Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Bits of The Shire.

The view from my bedroom window.

The view from the spare bedroom window.

My friends.

My black chokeberry.

Memories of a walk with a lady and a dog.

After the harvest.

The Shire's major road.

A Red Admiral butterfly, abroad out of season.

The processing people let me down badly today. They destroyed my five best photographs. There will be complaints and demands to be made the next time I go to Ashbourne.

Being Mr Karswell.

I think it likely that I’m the only person in these parts who puts a piece of cake and a drop of scotch out for the little people on Hallowe’en. In so doing, I hope to gain the favour of the wee gentlemen, so that if any of the villagers should dwell over long on the notion that I am ‘strange,’ they might find that they have a veritable Mr Karswell on their doorsteps. That should teach them, shouldn’t it? It should.

And in that context, I would recommend that you avoid reading the Wikipedia entry on the film Night of the Demon, should you be curious about it. The writer will insist on describing Karswell as ‘the leader of a Satanic cult,’ when neither the film nor the short story from which it’s adapted make any mention of such a fact. Karswell is simply a powerful pagan magician – a warlock of the first magnitude, if you like. I do wish ignorant people would stop confusing witches with Satanists, since they’re not even distantly related. Dennis Wheatley wrote about Satanists; MR James evidently knew better.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Finding Work for Idle Hands.

At night in Nashville, Tennessee
The girlies all wear tresses
That fall and fold
In colours bold
To match their Opry dresses

It seems I have nothing better to do at nights than write pointless rhymes that are neither funny, insightful, nor lyrical. I need the right kind of visitor or a coal fire in the living room so I can sit in an armchair and read Dracula in comfort. I'm waiting for the chimney sweep.

Charitable Acts, Charitable Mind.

I was accosted by a homeless man outside Derby station today. First he asked me whether I could spare a little tobacco and a paper to make a roll up, which I gave him. Then he opened up and talked roughly and angrily about the experience of being homeless, especially about how cold it was on the street at two o’clock in the morning. He said he was trying to gather enough money for a train trip to Sheffield, and asked whether I might have a pound or two to spare. I gave him two pounds. He said I was the first person he’d met that day who didn’t treat him like a piece of shit, and then shook my hand and left.

There are those who would tell me I’m naïve – that he didn’t really want the money for a train trip at all, but to buy more cheap booze. C’mon, do you think I don’t know that? The point is this:

Charity isn’t the same as trading or sponsorship. Charity is the process of giving for the sake of giving. It isn’t a conditional process. If I give money to somebody in need, who am I say how he should spend it? If he chooses to spend it on drink in order to ease the psychological and emotional impact of being on the street through a winter’s night, who am I to say he shouldn’t? And who am I to know whether the drink will kill him quicker than the heightened suffering to be had through sobriety?

Somebody once said to me that he had no sympathy for the homeless because they choose to be there. Well, it isn’t quite that simple. I talked to a lot of homeless people when I worked for the charity. I know that behind every one of them is a story, and that we should be fully cognisant and understanding of those stories before we presume to judge them.

And the politicians, of course, turn a blind eye because homeless people don’t vote. The only time the politicians deem the homeless worthy of attention is when comfortable people who do vote find their close proximity uncomfortable.

Becoming Empathic.

I seem to be growing more empathic the older I get. Sympathy is an easy thing to feel; empathy isn’t. Hurricane Sandy is upsetting me. The Japanese tsunami upset me. What can I do but deal with the emotional overload and hope everybody’s OK?

I have a day in Derby planned, but there might be more to be said about this later.

Stealing the Flow.

Tonight I was persuaded to question whether there’s something essentially unwholesome about taking a photograph. The common way of describing the process is ‘freezing a moment in time.’ Well, as I’ve said often enough, there’s no such thing as a moment; there is only flow. Dorothea Langue described it as ‘taking an instant out of time.’ That’s probably more accurate, but ‘instant’ is an unfathomable concept to a mind inexorably persuaded to a finite view of reality that is dependent on three dimensions plus time.

And so the idea of ‘taking an instant out of time’ began to assume a sinister tone. It seemed like grabbing a piece of the Primal Flow and holding it against its will. It even held a faint echo of a recurrent theme in folk tales – that of taking Death himself prisoner, so he can’t do his job. And we’ve all heard the stories about ‘primitive’ peoples who objected to being photographed because they believed it would imprison some part of them.

We say they were just being silly, don’t we? Well, now you can say I’m just being silly.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Out of It.

I’ve been feeling stressed all day today – debilitatingly so. I’m allowing a substantial – though not, to most people’s perception I suspect, desperately serious – problem grow into a monster of epic proportion, and I don’t know how to defeat it. I fell asleep at the computer and woke up feeling ill in a way that’s feelable but impossible to describe, and was more than a little inclined to go to bed at 10.30 without even a drink. I think I was about twelve the last time I did that. I resisted the urge, and here I am an hour later, still capable of writing bad English.

Here endeth the explanation for today’s empty blog.

The Inebriati: My Secret's Out.


Good luck with the storm, New York. I’ll be thinking of you.

And here’s one more reason not to vote Republican. Remember what GW said when he declined to sign the Tokyo Protocol. Or was it the Kyoto Protocol? Well, whatever; they’re anagrams anyway.

Of course, you could always ask Romney to stand somewhere on the eastern Illinois border and make a speech. The hot air might help.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

A Ditty for the Indisposition.

I want to write a blog post
But I don’t know what to write
My body and my brain are
Working fitfully tonight
They’re sinking like a sack of lead
Then jinking like a kite


I want to write a blog post
But I don’t know what to write.

I gave myself an almost complete day off today – a few minor, necessary jobs, but mostly lazing about with the computer, the TV and Dracula. When I got up to make my dinner, I felt as though I’d got out of bed having retired there with the flu. I had the same weakness, dizziness, tingling skin, and that strange sensation in which the teeth appear to be striving to detach themselves from their accustomed position. I went for my usual walk because it’s become a favourite habit, but it was done more out of routine than genuine desire. It wasn’t very comfortable – too much lacking proper balance – so there was no singing to the little people or paying of respects to Mistress Moon.

I’m back to my original theory – that this is ME and is going to take a while to shift. A friend of Mel’s had it for years and her symptoms were a lot worse than mine. For now, I’ll push through it and do what needs to be done. And I suppose I’d better avoid going to any wild parties. Damn.

The Community and Me.

Mrs Thatcher once famously said ‘There is no such thing as society. There is the individual, and there are families.’ This can be interpreted in a number of ways, but I read in it a brief expression of the current trend to move away from the community ethos and towards the cult of the individual. And that’s one of the things I find interesting about living where I do.

I’ve lived at seventeen different addresses during my life, covering a wide variety of environments, and never before have I been made so conscious of the fact that people are watching me, and that they’re curious. I’ve been called by my name several times recently by people to whom I haven’t given it. That means either that I’ve come up in conversation, or that somebody has asked the question: ‘what’s his name?’ And dear Christine added an extra layer last night when she reported the query: ‘who’s the strange man who lives up by the school?’ So they’re not only curious about me, but at least one of them has decided I’m strange. That’s a side effect of the community ethos, and it has to be said that the community ethos does have a negative side, especially when the core mentality is rabidly conservative and consequentially judgemental. They use the word ‘proper’ a bit too much, and place undue reliance on their narrow definition of propriety.

A few decades ago I would have found this inhibitive, but not any more. I will continue to stand on the lane and stare strangely into space, content in my own knowledge that I’ve had an abiding interest in the physical landscape all my life, and haven’t yet lost the keen observational habit I developed as a landscape photographer. And I will continue to live alone in the reassuring certainty that I haven’t the slightest desire to hang around the school gates with a bag of sweets. And I will continue to attempt connection with the community on my own terms, unconcerned that they think me odd. And if I can give something back to the community, also on my own terms, so much the better. And as long as they don't form a mob to chase me to the burning mill with pitchforks, I should survive.

God and Charlie.

I was just reading about an Arkansas Republican politician called Charlie Fuqua. Among other things, he believes that:

1) All Muslims should be expelled from America because they deny the divinity of Jesus.

2) Muslims and liberals are in an unholy alliance, and liberals are preparing to change the world through bloody revolution.

3) America should introduce the death sentence as the final sanction against ‘disrespectful’ children. This, he says, is in accordance with God’s wishes and will set a good example to young people.

I imagine he probably rues the fact that we no longer burn witches to death. And I wonder how he addresses the fact that, according to the canonical Gospels, Jesus explicitly instructed his followers to disobey God. And I’m curious to know whether he realises how much he has in common with Hitler and the Taliban. And is he aware that the Crusaders are known to have slaughtered the whole civilian population of a city, or that European missionaries ordered the same act in an African town, just because the population wasn’t Christian? And then there’s the matter of whether the Republican Party can possibly retain any credibility if they permit such a man to represent them.

Well, it’s easy to laugh at the likes of Mr Fuqua in the modern world, and he’s entitled to his opinions as we all are. What concerns me a little is this:

I don’t understand the mechanics of American politics, but I assume that a majority of people must have voted for him in some election. A majority? Need I state the obvious?

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Fitting In and Being Noticed.

I just got back from the Hallowe’en barbecue and bonfire at the village pub. It’s the first time I’ve spent Saturday night fully engaged with the ethos of a den of strong drink and merriment since I last did voluntary work at the theatre in 1997. A brief report:

The interior of the pub was done up as a facsimile of Castle Dracula, albeit a plasticised version, with plastic cobwebs, plastic spiders and… er… lots of other plastic things that I don’t quite remember. Why there were no plastic bats I really don’t know, but there weren’t. And why the children of the night (the barmaids) imagined that disturbingly skimpy bunny girl costumes lent themselves to the ambience of a Transylvanian undead person’s abode, I don’t know either. I just looked the other way and ordered a pint of Marston’s Pedigree Ale. Twice.

The bonfire was big, but hardly attained the definition of bigness established by my own single experience of building a public bonfire back around 1994. It wasn’t quite as hot as I was expecting, and also didn’t last as long. Nevertheless, it was a passable bonfire. And what was really quite interesting were the little vortexes of swirling ash and dust that skipped across the car park as though they had a life of their own. Failing to find an explanation for them, I sought out a science teacher in the assembled multitude and asked him. He couldn’t explain them either, so we settled on the likelihood of them being frolicking sprites from an otherworldly source. He was actually quite liberal as science teachers go.

But here’s the best bit(s)

I got talking to a pretty and personable young woman called Julie, who is the daughter of the woman who lives at the last house before the pub.

‘Are you the gentleman who lives up by the school?’ she asked.

‘No. I’m the bloke who lives up by the school. I’ve never been a gentleman.’

She seemed to like me, but I expect she’d just been taught to be polite to older persons.

And then… and then… I got talking to the redoubtable Christine, whose notoriety has made the pages of this blog before. Christine is even older than me and has lived here all her life, so she knows everybody.

‘Somebody was asking me the other day,’ she began, ‘who that strange man is who lives up by the school. He walks around the lanes all the time and stares at things. (Trees, presumably.) I mean, a man who moves into the village – on his own! I told her you’re very intelligent and it doesn’t matter that you live alone.’

Well thank you, Christine. You made my day.

Pacing the Approach.

It’s interesting how some new acquaintances approach you slowly, watching you with every step and deciding whether to take another one, while others leap in and say ‘I’m here. Be my friend now!’ (With a carefully considered exclamation mark.)

I tend towards the latter approach, but I’m aware that explosive conflagrations have a habit of consuming fuel quickly – too quickly to allow for sustainable regeneration – and then dying with devastating suddenness. I’m not very good at being circumspect, but I’m practising.

Men with Fangs.

Mel has lent me her students’ edition of Dracula. It’s a book I’ve always wanted to read, having always been a fan of cloaks, bats, Bela Lugosi and children of the night (and the music they make, of course.)

So I read the academic preface, and guess what. According to the academics, it isn’t a gothic horror story at all. It’s about female emancipation and Victorian attitudes to homosexuality. And Count Dracula is based on Oscar Wilde.

That’s according to the academics. Maybe it’s because all they have to declare is their genius.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Resisting Nature.

The Shire is shivering in a stiff, sub-arctic breeze tonight. The hunter’s moon is only three days away and the wood for the Hallowe’en bonfire is occupying much of the pub car park. Chimneys in old cottages and farmhouses now have smoke billowing out of them after nightfall.

I find this the most difficult of the year’s transitions. By the time winter starts officially at the solstice, I’ve become acclimatised to the lower temperatures and take them for granted. But a cold spell in autumn brings the onset of chills, extreme tiredness and low moods. And I think this must be a natural thing because it was never such an issue when I lived in the town. I think this is nature telling me that the land has gone to sleep, so maybe I should, too.

Tonight’s attempt to ward off nature’s imperative consists of hot buttered toast and mugs of tea which steam in my unheated kitchen. At the moment it’s being reasonably successful, and I’ll take a shower some time before midnight which will probably work even better. Nature has no knowledge of hot water in this part of the world, and so has no guard against it.

Displacing the Wraith.

It’s mildly disconcerting to meet a person whose spirit has been usurped. And after wondering where the old one has gone, it’s even more disconcerting to find yourself being haunted only by its echo, and not the wraith itself. It’s then that you wonder whether your own spirit has been usurped - or has deserted you because it no longer finds a home there. It encourages reflection on the subtle innuendo contained in that line from a song I’m so fond of:

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet.

Reflection turns to more general questions of time and hour glasses and mortality and pointlessness. And then you carry on regardless, conscious of the fact that, being a poet who can’t write poetry, you read too much into things and it probably isn’t good for you.

In Defence of the Pop.

I wrote a blog post once about how I chose to write a dream sequence in a story whilst under the influence of several scotches. Doing it that way made it more authentic.

And there’s a general point here. The reason I so like having a few drinks late at night is because it filters my perception through a different brand of consciousness. The everyday, sober sort is all right up to a point, but I want more than that. The Romantic poets had their laudanum, after all.

I suspect that’s true of a lot of us, and I further suspect that it’s what those weasly people who self-righteously demand that we all drink ‘in moderation’ (as they define it) simply don’t understand. They’re incapable of seeing beyond their prosaic mentalities. As my friend Melanie once said to me: ‘alcoholics are usually very sensitive souls.’

Nevertheless, I’m glad I have sufficient self-control not to become an alcoholic. So far.

A Sight Remembered.

There’s something I haven’t seen for a few years now. It used to be common late of an October afternoon to see a dark slate sky hanging sullenly in the east; and in the west was a sun falling cold, but growing ever more golden like the turning leaves. And any building on which the fierce but fading light bestowed its radiance – especially the limestone masonry of a mediaeval church – was burnished magically into a confection of toasted saffron. And the saffron hue next the antique blue was such a splendid sight, but it’s been a few years now…

A Phobia, Fruity Beer, and a Consummation.

I got really fed up with sitting at the computer tonight, trying desperately but in vain to think of a suitable subject for posting. I wasn’t in the best of spirits, you see, because the side symptoms of fatigue are much in evidence and I’m experiencing the old circular relationship between fatigue and stress: they feed on one another and get on my nerves.

So I decided to switch off the computer and do some ironing instead, and I thought it would be good to have an accompaniment of some nice classical music. Only I discovered (or re-discovered) something interesting. I dislike classical music after dark. It depresses me. I seem to have a nocturnal phobia regarding classical music once the curtains are drawn against the night, and I haven’t a clue as to why.

I got over it, but now I have two more irritations to contend with:

1) I forgot to take some bread out of the freezer, so I can’t have a houmous and cucumber sandwich.

2) The beer I got in lieu of my usual brand (which they haven’t re-stocked yet since the recall) doesn’t suit me. It’s true to what it says on the can: ‘With fruit and hop notes.’ Hop notes are OK; fruit notes aren’t. Let’s put it this way. You’d happily walk down the street eating an apple, wouldn’t you? But you wouldn’t walk down the street eating a handful of hops. Hops are suited to flavouring beer; fruit isn’t. Fruit is for healthy eaters and wine drinkers. I might be strange, but I’m not that strange and I don’t want my beer tasting of fruit.

I think I should watch some more Mitchell and Webb and then go to bed. Do you know, every time I go to bed these days (nights) I half expect to wake up and find the priestess regarding me with an apologetic smile, and saying ‘Sorry, Jeff, this isn’t a dream. You died.’ Oh, well…

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Portmore Revisited.

Farmer Andrew came with his tractor-mounted machine and trimmed my long boundary hedges yesterday evening. He’s taken it down a good four feet, and this morning I watched the birds hopping about on top of the greatly reduced hedge. Their body language was odd; they looked bemused; they reminded me of the line from the song Bonny Portmore, about the destruction of Irish woodland to make ships for the Royal Navy:

All the birds in the forest they bitterly weep, saying
‘Where shall we shelter? Where shall we sleep?’

It isn’t quite that bad, but I still feel sorry for the little guys.

Another Little Malfunction.

Hotmail this time. I have post comments delivered to my Hotmail account so I don’t miss any, and now dear old MSN has started filtering some of them as junk – even though the subject line clearly has Outcries and Asides Revisited. New comment on… So this morning, Beverley’s comment lay languishing and forlorn in the funny farm along with enlargement supplements and an earnest missive from the Central Bank of freggin’ Nigeria! (Not that I have anything against Nigeria, you understand.)

Mr D'Arcy Dancing.

This is for our American and Australian cousins, just to demonstrate how the English costume drama should be done.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Being Oddly Valued.

Somebody from The Shire said to me a few days ago: ‘We’re lucky to have you here.’

Now why on earth would anybody say such a thing? I make no contribution to this community whatsoever. When I’m not attending to my own affairs, what do I do? I tramp the lanes; I talk to the cows, the sheep, the trees, and occasionally the humans, and sing the few songs I know to the little people just in case they’re listening. That’s about it.

And how is one supposed to react to somebody saying that? If you ask the obvious question – why? – it might be taken as fishing. If you say nothing it might be taken as acceptance and indicative of egoism. In the event, I pretended I hadn’t heard, which wasn’t so difficult since the person was sitting on a horse at the time.

I expect I’ll go to the Hallowe’en bonfire on Saturday. Fancy dress is invited, but I’m not into that kind of thing. Shabby dress, maybe… I wonder whether I could persuade one of my bat friends to sit on my shoulder and stare at people.

The Savile Layers.

The questionable behaviour of the late Jimmy Savile continues to make headlines, and it’s beginning to reveal layer upon layer of sordid issues. It isn’t just about Jimmy Savile any longer.

Let’s be sensible about this. Jimmy Savile was a top ranking TV and radio DJ. As such, he was inevitably part of the sex, drugs and rock ’n roll culture which permeated the popular music business since at least the late fifties, and probably before. I see no reason to believe that he was alone in habitually enjoying sexual relations with legally underage girls. I think it reasonable to suppose that it was probably commonplace, since it was commonplace enough in the wider culture and continues to be so. That’s layer number one.

Layer number two concerns the allegations that many of his exploits were not consensual, but amounted to assault, sometimes of the most serious nature and made against the most vulnerable people. That’s a different matter, but there’s no means of redress in the case of Savile because he died last year. In his case at least, it’s now a matter of history.

Where this starts to get really interesting is when we come to layer number three. It’s now emerged that senior managers at the BBC covered up an expose of not only Savile’s activities, but the wider issue of a culture of abuse and illegal promiscuity in the organisation going back a long way. The media, the Prime Minister and other senior politicians are taking a holier-than-thou attitude to this, claiming that public confidence in the BBC has been seriously damaged. I agree, but my trust and confidence in the media and senior politicians is pretty much at rock bottom, too. And guess what…

Layer number four: Allegations are now starting to emerge that a powerful paedophile ring existed at the BBC, and that it was linked to Parliament and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Well now, how long have I been saying that there’s a dangerous, dishonest and dirty world existing beneath the supposedly ‘civilised’ veneer of the Establishment? And how long have eyes-wide-shut people been telling me that I’m just being silly and paranoid? And how many people in other supposedly ‘civilised’ countries in the western world will continue to imagine that it happens elsewhere, but not among their own politicians, and media people, and police, and educationalists, and religious figures, and youth workers, and showbusiness personalities…

Watch this space, and let’s see how the Establishment manages to paper over the cracks that have been increasingly appearing over the past year or two, as I expect they will. People do so need to believe that everything’s deep down clean, you see. That’s the problem.

My Missed Vocation.

Three Levels of News.

Like most people, I live life in three worlds. Avalon is my home, garden and attitude to life. The Shire is the local landscape and community. The Outside World comprises Camelot, the Saxon Lands and you lot over the water.

Current news for Avalon is that the blue tits are taking an active interest in their nest box. Seems they think it’s April, which isn’t such a good idea because we’re due to get a taste of December at the end of the week.

Current news for The Shire is that somebody asked me today whether I’ll be going to the barbecue and bonfire at the pub on Saturday evening. It’s nice to be wanted.

Current news for The Outside World is that I’ve been campaigning for Mr Obama rather a lot on my blog lately, and now I’d like somebody to tell me where to send the bill. If I’m going to engage with American politics, I don’t see why I shouldn’t also adopt American mores. Or would that make me a Republican…

Playing the High and Mighty.

It might be remembered that I’ve had a bit of a moan occasionally about the attitude of some small press publishers. Many of the editors in the small press field are polite, respectful and a joy to deal with. Others, unfortunately, seem to aspire to be Oliver Twist’s schoolmaster in their next incarnation. This is what Mike Allen of Clockwork Phoenix has to say on the matter of whether he will accept simultaneous submissions (which is a contentious subject, by the way, with arguments on both sides.)

‘No. No one is going to get a formal acceptance from me until after the reading period ends. If you can't wait that long to find out what I think, then please don't waste my time or Inbox space.’

His publication appears to be of high quality, but would you submit a story to somebody who treated you in such an offhand and disrespectful manner?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Waxing Elephants About the Oat.

Madeline at Francis Collier has a post up entitled ‘Iceland Outtakes’ which irritates me every time I see it in my reading list. This is partly because ‘outtake’ is a horrible word – having two t’s in the middle, both of which are pronounced – but mainly because I keep reading it as ‘Iceland Oatflakes’ or ‘Iceland Oatcakes.’ I’m having the same problem with Hotmail, which I keep seeing as ‘oatmeal.’ I never knew I had an oat obsession. Or could it be Mrs Malaprop getting to me again?

Methinks the Ad Man Doth Exclaim too Much.

I hate the ubiquitous exclamation mark that follows the bottom line of all shoddy adverts:

Buy It Now!

Order Now!

Download Now!

Join Now!

The only thing I hate more is that ‘accept’ button which says I’m In (with or without the exclamation mark!) The exclamation mark carries a note of cheap chivvying about it, but the I’m In button effectively says ‘We want you to think that we’re offering you something really special which you’d be foolish not to accept because then you wouldn’t be part of a privileged circle. You’d be left out in the cold, left behind, left rueing your timidity and your consequent isolation from the world of the with-it people. What’s more, we think you’re dumb enough to be fooled by our clever little ploy.’

Is it human nature marketing people don’t understand, or just mine?

Space and Time.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating because I like the post title…

For several decades I’ve had an Easter cactus and a Christmas cactus which bloomed consistently at one time of the year only – the Easter one in May and the Christmas one in December. They did that in every house they lived in, but since I moved here they’ve become a bit confused. Now they bloom several times a year, and sometimes together as they’re doing at the moment.

I also have several clocks in my house that have been with me through a number of moves. In all the other houses they kept near-perfect time, but in this one they all gain, in some cases quite substantially.

I’m coming to the suspicion, therefore, that the space time continuum is flawed in this house – or maybe it just works differently – and this is what both the plants and clocks are responding to. I did say I wondered about the matrix cracking up, didn’t I?

Funky Music.

Time we had some more music, I think, since I'm not greatly given to talking at the moment.

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra had a gentle, quirky style that's quite unlike any other combo I'm aware of. They're one of my favourites and YouTube is loaded with their stuff. This is one of their shorter pieces.

I'm not sure why there's a strange woman looking very Gallic and lesbian (am I allowed to say that sort of thing?) waving her arms around in the background and trying to appear important, but the fish make sense.

Monday, 22 October 2012

October Mind.

The screen resolution on my monitor isn’t good these days. I tried increasing it, but the monitor is an elderly CRT one and I get screen flicker. Seems it doesn’t do refresh as well as it did as a youngster ten years ago. Since the flicker is more uncomfortable than the poor resolution, I choose to go with the latter.

It does cause the occasional bit of confusion, though. I just wondered why it said ‘No cobwebs’ at the bottom of a post.

Night and Day.


I suppose the feature that most characterises night walks is that they’re so much more intimate than day walks. During the day you relate to the surroundings, and so you walk with the world. At night there’s little to see except the abstract black shapes of nearby objects. There’s little to relate to, and so at night you walk with yourself.

The sound of the wind in the trees was unusually soft tonight. At this time of year the dry leaves usually clatter, but tonight they sounded like the gentle exhale of breath in deep slumber.


The dream state might be a version of reality, but it's a much more subtle and unstable version. Night dreams are powerful things because when we’re asleep we live in them. Daydreams, on the other hand, are too ethereal and ephemeral to have much substance within the wakeful context. The perception of a daydream is little different than trying to catch the subtle whiff of a wild flower in a paint factory. Daydreams only become worth anything if and when they manifest in the waking version of reality.

It’s a problem I have with music at the moment. The music I most like always engenders waking dreams, and the dreams they engender are beyond waking manifestation now.


Last night was a short one – 5½ hours from falling asleep to waking up again. Waking dragged itself forth accompanied by the usual grip of anxiety, and that soon descended into deep depression. It’s easing now.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Currying Yankee Favour.

I gather the Pope made a (dead) Native American woman a saint today. The reason given was that some early missionaries were ‘impressed by her deep spirituality.’ Well, there’s a turn up. I thought early missionaries – and the Catholic Church in general – were more given to executing people of deep spirituality. Isn’t it one of the seven deadly sins?

I think he made the story up. I think he’s just trying to get some American brownie points in case he ever has the courage to visit and face the wrathful victims of his organisation’s more unsavoury traditions.

Being Unfamiliar.

As I walked down the lane tonight, I kept hearing short, small, scurrying sounds in the hedgerows. It took me several minutes to work out that it was nothing more than dry leaves falling to the ground and rattling against other dry leaves. I’ve heard it countless times through my life, but almost always in daylight. I didn’t start the night walks until December last year when the autumn leaves were pretty much all gone, and so I didn’t immediately make the connection between the sound and its cause. It was unfamiliar because the context was unfamiliar.

It’s the same with people. I lived in an inner city area for nearly ten years and grew fully used to its cosmopolitan nature. There were many languages, skin colours and modes of dress to be heard and seen every day. Where I live now is different. Ashbourne is a traditional English market town with an almost wholly white demographic. Black and Asian faces are a fairly rare sight, and when I see one I find my curiosity piqued. Who is this person? Why is he here? Has he moved into the town or is he a visitor? He’s unfamiliar because the context is unfamiliar.

In my case it’s an academic form of curiosity and a psychological phenomenon to be observed and rationalised, but others might see it differently. The basic level of human nature is easily roused to suspicion of the unfamiliar, and suspicion easily turns to the perception of menace or the potential for menace. I’m told that in the terraced streets of the industrial city in which I grew up, kids would sometimes throw stones at strangers – even white strangers. I suppose the purpose was to demonstrate that the stranger would have a fight on his hands if he proved to be any sort of a threat. And I think that maybe there’s a lesson to be taken when we find ourselves easily roused to judgement of both the unfamiliar and people’s reaction to it.

No More Favours, Thanks...

I’ve occasionally mentioned that I’m currently living in the age of malfunctions. It’s one thing after another – my body, my equipment, my circumstances generally, everything. OK, so here’s the scenario.

It’s 2.30 in the morning. You’ve had a beer and several double scotches (malt, no less) and you’re about to go to bed feeling suitably anaesthetised. The computer chooses that moment to throw a wobbler. What do you do (apart from scream, which compulsion you resist for several reasons?)

You start digging in various places like Computer and Control Panel, but you’re not quite thinking straight so the process is a bit uncertain and disjointed. In fact, the process might be described as ‘malfunctioning.’ You fail to realise how ironic that is at the time, so you have another scotch and try again. The second attempt is no better, in fact… well… don’t need to elaborate, do I? But you’re becoming almost manically irritated, so you try to pull yourself together and make a third attempt. And you have another scotch because your need of the stuff is growing with every passing, increasingly dysfunctional freggin’ second! Matters don’t improve, and by now even you are beginning to realise that the scotch isn’t helping.  At 3.30am, what vestige of sense you have left in your utterly spaced out state persuades you that the only option is to go to bed and get the problem sorted tomorrow, or the next day, or whenever. By now, however, you’re quite convinced that:

1) There really is a God and he doesn’t like you very much. Or:

2) You’ve attracted a sprite into your environment whose sole function is to cause you difficulty – and he’s probably enjoying it, to boot. Or:

3) The fabric of the matrix is crumbling and about to fall away altogether, leaving only an empty void where there were once trees, people and ice cream.

This morning I jumped through all those hoops you have to jump through in order to access the help forums of both Blogger and Firefox. I also rang my ISP, just in case there was something happening that might explain everything. I got the same advice from two different sources. It seems the problem was probably a faulty keyboard, ‘and here’s how to put it right.’ I did that and now it seems to be right again, so it appears I’ve learned something about computers and the internet that I didn’t know before. Which is good, obviously, only...

Life keeps kicking me in the teeth, breaking a few and saying ‘sort that out.’


‘Find out.’


It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Always has. It just seems to be happening rather too much to me at the moment and I wish it would give me a break, even though it might be doing me a favour in the long run.

Considering Quality.

I’ve just opened the bottle of Glenmorangie 10-year-old malt that somebody bought me for doing her tax return.

I wonder why they package good quality scotch better than they do the ordinary stuff. I can’t imagine that the difference in production cost is significant. Maybe they do it for the same reason that Bentley cars have matching wood grain on both doors – so they can spend an extra £20 and charge an extra £20,000 for the perception of luxury. In the case of single malt scotch (how I would appreciate a case of single malt scotch) it’s probably because the cork stopper that goes squeeeek – POP! when you open it make you feel like you matter.

Whatever, it tastes good. And it’s interesting that a large malt has far more of a soporific effect than a large blend, even though they have the same alcohol content. Maybe somebody can tell me why.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Is it Magic or Just Me?

The walk was strange tonight. Strange flashes in the clouds over Mill Lane – three of them. A strange noise coming across the fields from down by the river again, the sort that prompts a character in a sci-fi film to exclaim ‘What the hell was that?’ and somebody else says, in a tone suggestive of fear and mystery ‘Dunno, skipper, but I don’t think it belongs in this world.’ (Well, they do if the producer hired a really, really bad script writer.)

And then, as I was walking uphill back to my house, being aware that I was becoming increasingly hot and weak. And the trees began to gather a mistiness about them – just the trees, you understand. And there was a light further up the road that defied my attempt to identify its source before disappearing.

Getting home was a bit of a struggle, and when I took my coat off and felt the cold sweat on the back of my neck, I decided I was suffering from low blood sugar. I do occasionally. So I had a mug of coffee, a packet of crisps, and quite a lot of sweet, minty chocolate.

And now I feel sick.

Extended Self-Awareness...

... can sometimes make life tedious.

I’ve always been excessively self-aware, and I’ve come to the theory that while both reason and emotion are functions of the mind, self-awareness resides in some separate place that we might call consciousness. And when one’s awareness of self is highly developed, mind and consciousness seem to split and function independently.

This is most noticeable with regard to emotional states. Pleasure, for example, is often subdued, because while the mind is experiencing it, the consciousness is standing apart and observing the phenomenon dispassionately. And that gives the whole thing a tone of experiment or academic exercise. Negative emotions, on the other hand, like pain, depression and anxiety, can produce two different results. Sometimes the ability to stand apart and observe helps the mind to ride the emotions and cope with them. In other circumstances conflict ensues, because the mind is too strongly affected to be influenced by any rational argument from the consciousness, and the consciousness becomes frustrated as a result.

All of which makes the consciousness resemble those superior, floaty beings from the original Star Trek, and you may sympathise with me for having to put up with them on an almost daily basis.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?

My eye was just caught by the following headline:

Faithful Dog Stays with OAP through Bog Ordeal

You know, those old ladies really must stop getting themselves locked in lavatories. There won’t always be a dog on hand to keep them company.

A Little Drink Post.

I gather Mitt Romney has been making jokes today – something along the lines of preparing for where he is now by going sixty five years without drinking alcohol. Isn’t that a bit dangerous? I thought the cliché was that Americans vote for the man they’d most like to have a drink with.

‘Are you a bourbon man or a scotch man, Mitt?’

‘Root beer.’

And on the subject of drink, I just noticed that the village pub has artificial cobwebs stretched across the window of the lounge bar. It has big plastic spiders sitting on it. Very tasteful.

I expect they’re gearing up for Hallowe’en. Or maybe I was hallucinating (I did see the shadow of a giant cobweb on my bedroom wall when I was a little boy.) Or maybe the cobwebs and spiders were real…