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Posts Tagged ‘thoughts’

A stinging thing, these waspish thoughts,
They built the castles, and dug the moats.
We churn them round, we thrust them out,
Those waspish thoughts, without a doubt,
They fell the mountains, burn the earth,
Stunt the spirit, and still the birth.


If only all could go our way,
Those waspish thoughts, to win the day,
Then they, who’d dare to do us down,
Would fall into our moat and drown.
Or so we’d think, but so it goes,
With never a day without some cause,
Some hook on which to puff our pride,
To dig our moat so deep, so wide.


We stand there thus, our pride to sing,
‘Mid clouds of wasps, to buzz and sting
When should we not, to be our best,
Heal first our selves, and forget the rest?

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I’ve never had as much time on my hands, retiring into this slow time when everything is shut, and we can’t go anywhere. But the time is passing anyway, and perhaps too quickly. From not that long ago, rising early to a long commute, I’m now up around eight, making coffee, and taking it back to bed. I cannot overstate the sense of luxury in this. I read the news, do some online lessons – learning French and brushing up my chess. Then I start the day, pick up the housework, bits of DIY, walk if it’s fine, or sometimes if it’s not. And I write.


I’ve been writing a piece on Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays, the father of consumerism. I was exploring the limitations of a society that reflects the shallow desires of the self, asking how we can move beyond it, and is it wise to do so? But do I know what I’m talking about? Have I sufficient grasp, sufficient depth? Can I come up with a conclusion from the mess of it that would not merely be a shallow eye-roll at the shallowness of the world? And is this not just old ground anyway, reflections of pre-retirement angst?

Potato ridges and the coming of snow

Then I had this dream. I was dancing with an exotically costumed woman, like a queen from Ancient Egypt. We were doing the waltz, foxtrot, that sort of thing, but instead of music she had letters from my past, things I’d written. As she chose each piece, I aged or grew younger in accordance. She was playing me, across time. I was all ages at the same time. I like to think I can read dreams but, though I’ve pondered long upon this one, I can only go on the mood it left when I woke. And when I woke, I didn’t care about the Freud piece. Indeed I was embarrassed to have written it. It was about hell and handcarts, and we’re past all that. So I shelved it, and I’m writing this instead.


The car still hasn’t moved. I’ve had the battery on charge a few times, after it flat-lined. It needs a good run, but for now it languishes in a cluttered garage that I intend tidying, but not yet. I read there are people driving hundreds of miles to walk from my doorstep, and here I am in solidarity with the seventy-five percent, making do with what our own doorsteps have to offer. The cops clock incomers’ number plates, as and when they can, and fine them. It had me wondering if, during the blitz and the blackout, and all that, there were people exercising their rights to liberty in defiance of authority by shining torches into the night sky even as the bombers approached?


I’ve been thinking about time, actually. Thinking back to past adventures, past travels that, at the time, always seemed accompanied by the feeling that first pass was just a dress rehearsal, that I would come back another time, in slower time, and spend time in proper contemplation of a place or a thing, or a journey – if you know what I mean. But already it’s a half a century ago, and you never do go back. I tell myself I was too busy working and bringing up children. Well, now I’ve plenty of time, but can’t go anywhere, and the car’s battery is flat, and it’s dead of winter anyway. So, I suppose what I’m saying is obvious: life is not a dress rehearsal, and every experience – even ironing my shirts this morning – needs to be experienced fully, as it happens, and for whatever juice there is in it, because every day of our lives is a one time thing, it is a once told story, the pages burned each night on the altar of our dreams.

Earth, tree and sky


I feel for the old folks who are counting down, perhaps on the fingers of one hand now, their remaining summers. These restrictions are particularly irksome for them. But I feel the passing of time too. For years, I’ve gone to Glasson on the last Friday of February, done the walk down to Cockerham, lunched at Lantern O’er Lune. Ah, those were the days! This year it looks like it’ll be another doorstep walk instead, perhaps accompanied by a flask of soup for a picnic. But how much more can one squeeze out of the Lancashire plain? We were hardly friends to begin with, and there are limits to its generosity, surely?

It was cold this afternoon, setting out again across the plain, There was a raw wind with bits of snow in it, fluttering about like moths. I was later setting out than usual, less than an hour from sundown, but I was only after a short walk among the mud and potatoes, out to a familiar tree and, I hoped, some interesting light. The way was heavy, almost too muddy even for wellies. The sky was dull, oppressive, pregnant with snow. But as I reached the tree, there was a transformation as there often is around sunset, an opening of the sky to more dramatic contrasts. There were shades of – tobacco, blue-grey, white, and cobalt. I took five exposures with the Lumix, bracketing stops above and below – still chasing the high dynamic range look. We would see what came out in “post”, as they say. Then I moved on to see what else looked promising.


I never used to bother much with the sky. It was always there of course. It was moody on occasion, but I preferred it blue and clear, and forgettable. I should have taken more notice of it in the past. In the past my cameras simply provided a record of places. Now they teach a way of seeing, and they see more than I do. The high dynamic range pictures are coming out better as I get the hang of the software, teasing out more of what the sensor sees and I, on account of my human eye, do not. I’m favouring a method that gives an antique look, grainy, detailed. I like the way it renders the sky.

Lumix LX100 (Mk1)


It’s possible of course, I will return to the scene of former travels, when we are allowed. But time will have moved those places on, made of them a fresh present to be enjoyed in the moment, observed, wrung dry for whatever that moment has to offer. My memory of the past is beginning to sharpen, as I’m told it does in later life. I’m sure it’s also becoming rose-tinted. There are clear dangers in that of course, for it blinds us to the importance of the fleeting present.


I could not have been much of a dancer when I was young, and I wonder what the Egyptian queen saw in me back then. One thing from the dream I remember was her timelessness, also a sense of her devotion and her protection – provided I keep faith in her. We keep that faith in many ways. One of them, I think, is in understanding this slow time, this time of doorstep walks across the mud of the plain, that this is not a dress rehearsal, that we need to carry as much as is useful of this time into the future with us, because there’s no going back, and the earth is fertile wherever and whenever we cast our eye, if we only have the eye to see.

Earth , tree and sky

But neither should we discount those past moments we feel we failed to do justice to at the time. We do not read the letters of our lives in sequence. Sure, that way they make sense as a sequence of actions, but the broader meaning in them, the soul-meaning, only becomes clear when we consider them all at the same time. That way our lives do not start from thin threads, swell to fullness, before tapering off into emptiness. Things only make proper sense from a transcendent perspective. That’s a hard one to visualize, especially at times of strife, but sometimes the camera catches it unawares. Mostly it doesn’t. But it’s there all the same, and its in the ordinary, the mundane. It’s in the glamour of a broad dynamic sweep of sky, it’s in the mud of the earth, and it’s in the strange sleeping beauty of trees in winter.


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cropped-girl-with-green-eyes.jpg

There’s this person I know. Let’s call her Lottie. She’s an energetic and attractive woman of fifty years or so, and she doesn’t speak. At all. There are rumours of past trauma having taken her voice, while some think she’s just not right in the head. She’s an object of curiosity then, generally tolerated but treated cautiously by others. In earlier times she would have been taken out into swamps by the priesthood and drowned.

But Lottie’s a very intelligent, empathic and friendly woman, a former librarian, who’s simply taken a vow of silence, having spent most of her life under the impression, being strongly introverted, no one listens to a word she says anyway. She has a point.

The introvert attains a particular view on life. They’re not outwardly expressive, tend to be cautious with words. At school they’re labelled “quiet”, which is mistakenly equated with: “lacking self-confidence”, “self confidence” being equated with the ability to shout down the loudest berk in group discussion, in order to get a word in edgeways. But who can be bothered tackling people like that? Introverts don’t lack self confidence. Alone, they’re perfectly at ease and capable of all manner of things. It’s just the proximity of so called normal , shouty people that perplexes them.

They can be targets for bullying, but a word of warning here: you can only push an introvert so far and they’ll react against the abuse they’ve had to carry their whole lives, not just the bit you’re hitting them with right now. In short they can seem disproportionate in their retaliation, but that’s not their problem, and you deserve everything you get anyway.

Like Lottie, I’m also strongly introverted. In smaller groups we tend to stand out because, as a percentage of the population, there aren’t that many of us. Weird, creepy, loner – these are the standard tabloid descriptions of our kind. Pensive, thoughtful, observant are the less derogatory ones.

In larger groups we tend to disappear because, since we’re not making a noise all the time, no one knows we’re there. For the same reason, we’re often left behind at school, lost in the noise of others and we tend to develop later, given a chance – which fortunately both Lottie and I were. We’re not simple-minded though, can in fact be as clever as any of you, though we tend to suit occupations that require analysis or observation. Mathematicians, scientists, writers, artists, certain types of engineer, all are professions suited to the introvert.

Group discussions tend to be stressful for us, not because we’re nervous or incapable of dealing with others, but more because others aren’t on our wavelength, and its both physically and mentally draining tuning ourselves down to your level. Our natures also tend to suffer fools, though not gladly, the definition of a fool being quite broad for us, though generally speaking it includes all those who enjoy the sound of their own voices.

What’s interesting also is that time can literally slow down for us in those group situations, as our metabolic rate shoots up. My normal resting pulse is around 65 beats per minute but in a meeting of blatherers, it will go up to 125. Lottie’s has been known to hit 150, and I worry for her. It’s a classic fight or flight response. What we want to do is tell the blatherer to shut the f&uck up and let someone else speak. But we don’t. We sit, we smile, we tolerate. So think about that next time you’re in a meeting with someone who’s a bit on the quiet side, and measure your words more carefully, you verbose jackrabbit.

On the rare occasion a question is directed at us, we pause, initially in shock to be so included in the discussion, then we consider our answer because we value accuracy in speech. Then we open our mouths to speak, but by this time someone else is already speaking for us, invariably misrepresenting our position, and since no one is waving down our unsolicited proxy and asking us to clarify, we close our mouths again, and shrug. Meetings are a waste of our time. And yours, if you’re honest.

I think this is what happened to Lottie.

A younger introvert will suffer pangs of anxiety, thinking they must change their nature, become more combative and gregarious and it takes until middle age to work out that you can’t, nor should you have to, that you should be yourself and others should fit in around you if they want to, as they expect others to fit in around them.

It doesn’t work like that in practice of course, and the introverts tend to become more isolated. As a result they have fewer but more intense friendships, often with other introverts, and they develop a keen eye for observation of the dynamics that drives the typical group. They also become adept psychologists and anthropologists, the insights derived therefrom being deployed in self-defence, usually by evasion.

They have ideas about the world, a wisdom acquired from observation and experience, and are happy to share it with others if asked, but no one does, so they don’t. If others do approach, it’s more because the introvert’s silence is mistaken as the sign of as a good listener, so they tend to get talked at by sad-fishes who, having vented themselves, simply walk away as if not expecting an answer, and really they’re not expecting one because they don’t actually give a damn what you think at all.

So, Lottie takes a vow of silence, and I admire her for it, am often tempted to do the same thing. Indeed there are days when I might as well. There she sits, twinkling, proudly self-aware, doesn’t speak a word.

Everyone thinks she’s leaking somewhere, but I know different.

Because boy can she write!

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Vauxhall Astra at RivingtonMore days of endless, heavy rainfall leave the meadows sodden, rich veins of silver showing in the furrows and the ditches. Long days and nights are spent listening to the rattle of the rain against the glass. And then this afternoon, with just a few hours before it sets, the sun slides clear and the meadows take on a lush, luminous green beneath streaks of lapis blue and brilliant white. I pull on my winter coat and venture out, spirits lifting, but it’s a shy sun, dipping in again as soon as I curl my fingers around the camera for a headline shot.

And the wind bites. It has been warm thus far, but this brief clearing brings with it a more seasonal cold, and the lakes that have formed in the corner dips of the meadows are wind-combed to a nervous texture, obliterating a calmer reflected sky. Meanwhile the black earth oozes bits of red-brick, potatoes, and carrots,  all squishy and ruined, and the hay bales loosen. They buckle at the knees, shed their black wrappings and capitulate to the wet and wind. I smell mud, and rain. Walking by the farm gates I smell silage – musty, sweet. I have not smelled either in a long time – a recovering sense of smell yields unexpected memories now at every turn.

shadowmanIt’s a meditative walk, this walk across the moss beyond my gates – seizing the opportunity of oxygen before the promised rains return tomorrow. My birthday.

And I’m thinking on the fact my car is broken. I am thinking cars are second only to womankind in the litany of a man’s woes. We think about them all the time, cherish the good, lament the bad, and fear always the pain of permanent damage, of loss.

It’s been a permanently squeaky hinge since I bought it, this car, nearly new, some eight years ago. And already its age puts it beyond economical repair. This is disappointing. At 92,000 miles, I’d thought a 1.8 litre engine had a few more years in it yet. But an ominous camshaft rattle at low revs has it sounding like a diesel, and the engine management warning light is flashing intermittent excuses in a trade-code the mechanic has deciphered to “very expensive”.

lines of lightTime to move it on, he says with a shake of his wise old head, time to let the trade decide its fate – restoration or scrap. Time for the punter to buy a newer commuter mule, less miles on the clock, less of a money pit. But this continuing investment in the need to earn a living has me wondering if it would not be cheaper to stay at home, to retire, to fade out, to fizzle into the white noise of all that rain hurled against the glass, these dark winter nights, to begin the glide to death, and the inevitable return to earth among the ooze of squishy carrots and potatoes? Strange thought indeed.

I know; energy is still lacking after a bout of flu. Washing the car in speculative readiness of a trip to the dealer takes my breath away. The walk then renders my head light, and my bones heavy. I trust these morbid thoughts will pass as strength and light returns. There’s a nice red Ford Focus I’ve been half fancying on Autotrader, then dismissing in equal measure. If the dealer still has it tomorrow, I suppose I might just take a look.

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slarts1_001I find my dreams are mostly wordless. They are filled instead with an imagery from which understanding and meaning flow naturally, and in a way that suggests it is the verbal language we adopt in waking life that slows cognition, renders it as something pedestrian and ambiguous. Last night I dreamed I had returned to college, a late middle-ager, older even than the oldest of my tutors. My course materials consisted of a set of antiquated 35mm slides, arranged in a specific order. At some point a young girl in my class, a fellow student, had upset the slides, tipped them out into the dust and was building them up into random piles, losing for ever their original intent, mangling what I had taken to be the coherent run of their narrative, thus denying me what I had thought was progress. I was frustrated by this, but the tutor shrugged it off. It didn’t matter a damn, he was saying. The images had no meaning in themselves, no meaning either in the way they had been originally presented, but there was always the potential for meaning in some new way of seeing. Later I drank whiskey with him in the late of night. We were joined by the janitors of the college who had left their brooms, and we sat together simply as men around a table, thus transcending the usual order of things, at ease with one another in the shared intoxication of a higher truth.

The imagery of dreams renders the message itself at least vivid. Whether we interpret it correctly is a question of experience, openness and self-honesty. There was much more to this dream that I have recounted here – or indeed that I can remember – but for now the bit about the images seems clear and is the impulse behind this latest flurry of words. The dream speaks not only of itself but of the way the mind, steeped in the material world, often-times loses that looseness of interpretation, a looseness that would render the meaning of much we see about us equally and transparently numinous.

Instead, we are presented daily with a procession of imagery, ever brighter, ever sharper in detail, yet we remain lost to its deeper meaning and fall victim instead to a form of blindness, a form of corruption in which we are all complicit, as both viewers and suppliers of that imagery. To whit: my blog gained a new follower at the weekend. The Gravatar, the image, was of a pretty young thing, but alas her blog was not a blog but an online emporium selling “lifestyle”. I was supposed to click, to fall in love with her, to want to share in the myth of her promises, and buy something. This was imagery corrupted into the service of commerce, and follows on, with a curious serendipitiousness, from my earlier meditation on the corruption of our thoughts, and how we are supposed to trust and interpret things, how we are supposed to know what’s true.

The dreaming steals imagery from waking life, in the case of my dream here, from my distant past, but presents them as a reflection of something contemporary, of a pattern of thought or emotion that is emerging or seeking recognition within us. Time spent in contemplation of the dream image will usually yield an insight that is true and which will free us, while imagery of the real world, taken literally as it is, seems only to ensnare and enslave, seems only to bind us up with its falseness, with its corruption, because such images do not come from the deep collective well of the unconscious, but from a far shallower place. Still, they can be useful, if we can only see through them.

Have you noticed how television soaps occupy the prime times of our weekday scheduling? From seven ’till nine they recycle their circular plots of thwarted hopes, putting on hold the lives of tens of millions who are for ever pining for a resolution to storylines that will in fact never end, to witness at last those happy endings but which are already dissolving into conflict before the kiss of that apparent resolution has dried upon the protagonists’ fevered lips. Winter is indeed a hard time to be living in a household inured of its soap opera – nowhere to escape the fucking things! Drugs, rape, murder, deceit, and all before tea-time; a world without foundation, and in eternal free fall, This is our daily bread.

And then comes the news bulletin, a continuation of the same, a showcasing of sensational imagery: Terrorism, sexual perversion, political corruption, war and economic decline. It’s largely factual, one would hope, but sadly literal in its shallowness, and my how they trumpet and crow, eroding bit by bit our confidence in the comfortable circumference of our lives. They press us inwards, back upon ourselves, then vent us into a closed vessel, imprison us in a world where we need no longer think, and where our every fear is perpetually realised!

How to survive this onslaught of imagery? How to identify the corruption? Well, we can always ask ourselves, as in the interpretation of a dream, what part of me is reflected in this thing shoved daily in my face? Why does it grate upon me so? Or indeed why does it seduce or tease? Thus, as in the dream, the image itself is seen to be meaningful only in the sense that it is reflective of something inside of us. Thus the image, no matter how corrupt, loses both its power and its intended misdirection, and leads us instead to a deeper connection with our selves and the deeper nature of all things.

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