Thursday, September 3, 2015

3BT ... in one minute !

I am driving the truck towards the De Vere Hotel at Betchworth, approached through narrow leafy lanes at first, and then on a winding road that leads to the old house along a low ridge.  There are some fine old trees here and there, and well mown lawns fall away on either side.

ONE. A crab apple tree, well rounded, maybe twelve feet high, festooned with fruit that are pale yellow with rosy pink cheeks.  As the truck appears, so there emerge about a dozen emerald green parakeets who break away in an explosion of startling and scintillating action.

TWO. A small lime tree, maybe twenty feet high, its branches stooping low, heavily speckled with pale winged fruit.  Beneath it , four rosy ruddy jays who quickly fly up in a little spiral around the tree trunk and disappear in to its crown.

THREE. Across and along the curved horizon of the lawn, which is very bright green against darker distant trees, comes a green woodpecker in its fast flight of short bursts and swoops, stopping suddenly to march about rarther pompously and poke his beak deep down in search of whatever.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The last Bank Holiday before Christmas ...

its four-thirty ... i've been up for more than three hours, woken by thirst and by the stiffness that creeps in to and cramps my lower back when i lay still for too long. Hoping to induce further sleep, i made a sandwich and a mug of cocoa fortified with spanish brandy ... Torres Diez.  No luck, and so i cast my gaze over the sitting room bookshelf wondering if i might discover comfort in some ancient favourite.  But my eye and my heart cannot agree and the shelf-scanning takes on a kind of anxiety and urgency until an expressionless little grey face looks right through me from the spine of a book which had somehow hidden itself in plain view at the very far end of a shelf.  I recognized a book I'd found in the Reigate Oxfam; the fading receipt was still pressed inside the cover, 29th November, 2013, £1.50, Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald.  A forbidding cover, a sober sounding name, the author a dead German who had worked in England.  Yet countless living writers have praised him whilst i've been avoiding our first meeting, fearful of a debilitating encounter with pain and misery.  Rightly !  But beyond that, he illuminates and affirms the principle that "knowing" and "understanding" are all we have to buttress and support the assailable fortress of the "soul".  Now why would i give such a four letter word the respectability of becoming a Noun as well as an abstraction ? The Soul ? Souls can only exist in my imagination, and yours, innit ?  But if we have to honour the notion of souls, how much time can we afford to waste in contemplation and speculation about their substance, their improbability ? Whoa ! Here come the armies of dead writers whose only legacy is an array of fictional souls, seen through the wobbly prism of the printed alphabet and the empty spaces between their words and sentences in which we hang our own imaginings like so much laundry, etc, etc. But i digress ! ...

Saturday, August 8, 2015

up before dawn and have just read the first chapters, and am hooked ...

... then i went back to a really deep sleep for an hour and i dreamed one of those dreams that wakes you up because you know it has a "meaning" and a "message", and it reflects some deeply buried  and unfinished business from long ago ... oh. well ! you can't hope to resolve the whole of your past into neat rows of brightly coloured picture book stories with happy endings ... can you ?

postscript .... the novel narrates a series of truly horrid and gruesome events as experienced by a mixed bunch of heroin addicts whose lives intersect in bombay ... at the same time it examines the purpose and tenacity of people's so-called free will in a modern city ... the writing is transparent and i am very pleased to have encountered it ... three hurrahs !

Sunday, August 2, 2015

miguel and magdalena by the old main road at lagartera

thirty years ago, just after semana santa

they lived in the middle of spain but they had seasonal jobs on the coast

they were waiting for a bus that would take them back to ? lloret de mar ? overnight

they didn't want to go, and tears had begun to fill their eyes

Sunday, July 19, 2015

imtiaz dharker ... how did i not know this lady's work ?

Imtiaz Dharker
1977 (I am quite sure of this)

Sex Pistols
 The Sex Pistols in celebratory mood, 1977. Photograph: Hulton Archive

Some Glaswegians still speak of the Silver Jubilee
and the Queen's cavalcade sailing off
from George Square on a sea of Union Jacks.
Others recall that around the same time
the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen 
was black-listed by the BBC
but what I remember is
that one night I danced in spangled
hotpants, with a boy in polyester
flares (I am quite sure of this),
in time, on track, one hand in the air,
one step forward, one step back.
Time is easily tangled. It falls over its own feet.
That year peeled itself as perfectly
as the rings around Uranus.
Smallpox was eradicated, miles of fibre optics
laid, personal computers offered to the masses.
People said it had never been so good
and what I remember is
the popcorn mix at Regal Cinema,
salt over sweet, the triumph of good
over evil, light-sabres slashing the air
in synchronised time, on track,
one step forward, one step back.
People said it had never been so bad,
Bengal hit by a cyclone, snow in Miami,
New York plunged into darkness.
and out of the sky a fireball fell on Innisfree.
People said it was a sign. And that was the year
Steve Biko died.
Other people died in other years, but that year
Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin died.
Jacques Prevert and Robert Lowell died.
In Memphis, Elvis died. Still,
someone called Roy Sullivan was struck
by lightning for the seventh time
and survived
but because of the odd way time unfolds,
what I remember is the last few seconds,
the countdown under a glitterball
(I am quite sure of this),
light flashing in your eyes
and your hair as you moved
in time, on track, one hand in the air,
one step forward, one step back,
and ah, ah, ah, ah,
staying alive. Staying alive.

more nonsense

Saturday, July 4, 2015

traditional remedies ( part 99 ) ... vigorous brushing and prolonged gargling with anis, three times a day, will remove those tell-tale traces of garlic from your breath

just out of storage, after about fifteen ? years ... here's one i knocked off during an idle moment ...

... it was cobbled together using offcuts of curved skirting boards from a factory in portslade that used to build new pub interiors ... but i abandoned it because i never could make up my mind on the final shape and wording ... the painted order of "verses" is clearly flummoxed, or do i mean bolloxed ? ... and twould be better in this order ...

F  I  R  S  T   W  I  L  L   &   T  E  S  T  A  M  E  N  T

Burn this old body now sweet life has gone,
But wait until the harvest moon comes round
Before you cast my ashes high upon
The weather beaten carpet of the downs.

Dearly beloved of the strong & tender dead,
Whilst seasons’ shadows slide around her sleeping curves,
And captive constellations flame & slowly turn,
Attentive to her enigmatic metronome,

Here, tired of juggling Death & Birth,
& resting from Creation’s Dance,
The Goddess Earth’s stone fingers play
Cat’s Cradle with our nights and days.

Abide with me sometimes among these stones my dears,
If you would understand what used to be my pain.
Lay close to Mother Earth, my loves, that you may hear
The sighing of the grasses for the Wind and Rain.

I am no longer I.
No longer wait in vain
To hear her raucous laugh
And stroke those dancing feet again.