Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Feeling Nervous.

I’m planning to ring the landlord’s agent tomorrow, to see whether I can get an answer to the question of whether I’m going to be able to stay here.

It would break my heart to leave this place. I feel so right here, so at home. And if I had to leave, I would never wander Mill Lane at night again until I died and could do so as a ghost. I would never visit the churchyard on bright summer days to have my lunch and greet the lady Isabella. And I would never see Sarah again.

Wish me luck.

Loving the Macabre.

The sky was clear tonight, and the half moon bright enough to cast deep shadows on the lane. A light mist infused the fields and trees with the merest hint of a cold glow, and the walls of the farmhouse and cottages in Mill Lane were rendered a harsher range of half tones than usual. The combined effect was to make their angles seem slightly more angular, their prospect slightly more twisted. In a word, they looked gothic.

I’ve always taken pleasure in such an atmosphere. I remember walking home some nights as a teenager. The route was a track that ran close to the road along the bottom of a small range of hills, and I used to imagine that every large junction box standing out from the power poles was a dead man hanging from a gibbet. I didn’t know then what the difference between a gibbet and a gallows was, but it hardly mattered. My sense of the macabre was duly satisfied. And it wouldn’t have worked had I not been alone. It seems that some aspects of our natures don’t really change very much.

*  *  *

Venus was a little higher above the horizon tonight, and Jupiter a little further away from her. And that’s something else that doesn’t seem to change very much.

The Strange Age of Technology.

When I went to the town today I requested £30 from the cash point at the supermarket. The screen gave me the dreaded message, the one that says:

We cannot process your request. Please contact your bank.

Since I know that my current account should have a hell of a lot more than £30 in it, the subsequent sequence of reactions and events ran thus:

1) Thinks: ‘Bloody technology!’

2) Thinks again: ‘Hang on a minute. Please contact your bank? Isn’t that a polite way of saying you have no money in your account? Shit!!!

3) Continues to think: ‘I’ll have to go home immediately and call the bank. There have been a number of incidents of skimming in Ashbourne recently. Looks like I might be the latest victim.’

4) Changes mind and decides to try another cash point first, since there’s a possibility I might have been right the first time.

5) Walks across town feeling sick – literally.

6) There’s a man using the machine at the next cash point, so I have to wait. Still feel sick.

7) Man goes. Insert card, type in PIN and amount, press Enter. Heart is beating a little faster than usual.

8) Card returned, money slips out, followed by a receipt showing the balance that’s supposed to be in there.

9) Lets out a strange noise indicating relief. Young woman standing next to me gives a strange look. Strange is on the menu today. Go to nearby store to buy a new bath towel as planned, and find them reduced to less than half price. Strangely positive upturn in fortune. Still feel a bit sick, which maybe isn’t so strange.

You know, there was a time when the reason for putting money in a bank was to keep it safe. Then we went and got technology, so now it isn’t safe any more. I’m considering drawing it all out and putting it under the freggin’ mattress like people used to do in saner times.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

When the Wall Isn't Listening.

I have seven animal pictures arranged around a window frame behind my desk – three birds, two bears, a dog and a koala. The koala looks the most knowing, and so he’s the one I talk to.

‘What do you think, little friend,’ I ask, ‘what’s the best I can hope for?’

He hasn’t graced me with a reply yet; he’s a silent oracle so far. But one day, maybe. Could be he’s still thinking about the question.

Good For a Laugh - Seriously.

I smile easily believe it or not, but it takes something pretty special to make me laugh. Cosmetics ads do it unintentionally, but the only thing in a long time that’s been calculated to make me laugh and succeeded was last night’s episode of The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff (courtesy of the BBC, don’t you know.)

Jedrington has lost his wife and children (or so he thinks) and feels a bit emotional, poor chap. But this is Victorian England, in which it is illegal (or so we’re told) for a man to express emotion. His manservant comes to the rescue by smuggling him into a sordid, backstreet den – a sort of opium den or speakeasy – in which he can weep freely, away from the prying eyes of the law. But he’s out of practice and needs illicit images to excite the necessary juices. This dingy, disreputable establishment provides them, viewed through a hole in a black curtain.

First, there’s a cute little doggie sitting on a stool. Then there’s a sad little boy who scratches a few notes, badly, on a violin before keeling over. And then there’s the clincher – the piece de resistance – an oversize headstone on which is writ ‘Some Orphans,’ with the cute little doggie sitting next to it.

Jedrington gets his cry; I get my laugh; and The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff is highly recommended to anybody with a slightly odd sense of humour.

Waving and Watching Her Go.

The language of poetry has always been a foreign one to me. I have difficulty even reading much of it, and I certainly can’t write it. It’s why I respond so positively when Shayna speaks my accustomed language, but translates it into Poem.

This is a shame, because there’s a poem sitting just to the left of my breast bone that wants to be written. I wish I could oblige, but I can’t.

Less is More.

It interests me that the makers of certain TV programmes feel the need to indulge in tautological titles. The first example that springs to mind is CSI:Crime Scene Investigation. I assume it’s because they have a low opinion of their potential audience, believing it to be largely composed of people who are impressed by snappy initials, but too dim to know what they mean. And that isn’t much of a testimonial for the programme, is it?

Marching On.

It astonishes me to think that I can have got so far down the road of life and only now begin to understand the nature of connections. And it astonishes me even more to discover that physical distance has little, if any, effect on them.

*  *  *

Meanwhile, the lower back pain that started a couple of Fridays ago returned with a vengeance last night, and is still being very troublesome this morning. I’ve never had back problems before, and so it’s interesting to find out just how much they bring you down. I think the motto of the day needs to come from my book The Gift Horse, which describes Paddy as:

‘Down, but never out.’

And so, as Sir Jacob Astley’s famous prayer before the Battle of Edgehill concluded,

‘March on, boys.’

Watching My Back.

According to my various stats trackers, I had a visitor from the UK tonight who not only accessed a post about the local pub, but also several I’ve made about Sarah. That would suggest somebody local. And it also appears they made at least two visits to my profile. Do you ever get the feeling you’re being watched, or am I being paranoid and jumping to untenable conclusions?

Monday, 27 February 2012

No Improvement.

Nope. Still wobbling. I got thrown another curve ball after the last post – which makes three in quick succession, but I don’t think I’ve struck out yet.

This doesn’t make for very good blog posting, does it? No. Sorry, but that’s all the wobbly brain will allow at the moment.

Except, perhaps, to say that the walk was tedious tonight – damp, starless and generally featureless, apart from an unusual proliferation of cars, one of which looked suspicious, but it was too dark to be sure.

Being Not Right.

I’m in one of those high pressure moods at the moment – the sort in which the equilibrium is shot, and the need to relieve the pressure by talking about it paramount. Unfortunately, I can’t, largely because I haven’t come to terms with the various disturbances yet, and until I do, any attempt to rationalise the complex dynamics would come out looking like something the cat threw up. So I’ll just have to seethe for a while longer.

It would be unfair, though, not to mention that Helen met Sarah and Inca today. She was impressed by both – each in their own way, of course. And if you’ll excuse me sidetracking into personal territory for a moment:

(Hope that didn’t sound patronising, Sal. It certainly wasn’t meant to. And I changed my mind about the hat. I’ve decided it’s really rather splendid and suits you.)

So what else can I say except I might or might not be back later, depending on whether or not I stop wobbling!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Beauty is Essex - Allegedly.

The best of ads has appeared on my Hotmail home page. It’s from some company called MYA, which promises to make you more beautiful – for a pretty beautiful fee, I expect.

It’s fronted by a woman called Maria Fowler, who I’ve never heard of but is apparently one of the stars (stars?) of a crass TV programme we have in Britain called The Only Way is Essex. I’ve never watched it so I speak from an admitted position of ignorance, but a trailer I saw once suggests it’s one of those I-must-jump-into-the-nearest-lake-to-get-away-from-this-and-I-don’t-care-if-I-drown sort of programmes. It appears to be seeking to vindicate the Essex girl ethos and have us all gagging to be right down there among them.

(The classic Essex girl joke:

What do you call an Essex girl with only half a brain?


So, right then, there’s this ad, which offers – among other things – such services as:

Lip plumping
Dermaroller, and
Micro Dermabrasion.

They’re making it up, aren’t they? They’re taking the piss, right? They don’t really believe there’s any such thing as an Essex girl, do they? Well, maybe they do, because I can’t imagine any other version of the human animal being taken in by it.

Seeing the Dead and the Deniable.

When I went out for my walk tonight I shone the torch on the dead pheasant which somebody (or something) had moved off the road and up close to my gate. I felt the ghost of an expectation that its head might lift, and its lifeless eyes fix me with an accusatory stare. It, and they, didn’t, of course. The poor thing continued to lie a still, silent, squalid mess, and I felt guilty all over again.

*  *  *

But what I am now seeing with increasing frequency are bright, moving shapes of varying sizes in my peripheral vision. I’m getting used to them, but their sudden appearance still startles me sometimes. I have little doubt that the mundane explanation applies – they’re presumably just some curious little aberration of the eyes or brain. But you never know, do you? You never know what a mind might be capable of perceiving one way or another when it’s doing its best to become increasingly attuned to more extended levels of possibility.

An Ungracious Recollection.

The vicar of the church which I attended between the ages of about eleven and fourteen was a decent, compassionate sort of man. He interceded on my behalf once when I was the object of some spiteful bullying by one of the officers in the local Boys’ Brigade company. That being the case, it seems a little unfair that I mostly remember him for two things:

The first was that he had a habit of turning his toes inwards when he sat on a chair, which imbued him with an air of feebleness – especially when he had a copy of the Bible resting on his knees, for some reason. The second was the fact that he had eight children, which combined with his name led to an unfortunate overindulgence in the all-too-obvious joke. His name was the Rev Dunnet.

An Unwelcome Solution.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a problem with pheasants in my garden. They’ve proliferated over the past few months; they’re coming in from all quarters now for some reason, and they’re coming at all times of the day. They’re looking for easy food pickings on the bird table, of course, and therein lies the problem:

1) One pheasant will eat as much food in ten minutes as would keep the whole population of small woodland birds happy for two or three hours.

2) They leave piles of crap all over the table.

3) They stand on the water bowl and tip it up, thus soaking the food.

4) They leap off the table to the ground, often breaking plants as they do so.

5) And just to add insult to injury, they set my neighbours dogs barking.

I can’t blame the pheasants, obviously. They’re wild creatures and they’ll naturally seek food wherever it’s to be found. And there is a valid reason for questioning the rightness of feeding birds anyway, but I’m rather stuck with what I perceive to be a responsibility now.

And so, being human and fallible, I get annoyed with the pheasants and occasionally entertain unkind thoughts – like thinking how useful it would be if a family of foxes took up residence in a nearby field.

But coming back from my walk today, I noticed a bulky form lying by my gate. It was a dead cock pheasant, presumably a road kill. I imagine it was heading for my bird table and didn’t make it. I hate the fact that we kill animals with cars, and so I felt sad and guilty. I wished it well for its next incarnation, and told myself yet again that I really should try to be less self-centred. The business of self-improvement just goes on and on...

*  *  *

On a lighter note, a car came past me on the lane today. A young woman in the front passenger seat smiled and waved. I wonder who she was.

It's Always...

...a little worrying to have somebody from Washington DC visit your blog.

...a source of pleasure to hear that thin crack as you break the cap seal when opening a new bottle of scotch.

...embarrassing to have a jogger sneak up silently behind you on the lane just as you’re serenading the trees and wildlife with a rendition of Raglan Road.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Post-Walk Personal Notes.

There was something oddly thrilling about seeing Venus so close to the moon tonight. She was almost sitting on the bottom horn of the young crescent. Maybe my sense of fascination came from there having been a sizeable coincidence involved.

*  *  *

The hints are coming thick and fast that I’m alone and going to stay that way. Striding up the lane tonight with just an upturned bowl full of stars for company, the fact seemed positive and right. Whether it will continue to seem so remains to be seen.

*  *  *

I’m wondering why my kitchen smelt of apple pie when I got back, since I don’t think I’ve had apple pie in the six years I’ve lived here. Suggestions invited.

Convicing SFX.

I just caught a few minutes of the old James Bond film, From Russia with Love. James and the obligatory sex interest were taking a ride in a powerboat, he at the helm and she standing next to him. In the long shot, I would say they were doing about 20 knots and the sea was choppy, but in the close up the boat wasn’t moving up and down and the actress’s hair was undisturbed. Then she wetted her finger and held it up to judge the wind direction!

Hilarious, but what I’m really curious to know is whether adult audiences in the 1960’s noticed that sort of thing.

Defining Marriage.

The issue of gay marriage is big in the news these days, and so I feel I should comment on it. Right then, here’s my view of the matter.

It seems to me that there are three broad positions being taken. First, we have the posturing of the liberal alter-establishment. The issue of gay rights is one of their most prized shibboleths, and any questioning of any aspect of that issue has them branding you a right wing bigot. Second, we have the posturing of the diehard conservatives, to whom the issue of gay rights is a major factor in the disintegration of a proper society. Any disagreement with their view has you branded a subversive or even ‘a bit of a leftie.’ Third we have those who regard themselves as followers of the Judaic religious tradition – principally the Jews, Christians and Muslims. They must obviously object to gay rights since, according to their holy book, their God specifically forbids homosexuality.

I don’t subscribe to any of those groups, since subscribing to groups tends to smother freedom of thought and expression. My position in general terms is that I want those who are born homosexual to go through life free of attack, harassment or discrimination. But I don’t see the issue of marriage as being about discrimination. To me, it’s a matter of logic and comes down to a single question: What is marriage?

I regard marriage first and foremost as the social and legal endorsement of an individual masculine:feminine connection. It also has a traditional role in the basic structure of society and the predominance of the family unit, but that’s of less importance since social structures are – and need to be – inherently mutable. The important factor is the masculine:feminine connection, since such a connection is about completion. Given that definition of marriage, therefore, the concept of making it legally available to gay couples is simply illogical.

I accept, of course, that others might entertain a different definition of marriage, and so here’s my point. Before we can agree on whether or not to legalise gay marriage, don’t we first have to agree on what marriage is?

Friday, 24 February 2012

Going it Alone.

An update to 'Signs.' I said I'd let you know.

It was news.

One Small Example...

There’s a Google ad that says

Sign up and get a free £50 voucher

Why ‘free?’ Any voucher given with a promotion has to be free, otherwise it wouldn’t be a promotion. How and why would anybody expect you to pay for a promotional voucher? The use of the word is, therefore, either an ignorant tautology or deliberate manipulation, neither of which endears me to Google.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A Little Recollection.

Sarah was sitting with her back to me, a large cup of some ornamental design on the table to her right – blue and white, I think. Her mother was busying about the kitchen. I walked on.

I notice these little things.


Venus and Jupiter were very close together tonight, and they were magnificent. Big and bright, they ruled the heavens with supreme aplomb, easily eclipsing every other star in the night sky.

This has to augur something. Doesn’t it? I wonder what. Should I be tempted to predict that there is interesting news or correspondence on the way? I’ll let you know. 

A Reminder.

The western sky this evening was one of those that’s difficult to pull your gaze away from. Fold upon velvety fold of slate grey and salmon pink, augmented around the edges with graded spans of pale and smoky blues. And standing silhouetted against it was my favourite old sycamore, seemingly regaling itself in royal finery ready for the new cycle of growth and hospitality.

And then a lone bat circled the house, which was both a delight and a cause for concern, since the daffodils are still only in their infancy and spring some way away.

But do you know what? For all that’s dirty, dull, disreputable, dangerous and just plain stupid about this world, such sights are the stuff to remind me that maybe there is some value in coming here and being human after all. I suppose it’s all a matter of knowing what’s important.

Two More Firsts.

As previously forecast, I went into Boots today seeking arnica gel and tiger balm. They had both, so I took advice. Arnica gel is better for bruises, I was told; sprained muscles respond better to tiger balm. So tiger balm got the nod. I now have tiger balm, which I’d never even heard of until three days ago. The staff in Boots impressed me; they were knowledgeable, friendly and helpful; I told them so; one of them smiled. And the irony is that the backache’s more or less gone anyway. Maybe it was afraid of tigers.


I had my lunch sitting outside at the garden table in the warm sunshine. First time this year. I’ve no doubt the dawn will prove to be false, as it usually does when we get a foretaste of spring in February, but it was good while it lasted. I didn’t even clean the pheasant crap off the table, which just goes to prove what a true nature boy I am. The view across the valley is getting its first hints of fuzziness as the new leaf buds begin to form.

Positive Discrimination.

I heard a thin, quiet, but confident voice say ‘excuse me’ in the supermarket today. I followed its source and there was a little girl of around seven looking at me in the way only little girls can. She wanted me to reach something from a higher shelf, and I duly obliged. ‘Duly’ is hardly adequate. ‘Eagerly’ would be better, because that sort of thing makes my day. What higher purpose can life provide than to be of service to a little girl?

And then I had a thought, as I do. I decided that we should sweep the Palace of Westminster clean of all those boring men and women in business suits, and replace them with little girls. Age 5-11 should be about right. Imagine what fun we’d all have. How life would improve, I’ve little doubt.

So what of the little boys, I hear you ask. Why, they can take to the campaign trail and demand emancipation, of course.

Late Notes.

I’ve had a companion all day today. The spirit of a star. Not everybody can say that, can they?


My Feedjit lost a customer tonight, and from Philadelphia of all places! That’s never happened before.


Fancy being a woman called Lettis. How would you cope with the mayo jokes?


Being in a hot bath was a good experience. I found I could cough without it causing a pain in my lower back. Tomorrow I search for tiger balm or arnica gel.


I only fell asleep once tonight, and that was in a safe place. No risk of damaging the quarry tiles with my head. I’m still waking up prematurely, and the stress I felt this morning was justified for once.


Being an ethical vegetarian who also happens to believe in doing things the natural way, the fact that scientists can now produce meat in the laboratory using stem cells provokes a dichotomous reaction.


I’m not sure I approve of universities. I wonder whether they’re a bad influence on young people.


I haven’t seen M’Lady S and the princess in ages. I keep looking, but no joy.


Writing long e-mails to people is a bad idea. It puts them off replying.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Misdirected Anger.

Now that my standards, ideals and principles are my own standards, ideals and principles and not those that Mother Culture would have me adhere to, I find myself almost constantly disturbed, irritated and even angered by nearly everything I see around me. The western world is simply crammed full of crap.

This isn’t good because sometimes the anger reaches boiling point, and then I indulge in such a vitriolic rant to somebody that it looks for all the world like a personal attack. I did that last night and have spent today consumed with remorse. Two long e-mails of explanation and apology have only gone some way to assuage it, hence the lack of posts today.

The odd thing is that the person to whom I let off steam is one of a very small number who I’d expect to understand what I’m raving about, and so the doing of it is a sort of compliment.

Nevertheless, I still think I should try to cultivate better self-control. Or get a punch bag.

Variants of Wrong.

When I observe the road that modern, urbane culture is taking, it seems to me that those who regard standards as being essential to the structure of a right society will soon cease to be seen as conservative and become the new radicals. Maybe then we can start reversing the flow of subtle energy that is benefiting the interests of unscrupulous men and lay the foundations for a brave new world built on mutual and self-respect.


Big respect to Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik. I’m sure there’s a game being played out here that goes far beyond the borders of Syria. I ask again: Why only Gadaffi?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

I'm Half Way to Being a Trekkie.

The weather forecaster said last night that the temperature on Thursday is likely to be 16°C and ‘the average for the time of year is only half that at 8°C.’

Well, actually, no; half of 16° isn’t 8°. 16 and 8 are two points close together on a big scale that goes down to absolute zero at approximately -273°C, so half of +16° is actually -128.5°

And then there’s their habit of saying ‘temperatures will be colder at the weekend.’

Well, actually, no; the weather will be colder, but temperatures will be lower. Temperature is a measure of level.

That kind of thing bugs me. It’s sloppy.

Have I lost you yet? Am I becoming a geek? Should I get a life?

Just Curious.

There was a little news report about scientists growing plants from 300,000-year-old seeds ‘that had been buried in the permafrost by squirrels.’ Three questions:

How do they know it was squirrels that buried them?

How does anything bury anything in permafrost?

Does this cast doubt on the ‘use by’ date on seed packets?

Getting Underway.

Today was a first for the year so far.

I start lighting my coal fire at around 3.45 - 4pm, and that’s usually it for the day in winter. Once darkness descends during the cold season, all I want to do is settle in front of the computer or the fire. Not so today.

Today I got the fire going and then did another hour’s work in the garden, courtesy of the increasing daylight and the mild weather we’re having at the moment. It was very pleasant to be working outside until the onset of twilight; it brought on the sense of nature’s cycles, and the knowledge that the current trend is up. The back stood up to the task reasonably well, although it’s grumbling at me now.

And now I’m getting the first bits of itching from insect bites. Another first for the year so far.

Going the Way of...

I like blogging. It provides the bulk of my connection with the outside world in general and a few special people in particular. And so I’m always on the lookout for something to write about.

Yesterday morning I thought of something. ‘That’s interesting,’ thinks I, ‘I’ll write it later.’ Later came and I forgot what it was. I remembered it again this morning. ‘Ah, good. Remembered! I’ll write it as soon as I boot up the computer.’

But then I was making the bed and my back went again. A shooting pain, followed by a dull ache which continues to make its unwelcome presence felt. So then I booted the computer and the first thing that greeted me was the latest e-mail and petition from Avaaz, this time about the unimaginable atrocities being committed in Syria. I signed the petition and felt angry about Syria. I felt angry with the Arab League. I felt angry with the toothless United Nations. I felt angry with the Chinese and Russian governments. I felt angry with the human race.

And then I looked for the e-mails and blog visits which I hoped would be there, but weren’t. I decided to write the post, but couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was about.

Maybe it wasn’t so interesting after all.

I have garden work to do if my back will permit. I think I’ll do it before I eat, since eating tends to bring on the fatigue symptoms. Re-arrange the following words into a well known phrase or saying:

‘Up cracking I’m think I.’

Abstraction and Connection.

I should be making a late post, but I’m a bit far gone. I’m musing on how powerful an abstract thing like feeling can be, and how the abstract declines the application of reason since it ceases to be truly abstract once it’s explained, and how the poet is the one who best understands feeling because the poet is the one most likely to decline reason as the basis for understanding. Shayna’s haiku is a good example.

And I’m musing on the wondrous nature of connections, and how they mysteriously occur in threes.

Monday, 20 February 2012

An Evolutionary Forecast.

Having just watched a TV programme on a commercial channel, I was struck by the fact that a very high percentage of the ads were for cleaning products, cosmetics and processed food. I had a thought.

We have evolved from ancient hominoid to modern human over a span of millions of years. I doubt it will take as long for the next stage in our evolutionary process to reach maturity. First our skin will turn to plastic, and then the complex arrangement of bone, tissue, neural systems and organs will be supplanted by noxious chemicals, starting at the feet and filling our bodies inch by rapid inch. And when we’ve all turned into inert plastic bags of toxic waste, the gorillas can have a go and maybe make a better job of being human.

A Gap in my Understanding.

I read something in the news about attempts to control child trafficking in the EU. Note those two words, dropped into the middle of a sentence and written without emphasis.

Child trafficking.

The chill they inspire goes round and round in my brain without finding anywhere to rest. There are many dark and difficult aspects of human nature that fill me with horror, but most of them I can understand up to a point. I understand what could drive somebody to be a serial killer or a robber of old ladies. I understand Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy. I can understand what might encourage a bunch of teenagers in a town centre to kick the shit out of another teenager. I can even understand that there’s something missing from the brains of people who experiment on animals. Such things might disturb me and drive me to depression or worse, but there’s usually some sort of perverse sense to be made of them.

But child trafficking? That goes beyond me. Maybe this is why I’m still a human being and not a psychologist.

A Different JJ

It seems there’s some sort of confectionery company in New York which styles itself:

JJ’s Rockin Cupcakes: The Muscle Behind the Sweetness.

Somebody once described me in a letter to my employer as ‘the iron fist in the velvet glove,’ which was excessively complimentary since I was only trying to do my job in a civilised and respectful manner, and the giving of a Rule 2 Caution is rather more highly charged than they make it look in TV dramas. Nevertheless, it was at least complimentary and not entirely inappropriate to the kind of bloke I am.

‘The muscle behind the sweetness,’ however, is a bit out of my league, and I should like it to be known that the said JJ is in no way associated with me. Besides, if I were the JJ in question, there would be an apostrophe after the ‘n’ in ‘Rockin’.’

And it seems the bath did wake me up a bit. Not for long, though. I can feel myself falling off the chair already.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Fatigue Revisited.

We’ve had a brief return to cold weather and the fatigue problem has come back with it. This thing isn’t just about tiredness, it’s about a whole load of symptoms that leave you feeling utterly washed up, useless, and lacking positive interest in anything. Hence the absence of posts. I wonder whether it will improve with a bath. If I don’t come back later, it didn’t.

The Viking Gene?

There was a fascinating news report from northern Sweden today. A man who’d been trapped in his snowbound car for two months has been found alive. He’d had no food, apparently, just melt water from the snow, and the temperature had been down as low as -30°C (-22°F.)

The report said that he’d been unable to utter more than a few words when they found him. Such wimps, these Scandinavians.

Struggling for Content.

I’m between jobs at the moment and want to make a blog post, but what do I have to say?

Er... I thought I saw Sarah’s car pass the house going uphill earlier, about half an hour before I went out for a walk. That meant I wouldn’t be bumping into her as usual. Is that interesting?

Er... My home town football team won its FA Cup game today, despite having had a player sent off. Is that interesting?

Er... A very beautiful horse allowed me to stroke her nose this afternoon. Her rider said it was unusual because she doesn’t normally allow strangers such liberties. Is that interesting?

Er... The lumbar pain that started in the middle of my back on Friday night has now moved over to the right side. It’s most troublesome when I sit, less troublesome when I stand, and disappears altogether when I walk or lie down. Odd, maybe, but hardly interesting.

I think you’d better come back later.

A Reason to be Isolated.

I just read a synopsis for a film that’s on the TV tomorrow night. Apparently, it’s about a young man and woman who are ‘platonic friends and sleep together, but determined not to become involved in a romantic relationship.’

What? This is the sort of thing that has me running from modern culture at a rate of knots. I might say for the benefit of those who are not regular readers of this blog that my attitude has nothing to do with religion or morality. It’s about standards – standards based on the not unreasonable premise that the panoply of human experience grades through many levels of nuance and significance, and even contains an element that might be termed ‘sacred.’ Treating everything as though it has no more value than a stick of candyfloss is shallow and soulless. And it seems ironic that attitudes which style themselves ‘liberated’ are sometimes, as here, turning the culture an increasingly shabby shade of grey.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Local Delicacies and the B Word.

Staffordshire oatcakes, Chorley cakes and Lancashire oven bottom muffins. Take it from me, you haven’t lived until you’ve had a Lancashire oven bottom muffin.

And did I ever relate to this blog the fact that one of the more celebrated occupations in the pottery industry where I come from is the saggermaker’s bottom knocker? Bet you really want to know what one of those does, don’t you?


So what’s the plan for tonight, since I’m still very tired but in a more relaxed sort of way?

Plan A: Go to bed early.
Plan B: Spread cushions on the floor around my computer chair.
Plan C: Sit up straight and think of England.

Have to go and get wet yet, then I’ll decide.

A Fact More Threatening.

The world is full of i.Wotsits, BlackBerries and Androids these days. And the definition of ‘tablet’ has changed rather. I find such things far more threatening than daleks or cybermen (or even Iran.)

Evaluating the Daleks.

Doctor Who wasn’t very good. It had daleks in it, and I doubt that the long history of film and TV has ever produced a more ineffectual villain than the daft dalek. At one point the Doctor mutters

‘...the one thing the daleks can’t do: feel!’

Er, no. The dalek is also unable to function on rough, soft or slippery terrain, negotiate steps, or move faster than about five miles an hour. And it has a hazardously high centre of gravity, all of which would make it easy prey to anybody with a decent pair of legs, a golf buggy or a long pole. Its greatest weapon must surely be its squeaky voice. Hearing such a voice intoning hysterically ‘Exterminate! Exterminate!’ is rather funnier than it is frightening, and would surely have its human adversary doubled up with laughter. Such a state would obviously place one at a disadvantage in a combat zone.

On the plus side of tonight’s episode, I have to admit that Billy Piper does express emotion extremely well. I might have been moved to a small knot in the throat myself, had I not still been laughing at the damn daleks.

On an almost unrelated note, Venus was high in the sky tonight. I wonder whether that fact might prove to be portentous in some way.

On Rising Energy and Sisters.

OK, the energies have lifted a bit now. The backache is still there but tolerable, and I’ve woken up since I took a bracing walk in the cold wind and sunshine. And the fire started easily this afternoon, which is always a bonus given the crap nature of the coal they peddle these days. Whatever happened to good old Yorkshire anthracite, I say. Oh yes, I remember now. Mrs Thatcher murdered industrial Yorkshire back in the nineteen eighties, didn’t she? I hope they put her in the right bit of Madame Tussaud’s when she finally pops off.

So, all in all, I think I might treat myself to the double episode repeat of Doctor Who tonight, which means I should reach M’Lady’s house on my late ramble at about 8.45. I wonder whether she’ll manage a wave.

I have fond imaginings of that scenario, you know – Sarah at an upstairs window, while I play the fool doing the serenade thing. And then my form is illuminated by the light from a downstairs window with the curtains drawn back, and there’s Sarah’s sister doing her ‘where does it come from, where does it go?’ look.

I suspect Sarah’s sister is quite nice, really. She even called me by my name once. Imagine that! I also suspect that she sometimes has trouble keeping up with her kid sister’s boundless energy. But what would I know? Belated happy birthday, Rebecca.

Coming to a Head.

The tiredness and various pains came to a bit of a head (that’s a pun) last night. I was aware of a loud noise and wondered why I was lying on my office floor with a headache. There followed a few moments of confusion while I pieced together what must have happened.

The clock said 2.15, and I remembered that I’d been sitting at my computer at 1.45 deciding that I could fight the fatigue no longer and must go to bed. There was blood on my right cheek bone, the mouse was resting in the gap between the back of the desk and the wall, and my head was thumping. It was obvious that my body had got ahead of my brain: I’d fallen asleep, toppled off the computer chair and landed on the hard floor with nothing to break the fall. Fortunately, I have a tough head – it’s taken some serious blows down the years and I’m still here, no more than slightly mad. The one benefit to be enjoyed was that the backache had stopped, although it started again when I got up. I switched everything off and went to bed.

I woke up later than usual this morning, feeling moderately relaxed but exhausted. The backache started again when I got up, but it’s more of a dull ache than a sharp pain now. I’ve no idea where that suddenly sprang from.

I have the impression that I should be taking some sort of lesson from this. I’ve no doubt that it’s a fatigue problem stemming from ten years of stresses, occasionally coming singly but more often overlapping. I can even put my finger on where it started – May 2002 when I took a job I soon hated with a passion and pulled me down into some very dark moods. Since then it’s been one thing after another, coupled with increasing isolation and the attendant lack of support. That’s OK; isolation is an experience in itself and teaches lessons of its own. And I can’t really complain about lacking support, since I’ve spent most of my life declining it on the grounds that it was a sign of weakness. (I am wondering now, though, whether John Donne was right in what he said about men and islands – even if he meant something different by it.)

I gather that fatigue problems take years to come on and can take more years to get rid of. Diagnosis is a long process of eliminating other possible causes, and there’s no treatment anyway except rest. But how do you do that when you need adrenalin to function, and adrenalin is a two edged sword? Physical work was never the problem; the problem has always been engaging with life as a highly sensitive person. To a sort such as me, emotional rest would equate with stagnation, and stagnation produces its own stress. And the stupid thing is that stress can become a habit, something you almost have to have, something you find in the slightest of causes.

So is anything going to change? Having committed this latest little episode to my old friend Blogger, I think it probably won’t. Right now I want to go and recline on the sofa in my living room, but my neighbour has gone out, the dogs are barking as usual, the noise is loudest in the living room, and it gets on my nerves. See what I mean?

Friday, 17 February 2012

Current State.

Tired, washed up and in possession of an unusually bad ache in the lumbar region. Come back tomorrow, please.

Being Denied Free Passage.

I wonder what I should make of last night’s dream.

I was walking along a country lane. A little way ahead and to my left was a cottage set at a right angle to the road. On the other side of the lane was a lake. Every time I tried to walk past the cottage, the road surface adjacent to the gable end became either flooded or covered with treacherous ice, and I never did get past. I tried several times and eventually woke up.

Should I Compare Thee to a Mug of Cocoa...

I went to Nigel’s garage today to pick up some more of his paperwork.

The drive to his place is a mixed one – four miles of country lanes, followed by about twenty miles of high speed trunk roads, followed by another five miles of dense urban and suburban driving replete with junction after junction. This, as you can imagine, is the world I no longer have much desire to participate in. I can handle it well enough, but I don’t feel at home there these days.

As I was driving through the final bit of the suburban jungle I had a sudden vision of Sarah walking along Mill Lane. And what a calming vision it was. It's all about contrast, of course, and it reminded me of the time when I was on look-out duty on the bridge wings of a frigate in the middle of the Atlantic, being chilled, shaken and soaked by the spray whipped up by a force 11 storm. At about 2 o’clock in the morning, somebody brought me a mug of hot cocoa.

Yup, that was something similar.

Greetings, M’Lady.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Valentine from Cannibal Country.

Oh honey bunch
Oh crumbly crunch
I’d like to have you for my lunch
I’d feed your feet
To my parakeet
While on the rest I'd nimbly munch

I seem to have a bit of an obsession with being eaten at the moment. How odd.

On Being Potential Cat Food and an Erstwhile Star.

Tonight’s walk was quite splendid. The sky was clear, the stars unusually bright, and a keen wind was singing in the wires.

Last night’s was spooky, on account of being certain that I’d seen something large, but of indeterminate shape and identity, move into the gateway of the Old Rectory. The first thing I thought about was a little piece of information I picked up from a TV documentary once: that big cats rarely attack people from the front, preferring almost without exception to come at them from behind. That’s a really useful thing to remember when it’s very dark, you’re on your own, and you’ve just seen something large but of indeterminate shape and identity move into the gateway of the Old Rectory. I must have a propensity for remembering useful facts when I perceive myself to be under threat. Oh, well...

The same documentary said that Indian men working in the fields and forests often wear masks on the backs of their heads in an attempt to confuse man-eating tigers. It doesn’t always work, apparently. Sometimes it just gives the tiger a good laugh as well as a good meal.

Tonight’s walk was different. Tonight I stood and looked at the stars. It occurred to me how easy it is to imagine the night sky as a two dimensional canvas with pin holes in it, allowing specks of light to show through from behind. It’s more difficult to perceive the reality of a three dimensional space that stretches for billions upon billions of miles. It’s even difficult to be fully convinced that a star you’re looking at might no longer exist, since you’re seeing the light that came from it many, many years ago. I looked at one star and realised that it might have exploded and died before I was even born. And that gave me an interesting thought.

Suppose stars aren’t really stars at all, but beings in waiting. Suppose they come to earth and have human incarnations after they’ve exploded and died. And suppose the star I was looking at became me, and so I was looking at myself before I died as a star.

That was a nice thought, and rather better than the contemplation of becoming cat food.

Trial by Common Language.

I remember the American editor who wrote me an e-mail that said ‘You really are a funny guy.’ What she really meant was that she’d written me off as a waste of space.

I swear God put Americans on the earth just to confuse the British. Happens all the time.

A Little Personal Post.

Sarah’s mother drove past me on the lane today, with M’Lady in the front passenger seat. She didn’t look at all happy.

I went out twice today, Sal, in the hope of bumping into you, but it never works. Hope you’re OK.

Educational Priorities.

Remember the heavy snow we had two weekends ago? On the following Monday, the headmistress of the local school had morning lessons truncated and ordered an early lunch so the kids could spend the afternoon building snowmen and having snowball fights. That strikes me as an entirely proper approach to education, and makes a refreshing change from idiot politicians who want to start loading educational pressures onto kids at a younger and younger age. Isn’t childhood short enough as it is?

Crabby Morning.

What’s going on this morning? I’m looking through blogs and news items, and two features are predominating:

I keep coming across young women who are distraught, mostly for one of two reasons: either because they feel unrecognised and unloved, or because they’re being turned inside out by the current trend in education mania.

I’ve been looking at a few of Cameron’s latest pronouncements and they have me groaning with frustration as usual. I can’t be bothered to go into detail at the moment, all I’ll do is make a plea to you Americans over there. When our dear, dim PM comes to visit you next month, would you please chain him to something so he can’t come back? Thank you.

The Chemical Smell Trick.

I was thinking in the bath tonight that I’m not all that keen on women’s perfume any more. It smells of chemicals, probably because that’s what it is.

Somebody throws a bunch of chemicals into a test tube, adds water, pours it into a bottle, gives it a pretentious name, and then sticks a £30 price tag on it.

That’s stage 1. Stage 2:

Seek out some actress or other who is generally regarded – though rarely by me – as being attractive and whose agent charges £1,000 a second to pick up the phone, slap some skin coloured concoction on her face, deck her out in a costume which raises serious doubts about her level of self-respect, put her in front of a camera with a soft focus filter over the lens, have the director call ‘do pouting,’ and the job’s complete.

People will now queue up at the covered wagon in the shopping mall, desperate to throw quantities of £10 notes at the feet of Doc Crockett in the hope of acquiring a precious bottle of his elixir guaranteed to have every man within sniffing distance falling to his knees in helpless supplication.

Good trick. It probably even works, since most men are easily driven to a state of helpless supplication.

I do admit that I used to find the smell of musk a little more than merely pleasant, but it’s so long since I smelt it that I have no idea whether it would still have the same effect. I doubt it, somehow.

But, what the hell. It’s life and life only and my opinion on this matter is of no more consequence than it is on any other. For the record, I prefer women to smell of nothing but clean hair.

But I’m weird, and too old to matter. And the scotch tastes nice tonight. And Luke Kelly is singing Raglan Road. He’s dead, you know. Must work out a bass line for that song, then he and I can sing a duet at dead of night in Mill Lane some time in the future.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Disembodied Anxiety.

Anxiety is an interesting phenomenon. It starts off being a lifeless, suffocating mass that sits on the back of problems and bad prospects. At that stage its grip is loose and its effect temporary; it comes and goes as the problem fades in and out of view. But it can become a habit, and when that happens it gains a life of its own. No matter how much its progenitor is pushed aside, anxiety sits huffing in the solar plexus, tugging at the soft tissue and stirring the concentration into an agitated mass of weak porridge.

Snitching on Sarah.

M’Lady is getting the treatment today, ain’t she? So here’s the snitch:

I wonder whether she would like me to go and clean her car for her...

I would, you know; I’m like that. If we were at school, I’d carry her bag for her, and give her the apple out of my lunch box, and let her sit on my coat if the grass was wet.

When I was in my teens I walked to the pub one night with a young lady of my acquaintance, and gave her my coat because it was bitterly cold with deep snow on the ground. (And her dad was an Irish bricklayer, which made her a bit special in my eyes.) I regretted the rashness of my action within minutes, but decided it was simply a gentleman’s role in life to sacrifice his own comfort for the sake of doing the right thing. And so I didn’t complain, just shivered and walked faster, and learned to cultivate forethought so as to pre-empt the possibility of a similar situation arising again.

I think those days are gone now, so maybe it would be more politically correct to ask Sarah to come and clean my car the next time it’s dirty.

An Epithet for Sarah.

Sarah lives some way down the hill from me, much closer to the river, and so it would seem appropriate that she should have the epithet Sally from the Valley. By the same token, I can lay claim to the soubriquet The Pillock from the Hillock.

A Funk Post.

It’s 1.40 am and I’m sitting here trying to contrive a blog post. I can’t come up with anything. It’s been a busy day today and I’m in a funk (I think.) Not a blue funk, just a funk. (I think. My American vernacular is not well advanced, you understand.)

It’s been a day of car cleaning, laundry and gardening, plus the usual chores like fire making, cooking and washing up. And then there was the correspondence. Such correspondence! Enlightening and enlivening correspondence. Correspondence to remind me that connections are not to be ignored, and that New York has not disintegrated after all.

But the fact that I’ve had a busy day does not mean that I’ve capitulated and become industrious. I haven’t. I’m a lazy, layabout English peasant and generally happy to be so. I’m Dylan from The Magic Roundabout – and sometimes Dougal, and sometimes Zebedee, and sometimes Ermintrude. I’m of little use to anybody and it’s probably best that I stay that way.

And now it’s time for bed. One more scotch and I’m off.

Tomorrow I buy bagels, among other things.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Connections and the Internet.

I’m convinced that, quite apart from the interconnectedness of all life, we have special connections with certain people. Sometimes the nature of that connection is obvious – they’re family members or lifelong friends. But sometimes they’re far from obvious; they’re people who live three or ten thousand miles away, people we’ve never met and are never going to meet, and yet circumstances and a strong inner sense leave little room for doubt that a bond of some sort exists. And it’s this phenomenon that the internet is now opening up.

You have to wonder what those connections are about, where they come from, why they’re there, and where they might be leading.

The Value of Money.

I heard a startling statistic tonight. Fifty men from a town in Florida with a population of five hundred committed major self-mutilations in order to claim on insurance policies. That’s approximately 20% of the male population! What wasn’t explained was whether they were in such dire straits that they needed the money to survive, or whether money was so important to them that they were prepared to suffer great pain and relinquish limbs and hands in order to get it.

Makes you wonder what life is for, doesn’t it?

Another Little Update.

Anybody who remembers my post ‘Alternative Responses’ might be interested to know that I was right to ask the question. I had a communication today which revealed that I was, indeed, misunderstanding something fundamental. It’s too easy to jump to wrong conclusions when you’re groping around in the dark, and here's the important bit.

When the mind needs to know something but can't get the information, it creates its own picture to fill the missing space on the screen. And an imaginative mind can create such a complete and convincing picture that the illusion is easily mistaken for the truth.

A Rare Perception.

This morning I imagined myself trying to explain to somebody what’s so valuable to me about living where I do. 99.9% of them wouldn’t understand. The surface reality is obvious enough; people understand the beautiful views, the peace and quiet, the lovely walks around the lanes and over the fields. I appreciate those things, too, but there’s more to it than that for me – a lot more.

What’s really important is finally starting to get to grips with what lies beyond the surface reality. It’s all about sensing the subtle energy that suffuses and drives the natural order. I’ve felt hints of it before in my life, but nothing like I do here. It’s palpable here, but it’s so subtle that it’s very easily disturbed. If I stand at the bottom of my garden at twilight – which is when it’s at its most manifest – and a vehicle comes down the lane, the effect on me is literally painful. It tears at my midriff, which is where the connection seems to be made.

How do I explain that to the people who could mess it all up?