice about bats, trees and cocker spaniels tomorrow. Or clouds. No, not clouds – too much scope for metaphor.


...I’m fading...


Removing a Foreign Body.

It’s interesting how the effect of having surgery extends beyond the physical difficulties encountered by the affected part. It shakes your whole sense of well being. Your life force becomes dimmed, leaving you feeling sick, shaky, and even depressed.

I’m only just realising how emotional surgery does the same thing. Excising a person who’s got under your skin deeper than you’d imagined isn’t unlike having a bullet removed. Sick, shaky, depressed even.

The piece of toast liberally laden with houmous didn’t help. Time to self-medicate.

I promised the Red Renault I’d give him a wash tomorrow. He was out in the rain yesterday and got filthy. He’s looking a bit sorry for himself, poor thing.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Life and the Romantic: Update.

Two down, one to go. Then I really shall be alone.

I saw a programme about Edward Elgar tonight. The last great passionate love of his life (and who reciprocated his feelings) was a woman forty years his junior. Similar story with Ralph Vaughan Williams and TS Elliot. Ah, but that was in the days before sex suffered the indignity of being devalued from a physical need driven by a biological imperative to a matter of mere recreation. To my mind, it’s neither; it resides on a level infinitely more rarefied than both. Maybe Messrs Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Elliot were of the same opinion.

And maybe my peculiar sensibilities in that regard are yet one more side effect of living outside the tram lines of a drab culture.

The Value of TV Documentaries.

I started watching a TV documentary tonight. It featured an old inn somewhere in the south of England, which the commentary said was associated with:

‘Lady Jane Grey, wife of Henry VIII...’

I turned it off as soon as I could be bothered to reach for the remote control. This is probably even worse than a line in another documentary about Cleopatra, which said:

‘At the time of Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire stretched from North Africa in the south to Hadrian’s Wall in the north.’

A word of advice: Don’t believe anything you hear in a TV documentary unless it’s something you already know. In which case, why bother to watch it at all? Do a jigsaw puzzle or something instead.

Life and the Romantic: What Do You Do?

What do you do with a woman who brings light into your life, and then flicks the switch off? What do you do with a woman who swamps you with colour, and then flings mud in your eye? What do you do with a woman who sets your adrenalin racing, and then awakens your demon? What do you do with a woman who thrills and disappoints alternately, and whom you know you also disappoint? What do you do when you’ve willingly accepted the pain of saying ‘enough’s enough, goodbye’ several times already, but she keeps coming back and you still can’t resist the challenge? What do you do with a woman whose actions seem to speak differently than her words?

And what do you do about the fight that’s going on inside you between the young, optimistic idealist and the middle aged man who’s striving for realism, especially since you know that you’re never going to meet this person and, even if you did, there’s no way you could be anything other than platonic acquaintances?

What do you do, eh? What?

Give up? Carry on riding the rollercoaster until you’re ready to pass out? Jump from a high building and hope you die before you feel the pain?

OK, the last option is a bit melodramatic, but try putting the following four characteristics into one person and see what you get:


Oh, and you can add the adjectives Impulsive, Frank and Sincere, just for good measure.

The result can be a bastard at times, believe me. And I’m aware that I’m probably wearing far too much on my sleeve here, but frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn. This has to be expressed somewhere.

I finished trimming the biggest and toughest of my hedges today. There; that makes everything all right again.

Deena Fisher.

This won’t mean anything to people who read this blog, but I want to make it public anyway.

Drollerie Press is closing due to serious and long term health issues being suffered by its owner and Creative Director, Deena Fisher. Drollerie Press was a star among small press publishers, largely through the skill, good taste, sensitivity and visual flair of Deena Fisher. Deena is one of the special people, and I want it to go on record that she’s the only editor from whom I ever learned anything about the craft of writing.

If ever you read this, D, I honour you, and I wish you all the luck going.

The Best of All Possible Worlds.

I’ve almost completely stopped watching the news, current affairs programmes and virtually everything the TV has to offer. Irresponsible, isn’t it? I have a duty to keep abreast of matters, don’t I? I should know what’s going on so I can play my part as an involved citizen, shouldn’t I?

But of what, exactly, am I a citizen? I see a drab world presided over by drab politicians, drab entrepreneurs and drab financiers. I see a timid, toothless media that seeks to do little but recycle what the drab people create. I see an entertainment industry splashing a thin layer of gaudy, glitzy colour on it all, making heroes of celebrities, stick-women-with-attitude and prima donna fucking sports stars.

It’s a world sans magic, sans mystery, and almost sans imagination. And so I’ve stopped looking at it.

Dr Pangloss is vindicated, it seems.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Quoting Myself Again.

I wrote the following in an e-mail to somebody last night, but I see no reason why it shouldn’t be made public.

‘It isn’t so much being alone that bothers me. Sure, I get lonely sometimes, but I like having my own space and I’m an optimist. What really scares me witless is getting old, even though I know all the cultural, psychological and metaphysical reasons why it shouldn’t. But it does. It’s that image of the wizened figure slumped in an armchair with his pale, waxy skin, his wisps of fine white hair, his misshapen body that functions poorly and ever under protest, and his damp eyes drooping inexorably into lifelessness. I don’t want to become a weak and ugly lump that can no longer pursue its quest, while the fires of action continue to rage unabated inside. What sort of an existence is that? I sometimes envy those who grow gracefully from one age to the next, accepting each with equanimity. I can’t because my psyche never kept pace with the flow of time. Maybe that’s my greatest failing.

Somewhere deep inside me the optimist still stirs, telling me that I have one major adventure left before I reach that stage. And the horse might talk.’


These posts are getting a bit miserable, aren’t they? OK, go back to the conversation I wrote with Sarah’s mother. I think And have you given due consideration to the possibility of polluting my water table? is a genuinely funny line, but I fear you might have to be English to appreciate it.


I’m quoting below a small section from my novel, simply because I had this very experience for real tonight.

'He walked back down the garden path and tried to apply the light of reason to a situation in which there appeared to be none. He looked around and realised that things were not as they should be. It was early August when he’d walked up the hill, but the garden had the look of October about it. The summer flowers were gone, their heads reduced to dark husks and their stems drooping into decay. The light seemed eerie in the gathering gloom of dusk. It had more of lurid luminescence than of honest light about it, and the garden looked brighter than the deep grey sky could seem to account for. It was an unwelcome brightness, a wrong, unnatural sort: unwholesome and disturbing. He began to believe that it was only there to enable him to be watched.
He looked southward to the river valley, where the view of trees, fields and hedgerows was washed into a range of depleting half tones. Nothing moved there; the familiar lights of traffic running along the road beyond the river were conspicuous by their absence. Neither was there any other sign of life; the specks of brightness that usually betrayed the location of the many scattered buildings were absent too. And there was no sign of moon or stars in the saturated gloom above his head. This was an abandoned place.
He reached the bottom of the garden and became aware of one or two small shapes falling around him. They were decaying leaves, and confirmed that he had somehow woken in an autumnal world. The rain had stopped but everything dripped mindlessly and mockingly. The still, misty air felt cool, and the occasional clatter of a dead leaf was the only sound breaking the mortified silence.'

It’s been a wet day today, and by twilight the low cloud had descended to shroud the world in a wet mist traditionally associated with an English November.

The rest of that chapter sees the protagonist menaced by dark slithery demons until Annie can bring him back to her presence. At least I was able to go back to the house, close the curtains and make my dinner.


Helen was telling me today about a relationship she formed with another woman on her last major Buddhist retreat. I found it quite moving. It was evidently deep, gentle, mutually supportive and non-sexual. It’s how I envisage the concept of sisterhood, and I envy it.

I don’t think men – at least, heterosexual men – are capable of that sort of relationship, either with women or other men. Their relationships with women are always likely to carry at least a hint of sexual tension, and those with other men at least a hint of competitive tension. I don’t include familial relationships in this, and maybe it’s different for gay men, I wouldn’t know.

Sides of the Subway.

America has descended on my blog in great numbers today, all courtesy of a post entitled ‘Just to Annoy the Yankees,’ it seems. It occurs to me that many of them might have been Mets fans hoping to read a pejorative rant about the opposition. Sorry. I do understand the difference between the general ‘Yank’ and the more specific ‘Yankee’ (historical and sporting.) I was being lazy.

I’m inclined to think that the respective merits and reputations of the Union and Confederate causes carry an echo of the Roundheads and Royalists in the English Civil War. Sellers and Yeatman described it thus:

‘The Roundheads were Right but Repulsive. The Royalists were Wrong but Wromantic.’

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Oddities Picked Up from the Stats Tracker.

Two interesting things today.

The first is that my story When the Waves Call appears to be going great guns in the Russian Federation. Twelve page views in one day, so far. All from Russia. That’s a lot. It pleases me immensely that some people from Russia like a story of mine, so thank you for reading it my Russian chums. Of course, it could be that somebody over there is translating it, so that Liam becomes Mikhail, Maire becomes Ludmilla (note the pleasing symmetry) and the action takes place on the Baltic Coast somewhere in the vicinity of Kaliningrad. That would be interesting.

The second concerns another story, The Open Circle. In it I have the two boys going to a séance in Sackville Terrace. I made the address up; I’ve known a Sackville Street, but never a Sackville Terrace. So I found it odd that somebody from Perth, WA should have found their way to the story from Google by searching Sackville Terrace + sex. People do search the strangest things, don’t they?

One Success and a Note of Caution.

I made contact with the Ashbourne NHS dental practice today. The reception I got was in marked contrast to what I received at the hands of the swanky, private one last week. The receptionist was friendly and helpful. More importantly, she was better looking as well. I’m booked in for an appointment next Wednesday. This just goes to prove that poor people are nicer than rich people. If others can indulge in shameless non sequiturs, so can I.

And guess who tailgated me into Ashbourne? Sarah, bless her little black Mini (she’s had a new car.) She didn’t even notice it was me, which wasn’t exactly edifying. And I’d better be careful what I write about her from now on (and her mother.) There’s every chance she will find this blog soon, so I think a greater degree of circumspection is called for in the nature of my humorous fictions.

Did I ever mention that I like Sarah’s mother? I like Sarah’s mother.

Hi, Sarah.

Just to Annoy the Yankees.

Do you want to hear a joke?

Me too.

So I cheated. Sue me.

‘Sue me’ looks odd. ‘Me Sue, you Jeffrey’ makes more sense.

And while I’m on the subject, I had two visits from Jersey City today. According to Google maps, Jersey City looks to be smaller than Manhattan. So then I remembered noticing that nearly every Wells Fargo stop in the Midwest that’s got more than a pig trough and two lamp posts gets called a city. Why is that? And what’s that obsession Americans have with elevation? Welcome to Fatsville. Elevation 17 ft. What’s that all about?

America is a mystery to the rest of us, although I have to say that lady Americans with melty New England accents at least sound scrummy.

Don’t be offended. It’s just what happens when I mix Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with alcohol. Life's too fleeting to get offended. Here one day, gone the next. And my knee hurts. The right one.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Winds of Change.

No time today for reflection, observation, silly anecdotes, entertaining fiction, socio-political rants or spiritual musing. It’s been a day of contemplating a difficult decision. The winds of change are rising again, and as one door blows shut, it’s easy to imagine you’ve heard another one creak somewhere around the next corner.

But for a timely edit, that would have been a terrible mixed metaphor.

Somebody from Moscow read When the Waves Call today, and the search term they used in Google suggests they must have picked it up from a Wikipedia article. That pleased me; it’s probably my favourite story. I think it says more about me than any other.

Who Said Anything About Aliens?

You might remember that some weeks ago I made a post about my UFO sighting. When I reported it to a relevant website I was at pains to point out that I offered no assumption or speculation as to the identity of the three silver circles, merely that they were unidentified and flying, and so – by definition – they were UFOs.

Another website has now included this under the heading Alien Sighting Near Ashbourne.

This is precisely the kind of brainless non sequitur with which journalists distort public perceptions. God followers have a tendency to do the same thing.

Becoming Clinical Waste.

Following the discovery of the grave that I reported in a recent post, I did a bit of digging on the internet today (like the pun?) I came across a guide written by a man who’d researched the law on such matters, and it seems there are three fundamental facts that apply:

1) There’s no law requiring that a body be buried in consecrated ground. All that’s required is the landowner’s permission, which means you can be buried in your own garden if you like, as long as it’s your property.

2) The only grounds on which the local authority can object are (a) if they can demonstrate that the body (which is legally deemed ‘clinical waste’) poses a pollution threat to the water table, or (b) if the cause of death is on a list of virulent diseases such as typhus or anthrax that are now virtually extinct in western, developed countries.

3) There must be at least thirty inches of earth between the top of the body and the surface of the ground.

So, since I would quite like to stay in this area but don’t own my own house, I went to see Sarah’s mother today and put the question to her.

‘How would you feel about having a body in your garden?’

‘A body? What sort of a body?’

‘A human body. A dead one.’

‘Whose dead body?’


‘But you’re not dead.’

‘No, I know, but I will be one day and I’d quite like to stay around here. You’re the only person I know who owns a house in the vicinity.’

‘Are you completely mad?’

‘I expect so, but that’s beside the point. The point is, I wouldn’t be any trouble. I suppose it would be a bit of a nuisance having to rotovate around me, and you might feel uneasy about planting root vegetables there, and I daresay you’d want to stop the dog burying her bone on the spot just in case she retrieved more than she’d put in, but apart from that I’d be very quiet. You’d forget I was there after a while.’

‘No, I wouldn’t. I’d have to put with friends and relations swanning around my garden with flowers and things. They’d interrupt my afternoon tea.’

‘Oh, yes. Never thought of that.’

‘And have you given due consideration to the possibility of polluting my water table?’


‘And don’t you think it might upset Sarah? She has a delicate constitution, you know.’

‘But you could put a seat next to the grave. She could wile away the summer evenings engaged in conversation with me.’


‘Well, she could talk and I could pretend I was listening.’

‘I see. One final question. Are you trying to wind me up?’


‘I thought so. Go away.’

Sarah’s mother can be a bit uncompromising sometimes, so it seems I’m back to plan A – having my ashes scattered around the base of my favourite sycamore tree. Better go and talk to the tree tomorrow.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Ads That Prove My Weirdness.

Why do all the ads for dating sites that appear on my computer show only pictures of young women? Do dating sites only market their ‘services’ to young men?

Or maybe not only young men. It’s interesting to note the kind of pictures they put up, and it’s pretty obvious what sort of men the Filipino sites are aimed at. Not exactly deep-and-meaningful-relationship stuff, just shot after shot of half naked nubiles which I find a complete turn off.

Am I so odd in being attracted to women who keep their bodies private?

Freudian analysts may feel free to speculate, but they'll be wrong.

On the Way to Bedlam.

My CFS has been somewhat in remission today, but tonight my internet is slow and jerky. I’m speculating that maybe the condition made the jump across cyber space. Poor computer. I expect the condition will jump back tomorrow.

So, I’m bored and in slightly mad mode...

I just wrote a poem called If Only I Could Wander, my excuse (since I don’t like poetry, especially when it has a title like that) being the fact that I’d been reading Tennyson. It was for two eyes only.

...and frustrated.

Tomorrow I get to experiment with green tomato fritters.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A Few Bits on Notable People.

I just looked at a list of notable people born in the same year as me. There was one name missing.

Ronald Reagan once said ‘Trees cause more pollution than automobiles.’

It seemed to me that the reason Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher got on so well was because they had one thing in common. They were both terrible actors.

A famous boxer once defended boxing with the words ‘Of course there have been injuries, and even deaths, in boxing. But none of them serious.’

And a leading British footballer said of his transfer to an Italian club: ‘Going from Wales to Italy was like moving to a different country.’

An Incongrous Sight.

There’s a derelict piece of land close to where I live that I’m told was once a brickworks. It covers around ½-¾ acre, and must have gone out of commission some time ago because the plot has quite a few trees growing on it that look to be about thirty to forty years old. The rest of the ground is covered with various sorts of scrub such as nettles and briars, so it isn’t quite a respectable wood yet, but it’s going that way. At the moment it’s still an unkempt piece of wasteland.

In the days before I could afford to buy coal I used to go in there to forage for bits of fallen tree branch to saw up and use as firewood, but I haven’t done that for about three years. I went in again today and found a wide track running across it where the undergrowth had been cleared. I followed it until it turned a shallow bend and disappeared behind some trees. Standing at the end of it was a modern grave, complete with black polished headstone and marble base. The headstone records that it's the grave of an eighty-seven-year-old man who died last November.

This is most unusual. In all my life I’ve only ever seen human graves in cemeteries and churchyards, so the sight of one standing alone among nature’s ragged dereliction, and in a spot that is presumably unhallowed, is a mystery. In fact, it was so bizarre as to be creepy. Enquiries will be made.

Life and Fantasy.

I’ve spent most of my life coveting the fantastical, and a good many of those fantasies I’ve managed to realise. Turning fantasy into reality has been one of the few things I’ve been good at.

But now the latest batch of fantasies seems too far out of reach, and I feel a sense of giving up on them. Is that because the current of optimism that has always run deep inside me, even during the depressive times, is fading? I doubt it; once an optimist, always an optimist. Could it be the effect of this CFS I seem to be suffering at the moment? I don’t know yet. Or have I simply thrown some mental switch over to the setting marked ‘realistic?’ Most likely, I should think.

My life seems to be emptying at the moment. It feels almost as though some external influence is directing events, or at least that the whole thing was pre-planned with foreknowledge of cause and effect. I’m reminded that nature abhors a vacuum, but you never know what nature is going to throw into the void.

And talking of fantasies, I’ve just seen a blue tit enter the next box fixed to the wall behind my kitchen. Surely they’re not about to raise another brood with winter almost ready to hit? Mad.

Or maybe it isn’t mad. Maybe it’s a sign telling me not to give up on the fantasies. You can never know, can you? Life and its signals are pretty inscrutable, one way and another.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Fatigue Diary.

This chronic fatigue problem I’ve got is interesting and a little unpleasant. According to the official ME website, all the routine symptoms of the condition are ones I get, intermittently, bar one: alcohol intolerance. I don’t have a problem with alcohol. Thankfully.

What I do have a problem with is food. I want to eat, and so I do, but then my body says

‘Hang on old lad, we don’t have enough energy to keep you functioning and digest this meal you’ve just eaten. While we’re dealing with that, you go and collapse for an hour. OK?’

So collapse for an hour is what I’m reduced to. Now I’m yawning and can’t be bothered to write the rest of the post. Or talk about my encounter with Sarah and her mother today. Bet you’re glad.

Being Steady and Inventing Wow Keys.

Do you know what I find almost incomprehensible? Most blogs are monotone blogs, by which I mean that every post reads like it was written by the same person. I intend no criticism of them; ‘monotone’ does not imply ‘monotonous.’ It’s just that I can’t be that way. I have a whole range of moods and personalities, and I can sometimes go through the complete spectrum in the course of a day. I suppose that makes me difficult to live with.


And while I’m on the subject of blogs, I think Google should come up with some mechanism for using the command keys to avoid unnecessary typing in comment forms. Something like:

Ctrl, F1            Thanks for sharing
Ctrl, F2            Wow!
Ctrl, F3            Oh, wow!
Ctrl, F4            Wow! That's amazing!

And so on.

Friday, 21 October 2011

A Fun Night at the Opera.

The baritone was singing well,
But feeling terribly weird.
He gave a cough and his head fell off
And everybody cheered.

Where do they come from? You tell me. If this is what having ME does for you...

Fragments of Pancake and Other Things.

The latest ad to appear on my Hotmail home page is for some fancy new high tech gadget that I’m sure I would find incomprehensible even if I could be bothered to read about it. With Christmas approaching, the catchline is This season’s must have. Must have? I need one? No, you don’t. The rate at which western culture is declining into a neurotic obsession with gadgets and shiny things depresses me. Where have all the people gone?


Over the past week or so I seem to have developed the classic symptoms of ME. I realise now that I’ve been exhibiting them intermittently for a few years. Should I get it checked out? At the moment, I can’t be bothered. Ironic, isn’t it?


Where have all my people gone?


My experiment with a green tomato pancake at lunchtime wasn’t entirely successful. The best word to describe it would be ‘fragmented.’ It tasted OK, though.

Vision of a Red Cheomsang.

I’m sitting here at my computer in the early hours of the morning. The world outside is dark, still and quiet, save for the occasional call of the Tawny Owl as it beats its buoyant flight across what’s left of the moon. This is rural England, so that’s to be expected.

What isn’t to be expected is what I see when I turn and look at the curtained window. My Chinese ghost is standing there, sleek and seductive in red cheomsang, and smiling a benevolent but mischievous smile.

What does she want?

This isn’t easy, you know. And it isn’t quite the fiction you might think it is.


All through the summer I sat out in my garden in the evening, watching the planes flying into EMA and thinking ‘I want to be on one and going somewhere.’ So I renewed my passport. And now the travel idea has stalled. Why?

Because, looking back, I can honestly say that travel never brought anything of deep significance or satisfaction. I can say ‘I rode a streetcar in New Orleans,’ ‘I looked down on Macy’s from the Empire State Building,’ or ‘I sailed between icebergs and watched dolphins riding the bow wave.’ OK, I’m glad I did; but they were fleeting experiences. I went to Ireland once looking for something. Whatever it was, I didn’t find it.

No, all the experiences of depth and significance came walking past my front door and I simply let them in.

So what now? I’m becoming bored and impatient, but I’m not prepared to squander a lot of money simply buying a bag of disillusionment. Of course, if there was a particular reason to go somewhere specific, that would be different.

A Little Intricacy of Language.

The difference between the rake and the Romantic is encapsulated in the difference between ‘some body’ and ‘somebody.’

It doesn’t take much working out.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Being Deserted.

My birds have all but deserted me. All I’ve been getting on the feeding table for several weeks have been half a dozen House Sparrows. I’d say I’m down to about 5-10% of the usual numbers. That seems odd considering how much the temperature has dropped. You’d think they’d be glad of the food, wouldn’t you? But no, it’s hardly being touched at the moment.

The saddest thing, though, is that I haven’t seen my buddies the bats for three evenings now. I suppose they’ve gone into hibernation for the winter. Watching the bats performing their aerobatics at dusk has been one of the major highlights of my day ever since April. The swallows and martins left about a month ago.

The cows are still around, but not for much longer. The milking herds will soon be taken in, and the rest will be taken off to be stunned, disembowelled, decapitated, skinned and chopped into big slabs of red stuff to lie in butchers’ windows. No more playing scritch-scratch with my little friend at the end of Mill Lane.

I wonder whether Sarah would like to play scritch-scratch. Did I say that? I’m afraid I did. Shameful. Must be all this winding down getting to me.


According to Google stats, most of my posts get an average of 1-3 page views these days. Guess which one shot quickly into double figures? The one entitled 'A Pair of Ladies Legs.' Mmm...

Real Glamour.

When I was driving home today, I saw Sarah out riding her bike with her mother. I realised that she does something better by far than anybody I’ve known:


No, not glamour as it’s understood these days, but as it was understood in the old arcane tradition. ‘Glamour’ is the means by which those with the power can appear differently according to the needs of the moment. It’s how the word is used in Mists of Avalon.

When Sarah is out with her family, she appears small and very young. You could almost believe she’s pre-pubescent. Yet when I meet her alone, she opens up and projects a completely different image. She becomes confident, tall and mature. She’s anything but pre-pubescent. She even commands me to ‘come closer so I can hear you better.’

Maybe that’s why, when I had that dream about the Priestess and the President a few months ago, Sarah had the role of Priestess. Maybe there are even some strange connections going on.

OK. Nutty JJ is closing down for the day.

A Pair of Ladies Legs.

To counter the dark time, I thought this up while I was lying in the bath. If the shops can start Christmas early, so can I. Grab the silliness while it’s there, I say.

Old Jim he is a-pining
For a pair of ladies legs.
’Tis all he wants for Christmas,
Just a pair of ladies legs

He prays to all the saints he knows,
He shouts, demands and begs.
There’s nothing he desires except
A pair of ladies legs

The aftershave and booze can go
The way of all the dregs.
They lack the poise and promise of
A pair of ladies legs

The same goes for the Christmas pud,
The cake and chocolate eggs
They couldn’t hold a candle to
A pair of ladies legs

So Santa, when you come and spy
Two stockings hung on pegs,
Please fill them up with nothing but
A pair of ladies legs

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A Soppy Song.

I’ve got nothing to post about at the moment, so I thought I’d stick some music up. I put this on my playlist, but I got that dreaded content owner has disabled embedding message when I tried to play it. Why it can be available free on YouTube but not allowed on a playlist is anybody’s guess.

Anyway, it’s been on my mind all day for some reason. Maybe it has something to do with Mill Lane, or maybe it hasn't. It used to have something to do with Sackville Street, Basford, Stoke-on-Trent, but that was a very long time ago.

Anyway, it’s been a favourite soppy song of mine for over twenty years. And it’s got pictures of Audrey Hepburn in it.

How the Poor Become Toothless.

For reasons which would be too complex and tedious to explain, I decided to change my dentist. The one I’ve been with for the last nineteen years is an inner city practice twenty five miles away, and it struck me it would be much more sensible to switch to one in the local town seven miles away.

It won’t have escaped anybody’s notice that I’m not very well off, so there’s no way I can afford the super-inflated fees charged by private dentists. I’m strictly an NHS man, and would be even if I had plenty of money because I happen to believe in the principle on which the NHS was founded. So when I went shopping today, I called into the high profile one near the town centre to ask whether they took NHS patients.

I knew I was onto a loser the moment I walked in. It was full of leather sofas and other expensive fittings, and the woman receptionist was true to type. She was middle aged and had a face made ugly by the firm set of superiority and tram line conformity. Her hair was permed – neatly, of course – her seemingly starched uniform pristine in muted colours, and the poker up her anus apparent for all to perceive. Such pokers perform various functions, the most important of which is to transmit a negative vibe to riff-raff like me.

‘Do you take NHS patients?’ I asked.

‘We don’t have an NHS contract, no,’ she replied with a smile that carried subtle hints of malevolence and triumphalism. (This is, of course, the diplomatic way of saying ‘We only deal with rich people here.’) She continued:

‘Would you like one of our booklets?’

‘No, I’d like you tell me whether there’s an NHS dentist in the town.’

The smile achieved an extra curve of disdain.

‘There is, yes. It’s on the outskirts of the town, beyond the hospital, at the top of a steep hill.’

Well, it would be, wouldn’t it? I left the dear woman to enjoy her triumph and went about my shopping.

I found the NHS dentist later, and the woman had been either mistaken or lying. It was, indeed, beyond the hospital, but it stood at the side of the main road in full view. And it was closed for lunch, so I went home.

On a general note, I wonder whether I’m being naïve in thinking that those who enter healing professions should have service as their overriding principle. Make a living at it by all means, but is it right that they should make such huge profits, earn such inflated salaries, and only be available to people with plenty of money? Aren’t there certain things, like health, that just shouldn’t be subject to free market forces and blatant profiteering?

OK, I’m being naïve, and I should count myself lucky anyway. At least we have a National Health Service in Britain (although even that is now partly subject to free market forces, courtesy of the bitch in blue, and people are dying needlessly because managers of NHS Trusts are more interested in profits and statistics than they are in people.) I could live somewhere like America where, as far as I can tell, everything is run that way.

Another Note on Relating.

Talking to somebody on the phone or skype has one major inadequacy. You know those moments when the very best way to convey depth of meaning is to stay quiet, but say what you mean with a facial expression or a look in the eye..?

Talking of Wives...

'Since when has two plus two ever equalled four?’ asked my wife one day. I had no answer and conceded defeat. I never re-married.


That’s about it for today.

Apart from the elderly man who pulled up in his car while I was playing scritch-scratch with my favourite little cow at the end of Mill Lane. He asked me whether I was married, and when I said ‘no’ he started talking about marriage, women, sex, his preference for one night stands, condoms (including doing the actions!) and the fact that his neighbour prefers to masturbate because it’s less trouble. Don’t believe me? It’s true. He must have been at least eighty. I mean, c’mon, there’s eccentric and there’s unpleasantly bizarre. He had an air about him. If ever I catch him talking to Sarah...

The only other fact of note was that I wore my woolly hat for the first time since last January. The gale force wind was that cold. Winter next.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


The thing in which you invest the greatest expectation is always likely to prove the greatest disappointment. Find the exception, and you have a rare treasure.

Alternatively, don’t expect anything.

There was an hour-long TV programme tonight about my home town. The rubbish they talked was mind-boggling.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Educating Sarah (and Others.)

Sarah’s house appears to have its very own buttery. It’s a small room at the end of the building and behind the kitchen. As far as I can tell from the view given by the single window that looks out onto Mill Lane, it’s where they keep their wine. I must bring the matter up the next time I get to have a conversation with her.

‘Why’s it called a buttery?’ she will probably ask. ‘We don’t use butter; we use Sainsbury’s Olive Spread. And if we did, we’d keep it in the fridge anyway.’

Persuaded by the fantastical (and almost certainly delusional) notion that Sarah is a rare example of a sapiosexual, I will proceed to explain that mediaeval castles had two storage areas off the kitchen. One was where they kept the liquor, and was called a buttery after the French ‘bouteille’ meaning ‘bottle.’ The other was where they kept dry stuff like bread and meal, and was called a pantry after the French ‘pain’ meaning ‘bread.’ In the unlikely event that justice prevails, she will hopefully reply:

‘I wish I was as clever as you, Jeffrey. Can I be yours for ever and ever please?’

Aren’t you glad you read that?

Autumn and the Fall.

Autumn showed its true face today. Not the golden sun and gaudy leaf scenario of the New England Fall and the Chocolate Box Tradition, but the darker reality that lies beneath the sometime surface splendour: the autumn of death, decay and depleting daylight.

Today a keen wind howled. The death rattle could be heard in the farm gates, the snapping twigs, and the arborial detritus falling from the canopies of the copses to floors already suffocated by layers of leaf cadavers. The air above the lanes and fields was full of it; a swirling, swooning mass of brown shapes that looked black against the sky, shapes that once had the honour to be living and breathing leaves, now lifeless and twisted, ejected from their homes and falling, ever falling, as the vanquished always do. And above them the sky drove swiftly and relentlessly on in myriad shades of glowering grey, seemingly sure of purpose but actually going nowhere. And in its restless flight to anonymity, it was indecently ignorant of the carnage being wrought beneath. The light fell early tonight, which was perhaps the only nod to mercy.

Most people like autumn, I know. They see it as a time of colour, of mellow fruitfulness, of Halloween tradition and the culmination of the growing time. The work of summer is now done, and what follows can be a cosy season replete with bobbing apples and the first scent of wood smoke.

And they’re right; I don’t deny it. Neither is it lost upon me that autumn is an essential part of the cycle which I respect. But for me it’s a matter of energy. Autumn is the time when the earth energies fall, and the life they once supported falls with them. My spirits follow the fall these days, and that seems entirely natural to me.

Coming Back2.

I sometimes google my name to see whether there’s anything I ought to know about, like a review or something. I now find myself listed on a literary website in connection with an anthology that used one of my stories. The site is Danish and is called:

Adlibris Boghandel.

Sounds about right

And I’m feeling better, by the way, just in case anybody gives a damn. I’m warm for the first time today, the backache is gone, I’ve got a bit of energy back, and I even feel hungry. Not bad for approaching one o’clock in the morning. Good timing. I suspect one of those low level, 24hr viral infections, but we’ll see. Now all I need is...

Oh, never mind. Distance might be no obstacle to subtle energy, but it sure as hell is to people.

Sunday, 16 October 2011



Felt ill all day

Felt cold all day

Had lots of noise and other irritations from next door


Was waved at by Sarah from her kitchen window

Had two visits from New York in the space of eighteen hours

(Neither Sarah nor the mystery New Yorker spoke)

Bye for now.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Being Thankful for Small Mercies.

I watched part of a TV programme tonight about the D-Day landings in Normandy. They interviewed lots of those who took part, and one of them was a British Royal Marines commando. On the first push inland from the beachhead, he stepped on a landmine and woke up to find both his legs missing.

‘When I first saw that, I felt a bit put out,’ he said, ‘but then I thought “Oh good, no more war for me.” That made me happy.’

I haven’t worked out yet whether this is a prime example of positive thinking, or something else entirely.

Far Side Cows and a Gallic Encounter.

An unusual herd of cows has taken up residence in a field off Mill Lane. At first glance they look to be a typically English herd of Friesian milkers. Although having the same markings, however, closer inspection reveals a few differences. They’re fractionally taller, bigger boned, heavier of shoulder and thigh, more square headed, and they look at you with eyes that aren’t far short of demonic. To my fanciful mind, they appeared to belong in a Gary Larsson cartoon. I expect they’re some American or Prussian breed, or something – some place where the square headed, big boned look is fashionable. Definitely not Chinese, no.


And while I was perambulating my peaceful pace along Mill Lane, a car stopped and the occupants asked me for directions to the mediaeval manor house. They turned out to be a young French couple, so I got to practice my French for the first time in many years. All seven words of it. The young couple smiled indulgently while I did the English eccentric thing. That was fun.

In Praise of the Ultimate Suburban Ad.

There’s been a lot of ad-bashing going on this week. Kaetlyn and I have been engaged in little else than mutual congratulation on the back of it for several days. So far, so good. But I thought a degree of balance was called for, so I searched the data banks to come up with


Imagine the scene. A table laid out in a kitchen setting. Everything is orderly, pristine and brightly coloured. We’re meant to believe it’s a typical suburban eating area, which it isn’t of course. It’s what everybody thinks is a typical suburban eating area if you’re playing the role of the typical suburbanite properly.

Sitting at the table are three people: a thirty-something dad and two kids aged around 7-11. Standing at the cooker is a thirty-something mum. They, too, are orderly, pristine and brightly coloured – so orderly, pristine and brightly coloured that they’re completely unreal. Nobody looks like that in the real world. They’re what everybody thinks is a typical suburban family if they’re playing the role of typical suburbanites properly.

But here’s what makes them really stand out. They’re rampantly expectant and orgasmically ecstatic. Sickeningly so. Nobody looks like that in the real world – ever. Not unless mum has just been awarded the Nobel Prize for Culinary Excellence, the kids have found the stash of Christmas chocolate, and dad has just felt the first stirrings of Halle Berry crawling up his trouser leg.

And why? Because mum, bless her sickly, artificial little mixed fibre socks, is about to serve them with some processed crap consisting of Mechanically Recovered Meat (for which read ‘rubbishy old leftovers’) doctored with a cocktail of artificial chemicals, including the notoriously unhealthy Monosodium Glutamate, that will microwave in less time than it takes to peel a proper potato.

And the underlying message? This is the way to make your family truly happy and the world a better place, so go out and buy some now or you’re failing in your suburban duty.

You wouldn’t think people would be taken in by it, would you? Wrong again.

Current State on a Sunny Saturday.

Painfully aware of the presence of my Chinese ghost again. It’s a warm kind of pain. Most odd. Sometimes she disappears and I fall into a state of mind in which I think she doesn’t really exist. Then she creeps up behind me and hugs me so hard I can’t breathe for a second.

I’m reminded of a story I wrote a few years ago, one that hasn’t gone up at the other place yet because it remains unpublished. It concerns an enigmatic wraith who comes closer and closer as the story progresses. It starts with my favourite opening line:

My name is Abigail. Treat me with respect.

The protagonist eventually realises what it means:

Don’t insult me by believing I’m not real.

So it is with Chinese ghosts. Time for lunch and then a walk in the cold, October sunshine.

Sarah's Sister.

Guess who I haven’t mentioned for days and days and days.

Her sister gives me the strangest looks, you know – like she’s wondering what the hell she’s looking at.

‘What is it?’

‘What does it smell like?’

‘Why does my sister talk to it?’

‘Can you eat it?’

It’s nice to be noticed.

The Love Enigma.

This was from someone who has the intelligence and candour to openly admit that she doesn’t know what love is:

“Furthermore, what is it that really gives us connection anyway? Is it simply understanding? Is that the only ingredient necessary for a great love? All our other characteristics that define us to the world, they simply don't matter do they? Our humour, our wit, the things that supposedly make one attracted to another.”

I don’t know either, but I think I might have an inkling. No, it’s nothing to do with compatibility, but neither do I think it’s simply a product of the mind and contained solely therein. I think it’s something to do with the higher consciousness recognising a unique energy flowing between two people, something impalpable and unable to be measured, but something all the stronger and more real for so being. So yes, it’s an understanding, but not a mental one.

I think I felt it for the first time one day this summer. But how can I know?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Being Where You Feel Comfortable.

I was out trimming my neighbour’s hedge today when I heard a voice call ‘hello.’ I turned round to see three little girls standing by the school fence on the other side of the road, so I went over and talked to them about matters concerning their day at school. One of them, apparently the leader, a blonde girl of around nine who’d already developed a manner suggesting she’s going to rule a household with a rod of iron one day soon, asked ‘And how has your day been?’

What? I’ve been around a bit, you know, and I’m no spring chicken, but here I was engaged in a conversation being directed by a nine-year-old girl. It throws you a bit. It does. And just as I was mumbling some sort of half-baked reply, several more little girls turned up and started giggling at me. I decided I was out of my depth; it seemed all too conspiratorial. I conceded defeat and went back to trimming the hedge.

Shortly afterwards I went to post a letter and encountered several more little girls in a field near the post box. But they were of the bovine variety. Much more up my street. One of them, a sweet brown and white little lady who came up to about the level of my stomach, took great delight in having her neck stroked and her ears tickled. In fact, she behaved more like a dog than a cow. Not that she barked or anything, but you know what I mean. Pity she's too big to go for a ride in the car.

I think I’m finally finding my niche in life.