Friday, 17 December 2010
As an occasional "chatterer" on the various platforms offered by the Internet: MSN, Yahoo, and Gtalk, etc., I've noticed certain words are repeated again, and again to the point of irritation. Most culpable in my experience is the adjective, "cool", meaning fine, great, or wow. This, thought I, would be a likely candidate for refurbishment, or at least, a little, tarting-up.
At first I thought I'd simply substitute it with a synonym, but from deep within the convoluted highways, byways, nooks and crannies of my mind, came the idea of re-spelling. This, I think, has the benefit of giving it greater visual appeal, though I'll let you decide. So...
Ladies, gentleman, and those that fit between or maybe beyond... I give you, in quasi-celtic form... KEOUGHL!
What do you think? Is it indeed, keoughl? Or do you think instead, it's the outpouring of a feoughl?
A merry YEOUGHLTIDE to all!
Thursday, 2 December 2010
As it happens I have no natural rhythm. I tend to miss the first beat. I pick up the second and sustain it far too long. In terms of Iife I reflect, and reflect, and reflect again, forgetting to live. I’m a one legged dancer on the floor of life. But I get the first beat eventually: then it’s off to the city. I don’t care to bungee jump, hang glide, or do drugs, so it’s enough to take part; mix in and move with the flow. It suits me, and it works.
As cities go, Birmingham is unimpressive. It has little of architectural interest; spoiled by the aesthetic atrocities of the sixties which dominate. It has history though. Set in the midlands of England this was once the industrial capital of the world. Now it’s coming to terms with the post-industrial era; the era of high technology and services.
I was there this weekend. My senses heightened by caffeine, I strolled down the main semi-pedestrianised thoroughfare, enjoying the spring sunshine, stopping only to take photographs. Being a Sunday the crowds were light, and the clement weather lent it a festive air. Amongst the midday shoppers I was pleased to see a familiar face. Sitting crossed-legged and hunched over his instrument was the world’s worst busker. Giving very little to performance he justly gained very little in monetary return. Although possessing an unchallenging repertoire of three chord hits from the sixties, his virtuosity never progressed, due to his difficulty with F - oh how I love his riffs! His music would be an appropriate soundtrack for my one legged dance of life. I may record him for my funeral service, though I hope the pallbearers don’t walk to his rhythm. It was good to see him. He made me smile.
This lack of virtuosity befits Britain’s second city, which is, appropriately, second class. The council fools no one with its pretentious claims for being “of world stature". It has tried and failed. Motor sports and half-marathons have been and gone. Vast sums of money spent on developing the central area make no difference. There is no glamour. London, New York or Paris it aint. And that’s how we like it. We Brummies have an inferiority complex after decades of being the butt of others jokes. They laugh at our strange accent, and condemn our town for being dirty. And it’s true. The grime of yesteryear still clings. We accept it. If we want charisma, enchantment and good food. we’ll go elsewhere. Isn’t that what the continent’s for?
So why do I persist in going? That’s easy to answer. I have an old chunky-knit zip up cardigan which has seen better days. Haute couture it aint but it’s snug, and it makes me feel good, just like Birmingham, my town.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
Despite it's age I was surprised to see it fail. It had little use over the past 18 years, but I gave mom the benefit of the doubt and put the colour-loss down to inevitable wear and tear, and not the result of damage inflicted by a frenzied, crazy 91 year old old woman, struggling to cope with the not too user-friendly handset. After only a weeks use, I received a series of phone calls...
"The sound has gone!"
"It's too loud!"
"It's too soft!"
"I can't remove the number from the corner of the screen!"
"There's writing all over the screen, it won't go away!".
And finally,, "The colour keeps disappearing!".
With each successive phone call, and with uncharacteristic patience and serenity on my part, I replied, "Okay mother, don't worry, I'll see to it at the weekend!".
Fast forward to last weekend. I'm at mothers. Mom has been intermittently reading and dozing and I'm sitting at my computer, writing, or at least, thinking about writing. Mom stirs. Sits up, leans towards the nearby coffee-table, and of a sudden, with its characteristic clunk-like sound, the Sony fires up. "At least", I'm thinking, "mom knows where the on-off button is".
"Look!", she exclaims. "It's in colour!". Then adds with a knowing angry sneer, "But it won't last!".
This is the point where, given my experience of mother, you'd expect me to remain mute, to feign total absorption with my computer, but alas...
"I can always get you a new one. The small ones aren't so expensive!".
"NOOOOO! I'm not bothered. There's nothing on. It's all rubbish!".
"Well if it's rubbish and you're not bothered, why all the fuss? What difference does it make whether it's in colour or black and white?"
A pause. A blank look.
And then, with a hint of triumph after a struggle, as if she'd calculated the answer to a particularly difficult mental-arithmetic question, she said, "what if anyone looks in through the window and sees it in black and white?".
All I could do was stare. Unblinking.
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
It occurs to me, the winter has a habit of mocking us. Around this time each year the winds ease and sunshine warms the air. Our step lightens and relieved we smile, making small talk, believing spring has arrived. But it doesn't last. After finishing business elsewhere, winter resumes, and without ado, quickly and mercilessly casts a chill cloak of sleet, ice and snow across the land. And overnight, the relaxed ambulations of yesterdays cheery pedestrians, transform into edgy, hurried scampering, as hunched and hooded, they seek their destinations. There's no time to stroll, and little time to talk. And all the while, winter laughs.
Inside, my attention is taken by the serenity of the room. The homes of the aged, I muse, are characterised by near silence; emphasised by low, unobtrusive sounds: the tick of the pendulum clock; the soft hiss of the gas fire, and the erratic whistle of the wind in the chimney space behind. And in between and around them, if you pay careful attention, the past can be discerned. Chipwood cabinets adorned with souvenirs: mementos of outings from a different age; and framed photographs of young and old, the dead and the living, whisper to me, reminding me of how things were, how they are, and how they will be.
As times gone by show themselves in the quiet, contemplative realms of the aged, perhaps, I thought, the noise of youth serves to quell its murmurings; a past that seeks to remind us of life's cycle of birth, death and regeneration. I can remember when I was young; a time when the acquisitions of the old, much like those in my mother's home, would fill me with unease; a distinct, but unrecognisable disquiet. But perhaps this is as it should be. Both ages have their time. Youth, with its excess of vigour pays homage to the present, with the future an indeterminate and infinite highway, stretching to the horizon and beyond; whilst the old honour a past inextricably bound up with the present. And their future is at arms length. The end is perceived. The road is finite.
On the nightime, as I lay next to my mother's bed, I listened to her replaying instances of her life in self-talk and dreams (impossible for me to discern which). And throughout the day, on those occasions she spoke, she talked fondly of incidents and people long gone; of a half-brother, Sonny, whom she loved, who through illness, died young; and of a father incomparably kind. Frail and breathless, but not broken, she smiled and chuckled as she spoke, a glint in her eye.
If we are lucky enough to endure into old age, then hopefully we can pull its various strands together, to form a meaningful and worthwhile whole. This is what my mother has done. Despite having outlived her first and second born children; surviving the anguish and anxiety of the blitz, when the German Luftwaffe strove to flatten her home town; and more recently, watching her husband, my father, sink slowly towards death via a morphine-induced netherworld of non-recognition and bewilderment - in spite of all this, she honours her life with its telling, in humour and good cheer.
It wasn't so long ago I showed concern about reaching the end of my life. I regarded old-age as a cruel trick inflicted upon us by an uncaring Universe; a side-effect of a blind evolution. Again, I made the mistake of looking outward for answers; stretching and straining my mind in a futile effort to elicit meaning via a meta-explanation; an all-encompassing theory to satisfy and comfort me. Now I know better. The meaning of life is in its detail. For each one of us it can be found within the particular moments, the details of our lives...
Most weekends, my mother, Janet, and I, dine out at a local carvery. When the eating has finished and we are about to begin our respective drinks (my mother’s choice is lager), we always laugh as her tiny age-shrunken face, set beneath a black woollen hat, beams, as she raises her glass and toasts, “Cheers! First today!”
Cheers mom! And thanks… for everything!
Monday, 29 November 2010
Stooping forward, my lips part, almosting touch it's head... I softly envelope it with my warm breath. No restraint, it comes... softly at first...
The microphone transports my voice through the PA system, prompting the throng to chant my name as I manipulate the strings of my Fender Stratocaster. It hangs low across my thighs as I caress it with peerless virtuosity. It wails and whines and I croon to the crowd.
I love my rock and roll fantasy. A modern meditation. For a while it soothes me, in the same way as sitting meditation. It's om with oomph!
Now the summer is a faded memory and again I face the long wait to Christmas. My mood is changing. Last year was particularly bleak. Across the festive break and beyond, the sky was dark and low, hemming me in. Spiritually, I was diminished, to the point my doctor prescribed anti-depressants. I perservered, for less than a week (I'm known for my commitment and tenacity) before throwing them, 'my little friends', into the bin. Fuck them, I thought. They're only dealing with the symptoms. I preferred to take my chances and go for the ride.
The situation improved...
And so it comes around again. The passing of summer, and the onset of the long, long winter herald the onset of my 'blues'. But SAD (the alleged seasonal affective disorder), is not the whole story.
Autumn sees the end of the caravan Holiday Park season. At the back end of October, utilities are switched off and the caravan interiors littered with bowls of salt, strategically placed to absorb excess moisture. The television and hi-fi are wrapped in bubble-wrap and blankets, protecting them from winter's extremes; mattresses and removable cushions are precariously arranged, stood on end, or propped against convenient furniture, to allow maixum airing. The once warm and inviting interior takes on a cold, inhospitable air. And the steady dribble of occupants away from the park, leaves the site with few signs of life, as it takes on a sad and melancholy air. But Saddest of all is its personal significance - gone are the occasional weekends when Janet visits the caravan, leaving myself, and the animals, home, alone.
Solitude is my life's blood. I need the occasional fix to shake free from togetherness's cosy but constricting bonds. I need to experience, for awhile, myself. Lest I forget.
Roll on Spring.
Till then, to help me through, I'll look to my Ipod. Let's see, Bowie I think. The Jean Genie. The crowd are going wild...
Saturday, 27 November 2010
In setting the scene for my post I would love to recount a tale of blissful youth, a text-book joyride throughout early adulthood culminating in a fulfilled maturity. But that would be fiction. Neither can I claim the role of victim, wronged by others yet stoically fighting against all the odds to find contentment. Tales like these abound. And yet they gain their strength via the perpetration of ill deeds and selfish acts. So somewhere there are villains; don’t they have stories too?
I’ll own up. Due to my poor performance as a husband, father, and provider, I can claim the role of knave, or general ne’er-do-well. A minor villain. As a feckless youth, leaving school devoid of qualifications, direction, and common sense, I launched myself into the world of work with all the enthusiasm you would expect from a socially inept, self-absorbed, and callow youth. From 16 through to 30 I had a string of non-memorable jobs, long periods of unemployment, a wedding, and four children. Drink bingeing sessions were the order of the day. This went hand in hand with nights away and ill-afforded money spent, culminating with a year out, living with another woman. I was around thirty years old when I found myself back at home with my family, tail between my legs, facing the biggest crisis of my life.
It’s an understatement to say I was in poor shape. Confidence all but destroyed, and self-esteem at an all time low, I felt helpless - a sad, self-pitying wretch, at the end of his tether, unable to stand the pain of self-loathing. I sought help. Not professional, simply advice; assistance to help relieve the suffering. I became steeped in self-help books, psychology, psychotherapy, and all kinds of faddish treatments purporting to heal wounded souls. Each night would find me sitting,surrounded by these books. I would alternate between avidly looking for the solution to my particular ills, and intense introspection. It became a nightly ritual, a meditation. It bore fruit.
The change was instant. What I once thought of as metaphor became reality - I saw the light. It came without warning, as if a switch flicked, initiating a flood of brightness. I was awash, internally and externally. The room became clearer, more intensely vivid than it had ever been before. More importantly, this was accompanied by the absolute conviction that I knew The Truth. The Secret. I chuckled to myself as my morbid preoccupations melted away, replaced by a deep joy. A cliché I know, but this is how it was. I make no apologies.
How long this lasted, I have no idea, it could have been 5 or even 50 minutes. As for the profound knowledge I held, this had gone as quickly as it came. But it did have a lasting effect. The profundity of the experience lay in its unequivocal demonstration of the transience of everyday knowledge. How we feel about ourselves isn’t fixed. There is no reality in self-loathing. It was all I needed to know.
Had I been of a religious disposition, there’s no doubt I would have interpreted this ‘intervention’ as the work of God. Or had there been a 'voice', or unambiguous sign, this story might have taken a different turn; unfortunately, as spectacular as it was, there was no logic inherent in the experience compelling me to draw such a conclusion. Being of a rational sceptical nature, I was simply amazed at the wondrous mechanism we call “mind”. God, it may not have been, but it was good.
We can never know for sure if moments in our lives were pivotal. It may be the case that we were heading in that direction anyway, and we use out of the ordinary moments as markers, or dramatic devices for telling our stories. I don’t know. But I have to believe my epiphany, was the decisive moment in my adult life. Almost at a stroke, I stopped smoking, reduced drinking, got into shape, and more importantly, I took responsibility for my life. Life, for my family and I, got immeasurably better.
The telling of this story is not intended to suggest I have in some way been chosen, or that I own powers far above the ordinary. On the contrary, it can happen to anyone. I was fortunate. I had unwittingly created conditions forcing me into focused meditation. The results are not uncommon, except in many cases it is intended - monks and mystics have been doing it for at least two thousands years. Neither can I claim to be a good person. The episode served to move me forward from a position of helplessness, to a level where I had control, and therefore hope. I still have a long way to go and I would love another boost in the form of a “religious experience”, but that’s being greedy. I’ll have to settle for perspiration rather than “inspiration”, whether divine or otherwise. I cannot forget that many others, lost and helpless, are never so fortunate. I often wonder where I would have been today had it not been for this helping hand. It’s taught me not to judge too harshly.
There, but for the grace of something, go I.
Friday, 26 November 2010
Listomania (another recycled post and one which surprises me by it's anger. Must have been tongue in cheek, surely)
Thursday, 25 November 2010
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
There are thee kinds of people in this world: those who don't like toast; those who like it lightly done; and the "let's do it till it's about to burn" sort. I won't say too much about the first, the anti-toast brigade, 'cept to say, like my father and his father before him, I've learned never to trust a person who has no interest in having it browned, even if only lightly. As for the effete, "oh, I like it barely crisp" woosies; well... ya gotta be suspicious of them too; which leaves the, "if you've got to do something, then do it to extreme" party, of which, it goes without saying, I belong.
We recently had a Toaster installed in our office kitchen. This is a welcome addition and compensates in part for the recent removal of the staff brothel, with its attendant Jacuzzi and massage salon. Yes, times are hard everywhere.
I write this post after finishing 2 rounds of crisp, near done-to-death bread, soaked in butter and finished with dollops of shredless marmalade. Mmmmmm.... mmmmm! Yummy!
Don swift reporting from the UK, somewhere in the midlands. Keeping it real!
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
My friend Dave and I were making our way on foot, from Manhattan, to Grimaldi's, Brooklyn, the celebrated Pizza Parlour. At a guess, I would say the temperatures were in the upper nineties as we walked in downtown Manhattan; and though we were dressed appropriately (I wore light linen trousers and an even lighter cheesecloth shirt, and Dave was in shorts and tee-shirt) our discomfort showed in our red, sweaty faces, as we puzzled - how to get to the pedestrian walkway? We could see the bridge (it's difficult to miss) but we didn't have the vantage point to discern roads and pathways leading to it.
We guessed, if we walked back in towards the built-up area we would catch sight of the road leading to the bridge, and logically, this should be parallel to the 'footbridge'. So off we went, up a slight incline; the towering concrete of the city looming over of us.
A little way ahead, a man, short and slightly built, carried a bottle of water. He strode, unhurried up the incline. Dave called out, "Excuse me, sir. Do you know how we can get onto the bridge?". He stopped and turned. Steady eyes appraised us, and he replied with the question, "You're from England aren't you?".
Although the water he carried testified somewhat to his awareness of the heat, he otherwise appeared unperturbed. Underneath the intense mid-afternoon sun, he was relaxed and amicable, as he spoke of the UK with knowledge and affection. A charming fellow for sure, taking time out on the most sultry of summer days, to talk to strangers from Europe.
We passed the time listening to him demonstrate a remarkable knowledge of association football, and England in general; and as he adjusted his standing position his jacket fell open. I caught a glimpse of what looked like a polished wooden gun-handle; and as a Brit, unused to such things, I almost did a double-take. I couldn't resist asking, "Can I ask you a personal question?"
"Sure" came the reply".
"Is that a gun you're carrying there?".
Relaxed, as if it was the most natural question in the world, he answered, "Yep. I'm a cop, and this is where I work". With a slight movement of his head he indicated the building we were adjacent to.
We said our goodbyes and watched as he walked, or rather, flowed across the pavement with spectral serenity, into the doorway, and out of sight.
Probably the coolest bloke I've ever met.
Dave and I paused, momentarily computing the encounter; then, with what seemed like a shrug, we stepped in unison, away from the precinct, to find the walkway.
Monday, 22 November 2010
It's joke. Chuckle
Sunday, 21 November 2010
When I was a lad, supporting your local team was passed on through the generations, and you were "with" your club through thick and thin. And although I fell short of kicking the cat when they lost, I suffered a mild, but fortunately, transient depression; which for me is the mark of a supporter - suffering. In this respect, It's not dissimilar to marriage - for better, for worse; through sickness and health... etc.
Nowadays, although I'm aware of a residual attachment to their fortunes (I always check to see how they're doing) I have better things to do than go watch them, despite their potential for heaping upon me much emotional pain (they're not doing so well of late) and all of the kudos that gives in terms of being a 'true follower'.
It didn't take long to 'shake off' my allegiance. All it required was some modest thinking about the 'reality' of 'supportership'. It didn't stand scrutiny. I realised, In essence, it has all the hallmarks of religious belief, especially in its satisfying the will to belong. But once I gained sight of a more enduring 'self' underneath all of the the inherited cultural clap-trap, including this quasi-religion, I dropped it. Now I realise I'm the final arbiter when it comes to bringing meaning into my life. That what is used to bring that meaning about is not important. It can be done via religion, football, trainspotting, masturbation, strangling animals, or countless other activities.
I have to believe I'm in control of what's important to me. It's scary, but infinitely less so than surrendering to the dubious creed of thinking ultimate meaning resides in something greater than myself.
And did you know, it's claimed that plants prefer classical music to all other genres? It's true. According to research, it's the only music to have a significant effect on the subjects, inasmuch as, it's alleged they're inclined to lean in towards the source of the sound. Whoop-de-doo! Conclusive? Hardly. When I'm listening to the radio I often move towards the source, but only to change stations or switch it off if what I'm hearing is not to my liking. And I used to attend classical concerts and not once did I notice myself or other members of the audience stooping forward towards the orchestra. Au contraire, more in evidence was the occurrence of a tilt left or right towards the aisle in readiness for the bar-rush during the interval.
Do you think because science and research is populated in the main by the middle-classes or middle-class aspirants they have the unconscious agenda of validating and elevating their own lifestyle?
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Submerged it goes unseen, yet holds sway
In subtle and insidious ways
Throughout our lives.
It softly whispers ruinous chatter
of lack of worth, and worse
It tells how undeserving we are of love,
Yet on these wily words we shape our lives.
And then, a time arrives when someone
Shows a path, not known till then,
Of Trust and Care, and takes us where
We’ve never trod before.
But in the face of such elation, this idea cannot survive.
And so it strives to wreck the joining, wresting from us
Our control, instead inflicting accusation,
Spreading discontent until, it takes its toll -
And in its victory-roll that evil elf
Has shown again our worthless self.
The food was good, even great on occasion; and the people, once understood, passable, and at times, pleasant. But the great moments were those of relative solitude when, ensconced in a quieter part of the deck and accompanied by the sound of the engine thrumming as it powered its way through oncoming waves, I was gently cajoled into pleasant, semi-oblivion. The hull rose, fell, and swayed from starboard to port and then back again; a rhythmic dance; a rock and roll lullaby.
It was good, as Nirvhanas go, though I've known better. Perfection, like all else, is relative (a fact known to poets and those of an artistic bent, though forever hidden from the pedant). I can tell you, at other times, and other places, I've known my soul soar, swoop, and in orgasmic ecstasy, burst into a million pieces... I kid you not, ecstasi* every bleedin' where! But, I digress...
On this voyage I learned something of myself: I can, though not without effort, co-exist "peaceably" within a group and in confined quarters. I think though, I'll give the, "opportunity of a lifetime: a fortnight's self-catering for six in a miniature submarine", a miss.
* Neologism, of a sort.
Monday, 15 November 2010
Man-flu. Again. It's the second time in not too many weeks, which is a surprise. Historically, my given ailment, that is, my inherited affliction, is migraine. But due to the inspired hypothesis that caffeine (in inordinate quantities) is a main-player in its manifestation, de-toxing myself has removed the cursed aural displays and sickening "heads", or so it seems. So does this call for an "Hurrah!"? Yes, but alas, only muted, for thus far, I've not had chance to enjoy a sustained period of unbridled good health. The newly-wrought void has been filled by low-level snot, sneezing and chestiness, which have been much in evidence of late, preventing me from resuming my much-trumpeted running come back; it culminated yesterday in a full-blown nasal and throat attack, a cause for manly concern. I awoke this morning convinced I was teetering, at the very least, on the verge of the most savage influenza if not pneumonia! But now, nine hours later, showered and fed, I'm virtually sneeze, wheeze, and mucus free. I feel somewhat sheepish, fraudulent even, for taking the day off.
But time off allows time for reflection; or if not fully-blown deliberation, then at least a time to rustle up words and phrases to be sculpted into quasi-post form. In other words, blind them with bullshit! So, here's my thought for the day: we always have a choice, always. You may think the world is a shitty place, that your life is crummy, unfair, but you can choose to think otherwise. I'll refrain from arguing this, instead I'll give you a visual display, a demonstration of our brains wonderful facility to see the same thing in more than one way. Ladieeees and Genl'men, I'm proud to present... wait for it... the RABBIT/DUCK ILLUSION! (see illustration above)
Once you get to see it both ways, switching back and forth is simply a matter of choice. A simple example granted, but significant, think not you?
Saturday, 6 November 2010
Thursday, 4 November 2010
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Such a shame.
but I say it's not love that's blind,
but those who look to find
someone who never can be born,
nor who ever trod this way, but they
still persist in seeking,
as if in hope one day
this polished gem will show his face
and say -
"I'm here, I'm flawless, without peer,
I've come to banish doubt;
and as for fear - never again!"
Such a shame.
Such a shame.
if now and then I should shout
and you dispute my worth, and say,
"get out! Don't ever cross my path,
for wrath I cannot bear".
but cuss and chide we often find
are born of love; so if you swear
I do not doubt you care, in fact,
if you should never shout
I would know within you were
without, that which matters most -
your love for me.
Such a shame.
Monday, 25 October 2010
First thing that struck me was, 'poor woman, I wonder how long it's been since she saw a naked male!'. Though it also occurred, perhaps there's some truth in this woman's much ridiculed report of many years ago, when, nine months' prior to her son's birth, she claimed to be abducted by aliens and subjected to a vaginal probe...
My preferred hypothesis is simply that the artist was incompetent and had no idea of proportion, making the head of the penis enormously large, thus accounting for the mistaken identity on the part of the woman. Still, you can't help but smile, and think not so much of 'ET phone home', as 'ET rammed home'!
No apologies to those of you who groaned at this last remark. Have a nice day.
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
I'm back, after a month's absence. I did think of marking the occasion by presenting myself with a show-biz type introduction, a bit of that old razzmatazz: a drum-roll; a fanfare of trumpets; fireworks; and a bevy of high-kicking, leggy, sequin-studded, dancing girls; or maybe the more modest, ta-da, it's me again folks! But instead, and true to my real nature, I've chosen to enter discreetly through the back door. Not too much fuss. Not too much bother. Besides, I have no illusions about my importance in the scheme of things.
It's a funny business, blogging. The personal sort at least. It's frequently said that it's narcissism, pure and simple. I thought so too when I began writing online many years ago, though in those days, although realising it was meant in the pejorative sense, I still made it cause for celebration. New to the game, using the Net as a mask, and fully pumped with caffeine, I fostered a pugnacious, I'm a blogger, and yes it is narcissistic, so fucking what? sort of attitude. But it was feigned, totally affected. When your target audience is invisible, unable to look you in the eye, you can be anyone, or anything you choose. But this was not me, nor is it now, not at all.
It would be a rare event to get to know someone fully, simply from online writing. We put our best foot forward when presenting ourselves to the world. We strive to charm, to impress, to attract, but in doing so, we deceive, albeit unwittingly. It's impossible to do otherwise. And even when - as I've occasionally done - we allow a glimpse of our less than noble side, it never fully reveals who we are. That can never be.
No one is whoever you first thought they were.
So here I am. Don't think you know me, because you don't. Just take it on trust, I'm okay.
Monday, 6 September 2010
I'm well into my third week of caffeine-abstinence, and I have to say, it's going well. My main objective was to effect a metamorf... metermorph change for the better in my temperament, and I'm convinced, although it's early days as yet, there's definite progress as I notice I'm a little easier-going than hitherto. Not that my internal state is so different from before (and I'm of the belief, we all have similar internal states, emotionally) I'm still sensitive to many things, but the intensity is wound down a couple of turns. I confess, I was so bad at one point I'd want to fuck the offender up the arse, verbally snap at any perceived slight; but now, I kinda roll with the emotion, and I can see the practical side to this on a relational level, but... expressing oneself honestly shouldn't always be frowned upon, should it? Is self-censorship always good? It's funny though, isn't it, it's like we say, "don't tell me how it is, sugar-coat it, or better still, lie!". But... [creaking sounds of extreme cogitation] if that's how it is, even if the intentions are good, doesn't it mean we never really get to know ourselves, if we're spared the honest opinions of how others feel regarding us? Though, [more creaking] maybe most people want that, maybe they'd rather not know. It's a funny old world.
Fucking hell Gosh! And all I wanted to do was give a quick update on my abstinence progress!
Autumn is here. How do I know? Because of the sudden appearance of golden leaves on the streets and gardens? Nope. Because morning temperatures are suddenly cooler, bringing a chill into the air and condensation onto the windows? Nope. Because it's September? Nope. I know because I'm alone.
My ex-partner/room-mate/friend/the bint who lives in the same house (call her what you will) is once again, and at the same time of year, off to exotic climes. This time she's paying a return visit to Kenya, to witness and weep at the awe-inspiring spectacle of wild-buffalo herds marching en-masse to the watering hole; to marvel at the elegance and beauty of doe-eyed giraffes feeding amongst the trees; to tremble with fear and humility at the power displayed by the hunting lion; and of course, to enjoy the après-safari (safaris equivalent to golf's nineteenth hole). Put those dusty digital cameras down, unburden yourselves of those weighty picnic bags gals, and get it down your neck! Ahem... I digress...
So... I'm alone. Almost. The aforementioned other occupant of of the house has kindly left me with her son. It's a long story and not one for public dissemination, so suffice it to say, he's here under sufferance...
Well, the weekend went well, with my first run cum walk, brief, lasting twenty minutes only, but that was according to plan. I'm experienced enough to know overdoing such strenuous exercise ends easily in grief, if only via the lowering of one's immune system, resulting in the catching of whatever is available. Still, I felt great. As my heart-beat reached training-rate, I began to sweat, and my heart pounded in my ears, and for brief moments it felt like the old days. I was empowered.. nay, t'was better than that, I was pumped! This carried through to the following day, which found me so restless, I had to do something, and what better than horse-riding? Yes... once again, after so many years, I found myself mounted! Action man or what?
Back to earth with a kerthwump! Today, the curse struck again - that old devil migraine... that was my planned second run up the Swanee! So here I am, alone and discontent. The Internet doesn't do it for me anymore. I've developed an itch that needs to be scratched, and scratch it I will.
I've another holiday planned, my last of the year. The autumn will improve, I'm sure...
Saturday, 4 September 2010
This morning, before going to mothers, I made a special journey into the city. I visited The Running Shop to buy running shoes plus a few related items, i.e. socks, tracksters, and a couple of "tops" (not that you'd have expected groceries, given its name).
As a shopper I'm a no nonsense kind of bloke. Nine o'clock sharp saw me outside the shop, eagerly waiting for the doors to open; come nine-twenty, I was cheerfully striding down the road, swinging my carrier bag full of the aforementioned goodies. A typical "shop" by me, I guess, as I'm not one for retail-therapy in the social-cum-sexual-event sense. Whip in, whip out. No fuss. That's me.
Tonight's the night. At least that's the plan. I'm nervous though. It's been ten years since I last ran in anger and during that time, I've developed an occasional twinge in my right-knee. Let's hope it's insignificant.
The natural course for me to run would be around the local park, but that's soon to be visited by the Pope. I'm led to believe they've already begun to build fences and place restrictions on the adjoining roads, so I may have to look for an alternative route. All done without consulting the residents I may add, and at enormous cost to the tax and rate-payers. Someone tell me please, do I live in a secular society or not?
I used to walk my much beloved dog, Ruby, around that very park. That rolling grassland,a playground and toilet for my little girl, is for me, a special and consecrated ground. Chances are, the Pope, who I don't particularly care about, and certainly don't revere, will give blessings on a spot once shat upon by her. Life's full of these little ironies.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
I'm aware I can be a pain in the arse when, as they say, I "go off on one". That is, when I get on my high-horse and spout what may appear to be (to the lesser attuned ear) certitudes, in a confident, all-knowing manner. But that's not what's happening.
I know little, or at least, I'm not sure about much. I'm usually playing devil's advocate, just to stir things a little, though I guess that threatens the less fluid self-images amongst us.
I can only be me. This is how I am. After all, I have to say something, don't I? Or would you wish that I hid from view all but the most trivial of my thoughts? Or that I said little, or perhaps, nothing at all?
I can feel threatened too. I'm not above all this. I have my moments when the humour is gone, and what's been said is more than I can bear... but it passes.
One thing I do know for sure: ultimately, I can laugh, and laugh, and then laugh again, at myself.
Online, via chat, forums, or social networks, I've had little to say about music, to the extent on more than a few occasions I've been pointedly asked if I liked it at all. A strange question you might think, given it's omnipresence in all of our lives, so much so, I'm sure, most of us take its importance as read. Though I'm a little concerned for some, who I've heard express their love for music in the most extreme terms [and usually, histrionic manner]: "I would just DIE without my music!". A little excessive I think, though I get their point; but I have to remark that pre-twentieth century, the majority of people on this planet had access to little if any music, most certainly on an individual and private basis, and yet, somehow, despite this tragic omission from their lives, they somehow coped. Ahem... anyway...
I've said little about music because I learned a long time ago how personal it is. I found no matter how great an impact a particular piece of music or song made on me, I invariably failed when I tried to impress others of it's greatness: "yeah, that's okay", they'd say, "but listen to this... how fucking great is that?". But alas, in turn, in a similar manner, I'd fail to enthuse. Eventually, it sunk in: maybe it's not so much that music has inherent qualities for us all to agree on and share in, perhaps it's primarily about us as individuals, our particular psychology, our personal history. To put it succinctly (and to demonstrate once again, I know longish words): taste is largely idiosyncratic.
This is why, on social network profiles, I smile and at the same time get irritated, when I see long, long lists of a persons musical preferences (the same is done with books and movies). Does anyone truly believe that you can tell ANYTHING about a person by knowing the music he or she likes? Liking similar tracks, books, or movies is coincidence, and has as much significance as having a liking for bananas or a favourite colour. In my experience, you like someone despite their tastes. Personality I'm sure, is not culture-dependent.
Not that I'm leaving this post without paying a little lip-service to my "musical history", and "history" it is, as the musical content was impossible to evaluate. I'm talking of a Beatles concert I attended, circa 1965 (yes, I'm that old). Courtesy of two girl "friends", who queued all night for tickets, I was able to go witness this historic event. I heard little, apart from a few snatches of the verse in "Nowhere Man" (the tour was in part, promoting their new album, Rubber Soul), but it was nevertheless, an experience. And before you ask the question, no, I didn't scream!
So... music and I? I believe myself to have have wide eclectic tastes, having no preferences genre-wise. Indeed, when it comes to live music, I'm happy to watch a virtuoso performance on the spoons. But then, very often, live music is something else, and is arguably less about the music and more to do with tribalism, quasi-religion, or at the very least, fulfilling the need to "belong". But that's another argument...
For those of you who know anything about musical notation, you'll know all music is punctuated by pauses of varying lengths, and in it's own way, a pause is a peculiar kind of note; so It's fair to say, silence is an integral part of music. I'm sure if you were to take out these gaps, what would be left would be noise, plain and simple. Which brings me to my point: come on folks, let's hear it for that much misunderstood and much-maligned phenomenon, silence.
I'd just DIE without silence.
Saturday, 21 August 2010
And a great lassitude descended upon me. My eyes drooped and I slumped, powerless to resist the bidding of the Sandman. Mesmeric passes of his hands sent magic dust flying into my eyes, and he whispered a lullaby, a gentle cajoling into deep sleep...
Of course, this was self-inflicted, and no doubt a common response to the sudden, brutal decision, to cease the imbibition of all drinks laden with caffeine. Yep, that's it folks, I'm off the coffee, tea also
It's day three since that decision but day two of abstinence "proper". I've had the headache, no big deal, fully expected, and easily taken care of by means of paracetamol. The problem lies in my body's predilection to shut down, or attempt to. Not that this is a new experience, but historically, it occurs towards mid-day, or just after lunch... but never at days-beginning!
I'm missing the "buzz", that short-lived but seductive feeling of "power", of hyper-alertness. Now I feel as if a once bright light has been dimmed. But I've read some "Science" on caffeine and of its effects on the human body, and the findings concur with my experience, especially in the realms of mood and quality of sleep. It has to be done.
Put's on resolute face [jutting jaw and narrowed eyes] and bravely marches forth into a future without the "black stuff". Softly whistles John Lennons's, Cold Turkey.
I'll keep you posted.
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
Migraine. The aural sort. I've suffered with this unpleasant and debilitating intrusion since I was fourteen years old. It first occurred when sitting in a Technical Drawing class, the words and diagrams on the chalk-board (oh how quaint) became obscured in part, as a zig-zag light-show expanded across half of my visual field. It passed, but an hour later I was beset by a savage, sick, headache. It's a total affliction, and not as many seem to think, a headache. It requires darkness, quiet, and rest.
This morning, I suffered my third attack in 24 hours. I was due to visit the dental hygienist too. Oh joy. There's a tendency for one's body to want to sleep when afflicted so, and this was the case as I lay back in the hygienist's chair. As she scraped, polished, and probed (I'm sure I detected a low, sadistic cackling) I was twice awakened by her as my slackening and closing jaws threatened to clamp onto her instruments of torture!
Self-absorption. Typical of, though not exclusive to, introverts. From moment to moment I'm toying with, pushing, pulling, turning up, over, and around, thoughts. I'm rarely "totally out there" (except on special occasions, for instance, when having sex, or juggling). This inwardness accounts for accusations of being "spaced", "a dreamer", or simply, "not paying attention". I have a suspicion my inability, or at least, poor performance at multi-tasking, is due to this constant inner-focus. Not that I want to move too far along the spectrum to the point of being "out there" fully, but the ability to raise my head and shoulders above the parapet of my inner-sanctum, would be progress.
Misunderstandings. These abound in my life. This is related in part, to my self-absorption. Even when conversing, or writing, I have difficulty in getting all of my thoughts out, either verbally or on paper. In my haste to get the words spoken or written, I'll often leave ideas, crucial to the understanding of what I'm saying, in my head. This can have amusing results, but all too often, it creates conflict. Thus I need to exercise what I lack most, patience.
Impatience. In my estimation, a vice, and my worst. I want everything now, if not yesterday. I've tried to ameliorate this desire,but I've concluded it's essentially innate and almost, but not quite, beyond cure.
Impulsiveness. Linked to impatience. Self-restraint is not my forte. I've had a measure of success, but at those times when I'm not at my best, the wisdom of stepping back, allowing time to think, goes out of the window. I jump. My inwardness and impatience prevent me from digesting information fully, and I get the "wrong end of the stick"; in fact, I can miss the stick altogether, and grasp something totally different, something conceived in my imagination only. If I'm in a "delicate" conversation, problems may ensue.
Lay psychological analysis. I can't help this one. It's "what I do". It's fun, but can be fraught with danger. I quote from Wikipedia; To criticise does not necessarily imply to find fault, but the word is often taken to mean the simple expression of prejudice or disapproval. It's a risky business engaging in such a discipline, but like I say, it's what I do. Other's go white-water rafting, or bungee-jumping. Oh the adrenalin rush...
When I began writing this post, I expected to fill it with a veritable gallimaufry of trivial annoyances and pet-hates. But it seems, all of my issues in life are primarily internal. Is that good or bad? Hmmm....
Sunday, 15 August 2010
A while ago now, when just a child, in my class I was considered to be one of the more “talented” draughtsman and painters, if not the best. This accolade lasted throughout my school years until such time I left at age sixteen. It culminated in the award of a free scholarship for the local college of Art, Birmingham. Not that I ever attended. Dad saw to that. His prejudice ensured I would never end up like those “long-haired layabouts (aka Art students) hanging out at the fountain square!”.
Ironic words in retrospect, considering this was the mid-sixties, just prior to the apogee of the “hippy years”; and, as it transpired, my sympathies lay with these, the great “unwashed” (as referred to by the less tolerant). My allegiance to this “scruffy bunch” was badged by means of thick, wavy hair, cascading over my shoulders (oh how I miss those days when, even washed in carbolic soap, it shone as if conditioned by the finest most expensive lotions and oils) Not that I spent too much time displaying my luxuriant locks around Birmingham’s premier water-feature. Not at all. My preference was for the upstairs room at Bogarts, a public house at the top end of New Street - the choice of hippies, quasi and authentic alike. But still, arguably it amounted to a, “Hey there daddy, look, see my finger?”
I can’t though, in all fairness, blame father. Like many of his generation he did his best, ensuring I was fed, clothed and well shod. He wouldn’t have known of progressive concepts such as encouragement or support, and as for personal expression, he’d have viewed the idea with disdain, thinking, and I can imagine him saying, “what a load of crap!”. Life was clear-cut. It was his and mothers job to ensure the statutory requirement of school attendance was met; it was not their brief to take an interest, or get involved in, the work itself. Neither did they ensure I did my homework, so you can guess as to my extra-curricular effort! No, for them it was simple and uncomplicated: school was designed to pass time till I was able to leave and go out into the big world, to earn shoe leather. That last year of school, at age 16, was the last time I remember putting HB grade pencil to paper, or brush to paint pot.
In retrospect, I’m not convinced, had father been of another mind, it would have turned out differently. I don’t ever remember feeling particularly skilled at drawing and painting. Techniques were never broached, not during my time at school anyway. It was about natural(and I use the word cautiously) “talent’. When it came to drawing, all I did was emulate as best I could what I saw, though I was aware, comparatively speaking, my efforts were often more realistic than those of my classmates; but I didn’t feel it was due to the possession of any skill, more a lack of something on their part. I was praised, but it never felt deserved. How could it? To do what came naturally didn’t require obstacles to be overcome, or the application of effort. I just did what I did. Though it’s possible, if this innate ability had been mentored and nurtured, I’d be capable of producing the kind of work I now admire. It’s a big If.
In my maturity, I often reflect on those times. Is my current interest in Art solely down to the praise heaped upon me all those years ago? Am I looking to engage in something I can be good at, and which I feel will gain me approval? Or maybe I feel the approval comes from the cool appellation of, Don Swift, Artist! Or is it, as many would claim, innate? Is the manipulation of paint, clay, and other materials, a vehicle for self-expression? Or perhaps an end in itself, the very act of painting, or sculpting, a meditation in manipuilation? I don’t know. Not yet.
The whole notion of Art and Artist is puzzling, for me at least. What is it? In its most popular usage, to describe a sphere of activity, it becomes more elusive. What constitutes Art or being an Artist? Is it, for example, simply the engaging in painting that makes you an Artist? But what if you copy faithfully a work considered to be Art, does that make you an Artist too? Or are you, no matter how competent, simply a craftsman? Of course, as I write all of this, the question comes plainly into view: does it matter? I have to say, yes, inasmuch as many talk with authority (rightly or wrongly) on this very subject.
My provisional idea, and I’d appreciate any constructive criticism, is: if the work involved employs skilled and repetitive techniques only, even if the finished result is of the highest quality, then it's considered a craft. But, if the work has implicit within it, something novel, something challenging, something which stirs the imagination, then it can be considered Art. Maybe.
I'm toying with the idea that a necessary, but not sufficient condition for being an Artist is to have attitude: to challenge, to confront, to be contrary; the opposite of the formulaic, which craft always is. Again, maybe.
You’ll have to excuse me now, I’m off to get to grips with my digital painting applications. Don’t expect any displays too soon though.
Saturday, 14 August 2010
I find this word so general in it's applicability, as to have virtually no meaning, especially when used in the realm of human relationships. Take for instance, the assertion, "oh he's a nice bloke!" - what precisely, does that mean?
If ever this word is used to describe me (a rare occasion) I feel, if not offended, then uncomfortable. And though I appreciate it's often applied when the user is too lazy (or perhaps unable) to be more specific in their description, I suspect its frequently used to state implicitly: this person is safe; this person is no threat; this person doesn't compromise my security; this person won't upstage me. He or she is, quite simply, nice.
Being a nice person puts you in big demand, but for all the wrong reasons. It's concluded, in terms of your sociability, you're about as effective as a slap with a limp biscuit.
And nice is sought after; people even marry nice, in order to preserve their ascendancy. Well, it's their prerogative, but personally, I prefer to aspire towards equality, which is often, if not always, painful, and requires effort; but then, if you're really respecting of the rights of others, and aware of your natural tendencies to trample on them, albeit subtly, you'll have no issue with this, indeed, you'll welcome it!
Go on, test yourself! In future, when you find yourself ascribing this word to someone, try to be honest with yourself, what precisely are you saying? And if you're the recipient of such an ascription, consider what I've said, do you like being considered nice? Is nice, in view of what I've said, what you want to be?
Friday, 13 August 2010
Sunday, 8 August 2010
It's all too easy to take life and ourselves too seriously. For this reason I recommend engaging, at least occasionally, in the age-old regime of silliness.*
Daftness, as a discipline is broad. There are, and never have been, hard and fast rules as to what constitutes, "acting the pratt"; but as a general rule of thumb, it steers clear of the clever, being nothing if not: an antidote against the dangers of intellectualism; a cure for pomposity; a salve to steer us clear of arrogance; and a needle to prick the bubble of vanity.
Phlappat, phlippet, badoing!
In this all too serious world, silliness acts as a safety-valve to release health-damaging tension. I use it to counteract my tendencies to slip into pretentiousness, often seen on this very blog.
A typical 'silly' I use throughout the day is to substitute, "furry muff", for the phrase, "fair enough". And recently I've taken to thinking of my lunchtime fare as, "sand wedges", or, "sang widges" (Children know, understand, and revel in this kind of "silly"). So...
Remember, for the sake of your physical health and your sanity, don't take life too seriously; come on, you know it makes sense, don't laugh.... I'm serious!
* Not to be confused with stupidity. This is stupidity.
Friday, 6 August 2010
You have to admire and envy those who drink Horlicks only!
Thursday, 5 August 2010
At some point, probably at the fifth glass, the unwanted realisation of this sad truth pressed upon my consciousness. The logic didn't hold. If it had, at this point I ought to have been hovering in the upper-stratosphere, approaching the gates of Nirvana, if not already there. Alas, the glow had since worn off, leaving only slight depression and guilt feelings for once again succumbing to this false-logic.
Maybe as a young man I should have persevered with marijuana?
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
From their conversation, I gleaned they were on a day trip to London, an exciting excursion into the "Big Smoke". They spoke excitedly of Camden Market, Museums, the Thames, and the "dangers" (retail-wise) of Oxford Street. They were well-prepared too, displaying bag after bag of provisions: wet-wipes, tissues, tourist guide books, food, and surprisingly, washing powder. They offered me a muffin; I declined, "thanks all the same", said I, "but it's too early in the day!". Oh how they laughed, almost.
My destination approached, and as I excused myself from the group, I bid them a good visit. At that moment, approaching the exit, I was overwhelmed by the desire to stay on the train, with a view to tagging along with this jolly group. Feelings long-buried, engulfed me: the forgotten thrill of my youthful, "illicit" days off, when, with my friend, I'd forego the office, and instead, spend the day wasting time sipping beer in a pub (I was living with my parents, and at days end, I'd arrive home, feigning tiredness after a hard day's toil).
Needless to say, I didn't act upon this desire, but I have feelings of regret. A chance missed. And why? Because for most of us, Life insidiously creates around us, a hard veneer of routine, of responsibility, of shoulds, oughts, and musts. We become provincial in every sense, safe, secure, but sadly, limited.
For the first time since my youth, I have no compelling obligation to anyone. Nothing binds me. Not a person, nor place. I'm free to do, as I wish. Then why don't I? Next time, just you see... next time...