Monday, 24 December 2012

Yule, the Flight of Dove and Christmas Eve...

As usual, there I was, all poised to do a nice Yule post.  I should know by now that nothing I ever plan for December ever actually happens.  The entire month always gets away from me for one reason or another.  This month it has been the (still) sickness of Fluffhead, which leads to my own lack of sleep and very low mood; the horrible troubles Stanley has been having at work, and the way that despite me not being very outwardly social, the month tends to get filled up with 'stuff and people to do'.  I'm really not quite sure where they all crop up from.

First: an apology to Fry.  He mentioned that my last post was all 'donkey' - i.e. it was exactly what I complain of with poetry: un-understandable clever clever gobbledygook.  Quite right in one sense, I shan't deny it.  (I shall deny clever clever - it wasn't clever at all.)  It was a rather private rant about the situation at Stanley's work and what I was doing about it, but I felt I couldn't write it openly, so it was sort of coded.  Anyone who is a 'magick practitioner' (as someone once, rather modern-ly described me, what an odd phrase, I thought) will have got what I was waffling about; other than that - it was probably undecipherable.  Sorry people.  Will try to make more sense in future...

Second: the flight of Dove.  You remember Dove?  She was being mistreated over here and was not happy.  She has flown, and escaped back home to Italy, to where it is warmer both in climate and people's temperaments.  She will start a new thing in Switzerland in the New Year.  She has no idea, none at all, of how brave she is, trotting from country to country - where she learns the languages as she goes, as well.  We had a last meeting, where we discussed many many things and nobody cried.  There was a lot of hugging and thanking. I think we both found each other this year as a result of a deep need.  It was one of those weird things where you feel much closer to someone than you realistically should considering the timescale.  I feel like my sister has gone abroad.  But unlike most other times when I meet people and they go (which happens alot), I feel like she isn't really gone.  So I don't get to undergo 'ambiguous loss' as the psychologists would say.  (That's when, for example, you get divorced, or have a fight with someone and never see them again in the way you used to - so you mourn them but they are still alive and present, in some cases living close by).  We've been texting, and we shall email too.

I had a friend once who was in a very similar situation to me, it made us very close; and then her circumstances changed.  With a death.  I was SO JEALOUS that she had (in a very cruel way, yes, I didn't say I was a nice person) escaped her situation, that I couldn't be there for her to mourn.  All I could feel was that *I* was still trapped, and she was free.  It took me many years to get over that - and to change my own circumstances.  The friendship with this lovely person was irreparably damaged, and all my fault.  The situation with Dove is similar in some ways: we bonded over how hard we find childraising, the crippling sense of responsibility, the feeling of splitting your consciousness between 2 people, being forever therefore running on half power yourself.  The lack of rest, sleep, personal time.  The worry if the children get sick, or will they turn out ok.  We both got a bit sick from our worries here and there.  And she has escaped - she was a 'nanny' remember, and now she isn't going to do that anymore.  But...I don't feel that poisonous envy and jealousy I felt before at all.  Isn't it GOOD to be able to report some growth as a person?!  This time, she goes, and I will miss her painfully...but I feel nothing but happy for her that she escaped.  She is free!  She can go on to more brave globetrotting, doing new jobs and meeting new people and having experiences and making choices.  I smile when I think of it.  One of us is free!!  So Dove has flown, but is is good.  She needed to go, and I will always be her friend.

My other great find this year, Time Traveller, came by earlier this week - or was it late last week? - and helped me to get up my decorations.  I would have none were it not for her help.  She and Fluffhead singlehandedly did the tree, while I sifted the decorations box outside (Stanley had stored it in the outhouse to become infested with spiders - ask me not why he thought this a suitable place; he doesn't know why he did it himself!).  I bravely rummaged through everything and disposed of spider corpses.  I always feel more awake when Time Traveller is in the room - her brain hums and thrums with thoughts and ideas, and I start to feel bouncy and smiley and interested in the world; my sense of humour even comes back from wherever it hides when I spend most of my time sulking because I am horribly overtired.  (I don't think she has any idea she has this effect on people either.  People are often remarkably unaware of their bestest qualities, isn't it so?!)  So that was lovely.  And it cheered up Stanley no end when he came home and found Christmas had happened to the living room.

And so, there came Yule.  Which is at an annoying time of year!  In the sense that of course, Christmas has hijacked it's timing utterly, and there I am, preparing for the tree and present fest that is Christmas, while also trying to have a slightly solemn, or slightly joyful (depending on mood) Yule ritual.  And it always gets lost.  Yule always ends up being celebrated about 4-8 days later.  I think, for example, that I am going to have a very small Yule ritual in the middle of week, when everything has calmed down.  When all that stuff about family and the trying sense of enforced togetherness that makes alot of us really cranky were we to be quite honest, is over.  So I shall look forward to that later, then.

In the meantime: today: Christmas Eve.  Classic English Christmas weather - its pissing with rain and its overcast, cold and windy.  We are lucky we aren't in Cornwall or Wales, they are low slung and awash with flooding.  We are up here on a hill, listening to buffeting rain and wondering if the outhouse will hold (it has done for 3 years, but its not best its worth the wonder).  I am wondering if its Christmassey to have a chocolate cupcake, or just...excessive (it'll be my fourth).  I am wearing the new boots I fetched from East Croydon yesterday (the sole *fell off* my only other pair the day before yesterday - so I became the only female in the Western world to be left with one pair of footwear).  I used my one and only storecard to pay for the new boots, which means I'll be paying them off all year, but hell - its better than being barefoot.  Also, whilst out, Fluffhead got to ride in a miniature car thingy that moved; and Stanley and I got to eat icecream and cookies - a Christmas and birthday tradition we have.  We listened to carols, and acapella singers and then took the train home.  Stanley is upstairs wrapping gifts.  I'm about to re-organize the kitchen cupboards to accommodate the excess dry stores (see Troubadour - I do not forget what I am taught!!).  Later, Saint Mum will come by and spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with us. 

Fluffhead sleeps.  All is calm.  Shhhhhhhh.  I'm going to go into the kitchen now, and shut the door so I don't wake him with my noise moving stuff about.

Happy Christmas!  Merry Yule!  Well met, Alban Arthur!  See you soon!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A nasty little Winters Tale...

I don’t know how this story ends.

Its one thing that I sit here, spinning my words, spinning a spell, letting the little Arachne’s live when I see them, so that they will help me with the web.

Its one thing that I call upon Tyr, with his hard eyes and the cut of the sword of absolute justice that goes both ways.  That Odin, on back of Sleipnir rides in just for the joy of a scrap, because I asked.  That Thor will always defend the small man against the large and powerful oppressor.  Its one thing that I call them, most vehemently, and explain the situation in this season of ice and frost.  I explain that the Ice Giants are filling this small part of our world with lies that cloud and bank over everything so that we cannot see the land anymore, and before us it cracks.

Its another thing that I create a mood with several songs, several melodies and run it through my head until a story plays there: a powerful archetypal story where someone glows with the force of integrity and shines with the truth, getting bigger every moment as those who shout their falsities cower and shrink, their biting insults and twisted acid blowing back in their own faces as the warriors I have called throw thunder and wield swords, ravens, dogs, wolves.

I can feel the battle as it rages back and forth and up and down that room far away.  I can feel the liars telling their merry stories, barking and snapping like the dogs they are, and the supposedly neutral listener taking his notes that bias toward the powerful and refuse to listen to any other than the official story.

I close my eyes and I can see, in a strange almost cartoon form, this battle surging.  I can see the Gods fighting for us, I can see the evil men with their tarnish of grey and spitted red over them, smiling and fighting back.  They are not afraid. I feel their confidence, their arrogance is a stink I can see, like heavy dark furs covered in fat.

But I don’t know how this story ends.

I watched it for almost 2 hours.  Then quite abruptly I felt it stop.  I felt the energy I was putting through it, holding the line, I felt it falter and …stop.  I felt, I hope it was not so, I felt our side conceding something. I hope this was tactical only.  A move.

Battles remotely fought are of course difficult to view.  But it turns out I was accurate of the time it ended.  The warrior Gods pulled back and breathed heavily and the opponents vanished from the room.  The skirmish was over.

They gird him now, my loved one, and we wait for the result of today’s war fought with words in a boardroom; and with Gods and love and music on another level.  By sage and lavender, by story told through in tarot form, by the binding of purple ribbons and grey silk cloth…I know how the fate should be spelled.  But casting for another, however close…

I don’t know how this story ends.  I know it is not over.  I know we did not use all our weapons, or take this battle to a wider plane, a bigger room.  But this means we still can.  I think they think we don’t have the nerve.

In the meantime, I think on the two liars who propagated this whole story’s start. I think on their smallness, their viciousness, their attacks even within this battle that was not supposed to be a battle today (though I knew it would be).  I hope that the supposedly neutral witness was taken aback by the venom of his colleagues; the violence of the words used against the man with no union representative, the man invited to a meeting to make his side of events, and then not really allowed to.

I think on those men.  I think they need mirrors set round them, reflecting in.  I think their acid juices should eat them from within.  I think I hate, and I do not forgive.  Not yet.  I hope the one who witnessed on their side has eyes to see.

Tyr will see Justice done yet.  Thor will protect, as that is what Thor does.  Odin will ride back for us.

But I don’t know how this story ends.  A winter’s tale where the wolves howl, but as yet, who they will eat is unclear.  Are they Odin’s wolves?  Will Fenris be bound at the expense of Tyr’s hand?  Or are they just a pack from the dark side of the forest, hungry for anything warm as they are cold through and through and have no warm blood of their own so steal another’s?

I don’t know.  I sing the songs, I weave the words, I see the battle.  I see another will come.  This was just the first engagement.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Screwy Thinking: The Upside to Norovirus...

So.  There we all are.  Fluffhead, the nearly 3 year old now, has been transformed into the scary and baneful Tetchyhead for over a week.  The poor thing already had a bad cold when he lucked into a lovely dose of stomach flu.  Apparently, Norovirus is one of many viruses you and I would have called gastroenteritis once upon a time.  You know, the all ends open free for all virus.  Whoever gets to the toilet first claims it virus.

All last Monday night was the poor bean being mind bogglingly ill and refusing a bucket, so it was very messy.  No one else had much of a chance to not catch it.  And 2 days later we did.  Ah, parents: do you remember those brilliant days when you got sick and could take a Sick Day?  Lay down on the sofa, have tissues, whatever, veg before the TV?  Or just sleep, be quiet?  When a Sick Day basically meant you were allowed to just be sick and get about recovering?!  Sigh...

So, just for the record, and for anyone out there with a sick virused-up child (heartbreaking), and then dealing with the same lergi yourself after many nights of hardly a moment of sleep, here are just 3 things that may make you feel one tiny wincy touch better about it...As in, you may smile a bit.  A bit:

(a) The totally unintentional (and no doubt temporary) loss, on my part, of half a stone.  I saw myself in the mirror and actually wanted to put on a bikini.  (I don't have one, because of the usual appearance of my stomach, since the birth of Fry, 22 years hasn't improved since then, and squashing out Fluffhead aka Tetchyhead did not help matters.  Its not huge; its just wobbly and a bit too big.)  Suddenly - I had a FLAT stomach.  Stanley suggests maybe we all retain tons of water and this virus just sucks it off, one way and another.  I dunno...But for however long - I am almost a Bond Girl.  Imagine!

(b)  The complete and utter lack of food bill this last week.  (Balance this with the massive upsurge in toilet paper buying.)  All we have been living on is water, crackers and toasted white bread.  Someone brilliant told me to boil white rice  with a little salt and to drink the *rice water* - apparently this is home made rehydration salts.  I checked the info online, and it is so - I found some sites where doctors said this was an ok thing to do; apparently the rice releases starch as it boils which counts as the sugars part of the rehydration salts.  I got told it a bit too late though, and had already successfully and proudly held down several crackers, so was beyond that.  I can try it next time and see if it helps.

(c) Technically, after catching Norovirus, you are immune for 14 weeks; yes, only 14 weeks.  (You are also still infectious for up to 2 weeks after; you must wash your hands A LOT, and the virus can live on surfaces for 3 weeks, maybe more - so don't go inviting people over to your house unless you hate them and wish them ill, for that period.)  So, unless you are fatally unlucky, get it now, lateish November, and you will NOT be one of the poor sods who ends up having it over Yule/Christmas/New Year.  You might not love that whole period, but it would be a tonnage worse having to deal with that whole schebang and all the associated people if you felt horribly nauseous or were post viral and wiped out and deathly (thats where we are now).

So there you go.  Some cold comfort for any sick people out there right now.  And its taken it out of me to bother to write this little postage of inconsequential poo (no pun intended, really), so I am going to go and spend the rest of Tetchyhead's nap feeling grumpy on the sofa or something.  I'm feeling very sorry for myself today, even though I'm getting slowly better.  I just wish Tetchyhead would get better too.  He's over the worst; but still the damn cold, the coughing.  Children.  What a hoopla.  Right - off to go and be grumpy.

Oh - And use Anti VIRAL Hand Sanitizer when you can.  Forget Anti Bacterial, you want Anti Viral - Boots does one, go find it.  Its helpful as a precaution against re-infection with a different strain of the bleedin' Noro.  Which would be all you need, right?  But be paranoid about it, cleanse frequently.  And try to keep washing the children too - they will insist on licking everything and constantly putting their hands in their mouths.  You can't hope to clean every surface; all you can hope is to clean your hands enough - and if you ever saw Contagion, remember the golden rule: Don't Keep Touching Your Face!!  (I found that film terrifying; but then, I am a germ freak.)

Be well, everyone! 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Navelgazing for 3 minutes

For Troubadour in particular – who worried I had been a bit silent recently.  I’m ok, just thinking!

The truth is that I’ve been wondering for ages, really, whether I’m still meant to be a writer.  I have no doubt I WAS meant to be a writer, before boys, before too many hormones got underway.  Rollicking through me and rearranging my brain in a way that made me think doing was more important than imagining, being, recording, singing associations and words together. 

Suddenly it was all about…what my nipples might feel like one day.  And that mad day when I looked in a mirror (like a thousand girls before me) and wondered if I looked any different now I’d had sex.  Now my little personal energy field, that essential BlackberyJuniperness had been so literally pricked and entered by someone else.  Did I glow a different colour?

It’s weird to think that doing things, and having experiences could be ‘wrong’ ever, when chosen, and not harming others (for the most part – how far do you want to Domino Effect your actions?  How much responsibility for others is yours – an argument I had many a time with Troubadour).

Maybe I don’t mean wrong.  It’s just that in all the doing, I lost the much needed equilibrium of being, seeing, recording, revising, sifting, understanding.

It’s like I cut off an arm, and ever since, I’ve been puzzled as to why I can’t hold the proverbial Cup of Life in two hands.  Why am I surprised?!

I think my writing was a link between my left and right brain.  By storyfying things I understood better objectively.  Subjective helped the appearance of objective.

Without the writing, I’m left in the land of the subjective only.  The (sometimes) horrible endless present moment that I can make no sense of, no larger picture, no point of any kind.

In that sense, I NEED to still be a writer.  I need to have these times, sitting at my desk, pen humming, or keyboard puttputting.  I need to bring me out and objectify, validify[1].  Get rid of, or make a cake of.  It’s all a scary unfinished soup otherwise.

And if I made some ‘art’ or money along the way, wouldn’t that be splendid?  Otherwise, I will sink in what Raymond Carver called ‘this position of unrelieved responsibility and permanent distraction […] every waking hour subject to the needs and caprices of [his] children.’[2]

I will sink.  I have been sinking.  (Fluffhead has been unwell again, a while.)

I have to open my mouth and blow the bubbles that will save me; make the hand gestures that will enable me to float.  Maybe even gain some direction, some momentum.

Apparently I’m a writer if I write or not.  More to the point:  I get a bit headsick and ill and unsteady at life if I don’t.  Can’t have that.  Only get to be this BlackberryJuniper once.

[1] Some of my best conversations with Fry and Alias True do exactly this: help us to understand what the hell we think and mean, a lot better than before.
[2] Fires, by Raymond Carver, London: Picador, 1986, pp.32-3.  I recommend this book to anyone who wants to write – he had an ordinary life to fight against, it will ring bells.  A grand struggle consisting of family, low paid jobs, drinking and such a need to write stuff down.  Brilliant book.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Fluffhead and Princess

The minute I said we were going to the playground this morning, Fluffhead got excited.  There's a new Happy Dance.  It involves spinning, and waving one hand about in a large circle, and the other hand as a floppy baton.  Much smiling.  Jumping up and down.  He did that.

He has this little friend at the playground, we tease him, 'is this your girlfriend?'.  His little girlfriend, aka Princess, is Sicilian.  She's almost 2, and she has the smallest skinniest sinuous little form, and the largest deepest brown eyes.  She has a very serious little face.  She is a very climby girl, all over everything like a lizard.  I think she's gorgeous.  Her smiles are so cute.  The way she speaks in a mix of English and Italian is gorgeous.  Water is 'aqua', and its always 'ciao' at hometime.  Fluffhead still doesn't speak hardly, he communicates with her by smiling and taking her hand.  She usually shakes him off then takes it herself - she must lead HIM; its just the way she is. 

When I watch them, with his Italian nanny, the ludicrously youthful looking aka Dove, who is also beautiful (the most amazing ringlets, pixie face, one of the most genuine smiles I have ever seen on anybody), we often do some gentle laughing - wondering if its a template we see of their future personalities.  Will Princess always think all the toys are hers, and have to go first on the slide all the time, removing all the other children before her, with 'leave!' in Italian, and that imperious finger gesture?  Will Fluffhead always be speculatively going up to children, and smiling at them, so openly, and looking over to see if its all ok, then following them off, as they lead him by the hand, gently happy to just be with company, easy? 

It's not always like that with him.  Sometimes, she shrugs him off, and he will seem to make a decision - you can see his moment of confusion, then stillness - to ignore her then.  He'll run off to the furthest point of the playground and investigate the rubbish.  There is always rubbish on the floor.  I don't know if the foxes get it out at night, or whether the wind blows it all around.  It looks like it has all been lunch - mother and children type lunches, and nappies, and all neatly bagged away.  But then, whenever I get there, a lot of it is on the ground again.  I usually spend the first 5 minutes tidying everything up, with a wrinkled nose and careful fingers, worrying about germs.  I must look quite comical while I do it, all the things held out in front of me: rain drippy earth scuffed empty crisp packets.  Water logged old nappies trying to reopen and shed wipes.  Endless small containers of juice, or sandwiches, trampled and a bit bitten looking, but you can tell they haven't been there for long.  The playground is up on a hill, so maybe its both: wind and foxes.

So he runs off to play with the rubbish with his foot, until I catch up to him and we tidy it, or I just repeatedly say 'dirty!' sounding nine shades of rather thick to hear myself, until he drops it.  He'll examine the flowers at the far end, dandelions, or buttercups.  He likes looking at plants and flowers.  Or he'll want to climb up on the boundary wall's ledge and hold my hand while he walks round and round it.  Usually at this stage, Princess decides he's being interesting again, and wants to come up too.  I would not go as far as to say, he ignored her, so he became interesting (after being straightforward and friendly didn't work), so she wants to play with him now.  I don't think there is anything that calculating about either of them yet.  But to a grown up's eyes, it does look remarkably like that.  Which lowers my spirits.  I've always been crap at games of that sort, so has Fry.  I hope Fluffhead will be crap at them too.  Straightforwardness - and if necessary, the corresponding rejection, is ...painful, but honest and clear.

Anyway.  Today Dove was a bit late, and I got cold waiting.  Looking out at all the surrounding green - its a lovely spot for the playground: sloping green for dogs to run all about, and 2 other playgroundy bits above and below (one for younger children who want to climb and swarm a lot along ropes and tyres very near the ground; and one for more nearly teen children, where everything is bigger and higher).  Off in the distance are 2 tennis courts, where I have never seen an actual game going on (I think I come too early in the day) - I always see a lone 40ish year old man, his belly flopping out of his navy blue tracksuit bottoms as he practices his serve, over and over.  He must feel a little self conscious somewhere in his head, as though he never looks round, he is always pulling down his matching top to cover flesh.  I am always wondering why he doesn't get some bigger clothes, that fit him better. 

The sky was in that silvery state where its very bright and may rain, but may not.  The air was chill.  I kept blowing out to see the frosty puffs.  Fluffhead had already fallen on the way here, and grazed both his knees, so whilst he was running carefully, he was at least looking where he was going, which was an improvement on usually.  A little blond boy came with his father.  I said 'hi'.  The father nodded.  Is it only the English that don't really relate, even in situations that are quite probably meant to be social?  The child ran over to me, and I said 'hi' to him too, but I think my sunglasses freaked him out.  He backed away.  Fluffhead ran up to him and smiled, and the boy - who looked of similar age - backed away more, and ran back to his father, a look of uncertainty on his face.  '....shy,' I heard the father say, before picking up his son and carrying him over to the slide.

Finally Dove and Princess arrived.  Dove and I have taken to each other in a strange and quick way.  Almost like when I met Time Traveller and we just started talking and carried on, and months later, there we still are, quite naturally.  This was similar.  I just started to talk to Dove, who I kept seeing around town - she was always just coming back from taking Princess to see the trains at the station (what is it with the children and trains - none seem immune from the noise, the speed, the blurry flash) when I was just going.  Nodding became a sort of embarrassed giggling - 'here you are again!'.  One day she asked me directions to somewhere I didn't know, in English she thinks isn't very good, but is in fact much more precise than lots of English people.  One day we arranged to go and see the trains together with the children; it didn't quite happen, so we texted, and the playground was agreed on instead.  I hadn't been to there before.  It's clear over the other side of town and takes me 35 minutes to walk there.

The first time I saw it I had one of those perfection moments.  All that green that had been hidden, suddenly there, splayed out - it was like walking into a bowl on its side.  Fluffhead took off and ran shrieking through the grass.  Princess, more haltingly, but picking up speed and confidence as she does, took off after.  Fluffhead ran for joy of running and being off the reins.  Dove and I hung back and talked of the children.  Just because it isn't her child doesn't mean she isn't as conscientious as a mother.  I thought she was as paranoid in concern for Princess as I am with Fluffhead - she has that 'but she is in my care, my responsibility' furrowed brow.  She was a damn good choice as nanny.  She takes it seriously, she watches all the time; she worries for Princess's development.  If I ever had to employ anyone to be me for Fluffhead - she's my choice.  (Why can't I win the Lottery?  I joked with Dove that, today - I would take her home and she could help with Fluffhead, and I could have company; and she could have a proper contract, and a bloody good wage.  Dove's working conditions are a bit like a cliche of nannie's bad working conditions.  Her good nature is rather taken advantage of.)

So they arrived, and Fluffhead squirmed to be let out of the swing, where I had been soporifically pushing him back and forth singing 'row row row your boat' quite softly, which seems to send him into a trance.  He ran over to Princess, doing a variation of the Happy Dance.  She acknowledged him, but what was in her eyes was 'oh its you' and a sort of 'hmm', before she ran off to do something else.  I felt stung on Fluffhead's behalf.  But distracted him, and he ran off to the slide to progress with climbing.  Dove and I chatted.  We swapped worries (she had had some unasked for advice about her life that made her feel sad; I had a similar incident about Fluffhead, that smarted in just the same way). 

We watched, as further down the playground, Fluffhead ran back up to Princess and repeatedly, very gently, tried to take her hand, as they had done on numerous occasions over the summer.  She kept squirming away.  He followed her anyhow and they climbed together, she commanding she go first, and he with bemused but happy smile, letting her after a checking look at me.  Later, they discovered some chalk on the ground, and Fluffhead does as he tends to at home - laid himself full down on the ground to draw with it.  She came over to see what he was doing, and he got up and gave her some.  Smiling over at me, his expression clearly saying 'oh she wants to play now!', a joyful smile.  They drew for a bit.  Then we had to go.

I watched his little head in the pushchair as we went home.  I had washed out his mouth from where he tried to eat the chalk, though I am convinced there is still some grit there.  He was eating sweetcorn rings and drinking water.  I asked him if he had had a nice time, out in the air, out with Dove, seeing Princess.  He nodded enthusiastically.  Perhaps he has forgotten, I thought.

I felt a niggly feeling.  Perhaps to do with something Dove had confided that leads me to beleive she won't be here for much longer; I make a friend, and away she will fly.  It seems to be the way.  I will miss her a lot; just when I had a good companion for going out with the children, someone I really like.  She has an innocence and an openness that you don't see much at all anywhere.  An honesty.  She's very real, and thoughtful.  But also, I think, niggled niggled niggled, there is something else.

Later, back at home, I tried to rest while Fluffhead slept.  I couldn't sleep.  Suddenly, I sat up, and cried, hard, for a full 5 minutes, feeling broken.  The image that popped into my head was Fluffhead reaching out, repeatedly, with his little smile, his face so open, so genuine.  His hand constantly trying to curl around Princesses smaller one.  Her rough shaking of him off.  Her little haughty face.  The way he put his head down on his shoulder, and then tensed his shoulder up and held his arm round himself, as if giving himself a hug.  He swings away from her, his face looking confused.  He runs off alone.  I just keep seeing it.  The only way to stop and calm it was to come here and write this.

Such a small thing.  And it really broke my heart.  It is times like these, that I truly truly hate being a mother.  I hate feeling so utterly emotionally bound up with someone else's experiences.  I hate the way I needed a nap and didn't get one.  I hate the way I worry that he will continue to be so sweet and friendly and children just won't be friendly back.  I hate wanting to hug him so much about it, but not wanting to make a fuss, because all this is at least partially me projecting, remembering a lonely school life, a bullied school life, remembering rebuttals.  I don't want to give him my crap, so I won't over comfort him, when he seems to have gotten over it.  But how would I know?  He doesn't talk yet, and how do we know what they think?  I hate the way I will never know if I am doing the right thing by him.  I hate the worry.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Hmmm - it's nothing! Be excited!

It seems that whilst I have been doing remarkably little, the month has changed.  Instead of the Indian Summer I was banking on (so as not to have to turn the heating on too early), instead, there was a sudden chill.  And lots of pretty leaves going red and orange and yellow.  But these leaves will cost us money (the heating has gone on - only for a 1 hour period twice a day; the rest of the time seeing me doing an interesting layering thing, on and off with the layers constantly).

So.  My laptop quietly died a little while ago, hence part of the silence.  I have been borrowing Stanley's.  A bit.  He is rather possessive of it and doesn't want it borrowed, really.  He has been slowly rebuilding mine, but with not much time available, this is a slow process.  I persuaded him to let me have his laptop this morning, so I could say something vastly meaningful and terribly well-written here.

Let's wait...

See, sadly, what with the fact I have a mouth full of (no, not shite, shut up Stanley!) someone else's enormous teeth (do injections not make you feel like that?) because of my dental visit this morning, it appears my brain has gone a bit south.  So there's not much here for you.  It's a tragic state of affairs.  A massive gap in the blog, and when you come back - one of those unsatisfying wonky posts about how I have nothing much to say.  I mean: I could go on about how Fluffhead had yet another headbang and we ended up down in casualty AGAIN, with the world's most plaguiest children.  And I might actually be able to make it somewhat amusing.  But I feel like we already had a Fluffhead headbang post; regardless of the changes, we've been there.

I could waffle about how I am having one of those intermittent crises I have about whether I should be devoting loads more time to writing or spiritual questing, in order to have both a sounder basis in pursuing life, and a sounder basis in thinking of it - all calm.  I think most writers have a very good idea Who They Are, and this facilitates doing something as definitive as Writing A Book.  I am constantly wavering back and forthly, and changing my mind and my emphases (adaptability or simply wishy-washyness - depends whether you are talking to someone who likes me, or someone who doesn't - and both those people are in my head, regardless of anyone outsidey like...).  So - I could talk of that.  But I won't.  The amount of time I have is the amount of time I have - and its not much, and I often spend it sleeping, in order to better be able to do my Fluffhead job to the best of my ability (a Fluffhead is very draining).  So really, I should stop kerfuffling, and accept I don't have much time and that I often quite rightly put the emphasis where it needs to be: mental alertness for Fluffhead job.  I will have to get to the writing and spiritual questing whenever I do, and just be...adaptable.  (Ha - take that, person in my own head who doesn't like me!)

I could detail and review for you exactly how scarily many Dr Who books I have been reading (of the original Target range, the Virgin New Adventures, the Virgin Missing Adventures, the BBC Past Doctor Adventures and the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures) - I'm sure *someone* would find those reviews interesting - but that will have to wait, as those files are backed up on my external hardrive.  And I don't appear to have the right lead to connect it to this computer; only my original laptop.  That would have been an almost ready written post too; and one I have been thinking of.  Annoying.

You know what?  I'm going to let this post stand as a lesson to myself: just cos I have a bit of time, don't imagine I have something to say!

I'll be back later.  Hopefully WITH something to say.  And a restored laptop.  And a hard-drive full of partially written posts I can actually access!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A Roundabout Rumination on Matters of Proppage

Thats a word I made up, by the way.  Proppage.  I'll describe what I mean.

The last few days I have been having one of my obsessive fits of watching a TV programme in a big gorging feast in every spare minute I get.  What this usually ends up meaning, is that I start to get a sort of hangover where I feel that I am still in that imaginary world even when I am back in this one, the (lets not go there philosophically), 'real' one.  I think it must be a similar phenomenon to an article I read on the BBC website a while back (but can't find now, to link for you, annoyingly), about gamers in Japan, who would do overnighters, weekenders, completely hooked in to their favourite computer or online game.  They would thoroughly be living it, in their pyjamas, more in that world than this.  To the point that when they tried to unplug, and go to sleep, or go to work on Monday, they couldn't quite do it.  In their sleep, they would dream the game, and sometimes wake up confused.  One gamer attacked his girlfriend who was in bed with him, believing her to be one of the alien monsters he had been seeing off all weekend.  Another started to have sweats and paranoia at work, and was eventually sent home (and then to a doctor), after he kept seeing men with guns in Special Ops gear creeping about his office, out of the corner of his eye, coming for him.  When he looked around and tried to catch them, they would be gone.  But he knew he had seen them...See, now, this is fascinating stuff, this sort of temporary delusion (or tapping into another reality you co-created and being unable to put the cork back in the bottle for a while), aided and abetted by lack of sleep, eating loads of crap during these gaming sessions (and probably anyway)...These people usually recover, after a damn good rest, amazed at what happened to them.  Amazingly, some still game! 

Now that I've got you good and fascinated, and hopefully a little worried for my state of mind (nothing like a hook for the reading!), I will spoil the whole thing and say that what I am experiencing is a much lower level version of this, most of you have also experienced it, I'll bet, and its quite boring by comparison.  I just thought I'd mention the Japanese phenomenon because its so incredibly interesting, and it is related.  This sort of thing is all a spectrum of reactions to immersion in stories, interaction with them.

I'm going to complicate matters further, by not telling you what the prog was, that I was watching.  You'll note I did this last time, I was obsessed with a prog too.  I seem to find this info private, and I'm not sure why I do.  My secret private buzz, I spose.  A precious interior thing.  I don't want these progs I love criticised, and loads of others seem to think they are crap.  I don't need their opinion; yet I do seem to care, so I am quiet on the naming.

All I'll say about the prog was that its English made, I spose its a subject for girls (? that's actually confusing info because its not overfly filled with 'relationship' issues, though they feature), though I can guarantee men watched this in their droves because of the subject matter (until they realised not as much flesh would be shown as they hoped...hell, it was terrestrial TV, why be shocked at that?!).  Other than being private about my obsessions with programmes, the other reason I'm not telling you exactly which prog, is that its actually a full post in itself - the subject matter.  It roused very contradictory feelings and thoughts in me (and one actual nightmare, which surprised me).  I may post on the prog itself much later on, simply because it's damn thought-provoking, and I'd need some time to gather some references and such.

But as for this post, the point is the effect it had on me.  Considering the subject matter, it could have had several different effects on me, but everyone reacts to any stimulus based on what's going on in their lives at the time, memories triggered, semi-unconscious notions about 'rules' for appropriate behaviour in situations and that's how you judge what you see, etc.  The prog showed a way of life that could have been very sordid, but glamourised the hell out of it.  As TV does.  And what I was taking away was not (as I can imagine several of my friends doing) a desire to emulate the lifestyle shown, even in spirit really (I simply know I do not have the temperament to carry it off), but small lifestyle elements of it.  Small very silly ones.

So the Japanese gamers sit there, intently saving the universe from aliens of zombies or both, and then hallucinating them later, in temporary psychosis...whereas the BJ version of this (also aided, no doubt by chronic lack of sleep and not eating enough green veggies) to get infected with Proppage.

Remember Sex and the City?  How it called thousands of us females to try and live lives if not of utter sexual liberation, then instead of ridiculous high heels, interesting fashion choices (though always short skirted ones) and incessant cocktail drinking in bars?  How some of us became temporarily convinced this was in fact The Life To Be Living?  There may be a boring as hell office job, there may be a boring boyfriend or no boyfriend - but you go out with your Girls, your Ladies, and you have your sparkly little bag (that really does not allow room enough for all the stuff we need - and I have never been a person content to carry a phone, a lipstick, a doorkey and a condom...if I had a tiny desert island bag, it would have a book in it, really...and the world's tiniest first aid kit, some scissors, and yes, the phone and the doorkey, a spare book just became a much bigger bag, didn't it?  See why this all doesn't work for me??  I also, by the way, CANNOT walk in those heels, and I have tried, just to see what it felt like.  I used to be able to, I used to wear moderate high heels to some of my earlier jobs, imagining it made me look more, er, officey and professional somehow...but you HAVE to be able to make the walk look natural, or those shoes look really stupid.   By natural, I do not mean that artificially sway-ey hip walk.  I just mean - do not totter.  That looks ridiculous.)

Anywaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay...You have your sparkly little bag, and you go out with your girlfriends and sit in the English equivalent of an upmarket bar, sip cocktails, and talk about ....the usual stuff.  (Another point where the scenario fails me:  my usual stuff is psychology, philosophic type thoughts, any questions about anything I may suddenly want to ask - like the other day when Stanley came home, my computer was down, and I really wanted to know what happens to all the sewage, where does it go and how do they treat it and is it true that all the tap water has been through 8 bodies before it gets to us??  Or discussing about sci-fi TV shows, or fantasy books, or any kind of book...most subjects not considered generally good pub/bar conversation...Don't get me going on what most people consider good pub/bar conversation: memories of drunken stuff they already did, endlessly, as a group; sports; moaning about boyfriends - what do the men talk about during this segment: work?  Dunno...I have one friend who is always told she is "too heavy" when in the pub, in her conversations; she is about the ONLY interesting conversations I have ever had in pubs/bars.  I wish she lived closer, I wish we could go and have "heavy" conversations in nice sparkly environments alot more often.)

That last brings me to the point (which I am doing a very good job of not getting to, before now - Alias Time Traveller, this is like one of our coffee shop conversations!).  So you're sitting in the bar, showing your legs, feeling all glittery, with your cocktail and your moussey eyeshadow, there with your Pack of Girlfriends, and you are really Playing a Scene.  You are partly imagining that there you are: you are Samantha, you are Charlotte, you are Miranda, you are Carrie, you are IN Sex and the City, in a small way, a sort of imitatory, liberated female, I have a cocktail, its after dark, anything could happen my life IS NOT BORING kind of way.

That is Proppage.  (By the way, I am a Sex in the City fan, just to set the facts straight - I may sound like I am mocking it, and I bloody am!!; but at the same time - its seductive and cute, and it did have alot of good points to make: the visuals being so sumptuous and its shock-value often got in the way of the actual points.  Aside: Reginald D. Hunter did a very annoying sketch about Sex and the City 2, I think it was, a while back.  He did that comic thing of stating the characters (approximate: 'so here  we have SlutWoman One') and plot very baldly, thereby making it sound very shallow and very stupid indeed (approximate: 'so she thought she was going to overcome radical Islam with...slutty sex?'), instead of getting the oddly thought out but actually rather serious point the film was trying to make (that regimes seen as fascistic in some ways, especially towards women, can still inspire revolution from within, by means of liberation via colour, beauty, individualism with what you do have: your body, your clothes...which in the case of some of the Middle Eastern women depicted in the film, could be hidden by their burkhas. Big outcomes can start from small insignificant seeming things.  Those Reginald D. Hunter quotes were approximate because I don't have the DVD of that gig, Fry does and he's not here; also, I tried to link it on YouTube for you, but the Gods of Copyright have decided that my country is blocked for that content, irritatingly.  I shall ask Fry and get the proper quotes up when he tells me).

The thing is, for Sex and the City fans, I don't know what the major article of the Proppage is, I think it depends on each person.  Is it the sparkly bags, the high heels, the little dresses, the grooming and the makeup?  Or the hailing the cab?  The cocktail drinking?

Proppage is, of course: using props and small smippets of scenario to get you in the mood, get you in the character, get you feeling like you are in the Scene you are trying to create.  (Was it Alec Guinness who always used to feel like he HAD the character he was trying to play when he found the right hat?  Or was that Peter Sellers?  And false noses...?  Anyhow...)  The difference between being an actor and using props to get you all hooked in to your character's physicality and mindset, and the phenomenon of Proppage is real life.  When you're out, at that bar, in those clothes, with your cocktail - you aren't trying so much to be Samantha or Carrie etc, as a part or a are trying to take their essence of liberatedness (as it can be viewed) and exciting life into yourself.  To nick the best bits and incorporate them into your actual real life.  To try to make it truly real, but as yourself: just with these confident additions, add ons. 

So here I am, very little sleep for two and a half years, practically zero social life outside of the house, NO social life after 6.30 p.m. at all - no night life...and memories of having one previously.  I never was a clubber type person.  Too many people, too loud (distorts the music: that's annoying), can't talk or listen much; am a crap dancer infront of people.  But I do have memories of relaxing after work, on fabled Fridays where the sun took a long time to go down, smoking a cigarette, watching that curling smoke, sipping my drink, watching the people go by, the cabs flash past in a hiss of late light.  Getting a bit beyond tipsy, seeing the beautiful way the streetlights stopped just being on and started to glow: gorgeous orange.  Beacons in the night.  Where rain on pavements became a wonderful shiny haze.  My co-workers would laugh more, by about 8.30 p.m. (still early); someone standing on the very edge of the pavement in silly high heels would laugh just a little too much at something and miss her footing and tumble backwards into the road - where she would be fine as there was such a press of outside drinking, laughing, relaxing people in that late summeriness, that she would hit another group softly, embarrassedly apologise, and they would good-naturedly catch her, and there would be  more laughter, some wry comments about the shoes, or the drink or the coming darkness, and the groups would re-form.  Not a problem, all is well on the Friday night in that pub outside my old work where we used to stand.  Not a punch up or loud arguments sort of pub: a nice one.  Not posh, and had that icky pub smell (stale beer and old cigarettes: heave and shudder), but not a dive, either.  Just the pub down the road from where I used to work, in Victoria.

Oddly, that atmosphere is what I took from my current obsessive TV viewing.  I think this was helped by the fact the prog was filmed in 2 places where I used to live for 20-30 years, in and around Westbourne Grove and  Notting Hill, and the West End.  So I saw those familiar streets, reglamourised, all that light diffusion and sparkly lets make it look brilliant effects, and it reminded me of tipsy good nights out, the feeling of well-being, the feeling of finally fitting in somewhere (for a brief while).  This is in complete contrast to my life at the moment which is, by necessity, very small in scope (I have the 24 hour Fluffhead and hardly any money to go anywhere or do anything; only very recent friendships have been made - none at the going out anywhere stage).

So the effect it had on me, the prop I got the urge to turn to, was my wineglasses in the cupboard.  I have these wineglasses, from back when I was with Troubadour.  They used to come free, one with every 4 books in a series I ordered online.  The books were rubbish: I was in love with the glasses.  Troubadour hated the glasses.  (I have no clue why: I think their blue chunkiness and bigness is both beautiful and not tacky at all!)  When I left, they uncomplainingly accompanied me.  But I have no occasions that call for them.  Really.  So they sat about being dusty, after a while.  Then this prog came, and I wanted to drink wine from a beautiful glass, and swan about the living room and kitchen, asking Stanley in chirpy yet slightly alluring tones, whether he had had a good day at work.

But I don't hardly drink these days.  I have had migraines that last 2 days since I was 13.  One of the triggers is too much - or sometimes ANY - alcohol.  I can have whole years where I am fine to drink. And I can have whole years where I'm not.  I think I may possibly be just emerging from one of my NOT phases.  But I'm not sure, and added to the lack of sleep I already have, and my general state of run down-ness, I didn't want to chance it for no good reason.  The other day, one of our rare visits from old London friends occurred (the first people to visit from some of the old lot, in oh....9 months).  One of them was pregnant and not drinking.  So she brought Schloer grape juice with her, which she left as a gift, as she was feeling a bit nauseous while here (the joys of pregnancy).  I always loved Schloer.  I also went through a 13 year period where I didn't drink at all, and during this time, whenever there was an event or Christmas or whatever, when other people would be wineglassing, I would produce my bottle of Schloer, and drink what looked like white or red wine, but was scrummy non getting you ratarsed fruit juice.  So no headache, no silly behaviour, and no stomach upset or hangover!  Great deal!

The point of this entire post has been to inform you, that under the influence of TV, I have been fannying about the living room and kitchen, holding chilled glasses of non-alcoholic Schloer grape juice, asking Stanley how his day at work has been...and its been making me feel quite happy.  (And he has been asking me if I have been on the sauce: apparently I am genuinely exhibiting that tipsy good humour glow.)  Just the stimulus of the chilled glass, that condensation running down it, over the ridges; that cool taste of sweet juice on my tongue and down my throat...the walking confidently from one room to the other: a sense of spaciousness within my circumstances opens up inside my head while I am doing it.  Funny.  Silly.  I feel like a person, a woman, IN the world, not relegated to the outer edges, doing a 24 hour job that will no doubt feel terribly rewarding in retrospect, but which I also know I will likely never forgive myself for not enjoying as I wish I could, at the time...

During these moments though, all is forgiven.  I am the old BJ in a way, the one who fitted for a bit, the one who had a whole life outside the home, and friends, I dressed in nice smart clothes (that annoyed the hell out of me at the time: I wanted to wear jeans and T-shirts all the time and be as I do now I am longing to dress up a bit....this does NOT indicate a complete lack of being contented no matter the circumstance.  That's very uncharitable.  It simply shows just how incredibly important having BALANCE in your roles and your life is.  Not just all one thing all the time.  You see?)

So: cheers, my friends!  Here's to swanning about the house with my chilled glass, smiling in a slightly secretive way, and experiencing odd little bubbles of very good humour, where I manage to be quite amusing and happy in conversation.  It's all good.  A toast: to Proppage!  All things in relative moderation (Japanese gamers, harken!), but go to it!  Be the parts of yourself you need to be, lighten the load.  Sometimes a small thing is oddly, all it takes...

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Snippets of Interesting Things: Rosebay Willowherb

The Luggage was made from the wood of the sapient peartree, a plant so magical it had nearly died out on the Disc, and survived in only one or two places; it was a sort of rosebay willowherb, only instead of bombsites it sprouted in areas that had seen vast expenditures of magic.
(Terry Pratchett, Sourcery, Corgi, 1988, p.63.)

The other day, Fluffhead and I were out in the sunshine.  Coming home from town.  I pushed the pushchair, and watched the world in front of me.

A woman ahead that I vaguely recognised as living in the same street suddenly stopped by the outside wall near her house.  She took a tall happy looking plant growing there, ripped it out quite violently, and threw it down on the path beside her.  Without looking back, without breaking stride.  And disappeared off into her house, up some red steps. 

She didn’t look like a cruel person, but I found this a heartrending thing to do.

I was going the same way, and wheeled the pushchair over to the plant, great clods of earth attached still to its thickish roots.   It had soft green leaves, thin and wavy, and a high tall top, with gushes of small pink flowers, falling over themselves to bloom out, like a fountain at its apex.  Droplets of flower.  I thought it was beautiful.

I picked it up and took it home.  When I got inside, before even taking Fluffhead out of the pushchair, and telling him I wouldn’t be long, I fetched a pot from the outhouse, and some compost, and spoke softly to the poor traumatised plant, and re-potted it, with some food and water.  And put it outside in the yard, next to 2 other tallish plants, so that it would feel among its like, its peers.

It drooped for several days, then seemed to rally.  Its bottom leaves browned a bit, but the top ones stood out again.  The flowers all died, they never recovered.  Strange fluffy curly things started to sprout from its mid section.  Like shaved wooden slivers covered in a dust of cotton wool.   At this point I thought – I need to look this odd plant up somewhere…it’s behaving a bit like a science fiction plant.  Any minute the house will be covered in fluff and we’ll be trapped inside!  It will take over the Earth, with its little pink flowers lulling us in, before going all fluffy and seeding everywhere, no more life as we know it – Planet of FLUFFPLANT!  (As you can see, I’m still deeply enmeshed in reading my Doctor Who books, and therefore full of fanciful leaps of not-quite-logic.)

The tall ailing plant turned out to divide opinion neatly.  It was either a dreadful weed – which clearly was what the woman down the street thought, in her ruthlessness when she saw it – not even IN her property, just near it, goodness me…Or it’s a fine herb, used for hundreds of years medicinally and mentioned in many botanicals. 

Rosebay Willowherb.  Also known as Fireweed[1], Blooming Sally, Great Willow Herb (as opposed to Small Willow Herb – which has less flowers and was used by herbalists for centuries to ease allsorts of prostate problems and bladder infections, by means of a simply made medicinal tea; repopularised by the Austrian Herbalist, Maria Trebens[2]).  Also known as Ranting Widow, Apple Pie, Singerherb…

Louise Bustard, Assistant Curator Glasgow Botanical Gardens, tells this story of first seeing Rosebay Willowherb when she arrived in Glasgow from London to take up her position at the Botanical Gardens:
…they took me back to a time when, as a little girl, I sat listening to my grandmother as she told me of the first summer after World War Two had ended. It was nothing short of a miracle that, after the blitz, St Paul's Cathedral remained standing proud and virtually untouched surrounded by - nothing.  Every home, shop, church and garden had been bombed to oblivion. St Paul's stood alone. As the summer got under way, however, the surrounding bombsites turned dusky pink as newly arrived and long hidden seeds of the rosebay willow-herb gradually covered the open wounds of the city. Through my grandmother's descriptive powers I
can still visualise in my mind an extraordinary sight that my eyes never saw[3].

A flower of hope, spread out in otherwise desolate spaces, speaking of regeneration, the possibility of fruitfulness again.  She describes how attitudes to it have changed:
It is generally considered a native, but the rosebay willow herb only really arrived in Britain at the end of the last ice age. However, from that time to the present century it was considered a rarity. Today if it appears in our well kept borders it is immediately ripped out as an unwanted weed. It was perceived very differently in the seventeenth century when the famous herbalist Gerard was writing about plants.
Its scarcity then meant it was much more appreciated. Gerard
describes it as “A goodly and stately plant, . . . .garnished with brave flowers of great beautie”.[4]

Far from being a nasty weed overpopulating areas, I thought it was gorgeous.  After reading that, I went and replanted it again – in the earth properly, along the edge of a completely fallow flowerbed.  Fluffhead has been running up and down it all summer – everything I planted died, except some tiny wildflowers I have yet to identify, and a really amazing ‘weed’ that looks like coriander but isn’t, and grows in a sort of overground root system, with runners, like a strawberry plant would.  I wondered whether it would survive, and fluff those little seeds over the flowerbed and to the barren areas of garden, surviving extremes of rain and draught, the way nothing else in my garden has properly this summer (except the buddleia; that I dislike for its incredibly bionic growth.  It needs to be out in the street, I feel bad that I have to cut it back so strongly…)

I thought this could be a new experiment.  The year before last, I let the borage go insane to see what would happen.  What happened was that I had  borders filled with absolutely nothing BUT borage, it crowded out everything, a very greedy plant.  But the way I have been observing the Rosebay Willowherb – and I have since seen it along all the local railway embankments, and some of the more desolate front gardens of the area: it grows alongside other things, it doesn’t leave absolutely no room for anything else.  Besides which, last year we had useful Borage; maybe next year we can have useful Rosebay Willowherb…

(In case you didn’t know, Borage is where we get Starflower Oil, so useful for women’s hormone balancing, and taken in capsule form to help even out periods, breast inflammation and cramping.  This is due to its extremely high levels of GLA, a fatty-acid, the highest of any naturally occurring plant source[5].  It has many many other uses and is worth looking up, but that’s what I use it for.)

Rosebay Willowherb has its own uses.  In her brilliantly useful 2008 book, Hedgerow Medicine, Julie Bruton-Seal also says: ‘It has not been used much in medicine in recent years but was a favourite of the American Eclectic physicians in treating diarrhoea and typhoid. Its soothing, astringent and tonic action is wonderful for all sorts of intestinal irritation, and it makes a good mouthwash’ (see the shortened reference version, online: At this site, you'll find ways in which it can be eaten, too.

Interestingly, too, this health scare I have been having, that thankfully so far has not turned out to be cancer or anything terminal, is all about intestinal irritation…and last year, when the borage was everywhere, due to my experiment then, balancing hormones was my problem. Things have a habit of presenting themselves to my perception when I’m primed to find them most useful.  It’s a strange thing.  What a useful little thing I found.  And so beautiful.

[1] Because it likes to spring up to cover sites razed to the ground by fire. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) in his Diary of Samuel Pepys, nine volumes, 1660-1669, related how the burned area soon filled with fireweed (see May 1667).
[3] From Chickweed, Willow and Other Wild Glaswegians, by Louise Bustard, introductory notes, to be found at:
Do go ahead and read this brilliant, accessible study.  Lots of excellent interesting information.
[4] Ibid, p.61.
[5] James Wong is an ethno-botanist writing of herbal remedies safe for home use, in Grow Your Own Drugs, companion volume to the BBC series of 2009, p.159 (London: Collins, 2009).
Credit: The photo used at the top, is from this site:

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Partially for Hystery: Communication Via, and the Possibilities and Tyrannies of Stories

I wrote this post 3 weeks ago, just as the Olympics were starting.  And decided it was too regular BJ-ish to post, i.e. a bit sad, a bit pessimistic, etc, despite its lighter bits.  Then I read a post by Hystery, and decided maybe it should go up after all, for what its worth. Even a tiny point can be worth making.  And I may not have made it at all well in the comment I left her (too much me, not enough point); so I make it here, instead.  It's not a direct reply to what she said, but it's a related issue.

I was walking down the hill, and it started to rain.  I had forgotten my  umbrella.  (I love my umbrella.  Its completely see-through, with a white rim and handle.  Like many I used to see in 70’s films.  Took me ages to find it.  A while ago see-through umbrellas were a bit in vogue again, but they were see-through with patterns and colours – busy looking.  Not properly see-through alone.  I finally found this one on one of those stalls outside London tube stations, that sell London bus fridge magnets, and those ‘my brother went to London and all I got was this lousy T-shirt’ stalls.  Sitting there all perfect and see-through and lonesome.  And cheap.  Not anymore though.  Now it’s united with me, its dutiful soul-mate.  Every time it rains and I have this umbrella, I love that I can see up, and all the light comes through.  I can see the raindrops.  Hear them patter on the plastic.  There I am, in my own dome of dryness.  It’s a lovely thing.)

Anyway.  I forgot it.

So I was walking down the hill.  It started to rain, quite heavily, quite quickly.  In a way this was just fine; I had just washed my hair, so I was all wet already.

Also it meant the sky did that great thing it does before rainstorms.  It lowered.  Grey grey blanketing sky.  Deep dusky grey, softly heavy.  Plush toy stuffing.  Some rumbles of thunder.  (Which explained why I had a headache too; I’m like a barometer: air pressure up or down – I can tell you from the throbbing of my temples.)  So all the shininess went off everything.  It was still light, but dull.  Not boring dull, just restful dull.  No strong edges on things, no glaring contrasts.  Just a light that takes you mentally from the 10.30 a.m. in the August morning it was, and puts you in at about 4.30 p.m. on an October afternoon instead.  You get an ‘oh, soon hometime, curl up’ feeling.  A winding down light.  Did wonders for my headache.

Rumbles of thunder.  Sorry to be stereotypical, but it did, really.  Cliches are there for a reason.  There – it just did it again.  It moved across the sky like rolling rocks, from left to right.  Bowling balls of Thor (and I forgot the umbrella courtesy of Loki, of course).

I go down the hill, enjoying the feeling of my trainers making that slurpy sticky sound on the wet tarmac.

Against the lowered grey sky, I see a house roof, deep brown with dark green trees far behind, stark in the sky.  On top of the roof stands a scrawny blackbird.  Just mooching about.  In a strutty way.  For a second, as I see the bird, feel the rain on my hair and face, and listen to the gurgling of it running down the gutters at the sides of the road and swirling off to the drains at the bottom of the hill, I think: all I need is this.  These moments of air and space, and small droplets of beauty.  A scrawny bird, a grey sky, some rain.

Moments like these make me who I am.  I could freeze time in tiny spaces like this and watch raindrops land in spirals on concrete, stretch it forever.  Total peace.

But just in case you feel I am going a mite soft, there…the other side of the coin is something like this.  A few days before that last bit…

You know how I’m always saying stories are the only things that make sense?  Because regardless how Kafkaesque (and therefore almost lifelike) they are, they are still stories.

Stories are composed by one person at a time.  No matter how different (and lifelike) the characters seem, they are all in one person’s head.  Echoes of types/sorts/parts of that person’s self.

It is one person talking (at length, and doing all the voices/parts) to themselves.

By that token – if anything (any conflict, problem, misunderstanding – war) gets sorted out at the end, it will be because one person finally understood all the Points Of View of themselves (and was able to create some sort of compromise or resolution through arbitrating the relevance’s of those views).

I had the sort of day today, riven with conflict, where I got to a point of defensive closedown.  I decided “only stories make sense, not real life” and shut up shop.  Retreated therein.

This is also a lie, this tidy little defensive statement I told myself.

The reason stories make sense is that they are lies.  Allsorts of conveniences and contrivances occur there, that in life, do not.  Will not.  Could not. 

Because we don’t understand the 70 thousand shades of people of all ages and wisdoms living in our own heads.  How can we hope to understand someone else’s colony? 

I read the blog the other day, of someone who (possibly rightfully?) isn’t talking to me, or me her.  I loved the blog.  Yet I can’t have a peaceful conversation with her, we misread one another constantly.  (I want to post a link to it here, it's so lovely, but I won't as she may be unhappy with that.)

We can all communicate VIA stuff as much as we like: adore each others writing, love each other’s art, dance, music, taste in humour or clothes or colours or lifestyle.

If we are careful to remain as empathic as possible, we can be friends with each other.  It may even feel easy sometimes.  For a while.

But you know what?  Pessimistic thought for the day: I don’t think there will ever be peace.

Because stories are basically beautiful lies, patchworked senses of self, ventriloquism of our endlessly fragmented perceptions stretched flying; faulty memories sparkled as ‘truth’.

We can try.  But each of us is a player in what to each of us is the epic story of our own lives.  How can the arrogance and ego of each and every Hero and Heroine, Protagonists All, ever accept the bit roles (or worse, the utter non-importance) we have in the lives of others?

If I can’t even understand why someone I love very much was unreasonable today, twice, (and was I too?...probably…) – then what hope for…extrapolate outwards.

And have a gin.

Put on some music.  You’ll think differently if you put on Handel or Mozart as opposed to Fields of the Nephilim or the soundtrack to 28 Days Later…so many variables.

But no peace, I fear.

No two stories tally.  Eye witness accounts notoriously differ.

I shan’t leave it like that though.  Goodness no!  Because that’s the thing.  The scrawny bird, the raindrops, the woollen grey sky (it’s that historical weather again) – and then those nasty sensations of dislocation, miscommunication, alienation.  Both are entirely true.  At the time.  One does not cancel the other.  One does not mean more than the other.  The rather unpleasant truth (for me, at least) I feel, is that both are equally valid and mean something.

It is the bravery that is accepting them both as reality that will help mend the upset stomach that is my mind, so often.

And the fact that if I try my best to listen, to really hear other people when they talk – and to try and put myself in their shoes, I may not end up agreeing with them (no, not at all) – but I will be able to appreciate their standpoints and talk to them that much more effectively.  From where they are.

Bridges can be built.  Don’t despair entirely.  Don’t be so tired you forget why you tread water.

If you read this, and for just a second, you saw that thin little black bird, dark against the rainy sky, and you heard the rain gurgling into the drains – then there is hope.  For allsorts of things involving us humans.

Because I let you in my head, you came to visit and you went away again, unscathed.  You might not have seen exactly what I described (of course not), instead your own approximation of it.  But we shared a vision, which hopefully wasn’t horrible in any way?!

So whilst my feelings when upset were true, quite nastily true, for me – so is this, now.  If we try to keep listening, and seeing, and not shoring up our own positions so much that we can no longer see anyone else’s, amazing things can still be done.  Cities built, cathedrals, books written, films made – millions entertained and given breathing space, a holiday from their worries[1].  It’s not a little thing.

Like I said before, it’s all about empathy with each other. 

That’s my tuppenceworth anyway.

[1] It may not be the start of world peace in particular, but people watching films and reading books and listening to music are not at that moment out being un-peaceful: they are communicating with another’s mind via…And things that help you try to make sense of other things – they are good for exercising the mind.  Understanding anything is never bad, and may come in useful.

'Communication Via' (copyright!!)  is an idea I've had since I was really little.  I think we humans often have great trouble communicating with each other, and do it through other things instead, often much better.