Tuesday, 27 March 2012


So.  I was going to blog a post last week about Ostara, Alban Eiler, the Spring Equinox – my favourite festival in the entire pagan wheel of the year.  Fluffhead was very sick, so I couldn’t blog anything.  He begins to mend, so here I am again.

Most pagans I have ever spoken to seem to love the whole Samhain, Samhuinn (Halloween), or Litha, Alban Hefin (Midsummer), or Yule, Alban Arthan (before Christmas) best.  But I always loved Ostara best.  Maybe it’s the fact that I am always in a bit of downer in that strange nothingy period between January and May (Imbolc: the festival of lights at the start of February is my second favourite festival).  The fact that everyone is talking about spring while I am still freezing my imaginary bollocks off.   I don’t know.  The fact that of course, Ostara (from Oestre, Nordic goddess who runs fleet of foot over the land, sprouting greenery wherever she places her feet) is shortly afterward followed by that Chocolate Festie we all know as Easter.  Maybe the proximity to chocolate has something to do with it. 

I think it’s likeliest to be the colours: all that pastel pale yellow, the gentle pinks, the baby soft sky blues, gentle sprout of new shooting grass green.  It calms the eye, spreads soft over my yelling brain, and quiets it, for however long.  The images of hares dancing over a flowery meadow, all that stuff about new chicks and eggs and baby lambs…it’s a very fluffy, feathery hopeful period.  It makes me think of sunshine on my head.

I watch the laurel and the other brilliant unidentified tree outside the living room window.  The laurel’s fat leaves remain as ever they are, lush and wide.  The other tree has dropped everything over winter, but within the space of a week has budded and let out tiny new shoots all over itself.  Each day they open a bit more.  Today they are actually tiny leaves, all unfurling like a fist opening, more wrapped inside each one.  There’s going to be blossom or small flowers of some sort too, which I don’t remember  from last year.  I wait to see what colour.  I watch the green against the blue sky.  Yesterday the temperatures were as hot as June, after the endless cold.  (People keep saying what a mild winter it has been, which is really annoying me – I was damn well freezing, and my book room is growing a mouldy damp…as far as I am concerned the wind and the cold were quite sufficient in my little world.)

I change my altar to a pale green, add a small hazel wood pentacle disc, wooden painted statues of rabbits and hares, and a potted hyacinth that has become pinkish, lavenderish.  Small tealights for warmth.  Some sunflower seeds.

Finally I have managed to get the spirituality thing from my resolutions underway.  I was trying to think what can be done in 5 minutes a day that would really and truly make a difference.  Not something brainish (too easy for me to just think about things) – a Doing Thing.  It was so simple. Sit in the garden, no matter the weather, for 5 minutes every day at whatever time I can.  Usually, as soon as Fluffhead begins to sleep, before I start panicking about all the things I have to get done in a tiny timeframe.  Just sit.  Do NOT look at all the things that need going in the garden.  (Do not think of the mowing, the shiteload of weeding, the bulbs and herbs to be planted, the seeds to be germinated, the trees that are growing where according to our rental contract we must not let them be…None of that.)  It’s hard to sit there and not think – ‘blimey this garden is out of control…and I am supposed to be keeping it neat, its part of my job at home here, and it’s a stipulation in the rental contract that I do so…’  But I have been so tired lately, its become easier.  Just go out there, sit in the one plastic garden chair that I have placed far back on the concrete near the living room doors, so I can view the whole garden.  Those three tall and swaying firs.  The prickly pride of the holly, barely moving.  The sycamore chancers shooting up everywhere.  The cherry blossom in bud.  The buddleias that have gone insane and shot up 6 feet this year.  The tiny purple flowers all over the lawn.  I don’t know what they are, but they are truly lovely.

Just that 5 minutes.  The idea is to just watch and listen.  Watch for squirrels, as they do tend to run past, frilling their tails.  The odd (very rare) hedgehog that appears from behind the large woodpile and snuffles its way across the whole garden.  Occasionally a fox, moving low, tail down.  Sometimes the fox is in a bit of a state, a wounded side, or a manky looking bitten tail.  This one runs with a wariness and tautness to danger.  If I even breathe while he is around, he takes off immediately.  I have to be invisible and barely blink.  He runs very close to the back of the wall, as much under the shade of the firs and the hedge behind as he can.  Sometimes a much sleeker and shinier one runs through.  With a small cub.  They are more confident, and look at me, here and there.  The look cannot be properly described.  If that dad fox (I feel it’s the dad, I may be all wrong of course) were a human, then that look says: ‘don’t even think about it, possible food source, this land here is mine’.  It’s piercing, cold and there is pacing striding thought in there, if only I really did understand fox language.  The little one’s look just says, ‘oh!’ in a scattered sort of way, before running on.  They are usually going from the right to the left across the garden, but once they seemed to play chase and ran back and forth about 4 times, while I felt enormously lucky (and a bit irritated that my brain was also engaged in the direst wish to go for a pee, when I wanted my brain to be clear for the wonder of animal interaction).

Sometimes no animals show themselves.  Sometimes I can just hear the birds.  The tiniest birds often make the largest sounds.  The magpies (everywhere around here) fly low over the garden and come and sit on the roof of the outhouse strutting noisily about.  Reminding me of the massive seagulls that sit on my mother’s flat roof down by the sea and can wake her at 4 in the morning.  Sometimes I hear seagulls here, and always I instantly feel a sensation of sunlight and salty sea walks, a sensation of spaciousness and clarity.  If Fluffhead is with me outside at any time of day, he really responds to these particular bird sounds, always raising his hands in an imperious Emperor type pointy gesture at them.  As I say, some days I don’t see them at all.  I just listen to the wind in the trees, and hear them from around the house or the next door’s garden.  I listen to the grass and the leaves move.

I get very annoyed when next door (the neighbour’s I really dislike on the left hand side) are in the garden.  They are one of those families who can’t be anywhere without musical accompaniment.  Always the radio, the boombox, the mobile phone with them.  They do their gardening chores or bounce on their ridiculously large trampoline listening to loud Capital Radio (if it’s the mum), or loud hip-hop, modern so called-R&B (if it’s the teenage daughter). Metal if it’s the son.  I object to the metal the least; I like the energy of it pounding.  It’s the sort of noise you want turned up, so you can be irritated at proper volume; and then ask what was that song called?  The others though…bloody talking on the radio, argh.    And modern so called R&B…whatever.  If they are out there I go away and attempt to come back later.  I want to hear the garden, not them, screeching and playing music that I didn’t even pick!

The other sounds I get uncomfortable listening to is the school nearby.  The sound of that human jungle arises often when I am out there: break time, lunchtime, whichever.  That is the true meaning of screeching, schools.  It’s a weird saturated sound: it’s far enough away that it plays in and out on the wind; but close enough that sometimes I hear individual voices within the cacophony.  Instant flashback of complete alienation in the face of that environment of running about and shrieking and being so intensely pack-ish.  Memories of skulking to the edge, hiding in shade.  (No wonder I always want to hug the wounded fox when I see him; and I never will be able to of course.)  I used to engineer it to get given tasks indoors at breaktimes as often as possible, or tasks in other outside parts of the school, stacking chairs, putting away the outside gym mats etc.  Anything to keep me away from the pack, and let me think, watch and listen in peace.  After all those years, so loooooooooooong now; still I feel the dislocation of those times.  Every time I hear the playground.

So sometimes I try and go away and come back then also.  And then other times, I just sit quietly and try to listen to that too.  It’s far enough away, I say to myself.  It’s gone.  You are here; this is your garden you share with the birds and the creatures, the trees and the grass.  You are safe within these bounds.

I have managed this small and oddly significant spiritual practice for over a month now.  Just watching.  Listening.  Sitting.  Being there.  I miss it when I don’t do it.

It’s made me want to engage more with the garden too.  Though I am not thinking of the chores, I can still see them.  And it’s made me want to care for it so much more – to have a proper relationship with it.  And of course, this season of Ostara, when all wakes up and seeds will begin to grow: this is the time to reintroduce myself to my garden that I let alone all winter as it was Definitely So Cold.

So, today, when I have an amazing 3 hours of babysitting, I am going to stop talking to you now.  I am going to sit in the sun, and be there.  Then I may have a word with the borage and green alkanet, in the Strongest Possible Terms (as in: dudes, you aren’t just being here, you are hogging here, and some of you have got to go, ok?).  I will wave a trowel at them and do terrible things.

Then I will plant some sunflower seeds.  Grow a happy garden, grow a happy me.  Fleet of foot over the land, sending up new shoots wherever I place my feet.  Helping spring.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Writing Exercises, Part 3

Today it’s some freewrites I did over the weekend, suggested just by a list of words.  They are by nature bitty, going from one thought to the next, sometimes going into the ideas, sometimes not.  They are jumpy and abrupt.  Bear with me.  They paint little pictures in their way.  (Soon I shall talk to you normally again, you wait and see.)  (As in, I can't keep going like this for long, I will tire; I'm a write in bursts person, usually.)


Room – The Black Room, where a bad 80’s film is to me a classic of vampirism; though it sounds like it should be a real classic, with Jane Asher and Vincent Price.  Reminding me of that dream I had the other day where I waited for the torture-porn dentist to get to me next, as he carved away the face of the man in the chair.  There was no blood, it just became more and more fish like, until he almost stopped whimpering.  The scalpel sculpted him and fronded out his face, creating frills and curlicues where before was human skin. He created a monster, a sad and scared bloodless fish.  Why did I keep asking if I was next, so impatiently?

Violet – A grandmother I never had, a mother in law who likes, as I do, the taste of violet sweets, the crunchy wrappers.  The grandmother hovers over us both, capacious bosom wrapped about with lace, or muslin, or just well washed wool.  She watches with approval as we talk of lavender water and simple things to cure simple ills.  She is the woman in the supermarket, who couldn’t stop laughing at me when I bought mashed potato ready made.  I smiled at her in the queue, mistaking her mocking smile for friendliness, and commented on how quick dinner would be, seeing her watch my items on the belt.  She couldn’t stop her smile cracking out, ‘be just as quick if you made it yeself, gel,’ and she smiled at me, the mouth curled and not hostile.  Just better than me.  I felt as if I understood, it’s a generation thing; but also that she was right and I am badly lazy; and sad at being judged so flagrantly, by a stranger.

Avalon – there the hills roll and sweep, and the landscape is Terry Gilliam in it’s parody of itself.  Will King Arthur always be lost to us as a myth?  Always sad and far away, always a cliché and never a reality?  But how can he be a reality – if he came now he’d be a bit racist, wouldn’t he?  Saving England for the English (or one could argue, for the French, since so many French authors contributed to the myth). I know, I know, Avalon and King Arthur are a state of mind: the English are those who love this land, wherever they come from.  But he…Always doomed to sail away, dying, and have to come back later?  And never quite getting here?  Jesus, for the non conventionally religious, but nostalgically minded.  In some myths a Christian grail seeker; in others, a pagan hero.

Watermelon – Inside the red lays the juice. Dripping, sticky, wet.  Like Fluffhead’s milky chops when we feed him and he breaks off and just smiles at us, his mouth coated all around.  A treat, a farthing, a quiet moment.  My favourite fruit – but not too much of it, can’t eat too much of it.  Novels by Irish writers who are so fluid they make me laugh – don’t even waste time being jealous.  Sweet like Rapunzel in her tower to a man looking from below.  Unknown, and somehow never quite enough.  Watery, soft, crunchy like candy floss and gone as soon.  A drink and a meal, and a stain on the sofa that just won’t come off.

Fan – Victorian women telling stories by their hands, almost Japanese in the economy of their movements.  Peeking out from behind the shield of paper – authors, in their way.

Failure – One of the most ennobling things anyone can do – try, be brave, fail.  Try more.  Don’t be too down heartened – be bonkers and be convinced, keep going.  Do it differently.  Be black, not white, be open, not closed – be a door always slightly ajar.  Be Fluffhead: be convinced the world WILL understand you if you cry long enough.  Be round, jocund, spacious – encompass all.  Don’t be scared unless it lights a fire that keeps your fingers skittering over the keyboard, your eyes squinting to find the letters as the flames lick them away from your sight.  Move faster, don’t stop, until you are motionless in speeding space, all around you at a speed the same, and therefore no speed at all.  You have arrived in a tiny split second moment – and it might be all you ever have of enlightenment.  And then you fall, you attain a different speed.  You are back with us all (hello), and we grin at you like the stupid apes we all can be; and you doubt where you were, but don’t.  The memory is true.  The experience worth striving for.  Do it again, keep going for the occasional second of laughing perfection, the split second of rapture, of connectedness.  Yes.  Do that.

Misty – I used to fancy her soooo much.  That ethereal gothy comic cover girl.  Her slightly flicky hair.  Her almond eyes, dark and expressionless.  They were, really – cover her mouth and her eyes said nothing.  Her mouth always said – ‘come here, follow’…And I always read the comic, the annual, the special, and I was always a bit disappointed – but also always wanted more.

Leaves – I don’t know where the leaves used to go – it seemed they fell from the trees, or were ripped the way Fluffhead reaches for everything and tears at it, in his 2 year old greed.  Then they were gone.  There should have been huge drifts of them, but there weren’t, not anymore.  In my childhood, I remembered there being drifts, in people’s gardens, in the parks we went to.  Here, the leaves fall fast from the trees, and are in the garden for an afternoon.  The next day they are gone.  This is despite the fact that when the wind rages at night I can hear it, the whole house creaks and groans with it.  And when it rains, something right by my window drips and drips, incessantly, irregularly, all night.  Fluffhead twitches in his sleep, hearing it.  What does he dream?

Moonraker – How can anyone dislike a film with such amazing sweeping music?  I really feel the pull of space when I am there, floating. And I hate space usually. It’s both too much (by far), and not enough at all (claustrophobia).  It’s like the interior of my own eyes – but I can’t open them.  I can’t choose – there is no choice either way.  I am lost in the dark.  Like the dream I had long ago – calling, knowing I was dead, and surrounded by darkness – ‘Is anyone there?  Hello?  Hello?’  Knowing there was no one, and would never be anyone. Interestingly, I have no idea if I was dead in hell, or dead on my way somewhere, or simply brain dead and stuck in my decomposing body…there was no religious overtone to this dream, despite my questing for this knowledge my whole life.  I was as undecided in the dream, as I really am in real life.  Also – I had no hope.  I was alone, and that was that.  Chilling.  Worse than Sartre.  Hell was – no other people.

Creeping – So many possible futures and places to go, so many many many.  Which way does the bug go – like the Virginia Woolf story.  Which way does the tiny slug on my doorstep choose to go, the one with the tiny questing antenna, the tiny little head born hands, crying on the wind, always wet, always blind and trying to find the way…home?  Or the promised land of compost and whatever it is that slugs eat?  (Must look up what slugs eat, I bet everyone knows except me.)  On his belly, Fluffhead creeps, drags, really, his self along.  One hand almost trapped beneath him, the other pulling himself along. He’s adept, he is a proper shot soldier from a war film – he can drag himself across the room like a very bulky and athletic worm, in under 30 seconds.  Can pivot on a coin.  Then bound up and run away, the creeping game finished.

Garden – So much more than a garden, mine is.  Having never had a garden before, it’s a treasure of dreams.  The wildlife – its my own piece of outside, with no people, and a thousand animals to watch – the fox as large as an Alsatian loping through with skinny confidence.  The squirrel with the incredibly twitchy, fluffy (flea-ed?!) tail.  The bluetits at the feeder; the tiny sparrows, the robin red breast – so beautiful there.  The three cats seen so far: the black and white with the small white socks, with skitterish, wary eyes, but who will rub against you with love and affection for seconds before jumping away, if you can entice her.  The fatter black and white one, that makes feints at birds under guise of mincing along – and always misses.  The marmalade and white one that lives outside the house opposite, and never seems to get to go in.  The dragonflies that roam in pairs.   And are so fast.  The hoverflies I mistook for wasps.  The wasps.  The fat bumblebees that feast happily on the buddleia and lavender.  Whatever it is that Fluffhead and I planted in the most basic and shoe swipy fashion, coming through – so far it looks like clover; maybe it will be fat red poppies.  At least some of it is supposed to be romantic English flowers like hollyhocks.  The woodpecker with his red head and startling yellow under wing area, long brown beak.  The magpies (‘afternoon captain’) – always the one for sorrow, but seen so often I take him for joy, as it seems he multiplies himself, or else a family of him own this area and the house opposite, where he struts up and down all day.

Reflection – How deep does glass go – how much can you actually see?  How much is your reflection, going on forever – as in old dressing table mirrors with 3 sides that you could fold yourself into, as I did at my nan’s house when I was small (ah, the smell of her house – precious).  The little ever repeating and faded images of me, going on and on.  I wondered if they were all with me, or all far away, very far away.  Another world.  If I thought of it now, I would wonder if they were all in another dimension.  And then Sherri S. Tepper could write a really good book about it.  I would not, not for now, anyway.

Edit – Murder Your Darlings, said John McCollough, who was already quoting someone else.  Can you imagine Jessica Fletcher having to edit?  How business-like and unemotional she would be about it.  I used to hate the edit, but A215, and John, taught me to love it as a whole separate writing process. One where you reinvent.  I can see why lovers of poetry would be good at the edit.  And I still kick myself for not writing down that brilliant poem I composed on the side of the fridge, years ago, about Troubadour having pieces of himself pared away by those in The Poetry Cage who wanted him so badly (and my own jealousy and insecurity at his breadcrumb approach to marriage – ‘why worry who gets the crumbs when you have the loaf?’ – ‘If its all crumbs, its not a loaf anymore, Troubadour’...we did have some brilliant arguments with great metaphors, he and I!  I remember them fondly.).

Simple – How life should be.  And it would NOT be boring, for all those who sing the song of loving the complications.  Rubbish.  Simple merely means smooth in thought, smooth in action.  You can be smooth with doing bad things as well as good, smooth in making a million dangerous mistakes.  Life would not be boring.  It just wouldn’t judder and spin so; you might be defenceless, attacked and at your wits end, but it wouldn’t be due to bureaucracy.  It would be like nature in the garden. Though here, my logic begins to fail, I think.  I am imagining the blackbird, and his worm he just picked up in his mouth.  I am thinking: blackbird eats worm (or takes worm to feed family): simple.  No…not simple.  For the worm, who was worming in a simple way, he now faces a stomach (or whatever blackbird midsection is named – look up, put on list) churning and painful death as the blackbird hops about in a strange indecisive state, for well over 10 minutes as I watched, while he hangs from the sharp beak.  Then I don’t know how long it takes him to be flown where he is going and then be eaten alive.  It still is simple in a way.  And inexorable.  But  just simple?  Maybe not, maybe it doesn’t feel simple at all.  Maybe it feels anything but simple.  Cruel, pointless, harsh.  Maybe it suggests I am anthropomorphizing like crazy.  Does a worm have a brain, or real nerve endings to feel pain (look up, put on list, you have no clue)…And maybe to the blackbird, it simply feels like: dinner.

Sunlight – makes all the difference.  As the day starts to feel older now, at 5.25 p.m., and the light begins to thin, I start to type more feverishly (waffling on as I am), knowing that soon (and I don’t want to think about it, here I have been feeling more me than I have in years, truly) my time here will be over.  Soon I am back at the dirty sharp coalface, the sticky jungle of motherlove.  Where even my eyes do not feel my own – as I am drawn to look at Fluffhead, my arms to hold (and be loved or fought against), my ears to hear that crying that feels so hurtful to me, and pointless to him.  All this fades in importance in the sunlight – if I am with Fluffhead, it shines on us both as I walk about the garden with him running ahead, feeling incredibly fortunate.  If without him (as now), I feel like the day will last forever and the night holds no shadows or fear.  But…then the light begins to fade, and the colours are no longer so vivid.  I remember I am a mother, it is my full time job, I get snippets of time

(and here’s an interruption)

…to be me…And now the day, does, inevitably, begin to end.  Fluffhead is getting increasingly fractious, Stanley is hungry and wants to be fed, and I start to wane myself.  Possibly.  Or my training kicks in.  Stanley has done less than 6 hours and is pooped.  I (sort of) congratulate myself on doing 24 hours, and all the time, most days.  Though I can't speak for my sanity or sense of self, resulting...This time of sunlight, of sitting in the garden, and of just being myself, have been precious.   

I survive with them and on them infront and behind me.  I lead a sandwich existence.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Writing Exercises, Part 2

Just in case you found Wednesday’s writing exercises a good distraction to read; here are some more, culled from the same source book for inspiration.  If I am given a good title or a subject, I can waffle on in some way about almost anything.  But sit me in front of a blank page/screen…tsk tsk tsk.  Hence these writing exercise books are most helpful to get me going!

Public Places, Private Memories – Flashback Triggers

Certain films and novels have the place totally bound up with the plot and character.  Wuthering Heights; I was Happy Here etc.  Places have the power to elicit feeling.  In real life, a US entrepreneur soaked up the nostalgia often provoked by place, by borrowing a million to set up a real Rick’s Bar, in Casablanca, Morocco.  Meticulously recreated from the film footage.

Some authors find place and atmosphere of place before character e.g. P.D. James.

Place is also significant is something very good or bad happens – the ‘where were you when Kennedy/Diana died?’ syndrome.  It sticks, memories get frozen.  Psychologically, this is called ‘flashbulb memory’.

Make a list of places for flashbulb memory for myself, as a start:

A place where I was happy
On the beach, when just about teen, listening to Suzanne Vega on the walkman headphones, while reading.  Lying on my stomach, on a pastel coloured lilo.  Dad and mum next to me in deckchairs.  I can’t really see them, except for dad’s leg.  Conscious of the sun being very hot, and the sea coming in very close, and that I should probably move.  But filled with contentment and peacefulness.  The smell of the sea, and of dad’s Mellow Virginia rollup, wafting every time there is a breeze.

Was miserable
Wandering through the school halls at St Marylebone, as a teenager, trying to simultaneously keep my head high, and not make eye contact with anyone, as I am singled out for being a bookish freak, who cannot stand up for herself.  The thoughts that keep running through my head are all the same, as I pass through the cold corridors stinking of overcooked veg and toilets – ‘One day I will get out of here’.  Conscious the whole way through school, of just having to wait for it to be over.  That one day I would be free of the way things were done there: the stupid pecking order, the derision with which being interested in anything to do with learning is greeted, the force wins all mentality of the girls – sportiness a pre-requisite (me always last picked).  To this day I don’t play well with others, as I will never again expose myself to pack mentality.

Was angry
At Oversley House, indoors on one of the landings.  Where I had stomped out of the house, after I had been mugged and waited ages at the police station but Troubadour never came because he was out flirting with Alias Catwoman from America.  I had come home with my mother.  Catwoman with the slim tall figure and the green catlike eyes.  How jealous of her I was.  How badly behaved she was, crawling across the floor like a cat to Troubadour, and he lapping it up as if this was all normal; and Morrie there to see.  Even Alias Laughing Girl said it was clear he had fallen in love with her a little.  I lost my temper that night and left the house, and told him she had to go.  I remember to this day the blood feeling like ice in my veins as I lost it.  The way I felt filled and overtaken by anger energy.  I felt I could have killed him with my eyes.  And he was stupid enough to think this was not so. 
(What a long time ago that was.)

Had my first kiss
Somewhere outside, memories of Davenports Magic School, and going on the Jubilee Line to Stanmore on a Saturday afternoon, because that was where Alias Julian Bananahead (my first boyfriend, immortalized forever), wanted to live as a grown up.  He was a very good stage magician, I remember.  Smaller than me, much finer boned.  Dressed like a grown up in very bad ill-fitting polyester suits – a boy being a man.  There was no badness in him; he was a good guy – just extremely dull and pedestrian.  And an excruciatingly bad kisser.  My first kiss was one man single-handedly trying to excavate my stomach through my throat.  With a tongue amazing in its length and agility – and complete lack of skill.  A cleaning machine, exploring all my mouth. A spit fest.  Quite good really – the standard for all to come was judged by this one spectacular bad kiss.  He was a really sweet person though.  I remember him fondly.

(My first good kiss: A boy, very ugly, but very lithe, a DJ and club promoter, a nearly rasta but not quite – very sure of himself.  The sweetest kiss of skill and rhythm and promise, and oh so that’s what tongues are supposed to do…he lead and I followed, and I should have slept with him – why on earth I didn’t I will never know!  But if the kiss was anything to go by, the sex would have been amazing!  This was in his house – I forget entirely where this was, during secondary school, somewhere near Stoke Newington.)

I found exciting
Dartmoor, in the middle of the most amazing rainstorm I’ve ever been in.  Got out of the coach for a breather – school trip – and within a couple of seconds, was completely soaked to the bone with rain.  Couldn’t see an inch in front of my face, only grey haze of downward pelting rain, in spears.  All I could hear was the noise of rain hitting sodden earth, anywhere – and the squeals of other people getting as instantly soaked as me.  Amazing and beautiful flashbulb memory of the power of nature to cow us all.  Thrilling.

Where I felt safe
On the sofa, in Vernon Road, under Stanley’s wing, falling gently asleep on his chest while ostensibly watching whatever – usually old and classic Dr Who, on TV.  Just that perfect feeling of being safe and loved and not expected to do anything.  Being totally comfortable and with my own little pack.

Where I felt frightened
Whenever a tube gets stuck in a tunnel, and the power appears to go off, I feel very frightened.  Instantly my heart starts beating too fast and I get a sort of chemical rush feeling to the chest area.  I can feel myself start to get shaky and pay extra attention to my book, so that I don’t have to think about being far under the earth with loads of people.

Anywhere, can happen anywhere, there’s no particular location for this, as with me, loneliness is a mood.  It’s usually brought on by people, rather than an absence of people.  It’s when you realize you are on a different wavelength to people and that they don’t really understand you, no matter how much time you may spend trying to understand and communicate with them.  The sudden feeling of isolation, and it having happened again and again so many times.  It’s cumulative.  Each time it happens it becomes a link to all the other times.  Being alone is different to be lonely.  I have been lonely when alone, but I can always find someone somewhere to talk to or text or email.  But when you’re with people and realize you are truly alone, that’s much worse.

I’d like to return to
My childhood, in many ways.  When my major worries were having peed on the carpet when Hart to Hart was on, when I was small.  Or that I had to go back to school, while sadly watching Flambards on Sundays.  Coming home from school for lunch to watch the Cedar Tree with my parents.  Lying in bed reading, till all hours.  It was safe and I was taken care of, in that way of parents that messes you up, but is good enough all the same.  Having the luxury of TIME that I had then.

Cornwall – with mum, years ago, went to Tintagel, and Jamaica Inn.  All these places I vaguely remember – reading Jamaica Inn in Jamaica Inn; eating huge Cornish pasties at the very edge of the sheer drop on Tintagel. 

Yorkshire, all those years ago with mum, when we walked up to Top Withens in a day in April or May, and it was balmy and wonderful, and I got prickly heat for the first time.  The sheep looked ferocious and malevolent and baa-ed at us in a scary and meaningful way, which gave rise to the everlasting joke between me and Fry about the zombie flesh eating sheep, which someone obviously overheard us say somewhere, because suddenly it became a film – and who on earth else would have thought of that, by themselves?

Where I made friends
At my last work, Chloride Group, now Emerson Power.  Weird, but I’ve never made proper friends in a work environment that I would happily see out of work too – but there, several people…Alias Indie I met there, and Magda the Cat (who waits patiently for a blog entry about her good self).

Where I made enemies
Secondary School – yes, apparently I was too different.  Also, at various Open University tutorials – notably the one where I said I’d had bad luck with tutors, and a rather bitter faced middle aged woman, who clearly didn’t like me from her body language and beady eyed expression, said: ‘have you ever thought its something wrong with you?’ Charming!  A risk when you speak up and are yourself, is that people will not like you.  I will have to learn to handle it, the older I get.  (So far, it does not get any easier.  I don’t have the shrug off ability that my good friend Alias Laughing Girl has had since the age of 30.  I’m a decade behind!)

Where I was ill
On a writing trip, many years ago, to Dorset.  We had to eat in a very Red Room – hideously bright red, with an open fireplace crackling away.  It was horrendously hot.  I completely lost all sense of me, and felt overwhelmed by the room, like it was sucking me in.  I had to be sent to bed, and lay there, in a darkened dormitory, feverishly listening to strange knocking noises going around the walls.  Was awful and strangely psychedelic.  To this day I have no idea what was wrong with me, something as prosaic as a little bug; or as definitive as a weird vibe in the house that haunted me, that I picked up on?  (With more experience of old houses now, at least I realise that the knocking on the walls was almost certainly old central heating perking up – our house here does it.)

Where I was shocked
My bedroom at Grosvenor Hill, when I found a supposed friend giving my first ever lover a blowjob on my bed.  That was rather shocking – I should have been more upset than I remember being though – I was definitely more shocked than anything.  And her saying she “was not aware we had a monogamous agreement”!  (She was going through a Marxist phase.  To this day, that expression makes me laugh when I think of it; such sophistry!)

That inspired me
St Katherine’s Retreat, in the East End of London – for a place in the City it’s the loveliest I’ve been to in ages.  The courtyard, the mellow rooms, the library.  It’s a heavenly place of tranquillity – the lovely wooden dining room.  A place worthy of the word haven.

Where I lost something important
In the back of a taxi once, lost my favourite perfume – which felt very important at the time, given me as it was, by my prospective sugar daddy (oh the weird days of my youth), an older man named Mario, whose last name I never knew, and who took me for lunch near Green Park, and to the casino next door for gambling, so I could see what happened in casinos.  Annoyingly, I have zero memories of seeing any gambling…or of what happened once I got in there at all; though nothing dire, as I was definitely a virgin later in life…it was Hermes perfume, the one shaped like a ring with a cap on top – and I used to think it was the very essence of wealth, that smell.  And so alluring for that.   (See what happens when you watch Dynasty at an impressionable age?!)  Mario never saw me again, after he suggested one day when I sheepishly met him, that we could get my teeth fixed before we ‘went any further’.

I’d like to live if I could
In a lovely house overlooking the sea, with forest and meadows on the other sides of me.  Wild horses of white, running about.  Where magic felt possible, and where healing and rest and calm thinking can and do occur.  Where there’s a small neighbourhood pub, with tourists as well as quiet locals, where I felt at ease.  Where there was a village fair.  The house would be on the edges of the village, so I didn’t have to mix too much if I didn’t want to.  It would be a peaceful haven I would always want to be at.  With patio doors opening out onto a large garden, chiffon curtains billowing gently in a breeze.  An image of peace.  Secluded and not overlooked; but felt safe and not lonely.  I have no idea if this place exists, but if it doesn’t – I wish it so and continue to, till I find it.

Failing that – the country, somewhere real – with seclusion and greenery.

Or Charleston, the house of the Bloomsbury set in Sussex that I visited with mum; or Kipling’s House also in Sussex somewhere – that had a beautiful peaceful vibe, it was lovely, a happy place.

Remember from a favourite book
Don’t remember which book, but it was a romance book, and it was about a woman working in a café bookshop, which she owned and also lived above.  It just seemed a lovely lifestyle.  Another book also, by Leanne Banks, I think (?)  but not sure, where a character was quite adrift with her life, and was taken in by a couple – it was something about an orange orchard, and she worked in the gift shop.  Again – a mellow and pleasing place to be, to spend your days.  Light and life, but quietly, and gently.  I loved both locations.
(I’m sure there are more than this, but I honestly don’t remember.)

Remember from a favourite film
Any of the country houses I see, or secluded dwellings – just incidental – like the end of ‘From Hell’, where the Heather Graham character ends up in a windy swirly place in Ireland with her baby – and god, it looks idyllic!  Films do idyllic rural locations very well.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Writing Exercises, Part 1

Since I only ever have time to do one kind of writing, and its usually blogging…this neglects my attempts to do stories, or limbering up/keeping fit writing exercises.  In an effort to stop this, you lot are going to be subjected to all my writing exercises, hence forth (unless they come out alarmingly cack, of course!).  So here is yesterday’s work, bitty and all over the place – and just for you!!  Even Alias Dreamer may like some of this – its similar to my small paragraph exercise-stories I have done for you all before.  These are all exercises taken from one of my favourite stand-by books – The 5 Minute Writer by Margret Geraghty.  Five minutes will never seem like not long enough again – even if you are me, and struggle with time ad infinitum…

Invisibility and Other Superpowers

I have 5 mins to describe how my day would go if I was invisible.  What would I look at, where would I go?  Or a different superpower.

If I woke up today, this morning, and was invisible…I would likely waste some time freaking out.  So let’s assume I knew this was going to happen, and that it would only last 24 hours, or some very finite time.

I think the first thing I would do, is goggle about in front of the mirror, at the sensation that I can see through myself – the knowledge that I am there, without the evidence.  I would probably end up feeling a bit sick.  I would get dressed, as I assume I’d still be able to feel the cold?  (And I’m assuming my clothes then go invisible also?)

Then I would probably have immense fun shoplifting for a while, whatever I could get away with.  The things I touch wouldn’t become invisible though, so I would probably give cause to a few religious conversions and a few nervous breakdowns, as I went about this business. (Which begs the point about my clothes going invisible, eh?)

Then it’s likely I would immediately go and spy on people.  Who would I go to first?  Alias Octa is the obvious one, because I’m not allowed to see him.  Can I walk through walls too – am I like a ghost, if I choose?  If so, I would really spy on him.  I would also see what Stanley gets up to when I’m not here.  And I would revel in going into loads of people’s houses and just looking around; observing them and their worlds.  I firmly believe you can learn loads about people through looking at their stuff, and what they keep around them.

I would probably start to feel lonely quite quickly, I think.  And a bit freaked out. 

I would go to the cinema, to concerts, to anywhere it looked like I couldn’t usually go, and just observe and see what really happens – in police stations, for example.  Lawyer’s offices.  Ohhhhh – I would go to parliament; sit in executives meetings.  I would go to clubs and see how people really act.  What they do in toilets.  How they are when they think no one is there.  I wonder how I would feel with this information?  Would I feel disgusted, or empowered with a world of secret knowledge?

I’m sure I’m supposed to be doing something far more important than this – but I suspect it would all be nosiness and info-gathering – unless there was something very specific bothering me and I needed info on it, some environmental issue or something, in which case I would be more focussed.

Sensations – never forget them!

Exercise: Make a list of sensations, things that make you happy – things that can be felt and experienced as sensation:

Happy Sensations list

Ø      Scrambled eggs and twirls of smoked salmon on top – the smell, the look of it, sitting quietly, steaming, waiting for me to eat
Ø      Going on a walk on a good spring day down a quiet street with trees – listening to the silence in the middle of the city, feeling the movement of my legs
Ø      Seeing window boxes full of many colours, that bursting feeling of them all trying to get out
Ø      Smell of peppermint tea, strong sharp taste of it
Ø      A bath with rose petals in – for decadence, and nurturing care – sensation of quiet happiness, peace
Ø      Waking up with Stanley still curled around me from one of our rare naps in the afternoon, the safeness, the warmth, the love all quiet and soft – quiet happiness, peace
Ø      When Fry was small, the way he used to sleep next to me, and wouldn’t sleep without me, and I used to curl my arm over him and he felt all safe and cherished; now Fluffhead does something very similar – quiet happiness, peace
Ø      Mushrooms and eggs when hung over, and tomatoes and toast, orange juice – knowing these steaming foods and their strong smells are going to fix me – smell and taste
Ø      Curled up at home reading a book, and looking out the window at a sunny day that’s quiet – quiet happiness, peace
Ø      Going for a walk in the countryside with Saint Mum or Stanley – the sounds, the sense of spaciousness, the no rush, the warmth, the feeling of moving, the beauty everywhere to be seen
Ø      Back when I was working - knowing its hometime – or Friday hometime: a sensation of freedom about to happen; waking up on Saturday and Sunday morning, and knowing I can sleep more, followed by doing the things I need to do = personal imperatives.

One Minute, one Sentence – For when 5 Minutes is too much!

Don’t worry if the sentence doesn’t make a lot of sense – just make it not boring! ONE sentence is doable.

A sentence about:
An Animal
If I had to invent an animal it would be a unicorn that was tiny and chased mice away from houses; or a cat that could be carried in the pocket and lived to happily curl around hands and warm them on winter days.

An inanimate object
The wardrobe creaked and hissed the metal hangers along, trying to make more breathing space; it felt fat and was tired of all the clothes inside that were never worn.

How I’m feeling right now
In the never-ending world, of never ending days, and in my round of never-ending obligations, I feel remarkably finite in capability; and at the same time straining against possible limitlessness.

A dull sentence
I am bored.

About sex
First the first time ever, when he reaches over my thigh and asks if I want tickling, I say no, and mean it.

Beginning with a name
Annabel, in her mind, was the heroine from The Devil Wears Prada; whereas in reality, she was the heroine of her own life – and a far earthier and more creative spirit.

About the weather
The spring sprung, as Mistress K would say; and BJ expected her blues to go away.

A silly sentence
One day I will rule the world, and will make Mondays an obligatory pyjama day; and everyone will take a course in kayaking (especially if they annoy me).

About a place
The enclosed courtyard that adjoined the church caught mellow light, at about 2 in the afternoon – that’s when I used to sit there and eat my lunch, watching the blossoms swell on the trees, and fall softly to earth. (I like this one, and want to do more of it.)

About a habit
Whenever I get stressed I scrape my front teeth across my inside lip, curled in, and try to sharply nip out pieces of it: it’s incredibly satisfying to mutilate myself this way.

About myself
I am getting a headache, more or less as usual.

Beginning with an expletive
Fuck, I’m getting a headache again!

About water
Sometimes, when I run the tap, I just can’t stop looking at it – its beautiful, swirling, a hundred different shades of light, white, and sparkle.

About love
Weirdly enduring, weirdly easy to break and weirdly capable of giving you an upset stomach and a headache: love.

Beginning ‘how’…
How can it be that I have only just had the idea to go and search for unicorns as a quest??

About a season
People always say they like spring, but I find it an annoying season: I mean, its great that the cold has stopped being so excessive, and the little flowers are coming out…but its still not warm enough and the tendency to sudden rain is only really picturesque if you aren’t in your silly work trousers that get soaked so easily, as Stanley says.

About death
When dad died, I tried to hold his hand one last time, but rigor had already set in – I looked at the shape of his fingers and understood I would never see them again.  Except in my mind, and only until I forget what they look like.

About fountains
The fountain that day a thousand years ago when my eyes were turned up, and it was like a brilliant fall of diamonds, or a wingflight of a thousand tiny hummingbirds.  There’s only so much wing span you can get in a drop but they were there, many and feathery, glinty and clear. 
I started cheating toward the end there, and doing more than one sentence!

I have more for you, patient people…Probably for Friday, if I carry on burbling to no good particular end but a pleasant burble nonetheless.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

...Gets Fed Up With The World and Is Swallowed Whole by Norse Mythology...

It’s been an extraordinarily fragmented fortnight, in my brain.  One of those strange and fearsome times when nothing holds me, and I flip-flop from one thing to another more than a Mitt Romney[1] (for lack of a more apposite home example, this week).  These times in my mind are fearsome because it doesn’t take me long to notice I am slightly out of control (in a bad way, not a spontaneous ‘lets go to the seaside!’ way).  I want to buy more things that I have momentary illusions will make me happy; I get crushingly bored and eat lots more than usual; sleep deserts me and I lay there thinking interesting/bothersome things when I need to be resting.  I cry that I don’t have enough time to Read All The Books That I Need To, at these times.

The wider world about me has been similarly jangly and unsettled.  Syria implodes and no one helps the poor citizens because it’s in the wrong place geo-politically.  America’s Republicans go even more insane than usual and seem to hate women to a new low (hmmm, we’re sluts for taking birth control…This incident refers to the ongoing debate [within government, not ‘on the streets’!] about women in the US receiving birth control as part of their healthcare that is part of their pay package; and the fact that some religious bodies as employers are saying they don’t want to contribute to something they have moral qualms about, the Catholics, to begin with.  Then ultra conservative idiot and ‘personality’ Rush Limbaugh called women sluts on his radio show this week, claiming we wouldn’t need so much birth control if we had less sex…There’s tons more to this story and my wanting to rant about it at the moment is a little bit infinite, but its not the point of why I’m posting; its simply the backdrop.  My suggestion if you’re interested: Do yourselves a favour, liberally minded peoples over here, and download some liberal US political comedy, for a good quick way to be educated as well as catching CNN or FoxNews (truly bonkers reporting, dangerously influential) or other US news networks on your Sky for how its being reported, or reading online US papers…try ‘The Daily Show’, or the ‘Colbert Report’, or ‘Countdown’ [nope, not a brilliant UK quiz-show we don’t have anymore!], or 'Real Time with Bill Maher').

There’s something direly wrong going on with the Republican Party over there at the moment, and what happens over there always ends up affecting us over here, so there’s no point closing our ears and acting like its nothing to do with us…I’m joining the Fawcett Society, and that’s that.  At least it’s something.  I’m starting to think nutters on matters of civil /women’s /GLBT /worker’s rights need to be properly FOUGHT AGAINST, not just laughed at, as we often do, imagining that we lefty types have the science, the clear view, the big picture, the rational mindset etc[2].  They make too many inroads to people’s minds while we simply mock this sort of thing.  People who think the tide of weird backwards conservatism in politics, evangelical zeal in religions and its increasing prevalence and effect on our daily lives is wrong, need to stand up and say so, more often, singularly, and en masse. 

Of course, this American stuffage is a distraction to the fact that over here the police were shown to be more corrupt that I reckoned would even be the case, with the Leveson Inquiry’s continuing coverage.  And who can get away from the fact that our arch shitehead David Cameron rode the Wrong Horse this week??  (‘It’s what the horse symbolises’, Tom Watson Labour MP is saying….very true: the Conservatives, as usual, are lying about things, ‘no I didn’t ride the horse/ well, actually, I did ride a horse/ I did in fact ride this horse, Raisa, once…’  Apparently retired police horses are not supposed to be ridden anymore, they have had hard lives and need to rest and graze and be taken care of, not ridden about the place by rich arseholes while visiting media moghuls they are far too intimate with politically….Sigh.  I am starting to think Tom Watson is the only good Labour MP around the place at the moment.  The Labour Party is another shambles at present.  What happened to their being a socialist party??  SIGH.)

Now, all that (and much much more) is why I attempt to NOT keep up with the news on an entirely regular and daily basis.  It’s far too thought provoking, I get very angry and stomp about petulantly and helplessly.  I can’t analyse things coolly like my favourite political blogger over here, Aethelread the Unread – do go and be amused, entertained, and educated; he also talks about non-political things, and living life with an iffy head things.  Well, I can analyse things coolly, I just then get very heated and angry about what I just analysed, and the provisional conclusions I came to.   Stanley is constantly having to re-explain to me why I can’t (if I was in charge) go about with the efficiency of Charles Bronson (or Mossad, in the real world)  and just Get Rid Of People I Find Dangerous To The State of BlackberryJuniper.  

I have to keep having it re-drilled into my head that apparently ‘we are better than those who just kill people if we don’t do it too, but rely on law and due process'.  I keep being told I am presenting fallacious argument by cliché when I pound my fists on his thigh and tell him that very often, the ‘Law Is An Ass, Sir!’  (Take those young men who robbed the poor foreign student trying to get home during the August Riots last year: the one who already was stunned and disoriented from just having his jaw broken; and was apparently being helped by some boys, before it actually became clear they were taking his rucksack and robbing him when he was already so severely injured.  I’m not evolved enough to not want to do something quite horrible to those robbers.  I almost don’t find it enough that they got caught, eventually, and given custodial sentences.  It’s one of those cases where I really do hope something nasty befalls them in prison.  I’m just not quite the person I could be, am I?!…SIGH.)  I get too visceral.  And for a lefty leaning woman, I get very authoritarian on matters of law and order; its the fear in me...

Yes, the news, too much of it in my head this week.  I went through odd patches, late last week and early this week, of retreating into TV, and having a retro -80’s soap fest.  I enjoyed and licked the plate of early Dallas, Dynasty and Knots Landing (remembering once again those noble times when I was younger and less confused and more sure of myself and the world…we won’t linger on the fact that I was all those things because I had no idea what was going on, largely!  No!  Because I had no idea, I was also more peaceful, more optimistic without caveats or complication…It was just a simpler time in the old BlackberryJuniper head).  So I grazed there for a bit, a happy moochy cow, till Fluffhead quite rightfully complained that I was preventing him from grazing on CeeBeebies, as Is His Right.  So that came back on, and I found myself thinking about the world again, which filled me with annoyance, headachiness and a fair degree of hunger and need for eBaying.…So I waited till Fluffhead was deeply absorbed in the washing up bottle and crepe paper creations of Mr Maker, and picked up the latest series of books that have been Calling Me with a Vengeance.

And got severely THRALLED.  I haven’t been this thralled…since the last time I was thralled, which did stop me writing altogether, I think you’ll remember, I did comment on it.  Interestingly, my last thrall was on a similar subject to this one, so clearly this is a field on which I can run about happily for a while; I’m resonating like a harp string.  What happens is, when worried about life, I usually turn to my history bookshelf, seeking interesting theories and life ideas on how other people cope with hostile situations and disturbing times, in the past.  I rely on Stanley for my Hope Through Science and Progress News, as he (a) explains it really well, and (b) provides links, articles and books to back up my interest if I am taken by whatever he is telling me – and he does like to talk on these subjects, so I get quite a range of news stories and research described to me, with checkable footnotes (which as you know, I do adore).  I wasn’t grabbed by any hopeful science this week, so did my favourite thing of going backwards in time in an effort to understand the present, and the mindsets of our bonkers species – through our stories and folkways.

Two lots of books have been calling to me from the history and pagan bookshelves lately – the Graeco-Roman primarily Hellenistic section, and the Norse Mythology section.  Since I had literally just finished reading a book on Hekate (a very interesting, multi-faceted goddess, rewarding of study), I thought I’d change pace and hit the Northern Way section.  I started with a book I’d read ages ago and re-read it for a primer.  I’ve been chatting to a helpful Asatru (one of the strands of Northern Pagan Reconstructionism, popular in America) member on Facebook who chats to me about Northern Way matters.  The conversation reminded me of one of the reasons I like reading Northern Myths and Paganism. Polytheists of this bent respect a fellow book reader!  You can chat with them about customs and tenets of belief or behaviour (they have some of the most sensible tenets in Paganism for what you really should get on and do: the Nine Noble Virtues, of which I am in severe need of top ups of at least 5 of them, in a big way) all day – but it will get to a point when they will refer you to a huge Icelandic saga, or one of the 2 Eddas or many many more as primary texts, when talking, to back up a point they are making.  And that’s just a start.  Because there is not much extant Viking Age material,  stories written down from way back, myths and legends and such are what people interested in trying to recreate the paganism of their Northern ancestors begin to research …if you really fancy looking into what it’s all about, you end up swept away by book after book of heroic stories.  You remember that the north have some of the best and most fun tales: they have Beowulf, Odin [of the stealing of the mead and the getting of the runes] and Frigga and Asgard and the other worlds on Yggdrasil the world tree, Sigurd and Brynhild/Siegfried and Brünnhilde (and of course Wagner and the entire Ring Cycle, to get a bit more modern), Loki the trickster, Thor and his hammer, the Norns, the bifrost, Ragnarok…I scratch the surface.  Much inspiration for the Lord of the Rings, and C.S. Lewis’s work came from here.  The days of the week as we know them came from here.  The Vikings and their gods are still whispering around us; the Anglo Saxons are still settled here; far off, but near enough to breathe on your neck should you start to read about them…

I disappeared into the Poetic Edda sometime around Tuesday this week.  Which as you know, isn’t like me at all, you know my opinions on poetry – but these tales are written as stories!  You know I love to be told a story (where things make sense, and things are magical)!  So there I am, last night, at 3 in the morning, thinking…’why am I still awake, why am I still reading, why can’t I stop?’

Now, all this hasn’t conquered the world of bad news and worry, but it’s given me a temporary framework of interest from which I can filter things through.  I like mythology for this reason.  I end up feeling like I’m reading about people, about allies and friends.  I end up chatting to them while I read, in my head, quite informally and peacefully.  I know I’m in a state of thrall, as I (a) wake up thinking about it – ‘ah, hello Odin,’ I thought on waking this morning, and (b) I dream about it too (a very odd dream earlier this week about tree’s branches coming off and a dead deer’s head with huge antlers – it was all very ‘you had to be there’…).

Now, you know me better than to think I am going to start telling you stories about all this wholesale: if you’re interested go and read some!  It’s a very good fun distraction; and a knowledge of mythology always helps when talking to people from far away – imagine, next time you bump into a person from Scandinavia, you could casually mention your enjoyment of Heimskringla!  A world of conversation awaits!

But enough of me talking.  I have reading to do…

[1] Quite detestable Republican candidate in the US GOP (Good Old Party, what a weird way to refer to themselves?) presidential candidate elections they’re having right now.  He’s overly rich, completely ubiquitous, and utterly devoid of moral compass – he just says what’s necessary for exactly where he is at any given moment to get a vote, regardless of whether he said the opposite, really quotably, in public a year or so before…Etc. He's not as bad as nasty Newt Gingrich; or religiously crazy Rick Santorum though...
[2] I’m the first to agree that my mindset is often anything but purely rational; and I think that’s a good thing.  I’m a soup of different and contradictory stuff, and hopefully tasty.