Thursday, 31 August 2017

On Summer and Temporality.

There’s an hour left of August. According to the British Met Office, summer ends at midnight tonight.

Why are summers so short these days? When I was a boy summer began at Easter which was always (if my memory serves me right, and I don’t suppose it does) warm, calm, sunny and pregnant with optimism. And it went on until the mists and crumbling leaves of autumn told me it was over and Christmas was approaching.

Summer seemed like a six month business back then, and six months seemed like half a lifetime to a young child. And now summer comes and goes in the time it takes a wind-blown apple to fall back to the very earth which gave it genesis. Or so it seems, and as I keep on saying: ‘perception is the whole of the life experience.’

On Nature and Artifice.

Somebody said to me today that she loves gardening because ‘it brings me closer to the earth, closer to nature.’ I can see the point up to a point, but only as far as it goes. It seems to me that gardening is fundamentally an artifice; it’s another example of our need to tame nature, to bring it to heel. Is that because we retain a race memory of being frightened of nature and the horrors it can visit upon us? Do we create gardens in order to manicure it, to pretty it up, so that we can pretend to be getting close to it when what we’re actually doing is forcing it to be pleasant and non-threatening?

This is a difficult concept to argue because gardens are beautiful things, and the perception of beauty is an abstract faculty which resides in the higher mind. What’s more, it’s probably a particularly human faculty, part of what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. So is the beautifying of nature a natural process in itself which has its place among all the other natural processes?

For my own part I regard my garden as my sacred space. I love the look of it, I love the atmosphere of it, I love sensing the growth imperative; I even have a sense of ‘relationship’ with individual plants and trees and want to understand their needs so that I can better care for them.

And yet I dislike gardening. I dislike all that mowing and trimming and weeding and digging. I feel that a nettle has as much right to its life as a prize rose, and I don’t see what right I have to go around making hedges tidy and rectilinear when they want to be raggedy. That creates a certain conflict, but it’s what I have to do if I want the beauty of a garden.

I confess to not fully understanding this conflict yet. I wonder whether I simply don’t feel entirely comfortable with being on this earth. Maybe I don’t really want to be close to it; maybe I want to be somewhere more rarefied where beauty comes naturally without having to force something to produce it artificially.

Voice Appeal.

Voices can be such a powerful attractant, can’t they? The tone, the accent, the modulation… I swear that even a female warthog could come close to being attractive given the right voice. Unfortunately, the only female warthog I know is not so blessed.

(French, Slavic, cultured English, New England USA, and Aussie are my favourites, by the way, just in case you're interested.)

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

More Excuses.

No post yesterday, and going a day without making a post troubles me. I feel I’m abdicating my duty to myself in some strange way. So what about today?

Should I talk about the lovely little dog I met in the pet shop? She wasn’t for sale or anything as tawdry as that; she was a 7-month-old little lady mongrel from a rescue centre who had managed to acquire two excellent humans, both of whom were clearly devoted to her. Well, that’s about the whole of the story, really, except to say that when I wished her a long and happy life it did occur to me to wonder how devastated the two excellent humans might be when it’s baby’s time to leave them.

Should I talk about seeing the girl from Ipanema in Ashbourne Co-op? Better not.

Should I talk about why the difficulties being experienced by a troubled person should be viewed in terms of the person, not the perceived degree of difficulty as recorded on the tram line scale? Too long and too serious for a person afflicted with chronic apathy.

For that’s the way of things at the moment: apathy, anxiety, and mild depression rule and I’m not managing to shake them off. I could offer several reasons in my defence (of varying degrees of difficulty as recorded on said tram line scale) but I think the core of it lies with a simple fact:

I’m continually conscious of there being a big empty hole somewhere inside of me that needs filling with something, but I don’t know what. None of the standard solutions fit the bill. I think it might have something to do with having so far failed in a lifetime (to date) of searching for the Grail. And I don’t know whether it even exists.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Life at Pace.

I was sitting on a wall today watching an elderly man cross the pedestrianised High Street in Uttoxeter. He was walking at an estimated speed of around half a mile an hour. There was another elderly man approaching from his left on a motorised scooter which was doing an estimated quarter of a mile an hour. There being around thirty yards of distance between them, I judged there was little danger of a catastrophic collision.

The elderly man on foot evidently thought otherwise because he stopped and waited. And waited, and waited… Eventually the motor scooter crawled slowly by and the man on foot continued his perambulation, even though his elderly wife was still trailing in his wake and hadn’t yet caught up with him.

If that had been a Monty Python sketch or scene from Father Ted it would have been funny. And even in real life it was funny, but there was also a touch of pathos mixed in with the humour.

Today's Mysteries.

My little muse today (while sitting on the salt bin in Uttoxeter so as to be out of the hot sun) while eating my cheese and onion sandwich was on the thorny old subject of consciousness. You see, what I don’t understand is this:

The scientists tell us that the material universe began with a big explosion which brought all sorts of chemical and electrical things into play, and that the building blocks thus produced eventually evolved into life forms. OK, but don’t chemical and electrical things produce machines? So where did consciousness come from? How did these building blocks gain the capacity to be aware – so aware, in fact, that we’re able to think very complex thoughts and work out how we came into being in the first place?

And that made me wonder whether science is trapped in its own sense of reality and is only capable of looking inward. And further, whether science will ever be able to move outside its own sense of reality, view itself as a creature limited by its own presumptions, and become capable of seeing a bigger picture. And is there a bigger picture, because that’s the basis of the mystery?

*  *  *

But then I went into a charity shop and saw a 4ft x 3ft poster for sale at £10. It said:

Where there is
TEA
There is
LOVE

£10 for the benefit of having such wisdom displayed – prominently, no doubt – in one’s place of abode… Is Bedlam still open?

It got better. Next stop the Home Bargains store where their image gurus have become so enamoured of the word ‘wow’ that they’ve started referring to their establishment as Wowland. And the little cartoon dog which they use on their marketing signs says (or rather barks, I suppose) ‘wowf.’

At this point I’m beginning to wonder whether the human machine is quite as aware as it thinks it is. Did I say ‘thinks’? Oh.

*  *  *

A bigger mystery was yet to unfold. I found myself asking ‘Why does that woman who looks as though she used to be a top model always smile at me when I look at her?’

*  *  *

And the biggest mystery of all:

I was sitting by the window of the coffee shop waiting for my cup of Americano-with-cream to be delivered when I noticed one of the assistants clearing a nearby table. I looked at her and realised that she was the new one I’d seen from a distance last week. She was smiling and said:

‘You don’t recognise me, do you?’

I didn’t, actually, but she did look familiar. Being a fundamentally honest sort of bloke, I admitted the fact without hesitation (which is sometimes a good thing to do and sometimes isn’t.)

‘I used to work at the dentists in Ashbourne.’

Light bulbs illuminated the darkness to which I have become accustomed lately. What’s more, my memory was up to the task of doing its duty. It took only a couple of seconds to bring a triumphant forefinger into play:

‘Lucy!’ (Thank you, God. I know I don’t deserve it, so double thanks.)

‘That’s it,' she confirmed. 'I remembered you as soon as you walked in.’

Remembered me? Who the hell ever remembers me? See what I mean about light bulbs?

Lucy used to be a dental nurse some years ago at the practice I use. She was slight of form, had a most attractive and interesting face, and came equipped with naturally black hair and compelling eyes (she’s ¼ Greek.) It should come as no surprise that she received the odd honourable mention on this blog at the time.

But now I needed something meaningful to say…

‘So that’s why I didn’t recognise you. I’m used to seeing you in blue pyjamas.’

(Not bad, I suppose, given the parlous state of my brain lately.)

And then she told me all about her recent trip to Australia (it’s odd how young women always want to tell me about their travels) and I made all the requisite responses. If I talk to her again, maybe I’ll confess that she was one of the models for ‘the girl with richest raven hair’ in a ditty I posted on this blog a long time ago and which now qualifies for a repeat, I think. I remember reciting it to her once, although I don’t recall her being at all impressed. Maybe it’s because I didn’t tell her she was one of the models. This is it, for the benefit of those who were travelling in deepest Mongolia at the time:

I want to go to sleep now
And dream of Timbuktu
And sing some old sea shanties
While I paddle my canoe

And sitting in the bow will be
The fairest in the land
The girl with richest raven hair
Tied up with velvet band

And when we reach the shoreline
And the night comes on to rain
We’ll shelter ’neath a banyan tree
Then paddle home again

And we all know who the other model was, don’t we? She who no longer acknowledges my existence. Lucy, it seems, has lasted.

The Muse on Weakness.

There are times when I feel like a ghost moving silently among the mortal, observing their processes of mind, machine, and system, and becoming ever less tolerant of all three. Is this a fault, I ask myself. Is it a self-generated artifice to hide a weakness?

‘Do you feel you can’t cope sometimes?’ asks my muse.

Yes.

‘Do you think it’s the root of your reclusive tendency?’

I suppose it might be.

‘And do you think it’s a weakness?’

I don’t know. Is it?

‘I really couldn’t say, but think on this: Is it not a fact that those who are too weak to cope alone are more likely to seek the company of others who can support them? Are they not the clingers, the ones who seek a solution through stronger friends, and healers, and medications, and support groups, and belief systems? Do you do any of those things?’

No, but does that indicate incontrovertibly that the people who do seek such solutions are weak but I’m not?

‘Not necessarily.’

And what about my suspicion that life is just a game and I’m simply growing tired of playing it?

‘You might be right.’

Might? Don’t you know?

‘Yes, but it isn’t my place to say. You have to find it out for yourself.’

And how do I do that?

‘That’s for you to find out, too.’

Oh, great. And you still haven’t answered my first question. Am I weak or not?

‘I really couldn’t say. Only you can know whether you’re weak or not.’

OK. I’d say that the one thing we can glean from all this is that muses are not here to make life easier.

(‘By the way,’ continued my muse as an afterthought, ‘since you don’t know whether you’re weak or not, you really ought to apply a degree of circumspection when you’re tempted to judge the weakness of others. Yes indeed.’)

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Dolorous Day.

What a post it might have been. A poignant post, a post adorned with poetry, a post about remorseful days which arrive armed with buckets of pig swill to throw in your face.

But some things are better left unsaid because you never know who might be listening. And the poetry was poor anyway. And pig swill washes off eventually, although the smell has a tendency to linger.

But what do you do when you feel a pressing need to explain to somebody the nature of your severe disquiet, but don’t want them to know that they are the root of it?

Overstretched.

No time for blog posts today; it’s been all about gardening, sorting out phone line problems and doing the mentoring thing again. What right do I have to be a mentor when I don’t know anything? Or is that a qualification? Moot point, but whatever the answer, I seem to spend an awful lot of hours doing it.

All I really want to do is write nonsense to the anonymous and inscrutable maw of the internet, commune with the wildlife, revel in the innocence of snails, and feel mildly mesmerised by the sight of Titania’s handmaidens gorging on the nectar in the sweet pea flowers at twilight. Isn’t that role enough?

Friday, 25 August 2017

Changing Priorities.

I was thinking while in the mall today that back in the days of full employment the unemployed were vilified by the population at large because they weren’t contributing. Now that we’re living with the change to a retail-based economy and we’re a long way short of full employment, the unemployed are vilified by the government because they’re not consuming.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Thinking the Unthinkable.

I saw an old woman in the shopping mall today carrying two plastic trays of something that looked like fruit. I thought of going over to her and asking what on earth she wanted food for at her age, when there are younger people in the world who could make better use of it.

I didn’t, of course. It struck me that she might misinterpret my motives.

An Unremarkable Day.

I’ve been trawling through the events of the day in an attempt to find something to make a post about, but today’s events don’t really merit the wear on the keyboard.

I thought of telling the story of the two teenage girls with tooth braces, but it isn’t very edifying. I suspect that teenage girls the world over belong to some private club to which only they have the password, and I decided subsequent to our brief encounter that I should be less inclined to engage with those to whom I haven’t been formally introduced. I suppose that was about the best thing to come out of it.

The one thing that might verge on the mildly interesting was Mel telling me that she’s discovered she’s a reincarnated dragon. She fits all the criteria on the list, apparently. I remember feeling the same way when I read up on schizophrenia.

In-Fighting.

Somebody reminded me tonight that my Id and my Super Ego occasionally find themselves in violent opposition. The Id nearly always wins because he fights with fire and the Super Ego is usually powerless to resist the flame.

And then, when the Id has beaten the Super Ego to a pulp and had his way, he goes into grovelling Golum mode and begs forgiveness of his more illustrious older brother.

But the Super Ego, while generally being an understanding and forgiving sort of chap, finds it almost impossible to extend such fine qualities to his familial underling. Misery ensues until the dust settles and a proper sense of hierarchy is restored. Until the next time.

Delving.

One of the women in the coffee shop is quiet, undemonstrative, reserved; there’s an air of detachment about her and such a quality intrigues me. It’s like finding a locked box which rattles when you shake it. It makes you want to prise the lid off and find out what’s inside, even though you’re a decent sort of person and realise that you have no right to do such a thing. You have to coax it off gently so no harm is done, and if that doesn’t work you have to accept disappointment.

I asked her today what she does when she isn’t working.

‘Nothing.’

‘Nothing?’

‘Nope. I spent most of my holiday in bed.’

‘Is that because there’s nothing out there you want?’

‘There’s nothing in here I want,’ she said, waving in the general direction of the ceiling.

Mmm. Either she doesn’t want to answer the question or her general ennui is somehow connected with work. But that won’t do; there has to be more to it than that.

I sat down with my coffee and muffin (raspberry and white chocolate, just in case you find prosaic detail more interesting than psychological enquiry.) When I finished and was about to leave, I returned to the counter and asked:

‘Do you read?’

‘Yes.’

‘What sort of reading matter do you like?’

‘Fan fiction.’

‘Fan fiction?’

A happy smile came over her face and she continued:

‘That’s why I don’t usually tell people I read. Why do you ask?’

‘Because I’m intrigued.’

And then the Person from Porlock turned up in the guise of a customer and I had to leave it there. I had hoped it would continue along the lines of:

‘Intrigued about what?’

‘You.’

‘Why me?’

‘You’re hiding something, and that’s intriguing.’

‘What am I hiding?’

‘Who you are.’

Ah well, maybe next time. And I must find out what fan fiction is some time over the next week.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Age and Trivia.

I was in a supermarket yesterday and saw a tabloid newspaper with the headline:

Diana
Did Not
Love
Dodi

And in the space of a few minutes I saw three elderly couples stand and read it, then discuss the matter earnestly. Does that answer the question I posed in an earlier post:

‘Are old people wiser than young ones?’

A Knocking from the Oven.

My bathroom smells mysteriously of baked apples tonight, with just a hint of hot plastic thrown in.

You sometimes wonder whether you’re getting a message from across the great divide, don’t you? So now I’m scratching my head and trying to remember whether I know anybody who is:

a. Dead.
b. Stupid enough to bake apples in a plastic bowl.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

A Brief Note on Marriage.

I was thinking back a couple of months to when somebody’s marriage devastated me, even though it was no concern of mine and should have been of no consequence whatsoever. Naturally I set about analysing the reason, and in so doing came to a few conclusions with regard to the institution of marriage.

At this point I could launch into a homily, but I don’t like homilies very much – especially when they’re written by me – so I’ll make do with noting a personal realisation.

I was never married. I once went through a ceremony and got married, but I don’t think it’s the same thing at all. To me, being married was simply a case of living with a woman who started using my surname for official purposes. Nothing else changed. Living with my ‘wife’ was no different than living with the other four women to whom I didn’t get married.

And now I hold it to be self-evident that if marriage is to serve any purpose it has to be more than a partnership. It has to be a union, and that involves accepting a fundamental change in your identity. Otherwise, why bother?

So why did I go through the procedure? Long story.

Skimming the Stratosphere.

It shouldn’t have gone unnoticed that I was cursed with hyper-awareness and a strong emotional response faculty from the word go. (I like to call it a passionate nature because it makes it sound acceptable.) It helped a lot with the photography years, the theatre years and the writing years – and it still encourages a sense of mild euphoria when I watch moths feeding on the sweet peas at twilight – but it made a right bastard of the attempt to listen to a logical mind and live a balanced life.

And now I’m finding that all those periods of anger, frustration, anxiety and depression – not to mention the demons which thrive in such an environment – are having a cumulative effect. Sometimes I feel as though I’m burning up like a meteor that can only take so much friction.

This is interesting, and I suppose it’s worth saying. Can people burn up? I don’t know.

I gather Franz Schubert felt much like me occasionally and he died at 31. But he is thought to have had syphilis, whereas I don’t as far as I’m aware.

Three Gone Begging.

I  had three posts running through my head while I was upstairs getting wet.

The first was about the frustration of having a faulty phone connection and subsequently poor internet service. It would have included a longing for the good old days when the telecommunications network was publicly owned and run for public service, not for the benefit of British Telecom’s directors, senior executives and shareholders.

The second was on the thorny question of children and discipline. It would probably have included a quotation from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.

The third was to express the opinion that it would probably be heartening to have the Lady B’s erstwhile alter-ego hate me. (Although I might not have explained why.)

Having now got dry again, I find myself being driven half mad by a faulty phone connection and subsequently poor internet service. Consequently, I can’t be bothered.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Life and Origami.

Let’s suppose you’re living a quiet and comfortable life with no fear, no pain, no anxiety, no relationship issues, no injuries, no illnesses, no dread of getting up in the morning etc, etc. And then you’re told that you need to leave home and attend a course on – say – origami. So that’s what you do.

A little way into the course you suddenly suffer total amnesia. You have no idea who you are and no recollection of anything that happened before you arrived at the origami training school. Worst of all – even though you don’t realise it – you have no concept of home whatsoever.

But you’re surrounded by people (and teachers of origami) so you go along with them and do what everybody else does. You eat, drink, have sex, watch football matches, fall over and say ‘ouch’, and so on and so forth. You find yourself constantly wondering how the hell you got here, where you came from, and why origami should be so important, but nearly everybody says it is so you just get on with it. A few people tell you that there is life outside the confines of the school house, but they’ve all got different ideas as to what it is so you don’t know which one to believe if any at all.

And then somebody comes along and takes you into an empty room with a big dark hole in the middle of the floor.

‘Go and stand on the edge of that hole so I can push you in,’ says the one against whose strength you have not the power to resist.

‘Why?’

‘Because I say so. Resistance is useless.’

‘Suppose I don’t want to get dropped into a big black hole. Suppose I want to carry on doing origami.’

‘Your origami days are over. The course is finished. 

'So why did I have to do it in the first place?'

'No idea. Just do as you’re told and stand on the edge of the hole.’

‘Well at least tell me where it leads.’

‘No.’

‘Why not?’

‘It isn’t my place.’

‘And what if I refuse?’

‘You don’t get a choice. Come on.’

And then he picks you up and drops you into the hole.

Is that what life’s all about? I’ve always wondered. I wish somebody from back home would give me a call and tell me there are potatoes baking in the oven and lashings of butter waiting invitingly on the table for when I return. That’s if potatoes and butter even exist, of course.

Sorry, Jerry.

I just read that Jerry Lewis died today. The report was awash with claims that he was one of the funniest comedians who ever lived.

OK, the death of someone familiar is always tinged with a little sadness, but I have to say that I never found him even slightly funny. I don’t mean to denigrate him in saying that; maybe it’s a matter of personal taste, or maybe it’s symptomatic of the difference between what we Brits find funny and what Americans laugh at. But the fact of the matter is that I never found him anything more than irritating.

I think it’s also true that comedians of his generation generally followed a style which oozed ego. Bob Hope often fell into that trap, and it was certainly true of the big British comedian, Bob Monkhouse. The persona always seemed to radiate the same message: ‘Look at me and worship, for I hold you in the palm of my hand.’ Comedy actors were a different species, which is where Bob Hope redeemed himself in my book.

And what about Jim Carey’s accolade:

That fool was no dummy. Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius, an unfathomable blessing, comedy’s absolute. I am because he was!

If ever there was an unmitigated expression of ego wrapped up in an overly effusive overstatement, that has to be it. I find Jim Carey hard to tolerate even when he’s acting.

Disliking the Superior.

If I’m telling somebody about a problem I have, some of them will ask ‘Have you considered trying…’ where others will say ‘I presume you’ve tried…’

My answer to both is the same: ‘Yes, of course I have’, but in a very different tone of voice.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Considering the Slug.

Is there any creature more difficult to like than the slug? I just found one on my office floor; it wasn’t even moving and I almost trod on it.

Does the slug have any appealing characteristic at all? It hasn’t the grandeur of an elephant, the fierceness of a crocodile, the grace of a cat, the companionable nature of a dog, the sweetness of a bird, the beauty of a butterfly, the cuteness of a little furry animal, the industry of a bee, or the wiggliness of a worm. It doesn’t even have the childlike charm of a snail. It’s just a lump of solidified slime. Does it have consciousness, I wonder. It’s hard to believe so.

I wouldn’t knowingly do one any harm, of course, which is why I picked it up with a tissue and put it outside. I hope it was grateful.

Declining the Compliment.

A woman once told me I had beautiful hands, but she was old and didn’t count. And she was wrong anyway.

She worked in a commercial cake factory and tried to garner my approbation by bringing me packets of the sort of overly sweet confections which they mass produce in commercial cake factories. She also tried to engage my interest with mind-numbingly trivial conversation. She went for counselling eventually.

I really don’t deserve any better than I get, do I? Sometimes I get really fed up with being me.

In Lieu of a Real Post.

I’m at the end of my tether with internet and phone problems at the moment, and in a pretty bad mood generally as a result of several other issues. I find it difficult to write blog posts when I’m in a pretty bad mood (except whingey ones, which put me in an even worse one) so I thought I’d keep the ball rolling by repeating a few lines of an email I sent last night.

It was a reply to one I received five months ago, and I decided it was about time I paid the lady – who just happens to be one of my very few special people – the courtesy of a response. I decided to throw some thoughts off the top of my head, so it ended up being rather long since having thoughts is one of the few things I’m good at. The following is a small fragment:

I still want to see the aurora before I die. Sometimes I think I want to die sooner rather than later. So did Schubert.

I’m currently very taken with Albinoni’s Adagio, even though he didn’t write it.

I’m also very taken with the Tan twins from Singapore. They play the ruan and guzheng with great skill and spell their forenames with a hyphen: Su-Min and Su-Hui. The combination of Su-Min’s eyes and Su-Hui’s hands fairly represent my view of heaven, and their music belongs there.

(There was a reason for mentioning the hyphen. It's complicated.)

So there you have it. It might not be a very interesting post, but at least it's a lot less whingey than it might have been. And here's a picture of the Tan twins, just in case you're curious. It might lead you to wonder how on earth I got to be this age without ever really growing up.


And you know what? I sent that email nearly 24 hours ago and I haven't had a reply yet. I'm not the most patient of people.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Imagination Holding Sway.

The imagination was in fine fettle earlier. The Lady B’s ghost had been reclaimed by her erstwhile human alter-ego and once again I mattered, if only slightly. I only mattered for my usefulness, of course, but maybe it was ever thus. All that needed to be said was clearly stated without constraint and understood without recrimination.

And all this unbounded delight unfolded as I tended a pan of mixed potatoes and vegetables while a cheese and onion pasty rotated dutifully in the microwave. (The butter, herbs and pepper came later.)

So what of imagination? Is it a form of reality? I’d say that’s a question for philosophers, Buddhists and quantum physicists, and I’m none of those so I don’t hold any strong opinion on the matter. And does it bring delight or frustration? Both, naturally.

Friday, 18 August 2017

On Loners and Relationships.

My lady fair
The Lady Fu
Is ever coy, though not oblique

From iv’ry hair
To iv’ry shoe
She’s all a gentleman might seek

The Lady Fu is my 18" high statuette of a fine Chinese lady. I'm very fond of her. So...

I keep thinking lately about members of my family who’ve gone now – grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, my half brother, my only full blood cousin… Most of them died early between their forties and their seventies; only a few of the women made eighty. And when I do think about them I’m struck by the fact that when they went, I was one of those people in their orbit who was left behind to carry on. One day it will be my turn to leave and everybody else’s function to carry on.

Not that there are many people in my orbit, of course; I’ve never been the sort to make commitments, connections, or even close friends of any stature. Maybe that’s because I’ve never known what the word ‘love’ means, not even when it comes to grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, brothers and cousins.

Actually, that probably isn’t quite true. A psychotherapist once suggested that the only normal (whatever that means) relationships I ever had were with my daughter, my dogs Em and Penny, and Dylan the tomcat. Maybe that’s what love is. It would be nice to think so.

I suppose the salient point here is that children and animals are relatively simple creatures who give their affection unconditionally, and that means they can be regarded with a reasonable amount of trust. Adult humans, on the other hand, are too informed by cultural and environmental conditioning, a feature which produces the kind of flaws guaranteed to keep an idealist like me a bit at arms length. There have been – and still are – a very few special people whom I’ve been able to greatly like, respect and want to be with, but I doubt that would be anybody’s definition of love.

(Maybe there is one person who might qualify, but I really don’t know. I avoid the question because there seems little point in committing to a ghost.)

So is being the perennial loner a good or bad thing? It’s a pointless question. A life is a life and in the end we have little honest choice but to be authentic. Besides, being a loner encourages the tendency to observe. And if my suspicion with regard to the purpose of life is right, that probably isn’t a bad thing.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

A Source of Tragic Confusion.

How do I write a blog post after a day of technical malfunctions and frustrations which I haven’t got to the bottom of yet? Such a day puts me in sombre mood, and then I read about Barcelona.

Horrors like Barcelona – and similar attacks elsewhere in Europe this year – not only disturb me, they confuse me because I don’t know what the Islamic terrorists are trying to achieve. This isn’t the same as the terror attacks by the IRA and the Basque Separatists. They had a simple objective: they wanted independence from what they saw as an occupying foreign power.

Islamic terrorists, on the other hand, must know that they are never going to achieve territory or influence by murdering innocent civilians in Europe. It makes them visible, certainly, but it only serves to vindicate attitudes of prejudice and intolerance towards Muslims in the minds of the bigoted.

So what is the aim, exactly? This is important because Tillerson can spout all he likes about ‘bringing them to justice,’ but it won’t stop the horrors happening. To do that you have to understand why it’s happening, and then set about addressing the cause. What politicians mostly do in these circumstances is address the popular hunger for revenge, and it won’t work.

It makes me wonder – just wonder, that’s all – whether there is something behind these outrages that we don’t know about. And I suppose I’d better stop there.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Something to Talk About.

I got drawn into a conversation in the coffee shop this afternoon with two young women (one of whom I knew) and a middle aged couple. It started off as a discussion on the price of tattoos and ended with me having to explain the significance of the serpent in Gnostic spirituality. They didn’t get it, you know. They never do. If only it had been raining.

But the two strange dogs were fun. They both wanted to be my friend, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was so intent on showing me that he was the very bestest friend I could ever possibly have in the whole wide world that he took to proving it by chewing my fingers. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not known for nibbling softly.

And what about the story of the woman and the two shopping trolleys? Not enough substance to justify bothering with the details, so I’ll skip to the bottom line. As the years pass I become more and more of a fruitcake. How I long to go back a couple of decades when I could at least pretend that I was a little bit fruity.

Not Exactly Waterloo.

I read a news report this morning about a battle between Chinese and Indian troops in a disputed border area. Apparently the soldiers lined up and threw stones at each other, causing a few minor injuries.

An image formed in my mind of millions of Chinese and Indian women standing together, rolling their eyes and intoning ‘boys are useless’ in a dozen different languages.

A Tiny Epilogue.

Do you realise I haven’t mentioned the T word today? It’s hardly crossed my mind. Such relief.

(The Lady B has, though. And I was standing on the lane at twilight when a little bat suddenly appeared a few feet in front of me. It flew up and over my head, and then flew away again. I said ‘hello back.’ Such a thrill.)

Electrical Connections.

I’ve had several electric shocks in my life because I’ve always exhibited the strange tendency to suffer bouts of extreme thoughtlessness and stupidity. Like the time when I touched the element of an electric fire in a boarding house to test whether it was getting hot yet.

(Dumb.)

And then there was the time as a kid when I decided to re-invigorate an old magnet. I got two pieces of wire, wrapped one end of each around the poles of the magnet, wrapped the other ends around the live and neutral posts of a plug, then pushed it into an electric socket and threw the switch. There was an almighty bang followed by the clatter of the plug and magnet hitting the opposite wall. And the socket was all brown and melting.

My mother came up to my bedroom and asked what the ‘strange noise’ was. I made up some implausible lie on the spur of the moment and she went away satisfied. Aren’t mother’s weird?

But then I’ve become ever weirder myself as I’ve got older, seemingly in proportion to my increased circumspection around things electrical. Maybe there’s a connection.

Kate's Fans.


One of the nice things about listening to a Kate Rusby track is that you can read the comments without fearing that you're going to be turned even further off the human race by a bunch of pea-brained, angry bigots who have trouble spelling a three letter word but insist on putting ten exclamation marks at the end of every hate-filled statement.

That was a long sentence, wasn't it? Long sentences sometimes work. Don't argue with the writer! (Whoops, an exclamation mark.) 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Another Probably Pointless Muse.

I was wondering today what life would be like if we didn’t have a physical body, if all we had was a disembodied consciousness. A voice came from somewhere over the rainbow and asked a question:

‘How would you move about if you didn’t have a body?’

‘Easy. I reckon consciousness is able to move a lot quicker and more easily than a clumpy old physical form. And it can go anywhere.’

‘Fair enough, but how would you experience things like pleasure and pain, and that wonderful feeling you get when you sate a heavy thirst?’

‘No problem. All sensation is essentially abstract and so exists solely in the consciousness.’

‘I realise that, but what medium would you use to trigger the abstract, which is what bodies do? You couldn’t, for example, build a wall and feel the resultant pleasure of achievement, could you?’

‘I think you could, yes. It would be a matter of learning to harness the latent ability of consciousness to manipulate dense matter. I’ve long suspected it was what the ancients did before humans became engrossed in their bodies and forgot the knack.’

‘OK. Think on and we’ll talk some more sometime.’

So that’s what I intend to do. (Although I do admit to sometimes wondering why I bother.)

*  *  *

So should I now make the post on why I think being well off and comfortable tends to lead to an insidious process of ethical, sociological and spiritual stagnation? Don’t think so. Somebody I know might read it and think it’s aimed at her. Besides, I tried it on one person recently and her only response was: ‘Yes, rich people become too obsessed with material things.’

No: missing the point. Obsession with material values is a universal condition affecting all classes in the wealthier parts of the world. There’s a lot more to it than that. Maybe another time.

The Charlottesville Irony.

The right wingers in the US routinely use the First Amendment – in particular the right to freedom of speech and peaceable assembly – as constitutional justification for spouting an ideology which is at least racist and often Fascist.

Logically they have every right to do that, and the dividing line between justifiable free speech and incitement to hatred and prejudice is indeed blurred. The irony is that if the alt-right aficionados were to get their way and create what would essentially be a Fascist state – or at least something resembling South Africa before the abolition of apartheid – free speech and peaceable assembly would be the first casualty.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Old Stuff and New.

It isn’t only Trump and the Lady B who have been dominating this blog lately, it’s also been the special quality of twilight. Clearly I need to find something else to be obsessive about since obsessives become boring after a while, but tonight’s does deserve a brief mention.

My special friends the bats gave me the best show they’ve given me for a long time, swooping and swerving to within a foot of my face at times. I like to think that they’re giving me a special welcome, but I suppose it might just be that I’m surrounded by tiny flying things attracted to my body heat. Whatever it is, it feels like a welcome and that’s good enough for me.

And then there were the snails, three small ones creeping along the window sill outside my office as the darkness descended and the rain came on a little heavier. There’s something childlike about snails, something of the essence of innocence which makes them such endearing creatures. And 3 is my favourite number, so it isn’t so surprising that I should stand mildly in awe of them until the rain persuaded me that it was time for a hot cup of tea and a closing of the curtains for the night. 

*  *  *

So, just to change the subject:

Today I gave somebody my standard autumn gripe, the one that runs:

Autumn: season of falling light, lengthening shadows, chilling air and a landscape clothed in the colours of death and decay. I’m a spring and summer man to the core. If humans can invent the pause button, why can’t nature?

She nodded earnestly and then said: ‘And all those leaves you have to sweep up. Just when you think you’ve finished, you turn around and the place is covered again.’

Message missed, maybe? Who knows and why complain?

I’d also just seen an elderly man with a much younger woman of obvious south-east Asian extraction, and assumed from their body language (without any evidence but instinct, you understand, so I might have been wrong) that he was a man of some little wealth and she a Thai bride. So I asked my young companion whether she would be prepared to marry a man of eighty and move half way across the world to a different culture, just so as to have a more comfortable lifestyle. She looked genuinely interested and said: ‘I’d need notice of that question. I’ll think about it over the next two hours of my shift.’

I talk to her most weeks. She has that unassuming brand of prettiness and a delightfully light air about her. What’s odd is that this seems to be happening a lot to me lately – attractive young women have suddenly started to seek my company and want to talk to me enthusiastically. I suppose it’s all down to advancing years. And I’m not complaining.

Meaningful Conversation.

I was out on my walk for a long time today. I bumped into this elderly woman, you see, somebody I occasionally meet coming the other way and with whom I exchange a few pleasantries.

‘I haven’t seen you for ages,’ she said. ‘Have you been ill?’

Been ill? Why should I have been ill, silly old bat? Not wishing to cause offence, however, I restricted my reply to:

‘I’ve been ill all my life. Up here, you know. Diseased mind.’

I was hoping she would ask ‘You’re not one of them psychopaths, are you?’ to which I could have replied: ‘No; I’m quite the opposite. That’s the problem.’ But she didn’t. We talked about shopping instead, mostly along the lines of the relative merits of Tesco and Sainsbury’s. And then she launched into what I assumed to be her favourite anecdote of the moment.

‘I was in Tesco the other day and I thought “I think I’ll get me ’usband a jelly.” (He likes jelly.) “But I won’t get him the usual orange or lemon one,” (that’s what he usually has) “I’ll get him a blackcurrant one instead.” And you know what? They didn’t have any.’

I commiserated, naturally, but I have to admit that when I did wrest myself from her presence it was with a lighter heart. And that’s why I was out on my walk for a long time today.

(My erstwhile conversations with the Lady B’s human alter-ego were never like that. And the old lady didn’t even have a dog. And why am I so obsessed with Trump and the Lady B these days? Something to do with needing deep darkness and bright light to balance my faltering step, perhaps.)

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Being a YouTube Angel.

I replied to somebody’s comment on YouTube a few weeks ago. I complimented her on sensing something significant in a seemingly innocuous lyric. Today she came back to me with:

Thanks nobody's said something like that to me before.

The structure is imperfect and the syntax suggestive of regional vernacular, but that isn’t the point. The point is that some tiny thing I said touched somebody’s heart and made her happy, even if only for a few seconds. Isn’t that splendid? Doesn’t it make you think that your life hasn’t been a pointless exercise after all?

And something else I’ve learned on YouTube: The fact that a comment has received 276 likes is no guarantee that the statement was worth making or even that it made any sense. The majority of the most insightful and cogently argued comments get few likes or none at all. That’s when you learn why wars are fought, institutionalised stupidity is rampant, and Donald Trump lives in the White House.

A Little Note on the Trump Phenomenon.

So what do I say about Charlottesville and Trump’s response? Nothing much; it’s all being said by more important names than mine. I suppose the bigger picture here is that the cracks which were papered over 150 years ago are still there and maybe growing, and that the overriding impression is that America is a culture in crisis. And Trump isn’t helping.

Hey ho, let’s go briefly back a day or two to another crisis in Venezuela and Trump’s response to that one. Is there any situation anywhere in the world to which the President won’t suggest the possibility of a military response? And what about at home? Will he be mooting a military response to Obamacare next? He’s one funny guy.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

America's Little Issue.

Today I’ve been reading about the primitive little minds in America which haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that the abolition of slavery was a good thing. It struck me as interesting that in spite of their white supremacist convictions, the good old racists of Virginia should sometimes ape Islamic jihadist methodology. And I thought it an odd coincidence that the term alt-right is only one letter different from all right.

The woman I talk to in Sainsbury’s is much travelled, but she told me the other day that she’d never been to America. ‘Wouldn’t want to,’ she continued, ‘especially now.’ You can sort of understand why, can’t you?

Sometimes I fret a little for good Americans, and I’m glad that I think the latter day bearers of the Klan tradition are going to lose.

On August.

It seems to me that summer gets shorter every year. It feels like only a week since I was looking for the first swallow to appear, yet today I was wishing them well as they hunted to garner reserves for the long flight home. It’s only a few days since I talked about the plumping green elderberries, but today I saw that some of them are already turning black. And the leaves on ash and oak, beech and sycamore, willow and aspen are drying and hissing in the cool breeze.

Next stop autumn. Autumn: season of falling light, lengthening shadows, chilling air and a landscape clothed in the colours of death and decay. I’m a spring and summer man to the core. However much I recognise that the system requires things to decay, die and be reborn as something else, I still can’t help questioning why I should have to go along with it against my will. If humans can invent a pause button, why can’t nature? And on a more intensely personal level, I need the energy of growth to give me life. Without it there’s a part of me that wilts with the falling leaves.

A Beetle in Distress.

When I went upstairs to take a leak a few minutes ago there was a strange-looking beetle struggling on one of the stair treads. There he was on his back, legs akimbo and flailing about in all directions.

It struck me that he’d probably fallen off one tread and landed upside down on the one below, and that even if he was able to right himself he’d probably keep on doing it. So what was I supposed to do about that? Sit with him all night and keep turning him over every time he landed on his back?

I brought him downstairs instead and put him on the carpet where the floor is flat, and then told him to be careful. All I have to do now is make sure I don’t tread on him when I go to bed. Damsels in distress I can handle, but beetles are a different kettle of fish.

Friday, 11 August 2017

At a Loss.

What the hell am I going to write about tonight? Having just read another of my own stories I’m in lyrical mood, but what has there been about today to sate the lyrical juices? Nothing. Summer continues to fade in the leafy lanes of the Shire, the flox flowers continue to scent the garden, the moths flitted and the bats flew close at twilight… But I’ve done all that.

And there hasn’t been much happening on the dumbass politicians front either. I’ve done Trump and North Korea to death and I’m growing ever wearier of Donald the Iddite’s ego. That man is becoming so tedious that I almost wish he would start WWIII so the human race could have the fresh start it desperately needs, but I would rather it happened peacefully.

And the Lady B’s ghost hasn’t visited for over a week. I do so miss the Lady B but I have no control over the revenant’s ramblings. It was ever thus with her human alter-ego back in the old days. And I’m not in the mood for earnest ruminations on whether the old are wiser than the young (except to say that I’m not at all certain they are.)

Ah well, best leave it at that then and hope some imp of curiosity leaps out from a dark corner when the beer and music flow later.

A later thought:

I forgot to mention recently that I read a story from Australia about a teenager whose feet were savagely attacked in the sea off Melbourne. Was it a shark? Nope. A saltwater crocodile? Nope. A Portuguese Man 'O War, maybe? Nope. Sea fleas. That's the sort of news report we need more of. Beats Trump and North Korea, doesn't it? (Maybe somebody could even persuade Donald to stick his head underwater in the sea off Melbourne.)

Gun Talk.

The first thing I read in the news this morning was a statement by the US Defense Secretary saying that diplomacy is ‘gaining results’ with regard to the North Korean situation.

Diplomacy? Did I read that right? You mean they’ve finally locked Trump away in a secure institution? Nope. False dawn. Trump comes back with his ‘locked and loaded’ statement. Reality sadly reasserted.

And just take a look at this picture of Trump and the Sycophantic Sidekick. Note what it says on the water bottle labels:

Further and timely evidence that, to Donald Trump, being President of the USA isn’t really about America. It’s about Donald Trump.

A Mother's Instinct.

It was the anniversary of my mother’s death yesterday, and I just remembered something she once said to me:

‘I saw how you looked at that girl in the fairground at Great Yarmouth. I always knew I’d have trouble with you. Just like your father.’

That’s the one thing she understood about me, poor thing. RIP ma.

The Lager Effect.

Tonight’s beer is a continental lager which comes in a very attractive bottle and has a most interesting quality: being 5.5%ABV and being lager, it makes you drunk before you’ve even tasted it. That’s because it doesn’t taste of anything. Lager never does. I don’t know why people drink the stuff; I don’t know why I bought this bottle.

Oh yes I do. It’s because it was cheap, came in a very attractive bottle, and was 5.5%ABV. It is, therefore, high on anaesthetizing function and kind on the pocket, even though the taste buds are left standing around saying ‘what the hell are we doing here?’

Tonight I was going to make the post on whether age brings wisdom, but I don’t think I‘ll bother. I might make it tomorrow or I might not. The problem with tomorrows is that they always bring the dreaded imperative to get out of bed wondering whether I’ll survive another day in a human body, whether I’ll fall apart, or whether I’ll stay inside my shell and hope that nobody wants to say ‘hello.’ They usually don’t.

Do I know where hell is? Hell is in ‘hello.’
~ Paint Your Wagon.

Priestesses, the Venerable Borg, and Lady B’s ghost are excepted.

The Egg and Cress War Looms.

Did you know that the Dutch are trying to poison all us Europeans with eggs contaminated with something called fibronil? There have been headlines, product recalls and gnashing of gums from the Arran Islands to Ankara. And do you further realise what this means for me personally? It means that I might be unable to purchase my favoured egg and cress lunchtime sandwich from Sainsbury’s next week.

Should I complain to the manager, I ask myself (which is what I frequently do in Sainsbury’s.)

‘Excuse me, my good man (because we British are very polite when we complain.) Why are your chiller shelves bereft of egg and cress sandwiches?’

‘Don’t blame me, mate. Blame the Dutch.’

‘Do you know of any such persons of Low Country provenance in the vicinity?’

‘Erm… no.’

‘Very well. This calls for drastic measures.’

And then I would have to go into the car park and look for a car with NL on the number plate, and the steering wheel in the wrong place, and wait with patient determination for the owners to make their return. And then I would have to accost them with:

‘Excuse me, my good Dutchman (because we British are even more polite to foreigners, just to show them how fabulous we are and how fabulous they could also be if only they would care to emulate us.) What do you mean by contaminating our fair ovoid fare? (That’s to confuse them with a neat little homophone which will cause confusion and give me the upper hand.) Do you have no care at all that I have been forced to consume the less favoured cheese and onion today? What have you to say for yourself? I think you’re a bounder, sir, and I’ve a good mind to biff you on the nose.’ (Unless it was a woman, of course, because we don’t call women sir.)

And then the Dutchman (or woman) would give me whatever look passes for askance in the Low Countries and shrug the shrug of non-comprehension. (At which point I would have the presence of mind not to assume that he or she was French because we British expect all persons domiciled south and east of the Channel to shrug when they’re losing the argument.)

And where would all this lead, you might ask. And well you might. Trump’s got nothing on me when I’m roused, you know.