Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Echoes of Summer; Stand Tall in the Rain

Amid the pelting rain, I sit in my book room and type.  I can hear the rain switch briefly to hail, which beats and tattoos on the flat roof of this room – an extension; an afterthought on the building, sticking out of the side, all unwieldy.  It’s freezing in here.

Yesterday I took in some more tomatoes from the dying plants in the back garden.  No longer bushy and almost tropical in their growth, they are browning, and drooping, no matter the feed or the water.  The tomatoes they make are smallish and seem grudging.  They take ages to redden, but taste incredibly full of sweetness and an edge of salt.  The rosemary, parsley, dill and lemon balm flourish still, in a huge container out on the grass – I can see it from here – the little herby fir tree appearance of the rosemary, happy in the rain, standing even taller than before.  Last years Xmas tree, that I feared lost, has come back, this late summer, to a state of green and robust height.  It’s almost three feet tall now.  It stands in the pot next to the rosemary, another rain lover.  The hypericum has 3 flowers left, yellow and like lazy daffodils, petals flopped out on all sides.  The bush is starting to turn orange.  I can see 2 birds’ nests in the tall trees in next door’s garden.  Surely the birds get wet??

I’m thinking about autumn, but I have the strongest feeling of summer.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t been far at all this year, and hardly anywhere on my own.  I don’t even walk down the streets here without Fluffhead, he’s always with me, a little twin with amazing perpetual bedhead.   There’s never just me, or me as I was; there’s always us, and it’s always now.  Time doesn’t seem to move on anymore, no matter what development is taking place (he may talk soon, he makes the most interesting sounds at me).  So it’s easy to journey backwards and remember when I was…not exactly free (though I was in a sense, definitely)…When I could walk hither and thither, and about the place, lots of places, and it was warm, and I could bask…

Things were different to now.  On bad days I judge this change and make sad thoughts from it.  On ok days, as now, I just know it for what IS.  For now.  Little smiles, little hugs, the way small arms hold me; the way when he cries, sometimes only I can make him feel better, and with a simple carrying, rocking hug, and kisses to the hair.  The fact he trusts me.  And tries to feed me from his beaker, and share his toast with me, sometimes.  Of course, that’s wonderful, and priceless.  The price of my eternal and exhaustion-themed now, the sense of having almost whispered to a halt, is measured in his growing freedom and confidence to explore.  How strange. 

(How almost sacrificial.  How needful of a mammoth and constant sense of the Big Picture and long term perspective, to survive such an…ordeal, imprisonment, bittersweet, exhausting experience.  Which is hardly an original thought, but there you are.  If a lot of women came off the Holy Soapbox of Motherhood, they would reveal very ambivalent and conflicting feelings about the whole thing.  It’s scary to do so, even a little.  If some of us confess the fact it’s not an unalloyed pleasure and a privilege to bring up small people…we can be eaten alive by the shrill strictures and judgements of our very own sisters…Let alone the wider world. Its why a lot of women don’t confess to post-natal depression even when they surely have it strongly – because yourself is so linked to your child, and to other people’s perceptions of how you can care for that child…for fear of having it taken away, you can remain silent.  One day I will make a separate post about this.)

But just in case I feel too cold, or in case I forget that I will experience a summer more mine sometime, at some point, here is a memory I like.

Echoes of Summer, from 2006

I’m out with my mother, walking the Bluebell Trail near Alfriston.  The day is suddenly really warm after a cold start.  I take off my sweater, and put my sunglasses on, as we enter the trail.

There’s that beautiful lowering of sound levels you get as you enter a wooded area, as we go in.  The trees must absorb sound.  They form a canopy over us, screening out some of the sun. The rest dapples the ground, in bright striations that move, and leaves swish in the light breeze.

Ahead of us, I can hear a baby crying; people are walking this trail with babies in push chairs; an old woman far ahead is visible as she is still wearing a bright coral red anorak, bending over her wheeled zimmer frame.  We will take over her very soon, she’s crunching along very slowly; the wheels must be catching on twigs embedded in the earth, trodden in by previous walkers.

Birds are calling to each other from all directions overhead.  Beautiful.  There’s a sudden mass of sunlight breaking through, as a mass of birds detach from a tall tree to the left and squawk piercingly as they take off into the distance, not one left behind.  A black feather floats down right in front of my face and lands softly on my t-shirt. I pick it off, and my mother calls to me from ahead, snapping a photo of me.  She’s using flash, and it blinds me for a second and I drop the feather, feeling its silkiness run through my fingers and be gone.  When I look for it I can’t see it, but I find some dropped bluebells and pick them up.  They are cool and sullen against my fingers, already losing their remarkable blue, paling quickly as they start to dry out.

I look ahead of me to where my mother is.  She’s come to halt about a pond, and is struck by the reflections of the tall trees in the water, which is blink inducingly bright; striped with jagged tree reflections.  I walk over to her, skidding wetly on a patch of mud and having to steady myself on a hazel tree.  Gripping its bark, I have a strong though momentary sensation of intense earthiness.  It feels, though it’s clearly a young tree, that it has been breathing evenly here, for a thousand years or more.  It is the most strongly rooted and locked into its sense of place thing I have ever touched.  Its total solidity stuns me. I feel more me, for having touched it.  I release grip and move on, feeling les solid almost immediately.  I was earth, and now stride off into air; I am light, I am ethereal.  This sensation is heightened by being hit in the face by sunlight, as I come upon the pond.  Light from a break in the trees, and from the reflections off the pond, sparkling almost loud enough to hear (it would crackle, I know it would) make me put my sunglasses back on.

Mum shows me the photo, her warm arm brushing against mine.  She’s so thin, I feel her bones; and when she speaks, I imagine I hear her voice as softer and flakier than usual.  She seems smaller beside me; and when she shows me the picture of me, I look alarmingly curvy, almost pregnant, and far more present than she, with her soft and flyaway hair, bobbed short and fading to honey brown.  I can see her scalp. Her lips look thinner and lacking in colour.

But when she grasps my hand and pulls me on, imperiously saying: ‘We have to bear to the left now’, I can see she is as strong as ever.

A child crashes onwards into us, chased by a tiny and very yappy dog, all bristly red fur; the child all teeth and smiles and little jammy red fingers, vivid green sweater.  They bump us and flash past, laughing and barking.  Their tired mother apologizes to us as she passes, all soft and plump in an off white velour tracksuit and muddy walking boots.  She winks, almost the Empress from the Tarot, so comfortable does she seem with herself.  My mother feeds me a bourbon biscuit, which reminds me of Alice in The Looking Glass – so thirsty and yet fed biscuits by the Red Queen, as they run.  I stop and fish about in my rucksack for the apple juice I bought on the way in.  I plop into crosslegged sitting and glug it all down, closing my eyes and feeling it wash through me like a whole apple tree of crispness, leaves and all. I look out over the mass of bluebells, drifting in and out of focus as sun breaks over them and is obscured by the movement of the leaves overhead.

It feels amazingly peaceful, even though there is a bit of bracken, or a twig, that has worked its way somehow into my boot, and is itching my ankle something chronic.

It may feel that the 2 parts of this post don’t mesh.  Autumn, the rain, the tomatoes, the garden…then suddenly, motherhood and lovely Fluffhead – but also the tyranny of what having a Fluffhead can do to your life (that to be honest, you were more or less accustomed to thinking of as yours, despite any issues of wage slavery)…and then, BAM: summer, walking, my mother, immediacy, bluebells!

But it does though.  This is how chaotic and transitory and changeable the brain is.  Mine anyway.  A mood can give way to another mood in an instant.   A sad thought can, surprisingly, make a happy one (though much more likely to go the other way).  Summer is followed by autumn (so far at least).  Some things will stand tall, even in the rain.  Even as I might feel I am not flourishing as I should, or could; another little person is standing very tall and strong; and partially it would seem, this is down to me.  It’s all a web, all a continuum.  The quest for the Big Picture of any life, seen at any time, from any angle, is a vital part of getting through any day. 

And now the sun has come out again, and though I am shivering and surely its time for a third sweater (this bleeding room is really too cold!), the sky has gone blue.  Summer will return.  Its echoes are here, always here.

Monday, 24 October 2011

The Senses: I'll Show You Mine...

At the moment I am still enthralled, so I have no concentration.  But hush now, loyal (all 4 of you!) BlackberryJuniper Readers – I will be out of enthrallment material soon…and no money to get any more, so I shall be back. To bore you at a greater frequency than now.

In the meantime, I am filled with joy the last day or so, in a quiet way (no reason).  Which also doesn’t make for writing concentration.  Also, simply hardly any time.  A lot of family stuffs are occurring. 

So!  Since when I am full of joy I feel the need to pay particular and real attention to things, here, for your delectation, are 3 more writing exercises from the past, when I really did (sigh) have time to pay attention to things, and then also write about them. 

The world can be so VIVID.  So particular.  Have some senses!

Closed Eyes Glass – 2006

It’s cold to the touch.  I have to reach farther than I thought to get to it.  It’s a lot further along the table than it seemed before I closed my eyes.

It’s not as cold as I thought it would be, but I’m overwhelmed by its smoothness.  And then its bumpiness.

From the top rim – which is where I catch hold of it first – its got a nick in the top of it, where some glass must have chipped off, but I don’t remember ever seeing this or noticing it.  I am only feeling it now.  I run my finger round its edge, and it amazingly makes that sound you hear about: the slight singing, humming; the thing you see people do on TV.  I grasp it with both hands, having got a feel for its small dimensions, from touching its top.  It’s full of coke, so I know that’s why it feels so cold.  It’s dewy round the sides, about a third of the way from the top.  Then I hit the bumpiness.

Eyes closed, its impossible to tell what the pattern on the glass is.  I know what it is, as I’ve seen the glass before; but blind – it could be anything.  It feels like a flaw in the glasses making; a really interesting flaw.  I imagine the glass being blown, like you see on school trips, and that the bearded man who blew this glass (don’t ask me why he’s bearded in my imagination), paused to take a breath and then just blew the tiniest bit too hard, and this created the weird lumpiness under my fingers here on the glass.  It feels like one round raised bump, domelike; then smaller echoes in perfect harmony round its centre.  And a long thin wiggled line underneath, with one small less raised lump bumping out of the side.

I feel the wetness on my fingers, where the coldness of the coke, straight from the fridge, has made the glass show condensation (its all science, why the glass is wet on the outside) – but to me, all it is, is a delicious smooth sensation of cold, and a slight hint of whispery sound.  My hands hit the table, I have found the base of the glass.

I pick it up and raise it to my lips.  Maybe because I’ve been concentrating on it, it feels even colder on my lips; the coke tastes sweeter.  I open my eyes, and look at the glass.  It does have a large chip out of the rim – almost dangerous; I’m going to have to throw this one away.  Surprised I didn’t cut my finger on it as I explored its smooth sudden deviation from that perfect circular rim pattern.  I swallow, and only then realise how thirsty I made myself, exploring the glass.  I created an anticipation I never usually feel.

Outside, Closed eyes, vision the last sense to be portrayed – 2007

I step outside of my parents’ bungalow, and sit on the front step.  My son has helpfully blindfolded me with one of my mother’s chiffon scarves she wears to church.  It smells, very lightly, of her soap and deodorant – simple and plain.

The step is chill under my jeans; it’s early – maybe 6.30 a.m.  There is immediately a mass of sound around me, I’m shocked by it.

There’s an airshow next week, and planes are practising already.  I don’t know anything about planes; but the noise is loud, and they sound old.  They sound scary – without being able to see, all I can hear is what sounds like distressingly close swooping.  It sounds like the pilots are having fun.  I’m worried by it, distracted by it.

Then it fades, and I’m left with birdsong, from the row of trees off to the left.  I feel a sudden chill over my arms, and hear wind shushing through the trees.  They sound a lot leafier and thicker bodied than they look usually.  It’s an absorbing sound. 

I reach down to my right side and find the cigarette and light I placed there.  I feel carefully around the cigarette, make sure I’m putting the soft end in my mouth.  Eyes blind like this, I am a lot more conscious of the smell of the tobacco in the cigarette than I am usually.  The click of the lighter is hugely loud in the silence that has temporarily fallen.  I listen to myself breathe it in, feel surrounded by the smell of ashtray momentarily.  I remember why I want to give up (again), before the smoke hits me inside, and then I remember why I haven’t yet.

Simultaneously, what sounds unmistakeably like a milk van rounds the corner at the end of the drive, and I drop the lighter, which clatters down the steps with the noise of a small paperweight of heavy glass.  The sound is out of proportion to the size of the lighter. The milk van stops a few doors away and idles.  It sounds like a pretend van, a remote control van; just on a larger scale.  I’ve thought this ever since I can remember – same with ice cream vans.  It’s like they aren’t real vans at all.

Footsteps crunch across gravel and then shimmer over grass, with the clink of bottles, as I see in my minds eye the driver delivering the milk. He crunches back to the van, I can hear his jacket making that shushy sound artificial fibres make when they rub together.  It sounds like an old anorak, very old and well worn.

I’m conscious of the cold getting to me now, and I put out the cigarette on the stone of the drive floor, listen to my boot grind it dead.  Birds sing again, softly this time, different ones; a breeze lifts the edges of my hair. It feels very sensuous.

I take the blindfold off, more conscious of the acrid taste of old smoke in my mouth, and echoes of toothpaste mintyness quickly being smothered, than I am of anything I’m seeing.

Funnily enough, when I take the blindfold off, there’s no sign of the van – he must have been around the corner in the next drive, and it was just so still that I heard him really clearly.  It’s darker than I thought it would be, and seeing it look so dark, I’m aware of feeling even colder suddenly.  The trees look barer than they sounded.

Project 3: Eating and Cooking, waiting for Stanley to come home, 2008

I was smiling as I ground the pinenuts with my pestle and mortar.  They blended with the olive oil and basil already there, and sent up a fragrance so fresh and persistently real, it made me wonder why I would ever buy any bottled pesto – why did I not always make my own?

I licked my thumb, where a basil leaf had stuck to it, glued on with the pinenut and oil paste.  The radio was still giving me Vivaldi, one of the more joyful concertos, and I felt myself quicken in my movements, keeping to the tempo.  Beyond that I heard the heavy ticking of the clock, tickling at the edges of my senses and reminding me of my need to be ready before Stanley arrived.  It would not be good to be unready when he arrived; I was determined to make the evening perfect for him, he deserved it for being him this week.

Going over to the oven I opened it, light from the spot in the corner glinting across its none too clean surface, heat washing over me thickly, as I inhaled the strong scent of lemon and cinnamon.  The tart was nearly done.

The cheating part came next.  I moved to the fridge, nearly tripping over my long skirt, heavy and velvet, green and decadent.  More smiling: dressing up was almost as good as the cooking.  I lifted it, feeling the fabric bunch in my fingers: rich and tactile, warm and weighty. Deeply satisfied already, I lifted the freshly made pasta from the fridge, so much heavier than the dried kind, and tipped it whole into the bubbling saucepan, hobbed and ready.  Immediately, crackles and hisses rose up, and I stirred the whole thing with a large wooden spoon, gripping it carefully over the pull of the swirling water.  It lifted a sweat on my forehead, standing in the steam, and I went through to the bedroom to get a scrunchie to get my hair out of the way.  Quarter of an hour to go, and all was nearly ready.  Good, good, good.

The bread was already laid out, butter warming in the edges in its sparkly glass dish.  I couldn’t resist cutting myself a tiny slice, and hazelnut and rosemary reached my nose before it broke over my tongue.  I watched the flame licking the air in the centre of the table; the wax dripping in a quick spurt the way it did with non-beeswax candles, the shaft thickly and darkly forest green.  I steadied it in its silver holder, seeing it slightly at an angle.

The doorbell rang.  Perfect – he was home.  I pulled the scrunchie out of my hair, shook it about, picked stray hairs from the bodice of the dress, and went to the door.  As I opened it, I could see him already smiling at the smells, before he even admired the dress (or was it just my bust?!).  I grinned at him back, and we held it for a moment, before I went to his arms, and disappeared  into the hug, feeling the thick blackness of his overcoat, spotted with rain that cooled my kitchen hot cheeks.  He smelled of cold outside night.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


I am currently in thrall to something.  I'm about to talk lots about it without ever saying what it is.  This is partly to be mysterious and annoying, but also cos thrall should be mysterious and a bit annoying.

I discovered a thing, and now I can't stop thinking about it.  This is a very childish part of the BlackberryJuniper psyche, and a part I am ever vulnerable to.  I seem to have always had this.  I find a book, or a series of books; or a film or a TV show; or an album (or occasionally, an idea - which widens the scope and makes it almost impossible to deal with), and whilst experiencing it for the first time...something inside me explodes with joy and identification and a sense of ultra reality.  (Note:  this usually occurs with books and TV shows that have hardly any basis in reality whatsoever, which I find funny - as I am reading a real/mundane world significance into a landscape that is usually peopled with things and creatures I never would meet here).

Once I experience that sense of ultra reality I am totally lost.  I am there more than here.  Don't get me confused now - I don't mean I think the characters are real here, or the worlds are real here - but I do think that they get to such large dimensions in my mind that they do exist in a parallel universe sort of way.  They have gained a reality beyond their original creators conceptions because I and all the other fans have gone a little bit bonkers and despite seeing 'making of' featurettes and seeing the human actors in their actual spotty, farty unfunny actual lives...nonetheless, they achieve, by the edit and scripting, by the music and scenery a level of reality beyond their own lives.  I last got this in a big way with the Robin of Sherwood TV series (the one with Michael Praed, then Jason Connery).  To this very day, those characters, as portrayed in that series in particular, run about in my head, in my mental landscape.  They are my friends when I day dream.  They got added to my Lands, and are still there, many years later.

I don't know whether this latest thrall will be added to my mental Lands - its partially there, in other forms already, as it deals with myth, and I like this particular myth.  Its not even the characters in this version that are getting me.  Its the atmosphere of the production, the music, and the amazing scenery.  The simplicity of it is incredibly engaging.

Its a bit worrying to be going through every day and at any given the moment, the music will balloon in my head.  Or I'll suddenly be watching a scene.  Its odd to think I live for the moments when I can get away and be with it.  I steal time from elsewhere.  Is it healthy?  Probably not, you know.  Anything that makes you feel better during and after (and even in anticipation), but at the same time, makes you feel your own life is drab and wanting...well that's not a message to send yourself, is it??!  And yet I always seem to do it.

Its not quite the same as obsession.  Obsession can get very unhealthy indeed.  Obsession can make you a bit insane and change your whole life, sometimes in very dubious ways you can regret for years to come, and end up trying to make amends for - or unable to.  Thrall is a bit better than that.  You can do life around thrall, while obsession just holds and owns you and that's that.

Thing is, I'm completely hooked, and I'll only be half here till I'm done.  All of this particular thrall will only be new to me this once, so its doubly precious as an experience, to be honoured for the joy and comfort it gives.  (Whatever the side effects...)  Didn't say, for one second, that I am always wise, did I?  Quite the reverse.

The lure of story will always have me, I reckon.  So bye bye for a minute, for now.  It calls, and I go, willingly.  All the colours and sounds and the play in my head: all about to begin.  Shhhh.  Sit down, curl up, get a blanket ('cos its very cold here today) - and listen and watch...Be There.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Today's Moment, a snapshot of nothing much

I took Fluffhead into a different town today.  First the train, then the bus, then a walk.  He’s been a bit grumpy this week, and I thought it would calm him; something new.  (Thought it would calm me, at any rate.)

He shook his hands and yelped with joy on the train, until he thought he’d been on it too long.  He likes the bus: he tries to hold the yellow handrails, as he sees the big people doing.  I let him, while squidging my nose and thinking of germs.

We get to the new town, and the air feels different.  Its not like East Croydon (which I did not fancy today) – it tastes cleaner.  We go down the high street, walk about the the streets nearby.  I watch the leaves falling.  They have little colour this year, which is odd. 

Just when we get to a coffee shop, and I think I will spend housekeeping money I don’t have on coffee and a sandwich for us – as they have those excellent high chairs in there, dark and wooden, with little footrests – I notice Fluffhead has just gone off to sleep.  I feel a proper frisson.  Free in a coffeeshop. 

Downstairs, its sort of noisy.  There are 3 mothers with their very much awake pre-schoolers.  The predominance of orange, green and corduroy in the children’s clothes tells me they are middle class.  I’m not Sherlock Holmes though; so do their voices, the fact one of their husbands is a broker (I hear), and 2 of them are pregnant again and going to a very expensive pregnancy yoga teacher I had the DVDs of, when I was pregnant.  Apparently she’s a bit snotty in person if you don’t pay on time (wouldn’t you be?!).  One of them is holidaying in the Canary Islands next week, while the nanny looks after the children.  I seethe with class jealousy; or is it economic jealousy – it gets difficult to tell.  The children are reading the ‘Just William’ stories to each other, which I used to love in pre-school.  (I’m a great listener.)  I make my order as quickly as I can, and move on.

I bump the pushchair upstairs as quietly and as un-bumpily as I can.  No one helps, but I sort of didn’t expect anyone to.  Upstairs goes round a curve of very lurid golden and purple wall, and is light at one end and shadowy at the other.  There is no one.  I love this – all alone, coffee coming, warmed sandwich coming…no one but me and sleeping Fluffhead.  Though it reminds me of coffees I had with Alias Morrie, endlessly, when Son Number One was a baby.  Then I was mostly with her; we took the children all over the place, we lived so close to each other.  It wasn’t just me, as it is now.  I sit down near the window and pull one of the curtains slightly closed – so I am in light, and Fluffhead is in shade.  I put up his sun roof too – it acts like a little baffler to any noise.  Downstairs is muted now.  Up here, soft soul from the early 70’s plays.  I feel peace.  This is rare.

Directly outside and looking down, I see a red brick school. Its roof is a work of art.  Turrets on top of the windows, which are triangular, and make the roof look as though someone stuck a castle keep on its front, in bas relief.  Little skylight windows, on the greyness behind, confuse the impression.  Framing the roof on both sides are two towers with little round windows, laid out and made grammatical with markers of black brick at intervals (black sun radiating).  On top of each is a weathervane.  The one to the left, a golden cockerel with Victorian style wrought ironwork; on the right, a simpler Victorian black iron Catherine Wheel design.  Though it’s really windy today, neither of them move.  My hands are still freezing from the drizzling rain and the wind.  I don’t take my gloves off yet.

The playground is flooded with light and colour, with bright hanging flower baskets, and blue notice boards, collages with a big straw hair covered head grinning. Just now it’s emptying, though screaming and heaving with hot sweatered children on my way in.  There’s a black door off to the left, caretakers office I think.  People stroll back and forth outside, in the bars of lunchtime sun that come and go, highlighted by the outer walls of the school having a thick band of white wainscoting.  That is as close as I like to come to schools, usually.  I hated all mine, and feel horribly child like (in a bad way, not a young at heart way) when near any.  I am not looking forward to all the parent-teacher stuff with Fluffhead, later on.  (Was bad enough with Son Number One.  Who has requested a name change, and wants henceforth to be also referred to as Fry.  Which I considered, and I see where he’s coming from, so have agreed.)

A pink taxi with yellow lettering on its roof glides past; two young office suits, one with hands nonchalant-like in his pocket (do you think you are Prince William?).  Slim girl with shiny brown long hair, upright carriage, thin pencil grey skirt and black boots, powers her way along the front wall of the school and is gone in a second.

Off to the horizon on my left, another street is laid out into the distance, fluffy scrubby trees, violently verdant green despite autumn being here, stuffing up the far end of the street.  Those trees look like they’re moving, like they’re coming down this way to join us.

A white building on the corner shines brightly in some sudden sunlight.  At its base, the Belgravia Coffee Bar (that’s nostalgia from someone there – far from Belgravia we are), presently just two customers.  Builders, jerky, shaking legs on one – he can’t keep still; total stillness and possession from the other.  They sit facing outward and observing the foot traffic.  Despite the drizzle, they have the bearing of people sitting in full summer sun.  I’m always amazed the way some people seem to not feel the cold.

A little black girl wearing a warm brown top and coral skirt (bright and happy), skids down the street.  Elegant.  On a scooter.  She owns the pavement in the way she holds herself.  She looks much happier than I suspect she might be were she in school.  Her mother follows, bundled in a dark brown coat.  She keeps calling to her to slow down; I can see it from the gestures.  The happy girl swans on, she loves motion, you can tell.

Sunlight on the floppy hair of a young, less sharply dressed suit going down the road in the opposite direction, towards the station, and the large old Victorian hotel.  Once he crosses the road he’ll be in shade, where its really chill.  Brown buildings stretch off, cramped and orderly despite their squashedness, into the distant tree clump of a far away square and beyond. 

I feel dozy.  I could curl up here, on the floor under the coffeehouse table, and sleep.  But then Fluffhead abruptly wakes up: instant alertness, fumbling, wriggling, wants to get out of the pushchair.  My coffee arrives; my sandwich comes (it’s the wrong one, doesn’t matter, its better than the one I paid for; fortunate).  In all the sudden thanking, re-arranging the table and getting Fluffhead into the highchair with the footrests, and fetching out things needful, the moment is gone.  Just cast away; like the sun that went away behind a cloud and wasn’t seen again at all today.  But I saw it.

Time moves on.  There’s only moments, ever.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Personal Notions

After that rather dodgy story I fed you last post, here is a return to my general waffling.  I said I’d have a later post about my idea of ‘Notions’.  So here it is. 

You know when people say: ‘I believe in…God/Christianity/mermaids, etc’?  You know how they often ‘passionately believe in [whatever]’ especially politicians, they love to use the passionately prefix?  It really annoys me.

It really annoys me, because people usually mean, when they say they believe in something, that they had some information a long while ago, liked it, it felt right (note I’m not saying they thought about it a lot, though they may have, its true).  Then they decided that this bit of information on this particular subject was it.  The last word.  The only other bits of information that would subsequently be given air time, were those that supported (in whatever way) the original information that led to the believing.  Other information would be rejected/attacked/mocked/ignored.  It isn’t always the case that this is how things go.  But it is quite often.  If you speak to anyone much who is habitually of the inclination to say they ‘believe’ in things…the chances are, you are speaking to someone who hasn’t thought any of these things through at length, for possibly quite some time.

This is how the Cambridge British English Dictionary online defines belief:
the feeling of being certain that something exists or is true:
E.G. All non-violent religious and political beliefs should be respected equally.
E.G. [+ that ] It is my (firm) belief that nuclear weapons are immoral.
E.G. His belief in God gave him hope during difficult times.
E.G. Recent revelations about corruption have shaken many people's belief in (= caused people to have doubts about) the police.
E.G. He called at her house in the belief that (= confident that) she would lend him the money.

That’s all fair enough, right?  Being certain that something exists or is true?  I don’t think it is, when it comes to non-checkable things.  I can check why the sky is blue; I can check why it rains and when its likely to.  I can check lots of material world things.  A lot of other things – matters of religion, of conscience, of political slant, of like or dislike – all these things are matters of opinion, cultural bias/input and personal taste.

So, when we disagree about the Good Thingness of puffball skirts, or that fashion for wearing your jeans halfway down your arse, for teenage men; we can feel free to disagree about their merits, as we know it’s a matter of opinion – we aren’t going to end up hearing on the news about a stabbing that occurred over in St Martins College of Fashion that happened because a disagreement over whether the colour shade deep fuchsia pink goes with the other shade hot orange got out of hand.  I hope.  (I think it does, by the way; very nice sunset type combination.)

On the other hand, when people disagree about politics and especially religion, it tends to get violent sooner or later.  Because despite God, or god or goddesses being an uncheckable thing, and therefore in the realms of opinion, people forget that opinion isn’t fact.  Or they forget that belief is only opinion.  (And therefore just personal to them.)  People start to want to apply their personal opinions about which they are FEELING so CERTAIN, to everyone else.  The opinions clash.  There is trouble.  My parents met in missionary school.  I was shocked when my mother told me this, when I was 12 or so.  She had always told me about the importance of good manners and being polite.  And yet…she and my father were training to Go and Be Really Rude, Globally, by charging about and telling far away peoples that their way of life and opinions were all wrong, and should be replaced with my parents’ views[1].  This was when I really started thinking about belief, and what a dangerous thing I thought it was.  What a divisive thing, often used like a weapon.

The thing is, I quite liked to believe in things.  I crave certainty, like everyone else.  Every thing less I have to think about is a bit more room for my brain to feel mellow, right?  True.  But it’s a sacrifice of good brain cells.  Over the years I have realised that I have started to react really strongly to the word ‘belief’.  I try never to use it, except about purely personal things (‘I believe my back would improve again if I could go back to the osteopath’).  Even then, I’ve realised these things can be equally substituted for the word ‘think’.  I don’t adopt anything much without thinking it through, and like I said in an earlier post – things don’t remain adopted indefinitely (remember the poor Loch Ness Monster and the evil Stanley?!).  (So: ‘I think my back would get better if I could go to the osteopath regularly again, for a while; because when I did last time, and I had exactly the same trouble, it did improve.’  Better thought, more thought out – but it’s a thought, not a belief.)

This isn’t a Things That Really Annoy Me post, because I sorted out my own personal solution to this.  I really liked the Loch Ness Monster, remember?  I have Notions now.  ‘I have a Notion that the Loch Ness Monster is a ghost of a dinosaur’, I told you before.  Yes!  I like that idea.  That’s what a notion is, to me.  Own personal terminology: A Notion is an Idea.  (I heard an Irish comedian use the word notion in this way ages ago and never forgot it, though very annoyingly indeed, I clean forgot who the comedian was, or what he was talking about – but that’s where I got this idea of using Notion in purely this way.)  But an Idea is all it is. 

See:  I have current religious and philosophical  Notions I like to live with.  (Despite  also living with an atheist and reading lots of science books, I would irritate Mr Dawkins with my desire to have it all and the fairies at the end of the garden too.  He was being sarcastic about the fairies.)  I think, and like the Notion of modern neo-paganism.  I like lots of things about it, and a few of the things clash, and it’s all very hard to explain as its more or less dogma free.  I can’t quote you a Bible of ‘the movement’ as there isn’t one.  If there becomes one in the future, I may well leave. 

I like the notion of Animism.  I like the Notion of Pantheism.  I like the Notion of Reincarnation.  I like the general pluralism of Gods/Goddesses; the duality of the Female/Male principle.  I love the Notion of Balance as a major goal.  I like the Notion of Magic (and have experienced it for myself, so am on board with this concept also – go ahead and laugh, its really quite ok).   I like the Notions of Personal Responsibility and taking care of others I find in paganism.  I love the Notion of honouring, reverencing and taking care of Earth as much as we can (I’ll unhippify that for you: don’t shit where you eat – sound more sensical now?).  I’m no particular neo-pagan strand, I’m drawn to several.  I like the Notions of many different strands in paganism, and I unselfconsciously read lots about each thing and take from them what I find useful and leave the rest to anyone else who may find it useful for them instead.  I’m eclectic and unashamed of this.  I have personal truths for now, and they may stay, they may change.  I have personal morality, and that moves too, dependent on experience and further learning. 

There are Creator myths in paganism, plenty of them - but I adopt none of them, and I am so utterly unfussed about the Notion of Who Created All This I can't quite express it to you.  I feel its completely irrelevant to how we live our lives here.  Lets try and do some good, have some fun, learn some things.  I also find the Big Bang a perfectly reasonable explanation; I have no argument with science at all.  Science people tend to argue with me, till they realise I am quite agreeing with them about having no proof for anything I Notion about, and these things are purely for me to think with, act with, experiment with.  I tend to look at science as finding out the processes, and labelling things for which I have Notions about [E.G. - this!].  Sometimes my views change altogether after reading or talking some Science.   Treehugger and Proud of it (but not loud about it, generally).

The most important thing about any of it, is that absolutely no one has to agree with me.  No one has to come and join with me and have my Notions.  It doesn’t bother me at all.  This is all quite personal to me.  (Note me not going into great detail about my Notions – if you ask, and you’re interested, I’d tell you and we’d talk about it – till then, why would I talk about it uninvited, and at great length?  A lot of the trouble we have with people’s 'beliefs' is that they think everyone should hear, at any time, what moves them to do what they do how they do it.  They don’t ask if people are interested; they stridently assume the role of teacher and by extension: corrector.  How presumptuous.  Arrogant.  Rude.) 

Note: I would stand up for my right to have the free speech to say any of my Notions should I want to, to not be persecuted for having these Notions and being public about them (as I am here).  Also, I would stand up for the right to gather with others who thought similarly and talk or act with them (the funny thing with the pagans I’ve met and talked to, corresponded with, is they think similarly but never really the same, so endless disagreements prevail and are accepted as the norm – and very healthy too, I think). 

So if you hear me say I have a Notion unicorns may well be real but in another dimension which we rarely get access to – you feel free to laugh if you want.  Totally your right.  (Of course, having Notions which other people find funny is ANNOYING, don’t get me wrong.  I’m a sensitive flower, and being laughed at hurts my feelings.  I wish people wouldn’t mock; but they do.  I wish my mother wouldn’t think I may well be going to Hell [it’s rude of her!], but she does, so that’s that.)  And I will laugh at your views if I find them equally outlandish. 

What – you think there’s only one way to enlightenment, and despite all the varied experiences of people over thousands of years, only this one way and one God exists????  Everyone else is doomed, and damned…?  That makes no sense to me.  I do not hold with this unfriendly and oddly childlike Notion.   

And that’s all it is; an uncheckable personal Notion that got out of its box and started bullying other Notions.   

Actually, not funny.  Worrying.

[1] (A form of evangelical Christianity, unnamed in father’s case: he was a bit of a backward-looking maverick in terms of belief, he never found a church that felt right for him, he wanted to run his own, I think; my mother was brought up strongly Pentecostal and rebelled down to a gentler from of C of E, where she remains very happy).

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Future Without Cows, a Present Without Telepathy

Now, now.  Some misguided people have suggested I should post up some fiction, as well as just blogging on about my opinions and daily business, general ramblings.  Piffle piffle.  But to show you all the error of your ways, here is a very flawed science fiction psychological type short story of mine.  It does have a story of its own, how it came to be, it relates to Alias True - but its wrong to blither on and over explain stuff, it is.   I warn you now - it has a really unsatisfying end!!  And a very unsatisfying title, too...I'm also in two minds about the middle...

(I'm sticking my tongue out at you people who asked for a story!)

Daniel is Lost

Miriam looked out of the window.  She saw nothing.  She held his hand, squeezed it.  She could feel her face held tense, mouth a line of kohl.  She tasted the cigarette in her throat, though it was an hour ago.  The smell of the place made her sick, cabbage, toilet cleaner.

Ashley appeared from the office ahead, looking stark in white, against the pale blue of the walls.  ‘We’re ready now; you can come and listen from the other room, if you like.  I’m not sure of the outcome.’

She nodded, and extricated her hand from the limp one beside her, mottled and heavy.  The smells of the place were on him too.  She unbuttoned her coat, and followed Ashley, tall and certain.  She felt anything but.  Her heels clacked across the silent room.  The door closed softly behind her with a quiet snick.

Mr Brown cleared his throat. ‘I feel it time to proceed, do you agree?’

Daniel shifted in his chair; the plastic was old and had no give. ‘It would be helpful if we still had clocks.’ He pulled at a hangnail; his thumb was reddened and hot.  ‘In the old days there was no relying on the preciseness of intuition, which can be put off by the firing of a single confused neuron.’

Mr Brown blinked. ‘I am taking that statement as a willingness to proceed.’

Daniel nodded, a small gesture. His head was slightly lowered, but his eyes were fixed on Mr Brown, angry and scared.  ‘Yes.’

Mr Brown swallowed. ‘You were not alive in the age of clocks, watches, alarms – external stimuli for measuring periods long past.  Are you attempting to explain your lateness here today?’

Daniel stared. ‘If you had a clock you’d know exactly how late I am, to the second.’

Shifting slightly in his chair Mr Brown continued. ‘They used to break.  They were not all synchronized.  Some people did not wear them; some refused to adhere to their strictures.  What makes you think this is any better than the system we have now?’

Immediately Daniel answered.  ‘It was external.  Intuition and telepathy gives no one any privacy.  It’s taken away our freedom.’

‘This is an interesting idea.   If you did not account for the facts.  We are taught screening techniques from an early age.  If you choose not to pay attention in class, you only have yourself to blame if your mind is now open all the time.’

Miriam edged closer to the glass, her chair squealing against the linoleum.  She grimaced apologetically at the woman beside her. 

‘Don’t worry, they can’t hear in here,’ the tidy woman said, looking up briefly from the notes she was taking.  ‘Its fascinating…’ she murmured, moving her head slowly from side to side.

‘But why aren’t they saying anything?’  Miriam could feel herself starting to panic.

Daniel felt himself begin to lose his temper.  ‘In the old days, in history, if you wanted to be alone you took off your watch, turned off your phone, locked your door.  In our world, today – we can even bother each other in our dreams!  Where is the freedom in having to guard yourself all the time!  I’m exhausted just feeling you now!  Back off!’

Mr Brown moved infinitesimally backward in his chair, and inclined his head to Daniel.  ‘Please lower your voice.  As you see, I am not discomposed, despite your disturbed brainwaves and disordered thinking patterns. I see now why you were sent here.’

Daniel banged his fist on the table, and felt the pain of the swollen thumb right up his left arm.  Why?  Because I dare to think for myself and you all can hear??  It’s wrong!  You shouldn’t be able to hear!’

Mr Brown spoke softly.  ‘Because you are thinking sloppily.  You are emotionally driven.  This leads you to a misplaced nostalgia, for what you perceive as a “simpler age”.  All those “noble savages” of the twenty-first century.’

Daniel inhaled the smell of cabbages, and felt heavy all through his body.  ‘I know it was not all good.  Then.  But parts of it make a lot more sense than now.’

Mr Brown shuffled his papers, on which he had taken no notes.  ‘I think probably we may decide to keep you here a while.  You need to be re-shown screening techniques.  I am convinced that once your mind is more under your control –

Daniel yelled.  YOURS YOU MEAN.

‘ – that you will feel calmer.  You will then see the error of this fake Cassandra Complex.’

Daniel felt ready to spit.  ‘See. See!  Why do you allow Greek references?  Venerating parts of the past at the expense of others?  Its fascism – you’re all controlling me.’

Miriam held her hands together, so the tidy woman would not see them shake. ‘What do you mean it’s fascinating?  They aren’t doing anything – they aren’t even talking!’

The tidy woman smoothed down her white tunic, looked at her watch.  She smiled softly and beatifically at Miriam.  ‘Ashley Brown has done wonders with these people before, Miriam.  Have patience.’  Her lips were slugs, too much lip-gloss.  She sounded evangelical.

Miriam wanted to hit her.  ‘That is my husband.  He’s not these people.’

‘I apologize.  I don’t deal with the families too often.  In academia it’s mostly books.’  She smiled again, precisely.  ‘Watch, wait.’

Mr Brown smiled, a stretch of the lips, no more.  ‘Fascism.  Another charming twentieth and twenty-first century notion.  Popularized by Mussolini, I believe.  An interesting, if misguided historical figure.  I will arrange your room.’

Daniel started back in his creaky chair, the lino dragged.  ‘I say no.  I won’t stay!  I’m leaving.  You can’t stop me if you really think we’re all free.’

Mr Brown nodded.  ‘You forget this is a neuron and synapse health review.  I can do what I deem best for your own health, the comfort of your family, and the well-being of the general populace.’

‘No.  I said no.’

‘That is unfortunate.  I know our methods can give you freedom.’

‘Show me I’m free by letting me leave – show me you don’t just talk about it, and reprogramme people who don’t do what you want them to do?’

‘I’m afraid it’s not as simple as you make out.  You have been called here because you are unsettling people.’

‘I’m just talking!’ 

‘There’s no need for that.  We have created a very peaceful environment with our telepathy.’

Daniel shouted.  ‘It’s dead!  Nothing is real, it’s all virtual.  We sit like fat cows and nothing ever actually HAPPENS!’  Daniel wished Miriam were here.  In his head, she smiled, and held him, and he felt true-er, more real.  He closed his eyes.

Mr Brown inclined his head, and spoke indulgently.  ‘As you are aware, cows have not existed for four hundred years.  Humankind was notoriously lactose intolerant.  The mass adoption of milk remains a complete mystery to me.’

Daniel kept his eyes closed.  He felt fear through his body, heating his head, stretching his veins.  ‘Of course.  Like talking.’

Miriam wanted to cry. ‘But he’s even more lost in himself.  He’s just listening to them again!  What is Ashley doing?’

The tidy woman leant forward.  ‘See how he is mirroring your husband’s posture – he’s there now, they’re together…watch…’

Miriam watched the scene – her husband’s limp hands being held by the tall and certain man.  The electrodes on her husband’s forehead and chest; a reflection of those on Ashley’s.  She held her breath.

The tidy woman got up and examined the computer readings. ‘Its happening,’ she breathed, an almost sexual softness to her voice.

Miriam put her hand to the glass, her eyes wide.  She felt horror.

Daniel wanted to die.  There was no way to exist like this.  Not anymore. ‘I don’t care what you think, doctor,’ he said, very softly.  ‘It was right before, and it’s wrong now.  And I remember then…’

Mr Brown leant forward, looking neutral.  ‘How could you possibly remember?’  His voice was even.

Daniel’s head felt filled with dust, he was dizzy, he felt sick.  He grasped the edges of the table, hard, the pain in his thumb increasing. ‘I remember because…because…’  He paused, spittle pooling from his mouth.  ‘I was there.’

Mr Brown smiled.

Miriam looked on; her mouth open. 

Daniel’s hunched posture vanished.  He sat up straight and opened his eyes. 
Mr Brown was smiling at him, looking if anything, smug.

‘I was there!’  Daniel’s eyes were twitching, he wiped at his mouth, looked about the room in amazement.  ‘I was there.  Here.  Here!’

‘Welcome back to the present, Mr Prentiss.’  Ashley Brown pulled electrodes from his forehead with a grimace.  The tidy woman appeared, to help him.

Miriam started to cry.

‘Where’s Miriam?  Where’s my wife?  Please?’  Daniel sounded like he was smiling.

Miriam, though she could not stop shaking and worried for her legs, rose and left the room.  He was back.  No more voices.  She went to him.

(Copyright me, and all that, 2008 + 2011)
Next post - back to me waffling as per usual, I suspect...

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Halloween this year; Samhain 2009, remembering

Today I only have the past for you, again.  As its now October (so suddenly too), I remember Halloween is coming.  Samhain (pronounced sow-en).  I think what to do for this year.  Yesterday Stanley brought me a biscuit icing kit with orange and purple chocolate smarties in, toffee icing in a tube, and little black hundreds and thousands.  So I will bake, it seems.  What a good present.  I can smell cinnamon already.

So.  Then.  2009.  Back when I was pregnant, hugely, with Fluffhead.  Outside and inside, the best kind of afternoon.

Outside the leaves picked up, dancing, a tune I couldn’t hear; I could see only the steps. The rustle, the scratch.  I watched the branches of the tree from the bedroom window.  They moved, pushing their boughs against one another, catching, tangling.  They were pushed and pulled and kept tethered.  They did not seem to fight it.  Around them rain sparkled, one hint of brightness in the grey afternoon.

Inside, I sat up on the bed, my belly round.  Pushed myself forward, still looking beyond the room, smiling at the trees. Muscles creaked with every stretch forward.  The baby was in a funny position.  It felt like it was pressing on all my organs simultaneously.  I felt comfortable in hardly any position.

But I felt content. 

Yesterday had been Halloween, Samhain.  The New Year of modern witch-type pagans and Wiccans, a time to let go of that which no longer serves.  I had sat in my circle (badly cast as usual, but in the best of intention), and offered my confusions of feeling to the Cailleach, as part of a meditation.  The floor had been hard, but that was fine – it was the standing and sitting for different parts of the ritual, that had been difficult, being so vastly pregnant.  And alone.  Stanley was upstairs with the door to his room closed, alone in his world of computer gaming, and documentary watching, unwinding in his own way.  Over time, I learned more and more that this was not a rejection of me (though I sorely missed the feeling of being under his arm on the sofa – the safe feeling so swamping us we usually both fell asleep quite quickly; the smell of his hair, being absent, bothered me a bit; the casual touching I loved to do as he passed, the love of which I had passed on to him).  And it meant I had a lot of time free for my thoughts, my need for balance.

I had closed my eyes, and told the Cailleach of my fears for the coming year, my failures of the last, confusions, worries, what overwhelmed me.  I imagined a veiled (mostly) old woman in the corner, stirring a cauldron impossibly heavy, stream rising from it.  A smell that could not be identified, not unpleasant, but very pungent though barely on the air.  Occasionally, I held out my hands in a gesture of offering from my prone cross legged position on the floor, the old woman simply paying attention to her pot and stirring slowly.   Sometimes she would turn to me and nod, as I spoke my thoughts.  Eventually, I felt what I had said was done, and I imagined the old woman coming over to me and taking what was left of my offering.  Scraping it away from my hands, and taking it to the cauldron – where it’s indeterminate gloopiness, a dust of worries, a sludge of unresolved issues, plopped seamlessly inside, causing only a small ‘pfft’ before the bubbling resumed.  I imagined the old woman; whose features were one moment quite clear and then another not.   Veiled away and hidden, only her form, also in grey robes, threadbare, old, sturdy, heavy, was visible.  Was Hekate as one of her selves in there too, as the old woman? Is there a shade of the Morrigan?  Who was I really talking to?  Woman in form venerable, form old, form wise and knowing…me, myself, her and mythos…

I imagined the old woman listening intently, and not judging: simply understanding, as she understood all women and their reasons for things, their twisty logics, yet all sensical.  She took what was offered, and it helped her brew.  She accepted it and it helped.  These thoughts of the old year could be transmuted, by another part of myself (the echoes, and sometimes more strong than that, of all the gods and goddesses that are within, the pregnant me felt).

So that Samhain had meant something that last year, something soft and wonderful – the spring cleaning of the mind.  It had meant a new beginning was really here, a new path could solidly be taken.  I was off work, the messiness and claustrophobia of that state of mind was falling away; I would be skint, but semi taken care of, thanks to Stanley; and I had some time, before the baby was born, to collect my scattered self, and hunker down for the winter, like a man under a car, and try and fix the whole thing.  The thing of me, which had made so little sense for so long, and now begged for attention, which I felt I must give.  As the child would be here soon.

From my position of safety, from here in the bed, warm and Sunday afternoon-ed, with the memory of Halloween, and the memory of good deeds done (feeding birds the day before in the small garden a few minutes away, the softness yet spryness of the forms of the birds – their incredible deep greyness and cobalt blue, the miraculousness of their life force suddenly so apparent as I fed them the bread, rosemary bread, that I had made, as a good thing to do, a good good thing)….with these feelings and memories, distant and long past, and recent, I felt armed to try and make a good thing of every day.  To try.  Trying was surely the most important thing.

My back ached badly, but I didn’t mind.  It was only a problem as it may affect the baby – this feeling that some of my organs may burst, that I could hear the pulse of my blood thudding in my right ear all the time, was this normal?  This was the only worry.  Women’s bodies sprang back from childbirth, and rarely died, nowadays.  I needed to remain calm and cool on that score. 

But what a ripe and marvellous time to grow something else within myself too – something my baby could also appreciate, as I became ever calmer and less able to be upset by transient things.  To grow a sense of self respect and esteem, a sturdy self that cried not so very much, that screamed in loneliness and confusion and worthlessness far less; this was a goal worthy of the time I had remaining to me, the less of it.

I got up.  It involved heaving, and some pain, and pulling myself up on the radiator, but the day felt friendly, and I felt myself passing unproblematically into it, and went out of the room.
Of course, I fail at this marvellous resolve every day.  I failed yesterday, and I fail today.  I cried both days, as I have a sadness at the moment.  But it will pass, as they always do, sooner or later.

And I really did enjoy that Halloween – one of the quietest I ever had or did.  Making something mean something to yourself is so very important.