Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mid Evening Notes.

There was an old man in the town today who was constantly chewing. I came close to asking him whether he was chewing on something physical, or whether old men just like doing that kind of thing.


I went into a gift shop that sold coloured soaps, presumably hand made, at what I felt to be a curiously high price. I find it hard to understand why people would pay £3.99 for a bar of pink soap, albeit hand made, when they could get just as big a bar in Boots for 50p. Is this something to do with the concept of luxury? I’ve never really done luxury. For me, things have to be either practical, inspirational, or in some way demonstrably superior to a cheaper version. Luxury for its own sake doesn’t make much of an impression. Must be my peasant roots showing.


My walk tonight was perfect. The wind was just at that strength where it whispers loudly in your ears and the tree branches, but isn’t playing the dangerous delinquent. Walking around the lanes at night with a strong breeze blowing or a full moon shining is redolent of those Universal and Hammer Horror films I so loved in my teens and twenties.

There was an uncharacteristic lack of lighting in the Dorothy residence, even though Aunt Em appeared to be in evidence in the kitchen. Please believe me when I say that I don’t stand around looking through people’s windows at night (or during the day, for that matter.) What I don’t notice while walking past, I miss. And the pub car park had two visiting cars on it.


I think there’s something amiss with the stats collectors today. Too many notable absences.

A Ditty for Dorothy and Dodo.

Where is my lovely Sarah,
She who sometimes reads my blog?
Does she not know I miss her so,
And even more, her dog?

Thought it was time for another ditty. If and when you return, m’lady, do ask your dear mama for a pinch of salt.

Life and a Phrase.

Somebody once told me she feared becoming ‘an object of faded regard.’ I wonder where she got that phrase from. Did she pick it up somewhere, or write it herself? If the latter, I’m truly impressed. So succinct and perfectly descriptive. A real writer’s phrase. Here it is again:

An object of faded regard.

Exquisite, especially when it might well be apposite.

Awaiting the Wind.

Some days stagnate, don’t they? It feels as though the energies of communication and opportunity have fallen torpid. The older I get, the more I’m coming to the view that life really does work that way. Everything from romance to business to the flow of money is subject to some sort of subtle, elemental energy that rises and falls like the wind. Sometimes we can whistle it up, and sometimes we just have to wait.

A Reminiscence.

Of all the places I’ve lived in my life, the one in which I felt most at home was a village called Hilderstone in the neighbouring county of Staffordshire. I only found out tonight that it dates back to at least the 7thC, and that the origin of the name is Anglo-Saxon for ‘the place of the warrior wolf.’

I left there in 1986, but still regard it as home. It was where I took the first tentative steps outside the tram lines, and is the setting for two stories: Whitesytch Wood, which can be found here, and The Gypsy Rover, which will go up at A Handful of Stories if and when a magazine publisher ever gets around to publishing it, as they’re supposed to have been doing since August!

A Salutory Ditty.

If I could be in league with you
And care not for convention
I think a small intrigue or two
Might warrant my attention.

This is exactly who I’m not, but it just goes to show what happens when you start being honest with yourself. The ghosts of false roles, now dead but not quite come to dust, like to gatecrash your mind and mock you.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Tonight's Nocturne.

These little serenades on the nightly ramble are turning into a regular feature. Maybe I should stop making them, since regular features can become tedious, but have another one for good measure. Tonight’s little things of note:

It appears my dire presumption regarding the village pub was premature. It was open again tonight, although there were no cars on the car park so I still think the writing is on the wall.

The crescent moon looked mildly bizarre. It was coloured light orange, and hung at a jaunty angle just above the horizon.  It appeared so big and so close that I fancied I could see the strings holding it aloft.

A meteor sped across a small arc of the southern sky, leaving a silver trail before expiring.

Despite the windows of a certain kitchen being laden with condensation, it looked as though somebody was having chicken for dinner.

The nightly gaggle of planes going to and from EMA continued to wink seductively.

An Apology...

...for having once mocked the BlackBerry phone. I have one visiting my blog now, and I’ve grown really rather fond of it. It’s a bit like what I said about shopping malls, I suppose. It isn’t so much what they are, but rather what you choose to have them mean to you.


I went to post a letter a little while ago. The rain had passed over, the wind had eased and the sky was beginning to clear in the west. The sun was out and hanging a little way above the horizon. It was a deep yellow colour, and the wet, meandering lane ahead of me had turned into a giant, golden snake.


There’s an old British red telephone box on the village green next to the post box, and there was a British Telecom engineer measuring the door. I enquired after his business, and he told me he was planning to build a facsimile of such a box in his bathroom and needed accurate measurements. He said he was going to paint a mural inside it so that, when the light was on, it would look like somebody using the phone in the box.

‘My girlfriend thinks I’m mad,’ he said.

I told him that creative people always get called mad at some time or other. I was impressed. A creative telecoms engineer. Whatever next?

The Pressure Cooker.

I dislike these dark days when lights are needed in the house even at lunchtime. I dislike the leaden sky that glowers, and the maddened wind that tears at everything in a malicious frenzy, not whispering in the chimney, but howling. It makes me feel, as Macbeth put it, ‘cabined, cribbed, confined.’ When nature is in this sort of mood, present troubles seethe and push at the boundaries of self-control.

Minding Malls and the Privacy of Arms.

I have a long history of hating shopping malls. Cathedrals of crass commercialism. Monuments to mindless materialism. Etc, etc.

Today I more or less decided that there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. The shopping mall is simply a phenomenon like everything else, and it’s all a matter of how you view it. You can see it as a place to shop, or you can see it as a place to observe.

And I expect I’ll change my mind again one day.


I told Helen today about the tentative prospect of me having a tattoo of LIFE superimposed over a bagel on my left arm. The word she could just about accept, but was a little incredulous about the bagel. I explained the connection between life and bagels, but then she came up with the more fundamental objection.

‘But nobody would see it unless the summer was hot enough for even you to wear a T shirt in public.’

She knows me well, you see.

Monday, 28 November 2011


Be honest. Do you know anybody else whose mind would work along these lines?

x – kiss
y – because you’re special
z – night.

It’s this thing I have about making connections, even gooey, girly ones. Letters, words, images – connections. I suppose I have too much time on my hands, and the Devil makes work for idle hands. So should I be suspended upside down from a tree in Rutland for even thinking such a thing, let alone posting it? Then again, is it possible a greetings card publisher might be interested? In which case:

© JJ Beazley. All Rights Reserved.

A Sad Passing, Maybe.

The view was different tonight: the village pub was locked up and dark. There’s a picture of it here if anybody’s interested.

It might not be the prettiest of English country pubs, but that isn’t the point. The point is that it used to be a social focus for the community. If this indicates that the landlord has finally said ‘enough’s enough,’ then I assume it says something about the changing nature of English village communities. Christine can say all she likes about the locals supporting the annual fete at the Old Rectory, but when a village pub closes for lack of use, something has already gone.

It might be, I suppose, that the landlord is ill or away or something, and couldn’t find anybody to stand in for him. That isn’t very likely. One of the cherished traditions of the English pub is that they open on time come hell or high water. I suspect this is the end of the line for the Roston Inn. It would be nice to be wrong.

A Fault.

I just noticed that, even with two days still to go in November, I’ve broken the record for the greatest number of posts in one month.

Clearly, I talk too much...

The ellipsis is there for a reason.


My birthday (remember?) Briefly:


Saw Sarah and her sister riding bikes. Sarah smiled, Rebecca looked as quietly bemused as ever when I waved.

Had good chat and coffee with Helen. Helen never seems to look a day older, even though I’ve known her for fifteen years.

Received one birthday card and gift (two prints from an artist friend of Helen’s.)


Spent more money than I’m used to spending. Stressful.

Problems with the Red Renault are getting worse again. Even more stressful. I think it might be going to live somewhere else before very long.

Now the TV is playing up. Haven’t a clue why, but stressful.

Awaiting e-mail that might prove stressful.

I think that will do for now. Less than six hours to when it won’t be my birthday. Further developments to be notified.

Three More Notes.

I made an observation of some consequence while sitting in the bath tonight. There I was, having my usual imaginary conversation with a Philadelphian of Some Distinction, when I noticed how amusingly stunted one’s toes look when one’s feet are under water.


Sarah’s mother waved to me from the kitchen window this afternoon, and smiled. Nicely. This would seem to indicate that I have miscast the dear woman, to my irredeemable shame. Far from being the Queen of Narnia, I’m now inclined to place her in the position of Aunt Em, which means that M’Lady S should be wearing gingham frocks, and the little princess should be renamed Dodo (since Americans from Kansas appear to have difficulty pronouncing their T’s as the rest of us do.)


It’s my birthday tomorrow, and I’m hoping the Red Renault will be on form because I have a visit booked to meet Helen for coffee in Derby. There was a time when I looked forward to a birthday for weeks. Now it crosses my mind occasionally, and is immediately relinquished as a matter of no import. Birthdays are inevitable; what I look forward to now is the unattainable.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Matter of Distance.

The sky was clear again tonight, and the air cold and crisp. It seems that no matter how many times you stand and stare at a clear night sky, the sense of wonderment is undiminished. To many people, I gather, it’s all about the awareness of how tiny we are in the greater scheme of things. To me, it’s mostly about the sheer unimaginable distances involved.

And it wasn’t only the myriad fairy lights of distant suns and planets that caught my eye. To the north of me were the winking lights of three planes outbound from EMA, and to the south were three more, inbound. They seemed oddly in keeping with the mood, since planes are about distance, too.

So it is with people, at least those who are special to me. All distant, even the one of rare inner beauty and sylphan aspect of whose presence I had just been to within a matter of yards. It might as well have been a thousand miles or more, as it is with others.

Helen once said to me that it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the next room to somebody, or a million miles away. If a connection is there, physical distance is irrelevant. I’m sure she’s right, but as I said in an earlier post, sometimes I miss the substance. Human beings are essentially tactile creatures, however illusory the physical aspect might be, and nothing quite makes up for the shot of electricity that seals even a temporary connection when a hand touches an arm. I’ve heard it said that it’s why we invented ourselves.

A Tip For When the End of the Tether is Near.

When times feel bad – when technology is playing up, when the weather is screwing with your internet and digital TV signals, when there appears to be only one person in the whole, wide world who wants to connect with you on a daily basis, and when the pheasants are crapping on your bird table and upsetting the water bowl – try looking through one of those useless-items-for-sale brochures that you find stapled inside magazines. It’s surprising what a lift you get from realising that you don’t yet need a folding commode or a pack of waterproof underwear.

Squabbling Twins.

Oh to be a simple extrovert or introvert. Being an intolerant ambivert is like having two petulant children. Live with somebody, and little introvert is stamping his foot and demanding ‘But what about my needs?’ Live alone, and his twin brother is doing the same. How on earth do you find balance and keep both little brats quiet?

The Wind as Woman's Breath.

There’s something satisfactory about sitting alone in a room in the early hours with a desk light for comfort, a drink for company, music for connection, and the intermittent breathing of the wind in the chimney telling me that this particular piece of elemental life is exclusive to me.

Sometimes I appreciate it, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I miss the substance.

On Crying.

Following on from the previous post, I realise now why I’m not only comfortable with people crying, I actually like it.

People cry for many reasons: out of joy, out of relief, out of frustration, out of compassion for others, out of sadness for themselves...

It seems to me – or it might be more accurate to say it feels to me – that crying is the process by which the inner self makes much needed contact with the outer. It’s when the inner core of our being comes out of the dark place to which we keep it confined and breathes in the light of day. It’s the moment when the soul glows.

And when the soul glows, we become authentic. I like authentic.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A Post-Modern View?

I watched a TV interview with a Taiwanese film director tonight. He explained why he refused to cut a scene at the end of one of his films, a scene in which a woman cries for seven minutes. He said his films were about emotion, because emotion is what connects us with our real selves. The next bit I remember verbatim:

‘In spite of all the modern desire for material things, people are still full of tenderness. They’re not stones, but they need to be reminded that they’re becoming stones.’

Arboreal Danse Macabre.

One thing I’ve learned from this recent habit of taking nocturnal walks is that they’re almost as varied as the daytime ones. The main feature of tonight’s ramble was the heavy, starless sky and the strong, gusting wind. And what that produced was a rare treat for the imagination. It was fun to watch the rhythmical swaying of the skeletal trees and the co-ordinated swinging of their fleshless branches. Only the pizzicato strings were missing, and they were easy to imagine.

And I saw that movement in my peripheral vision again – twice. This time I didn’t switch the torch on, but searched the darkness of the hedgerows and verges, trying to spot some shimmer or other evidence of a presence. Nothing, I’m afraid, but I did speak in the hope of persuading it to show itself. One of these days, maybe.

Tonight’s mantra: I’m only as mad as I think I am.

Being Mr Tumnus.

Guess who I bumped into this afternoon. The Imperial Family – the Queen of Narnia, M’Lady S and Princess Inca. The following facts and consequences may be of note:

1) I think I got away with it. I made it home and haven’t turned white yet.

2) M’Lady S did something she’s never done before, but I’m not going to say what it was because I don’t want to.

3) Information educed from said Lady indicates that there might be sales of my books that I’m not being told about.

4) It appears I have a free supply of horse manure at my disposal.  This and the last point will be relatively meaningless because I never made the post explaining them, but you know I like being cryptic.

I do hope Sarah’s mother never reads my blog, although I have made it clear more than once that I like her. The problem is that, of all the things I don’t know about her, not the least of them is that I don’t know whether she has a sense of humour or not. To put it another way: I’m sure she has, but does it accord with mine? If not, I could be in for a long, cold winter.

It was very nice to see them. Inca’s habit of sitting and wrapping her front legs around my arm is one of her many endearing traits.

End of post.

The Hitch Up Phenomenon.

Dating sites on the internet are proliferating at a rate that must surely indicate something or other. And, most interestingly, they’re becoming thematic.

At first there was just the odd, generally-western site like Zoosk, which appeared to cover a range of ethnic types as befits modern, western culture. But now they’re becoming increasingly specialist. We’ve had Thai dating sites, Chinese dating sites, Indian dating sites, Filipino dating sites, and African dating sites. The latest to be added to the list are Russian and Muslim dating sites.

(A Muslim dating site? There’s something, well, a tad strange about that. Don’t Muslims pride themselves on being a bit above that sort of thing? I would love to have a comment on this from a Muslim.)

So now I can’t wait to see what’s next. An Eskimo dating site? Come to the frozen wastes and warm your cockles in an igloo?

The mind might soon be tempted to boggle, but will, as ever, take refuge in its standards.

Luchtime Thoughts.

Today’s big question (not the biggest, but that one’s private) is ‘Should I develop the silly short story and make it even more bizarre, or let it lie?’ I threw it down in about twenty minutes, so it’s not much more than a first draft synopsis. Don’t know yet.


On re-reading some of my posts, I’ve noticed that I seem to have become shy of pronouns. This will never do. Something to focus on.


A pain developed in my left hip this morning, suddenly and without apparent cause. It’s both a constant ache and also reacts to movement. Since most of my chronic niggles are on the right side, I wonder:

Does this indicate a shift in some sort of energy flow from one side to the other?
Does it mean my troubles are becoming more balanced?
Is it merely a delayed reaction to the difficult position I had to get into yesterday to saw off a tree branch?
Am I simply, finally and irrevocably falling apart at the seams?

I’ll take a stroll later and see whether I can walk it off.


A bunch of pheasants has found my bird table – one standard cock, two black cocks and three hens. You wouldn’t believe what a bloody nuisance they are, which makes life difficult for me because I feel sorry for them. They’re not the brightest of birds and they’re bred just to be shot, which isn’t very nice in my book.


Lunch and run weekly anti-virus scan.

At Long Last...

...a silly ditty:

There was a young woman from Leeds
Who planted a packet of seeds.
The triffids all grew
And said ‘How do you do.
You’ll suffice for a couple of feeds.’

A Silly Short Story.

With due acknowledgement to Blithe Spirit.


‘We must be slap bang over the middle of the Atlantic, I should think.’

Joseph was bored with his book, and was idly watching the clouds slip under the big silver bird. He had the window seat. Lisa looked up from her magazine.

‘Yeah, I guess so.’

‘I’m bored,’ said Joseph.

‘Me too. Wanna hang out?’

‘Hang out?’

‘I got travel scrabble in my carry luggage. Best I can do.’

‘OK. English spellings or American?’

There was no time for a reply. A sudden jolt and deafening bang was followed quickly by a sickening lurch into a violent downward spiral. Joseph gripped the seat in front and looked out of the window.

‘Shit. The wing’s fallen off,’ he yelled over the sound of screaming passengers.

‘Does that mean we’re gonna crash?’ Lisa yelled back.

‘Don’t see much of an alternative, old girl.’

‘Hey, that’s good, right?’

‘Is it?’

‘Yeah. It means we get to die together.’

‘Oh yes, I suppose it does.’

‘I think we should die kissing.’

‘Do you?’



They enfolded one another in a tight embrace, locked mouths, and awaited annihilation. It seemed to take an age, but the sensation was surprisingly agreeable. Eventually, another almighty shock brought the world to an end.


A high sun shone brightly on the two people sitting relaxed and resplendent on the whitest and softest of the clouds, dangling their feet over the edge and feeling oblivious to the dizzying drop below. Lisa looked at Joseph, smiled and said:

‘The earth sure did move, didn’t it?’

Being Kept Out of Mischief.

Been feeling wrecked again tonight. This fatigue thing is a bit of a nuisance. And since I couldn’t be bothered to do very much except the essentials, I googled ‘cabin fever’ out of curiosity. The Wikipedia article said:

‘Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, paranoia, irrational frustration with everyday objects, forgetfulness, laughter, excessive sleeping, distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow or dark.’

Not too much laughter or excessive sleeping, but the rest are familiar. The article also said that the simplest therapy is to get out and interact with nature.

OK, then, maybe the fatigue is a godsend. Maybe that and the local trees are all that are standing between me and the onset of Here’s Johnny time.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Seeing in the Dark.

Believe it or not, I noticed something tonight that I never have before.

The sky was clear again, and I found that if I looked at the stars through the tracery of winter tree branches, the tree looked decorated with lights. Fancy making it this far without seeing that before. It was pretty neat.

Earlier, I’d had an odd experience. I was walking along with the torch turned off, when I heard a muffled noise and ‘saw’ something bright and about the height of person in my peripheral vision to the right. It seemed to be walking past me, so I turned the torch on. There was nothing there. Or maybe...

And I'm a lot happier now that Ephrata has shown its lovely face again. If ever I do go to America, maybe Ephrata, Pennsylvania is the place to head for. Bet they don't sell English beer.

In the Stars.

Unsurprisingly, I’m not the sort to read horoscopes in magazines. Yesterday, however, a magazine fell open at that page so I read the daily dose of Sagittarius. It said that today’s new moon would bring fresh beginnings into my life, and that I would be in control this time.

Heavens! I don’t think I’d know what to do with the responsibility.

Speed Obsessed.

What is this obsession we ‘developed’ humans have with speed? I suppose it probably started with the invention of the steam locomotive, and it’s been getting more manic ever since.

There’s a plan to build a high speed rail track down one side of Britain. After much discussion and many protests, the politicians have finally approved it. They admit it will have ‘a negative environmental impact,’ but say the benefits will outweigh the environmental cost. So I ask: ‘why is it so important to get from Manchester to London fifteen minutes quicker than it takes at the moment?’ Ah, but of course: it will benefit the economy. Will it? OK.  But if it’s true, doesn’t it just mean that Joe Public might get an extra pittance in his pay packet, and the likes of Branson and the banking executives have a few more millions stashed away that they can never hope to spend? Oh, and of course: the figures will look better so the politicians will have something to crow about, and then the great British public will be more likely to vote for them.

Fair enough. I give in. Speed is essential. What’s the value of a few million acres of landscape compared with benefits such as those?

But there’s a silly side to this modern mania as well as a sad one. Hotmail now tells me that there’s a way of opening my messages ‘up to 13x faster.’ It takes the blink of an eye to open a message. Why the hell would I want to make it 13x faster?

So, as I said, what is this obsession..?

A Challenge... inventors.

What I want you to do is invent a device that can be fitted to a TV set, so that every time a politician appears on the screen, the picture is replaced with a live webcam broadcast of paint drying. Then I wouldn’t feel such an urgent need to switch the damn thing off. The paint may be any colour.

Being Acceptable.

One of my stories concerns two people who get caught in a repetitive dream reality that’s becoming dangerous. Like most of my stories (and pretty much everybody else’s) it’s had its share of rejections.

One editor admitted he didn’t understand it; he said it was too far out. If you’ll excuse the vernacular, he went so far as to call it ‘fuck brain stuff.’ It was rejected again this morning, but this time the reason given was marginally different. This time I was told ‘We want stories that push the envelope. This is too clich├ęd.’Enough said, eh?

Fortunately, rejections don’t bother me a bit. I have no reason to feel insecure about my writing and I know that the extent to which creative endeavour can be the subject of definitive opinion is greatly limited. And that’s the point: opinions are subjective.

Those who need to make a living from their endeavours might feel compelled to compromise. That’s their choice; it’s a matter of how they want to walk their personal road. The rest of us should surely accept that creativity is essentially personal, and the opinions of others relatively unimportant.

Art as a Subject.

Late night thought:

It seems to me that the academic world is fundamentally left brained. Artists, on the other hand, are right brained; otherwise they wouldn’t be artists, would they? So my question is:

How do artists cope with the requirements of an academic approach to their subject? And how can academics ever hope to truly understand the artist? Isn’t conflict and stress inevitable?

I have only one person’s experiences to go on, so maybe I’m wrong.

Life, and Jokes Transparent and Opaque.

It isn’t only having a song going repeatedly through your mind that’s annoying. A joke can be almost as bad.

I watched part of the film Nowhere Boy tonight, a biopic about the early life of John Lennon. He went to Blackpool with his mother, and that set me thinking about the film Funny Bones, which is set mostly in Blackpool. As a result, I sat in the bath with my favourite joke from the film playing a seemingly endless loop:

Psychiatrist: Have you lived in Blackpool all your life?

Patient: Not yet.


It wasn’t quite the only thing I thought about, though. I also gave some consideration to the size, placing and design of my prospective LIFE tattoo. I would like my two arms to match, you see. It isn’t so much a matter of symmetry as balance. The only unresolved issue was the question of what colour the bagel should be.


I really am imbibing a Class A substance tonight.

No, I’m not. That was a lie. I’m actually drinking lager that says on the can:

A refreshingly clean lager with fruit and hop notes.

You wouldn’t think lager could have fruit and hop notes, would you?

Soon be time to open my £13 litre bottle of Bells. Believe me, that’s cheap.


Life is being nice to me at the moment. Does it show?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Whitewashing a Word.

Suggested by a young person’s blog post.

Criminal: One who breaks the law.

But we all know that some laws are bad. Laws can be enacted for reasons that benefit minority interests, that are pecuniary, that are based on views we don’t all hold, that accord with axioms which the wise and the good question, that protect the hold on power of those who make them, that ignore wrongness for the sake of personal, political or social exigency.

Robin Hood was a criminal. Mahatma Ghandi was a criminal. Nelson Mandela was a criminal.

‘Criminal’ is a very subjective term. It should be used carefully and with due regard for its limitations.

Seeking Entente and a Romantic Question.

It seems I’m getting a regular visitor from France at the moment. As much as that pleases me, I have a small reservation. You do realise I’m English, I hope. Is that OK? I know that our guys did some pretty nasty things to your people during the Middle Ages, that we left some of your troops standing on the beaches in 1940, and that the expression ‘L’Albion Perfide’ is not entirely without foundation. I would be happy to come over there and apologise in person, but it isn’t practicable since I don’t know who you are. Will this blog post suffice?


There’s a line in a Nat King Cole song that runs:

We won’t say goodbye until the last minute
I’ll hold out my hand and my heart will be in it

Question: Is that one of the sweetest lines ever written, or one of the soggiest? Two of my multiple personalities are threatening war over the matter.

Notes as the Soup Simmers.

I thought of making a post explaining what ‘Five Bells in the Middle Watch’ means. If anybody wants to know, please indicate. Otherwise, I won’t bother because it would probably be ‘Very Boring.’


I really feel it necessary to explain why I find internet advertising, even more than other forms, so damn irritating. Coming soon.


It’s rather pleasing to see ‘Ephrata, Pennsylvania’ in the Feedjit again. It feels like coming round full circle.


Sarah didn’t come for tea.


The home made leek and potato soup is only a few minutes from being ready.



The Big Emotional Variable.

I was reading the latest blog post by somebody who’s having a tough time coping with her emotional reaction to difficult circumstances. It seems to me that she’s buckling under the pressure, and I was reminded again of how most of us frequently get something wrong.

We all know that we’re all made differently, and that everybody’s reaction to the same problem is likely to be at least slightly different. What many of us often fail to realise is that differences in the level of individual sensitivity aren’t always slight; sometimes they’re massive. The majority of people fall within reasonable parameters, and so the majority regard that range as ‘normal.’ The minority are outside the range; some are remarkably insensitive, while others feel every pin prick as though it were a carving knife. They’re often the people who become artists, musicians, poets and writers, and they can’t help being that way. It’s how they’re made. There’s even a persuasive theory that it’s due to their brains being wired differently.

So what we need to do is stop judging a person’s reaction according to our own view of the circumstances, and instead see it in terms of the person reacting to them. No more ‘I don’t see why you’re taking this so seriously, it’s only a damn such-and-such. Pull yourself together.’ It really isn’t that simple, and it only makes things worse for the poor unfortunate who is suffering. Do understand, please; they’re suffering, whether we think they should be or not.

An Attempted Explanation...

(...if anybody’s interested.)

It’s either say this or take the last two posts down, which I hate doing.

What were they about? (Which could also be written: What were they about!!!) You tell me. No, I hadn’t imbibed any Class A substances.

All I remember is that the combination of physical, mental and emotional discomforts had the various components of my genome feeling like the ingredients of an overcooked vegetable stew, each bit wondering whether it was a pea, a potato or a piece of parsnip. These are strange, turbulent times – have been for about a year now. It’s interesting – sometimes energising, sometimes enervating – and I suppose one should expect to feel a bit overcooked occasionally.

I slept late and still have the remnants of a headache, and various other things as well.


Orders at Five Bells in the Middle Watch.

I’m a complete bloody wreck tonight. Must hit the hammock.

Hold your course, helmsman. I want all sails hoisted with no reefs. I can smell land.


(And if we’re headed for perdition’s flame, what the f**k.)

Life and a Fair Wind.

I’m still taken by surprise when the pendulum of life changes direction. Tedium loses its grip, to be replaced by a dazzling succession of coincidences, connections, compliments and consequences. The sails fill and the ship fairly skips along the tops of the waves. And when she does, the doldrums seem all the more dolorous.

In the throes of the old fatigue problem tonight, and all the nagging little chronic nuisances are yelling at me. Nevertheless...

Blow, wind! come, wrack!
At least we’ll die with harness on our back

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

On the Nature of Forlorn.

On my nocturnal walk tonight I saw a vague shape standing a little way ahead of me. I switched on the torch and saw that it was Cassie, the pub dog. She looked so forlorn, poor little sweetheart, and yet I’ve no reason to believe other than that she chooses her solitary lifestyle. Nevertheless, I took her home.

When I entered the pub I found it empty of customers, as it had been the last time I went in there. The sight of an empty pub is also forlorn, and yet, for some reason, it reminded me of something an episode in my life once taught me:

Being lonely and alone isn’t as bad as being lonely in the company of strangers.


I think it must be showing.

‘Having one of those days?’ asked the checkout operator.

‘One of those years, actually.’

‘Oh well, this one’s nearly over.’

‘Mmm. If only the fates respected the calendar.’

Even the checkout operators won’t be talking to me soon!


So it is with M’lady S. I need to talk to her to sort out a mystery over book sales. But how, short of knocking on the door and risking terminal immolation in the maelstrom of the dragon’s breath? (I’m sort of joking, but it is awkward.) According to the not-so-trusty Feedjit, she hasn’t visited the blog since Sunday morning, so I can’t even talk to her that way. I did hope she would notice me watching her through the kitchen window this afternoon as she was swanning around in her GAP sweatshirt, but no. Inca did; she gave me one of those cute cocks of the head. Had she been a Rough Collie instead of a Cocker Spaniel, no doubt she would have barked knowingly and pointed in my direction. We can’t always have what we want, can we? I think I said that before.


The Rogue Renault is still playing up, despite having gone through full diagnostic checks which showed nothing wrong.

‘So what do we do now?’ I asked Nigel.

‘Sell it and buy another one.’


I think I should leave commenting on today’s damning report into the appalling state of the care provided to the disabled and elderly by private care companies. We did allow Mrs Thatcher to dismantle civilisation, so I suppose we shouldn't complain.

A Public Confession.

So now I have people honouring me beautifully. It throws me off balance because I really, really don’t see anything worth honouring. I mean that. I do.

Being insulted is easier. Being insulted provides extra energy to mobilise the defences and strike back. That’s a bit sad, isn’t it?

There are days when I’m none too keen on being me. I remember Orphin Lasz once posting a picture of a baby wreathed in tears. It carried the caption:

Will somebody please kill me already.

It was meant as a joke. Yeah, right.

This is a temporary, if repetitive, glitch.

Did I Say Barter?

Remember my neighbour giving me a piece of her ginger and Guinness cake? I had a piece tonight, and now I know why. It doesn’t taste of either ginger or Guinness. In fact, it isn’t very nice.

Just off to get the tomatoes back.

'Love is Never Having to Say You're Sorry.'

Probably the daftest line Hollywood ever wrote. Let’s have another one.

Teenage girl: Mom, how do I know that what I feel for my boyfriend is true love?
Hallmark excuse for parent: If you have to ask, my dear, it isn’t. You’ll know true love when it happens.

Bilge. Let’s be straight about this: the word ‘love’ has no definition. If there is any such thing as ‘true love,’ it’s a rarefied concept known only to God (whatever that is) and the odd mystic here and there. The rest of us have to dispense with simple, fallacious certainties and accept the reality of infinite variables.

So, may I offer this advice to the lovelorn teenager?

If you feel something so strongly for a person that the only word big enough to fit the bill is ‘love,’ then use it. If you believe you love somebody, you do. No one can say that what you feel as a fifteen-year-old is any less meaningful than what a fifty-year-old might feel. The emotional root of the feeling has nothing to do with maturity, even though what you do about it could well be different.

The feeling might be short lived, it might go on for quite a while, it might even last a lifetime. How long it lasts will depend on various factors, not the least of which is the kind of person you are. It has nothing to do with fatuous demarcation lines that people kid themselves exist between infatuation, love and true love.

What this quality of infinite variation means, however, is that when you say ‘I love you,’ and he/she reciprocates with the same words, you will probably both mean something different. One person’s understanding of an emotion is never quite the same as another’s. That’s something you just have to live with.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Another Nocturnal Ramble.

Taking a walk after dinner and after dark is becoming a habit. No mistiness and shuddersome imaginings tonight, though, just a sense of wonder at the brilliant canopy of stars in the clear night sky. The nearest street lights are about three miles away, so we don’t get much light pollution here. And I noticed yet again how much bigger and more imposing trees look at night. I even said ‘wow’ to a pair of them.

‘But Jeffreys don’t say wow.’

‘Well, they did tonight. Bog off.’

It was cold, though. First frost of the winter. My fingers were tingling by the time I got back. Now I’m snug and warm again with a cup of hot coffee, and I have a tricky e-mail to write. Will probably be back later with a few words on the subject of love. You probably won’t like them.

Too Late for Wisdom.

I was thinking this morning about a girl called Pauline McNicol. I had an innocent, lightweight sort of relationship with her when I was eighteen. I remember her being very pretty, and her father a strict and highly principled Irishman – a bricklayer by trade. I remember respecting him.

I remembered a conversation I had with Pauline when we first started dating, and another we had when she dropped me a month later. I thought about how I’ve always been confused as to why my attitude on a certain subject should have switched so radically from one extreme to the other a year or so after I knew her. This morning I got it. And then something occurred to me:

You know that old saying: ‘Youth is wasted on the young?’ I think it might also be reasonable to suggest that wisdom is wasted on the old.

Impulse vs Circumspection.

If you’re an impulsive person, you tend to go for what you want rather than what a considered opinion would deem the best option. So, knowing that, you sometimes stop and tell yourself ‘You mustn’t be impulsive about this. You must exercise caution and think about it.’ And that’s what you do. Only you don’t, not really. What you actually do is spend the thinking time ingeniously listing all the real or contrived reasons why going for what you want is the best option. Then you go for what you want.

So, you might just as well be impulsive in the first place and avoid the unnecessary waste of thinking time.

Fortunately, I don’t always agree with myself.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Safe Psychedelia.

I was thinking again about the idea of having LIFE tattooed on my arm. I decided it should have a symbol to go with it, and eventually settled on a bagel. So now I imagine the conversation that might ensue if anybody saw it:

‘Why have you got LIFE tattooed on your arm?’

‘It’s an affirmation.’

‘What’s that in English?’

‘I want a life.’

‘But you’ve already got a life.’

‘That’s a matter of opinion.’

‘Well, you’re not dead, are you?’

‘Sort of.’

‘Don’t be silly. What’s that O for, above it?’

‘It isn’t an O, it’s a bagel.’

‘How can you tell? It looks like an O.’

‘I don’t need to tell. I know what it is because I had it put there.’




‘Oh, I see.’

‘What flavour is it?’

‘What flavour's what?’

‘The bagel.’

‘Don’t be silly.’

And all the time I would be listening to the grass grow, while Lucy floated by with diamonds.

Life and the Benefit of Barter.

My neighbour came round and gave me a big piece of home baked ginger and Guinness cake. So I gave her a bag of my excess tomatoes from the greenhouse. Life works better like that.

I’m thinking of having LIFE tattooed on my left arm. The power of affirmation. Might work.

I wonder where Sarah is.


Unashamedly Cynical.

A recent poll indicated that William Shakespeare is the national icon most likely to give people a sense of pride in being British. (Let’s conveniently ignore for the moment the fact that WS of Stratford probably didn’t write that stuff, or at least not all of it. Whoever did write it is dead anyway, so The Face will do.) The two icons considered least likely were the political and legal systems. A small pool of weak light in a dark place, then.

I saw Cameron and Clegg doing a walkabout on the news earlier. I’m fascinated by the fake smiles, and the body language that oozes dishonesty and the disingenuous, that such characters display. I find it weird indeed that some people continue to be taken in by them. Then again, when you look at the likes of Blair, Bush and Berlusconi, maybe the present batch aren’t quite as bad as they might be. As for the plastic celebrities...


The Morning's Irritations.

How odd it seems that there is a rare example of somebody I can get on with living a mere half a mile away, but with whom I can only initiate contact through this blog. No calling in person, no calling by phone, no calling by e-mail. Modern times? I suppose I should be grateful for the blog.


A delivery driver called next door. He’d got the wrong address, but he set the dogs a-barking. They continued to bark for twenty minutes after he’d gone. Or, to be more precise: one barked, the other howled. Mmm...


I’m still confused over the question of whether I’m being accused of profaning all that was pure (see previous post.) Ordinarily I would let this go quickly, but issues of purity and profanity are of major consequence to me. They’re largely what I live for, so maybe it will take a little longer.

The Priestess Speaks...

...but I haven’t a clue whether it has anything to do with me. I don’t see how it can. And yet there’s that reference to an individual...

No, too easy to read things into things and find myself barking up the wrong coolabah tree. Profanity is not my business. The Priestess chose her road; no doubt this is just a stumbling block along her way, and nothing to do with me. Ways are full of stumbling blocks, all of them

So, it seems I’ve reached a milestone. One week from today is my birthday, and this is my 2,000th post. I’m happy to celebrate the latter; the former will be largely ignored, apart from an arrangement to have coffee with Helen in Derby.

A Lazy Post.

I’m too tired (and too several other things) to make the serious post on the subject of impulsive vs circumspect tonight. So, let me offer another little allegory. Some people will know what it means, I’m sure.

Suppose you’re locked alone in an upstairs room with a window that looks out onto the street. You look down on the bustling thoroughfare knowing that there are a hundred people there, all going about their business. Yet what you see are ninety nine frozen, transparent ghosts and one live person. Doesn’t that suggest something?

And, just for good measure, I think one of my chakras is more than blocked. I think it’s encased in concrete. I’ve never really given much thought to chakras before.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Walking with Imagination.

I took another walk after dark tonight, and dark it was indeed. There was no moon, nor even any hint of stars, just a clinging, drizzly mist that hinted at a dozen horror stories. It was the sort of night to encourage a vague anticipation of hearing a howl in the distance, and then a second one a little closer.

That was how my writing career started, you know. I took the dog out one night at about 2am, when I lived in the house before this one. The story I subsequently wrote related the experience in the third person, thus:

At that point the dog refused to move another step. She stood rigid, with a terrified look in her eyes. Suddenly – and bear in mind that this was an unlit country lane with no moon to speak of, the village behind him in darkness, and no sound apart from the slightest rustling of the odd tree – he heard a low growl, like that of a big cat. It was unmistakeable, he said, and came from the direction of the church.
“He had a torch with him and shone it in the direction of the noise, but said that was even more disturbing because all he could see was a pool of weak light illuminating a bend in the lane a few yards further down. He had the feeling, as you would I suppose, that something was going to appear around it any second. Now he was frightened; he openly admitted it, and needed no further encouragement to walk quickly back to the house, turning around every few seconds and shining the light behind him.
“I was still up when he came in and he looked disturbed in a way I’d never seen before. He told me the story and said that he kept hearing that verse from The Ancient Mariner, the one that runs
Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread,
And, having once turned round, walks on, and turns no more his head,
Because he knows some frightful fiend doth close behind him tread.

No such excitement tonight, though, just a deathly quiet that held promise, but delivered nothing. The only hint of a thrill came from walking within a few yards of the grave in the wood that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I will admit to being inclined towards imagining an ashen face peering between the trees, and a broken, sibilant voice whispering ‘Good evening.’ I kept my torch pointed at the road.

As Dinner Time Approaches.

It seems I’ve been abandoned. All available evidence, from both cyberspace and real space, leads to the almost inescapable conclusion that M’lady S and the little princess have vacated my world in favour of alternative preoccupations.

I don’t understand it, you know. How does anybody conduct a life without me at the centre of it? Beats me, it really does.

For those inclined to take me literally, this is a joke. Time to prepare the repast.

Early Learning.

When I was a boy, radio shows were still full of songs from the classic ballad era, and one of them was called Dance, Ballerina, Dance by Nat King Cole. I remember, even as a young child, being struck – enthralled, no less – by the line:

Once you said
His love must wait its turn
You wanted fame instead
I guess that’s your concern
We live and learn.

I remember having an image of a woman whose priorities were shallow and short sighted. I remember seeing her as someone lacking both sensitivity to her own deeper needs, and compassion for her lover’s. I wondered how anybody could be so weak and superficial as to forfeit love for mere wealth and fame.

I suppose I made an inner promise to myself, even at that very tender age, never to make the same mistake. And I never have.

The Night Terror.

I woke up this morning before it was fully light. I don’t know what time it was, but the light level suggested it was between 6 and 7am. For a second or so I felt nothing, and then a shock of something hit me, something powerful and horrific but unidentified. It was like touching a low voltage electric fence; for a second you feel nothing, and then the shock hits.

There were no pictures with it, just a sense of horror. And mercifully it didn’t last long; I fell asleep again quickly. I’d had no dreams that I remembered, save a pleasant domestic one about Helen. Nothing obvious to explain it.

I know this sort of thing is common enough. We explain it as a simple mental aberration, an anxiety attack. I’ve heard it called ‘night terrors,’ something driven by an underlying fear or other negative disturbance.

But I wonder whether the pragmatic explanation covers them all. I do believe that some people are empathic in various ways and to different degrees. I remember the same thing happening to me when the Japanese tsunami struck. Maybe that was just coincidence, I don’t know.

This one felt personal, though, and there’s one person out there in cyberspace with whom I seem to have a psychic link. That’s why it bothers me.

Saying it With Smells.

One of my characters says:

‘A person’s favourite smells say a lot about him.’

Since I feel uninspired and it’s nearly bed time, I thought I’d list mine.

Fresh coffee
Wood smoke
Pipe and cigar smoke
Fresh tobacco
Pine resin
Hot tar
Wild honeysuckle
Real sandalwood
New-mown hay
Chips frying

There’s one more, but I decided it could compromise potential future prospects so I’m leaving it out. Pity, it’s the most subtle of all. I find it odd that I dislike the smell of cinnamon, vanilla and baking bread.

I’m bored again. I need those future prospects and the subtle scent that would come with them. When you’re bored, be cryptic.

Arlington is playing. Night.

Three Little Notes.

On the subject of the previous post:

1) I remember as a little boy feeling the most pressing need to find the 'arm clothed in white samite.'

2) I make a distinction between purity and perfection.


Do you know what I find extremely satisfying? Bringing all my tools back from the garden and restoring them to their appointed resting places. I think it has something to do with a regard for functionality. Or laziness.


Seeing ‘Bronx, New York’ in my Feedjit brings mixed feelings. On the one hand it engenders anxiety and what Macbeth called ‘horrible imaginings.’ On the other, I would miss it a lot. Getting little sparks of adrenalin on grey days is not to be sneezed at. I’ll settle for grateful.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

A Tentative Thought on Purity.

Purity is a most elusive concept when applied to the matter of human aspiration. It’s become unfashionable, bound up with religion and morality, with notions of repressed Victorian prudery, and with the remote fantasy of mediaeval Romantic ideals. It’s become loaded with a pejorative connotation. It’s uncool, fit only for dull people seeking to vindicate their lack of urbane wherewithal. That’s the modern view, and it’s how I used to see it.

But what do you seek when you’ve tired of the tawdry, the sordid, the commonplace, and the tedious drive for cheap nights and pointless days? Where do you turn when you’ve done all that and it didn’t satisfy? How do you respond to the realisation that what you thought was the great adventure of life was just a matter of following the monkey’s path between the tram lines? Where do you look when you want to find something bigger, better, infinitely more exciting?

I don’t know what purity is, but I’m sure it has nothing to do with religion, morality or Victorian prudery. It might have something to do with mediaeval Romantic ideals, but they’re too tainted with the one-life dogma of exoteric Christianity. Maybe the real Jesus knew, but how can we tell?

So now I’m wondering – just wondering – whether the search for purity might be the greatest adventure of all. It might be near or far. It might be embodied in a grain of sand, the wisdom of a tree or the nobility of a particular person. I suppose the nature of purity only reveals itself when you find it, and maybe that’s reason enough to go a-looking. Maybe.

Today's Updates.

Been doing proper manly things today – Ladders, Lopping and Lifting heavy things – instead of scribbling this poncy blog.

Is that how I see it? The part of me that sets about doing manly things maybe does, but the rest of me doesn’t. The curse of having a multi-faceted personality is that even I never know which aspect I’m going to function with next.

Update on Sarah:

Her house was in almost complete darkness this evening. No sign of life. I sometimes wonder whether she’s consciously avoiding me, but I doubt it. Consciously avoiding me would be as hit-or-miss as consciously trying to bump into me. I miss her unforced radiance.

Update on the Priestess:

Judging by something I just read, it seems I might have timed my exit from her life perfectly.

Update on Life:

Still compelling. Still confusing. Still mysterious. Still wracked with dichotomies and disturbances. Still here.