Monthly Archives: May 2013

Vapour Trail

The weather is terrible today. I have a thousand things to do. Not all of them will get done. Some will hang around for another day. None of the things will disappear like the vapour trail in the sky here. Things don’t really disappear ever. People and animals do. Sometimes they come back, mostly they don’t. I wish things to do were more like people and pets and vice versa.

I took this when the sun deigned to shine at the weekend. I was attracted by the disc of the sun and the line of the vapour trail. When I got it home and looked on the screen, I could see numbers in the diffusing vapour. I like that. I also like the unknown red eye-shape.


A poem: I might

Tell you something about pain one day.

Psychic pain that frets up and down the very spine of me,

As if I am being played


‘Come, come, come with us

Do not stay a moment longer.’

They whisper

My fear?

I cannot go on

Facing the world

When all backbone is gone…

But for now

It must be re-forged:

So I am reverterbrated

Laid on #HellsAnvil

Where the heat and the fires and the clanging

and smashing

And the devil himself

Keeps you up to the mark



Who knows why

Why, on last week’s Saturday walk the dog sprinted to the horizon in a cloud of dust, yet on yesterday’s (and today’s) was biddable. Who knows why, when I unleashed him on the masses of London horizon that is Hackney Marshes, he skirted round the edges near the trees. Who knows why we moved from London in the first place. I do know that, at least: for more space, for the children.

Who knows why I have changed so much in the intervening period – different dog, a cat, two children that are barely recognisable from the babies that they were.

Who knows why I take photos like this, on walks.

Who knows why I like reflections of clouds and church towers, lichen, peeling paint and split wood. Why I like tired curtains in a 1950s flimsy and faded crème de menthe.

church hall window

Who knows why, cracked glass and terrible yellows. Painted walls under blue skies supervising industrial distress.


Who knows why windows from the outside, when I can never see in.

Who knows why; any of it?

A little piece of inspiration

Hollywood blockbusters aside, Prometheus was a Greek god, a Titan of forethought, and helper of mankind – he angered Zeus by stealing fire from Mount Olympus for the use of humans. He suffered a terrible punishment for the theft, and Pandora and her dreaded box were unleashed on the world of mortals to teach us a lesson…

To disobey in order to take action is the byword of all creative spirits. The history of human progress amounts to a series of Promethean acts. But autonomy is also attained in the daily workings of individual lives by means of many small Promethean disobediences, at once clever, well thought out, and patiently pursued, so subtle at times as to avoid punishment entirely. All that remains in such a case is an equivocal, diluted form of guilt. I would say that there is good reason to study the dynamics of disobedience, the spark behind all knowledge.

Gaston Bachelard, Fragments of a Poetics of Fire

What is your Promethean act for today?

I have to say that mine, at least the warm-up, is borrowing this great shot from zippythesimshead, at this Flickr photostream


The following is finding its voice as a blog post because it can’t stay in my head a moment longer.

Once, I wanted to be journalist. Today, I am glad that never happened. Today, I have been sickened and hurt by the media in this country.

A terrible thing happened on a street in Woolwich, London yesterday afternoon. I am not going to repeat what happened because, thanks to the media deluge, you probably know. What concerns me first and foremost is that whilst the professional media sharks (apparently driven in an unthinking, animal way desperate to compete with social media) go into a frenzy of feeding the public with graphic images, speculation and eye-witness reports: a young man was murdered. That’s the first thing, the last thing and really, the everything about this story.

What in the world has happened to us. How have we allowed ourselves to be so drawn in by horror? A young man has been killed, as yet without a name, but somewhere his family and loved ones are not being spared a thing. No detail is too awful or horrific to share and pick over. A young man, who happened to be a soldier has been appropriated as symbol, first by his attackers and then perpetuated in the media. When he pulled on his Help for Heroes t-shirt yesterday he was just a young man, living his life. He was not living as a symbol of the state and to force that onto his memory within an hour of his death only feeds into the very ideology that seems to cause so much hate and suffering in the world.

It is said that the political message of the perpetrators makes the act one of terrorism. Terror. That is, to create terror in a community, in society. The most effective way to create the terror is if you can get the print media, following hard-on-the-heels of the knee-jerk reactions posted all over the social media networks, to scare and sicken people with their words and their pictures the following day. Blood on their hands is a graphic enough image in words; I will never understand the need for it on the front page. According to this piece by Roy Greenslade, only the Daily Express refrained. Be warned if you click through to the Greenslade post, you will see the blood. I am sure you have done so already. I was trying to avoid it, but it has been unavoidable and I had the image planted in my head overnight. It disturbed my sleep. I do not pray, but I hope that the young victim’s family have been protected. Roy Greenslade says something like, newspaper editors would have looked stupid if they had not published images that were already in the public domain. Is that their main concern? Whether they look stupid? Or is the truth of it, that no matter what the potential hurt, harm and damage, the market always rules; that if one editor is printing, the others follow suit because of sales. In the internet world, the image was old news by this morning anyway, but it was none the less shocking. The image is everywhere. I cannot even get into an email account without it being on the landing page. Newspaper editors did not reveal a truth to us in their papers today; neither have they informed us. All they have done is given a physical manifestation to the most graphic image of hate I have ever seen in my whole life.

Roy Greenslade had these papers with their front pages on his breakfast table this morning. It is no surprise his eldest grandson commented on it. The thought of a newspaper man eating breakfast over such an image… consuming the news product along with toast… words fail me. Perhaps they turned the page… folded it shut… Yesterday’s news. My children will not be taken near a news stand until the papers come, if not to their senses, to some common denominator of decent humanity, which, for all its positive traits, social media never can.

The men that murdered that young man yesterday, were filled with hatred, that much is self-evident. They are not my concern. The young man and his family are. The frightened people in the same street yesterday are. All I can say about the two men, is that with their actions they only represented themselves, their own beliefs. Even if they followed an ideology external to themselves, they took it upon themselves and acted upon it. They do not ‘belong’ to any thing, or any one, other than themselves. They defy categorisation, speculation and they should never have been given the front pages to strike fear and discord into the hearts of the wider community. What purpose those images may serve for unknown others with hate in their hearts does not bear thinking about.

At this point, it is worth mentioning another forgotten victim of hate crime. Earlier this month in Birminghan a seventy-five year old man, originally from Pakistan, who walked with a stick, was stabbed to death. That crime too was horrific. That crime also involved a knife and blood. I never read a thing about it at the time, let alone on the front page of a national newspaper. Yesterday’s victim came out of the barracks, the Birmingham victim came out of a mosque. Yesterday’s perpetrators were black, the one in Birmingham was white. Victims and their assailants come in all colours and creeds. That is not the issue. Hate is the issue. Everything else is just an excuse. We can only counter hate with love. What love did the newspaper editors show the world this morning in their own private race not to look ‘stupid’? When I pass a road accident, I look away. Today the newspapers were the drivers of the tour bus and they did a slow drive by on an unedifying, unilluminating but visceral story about a human tragedy.

‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’

The thing about death is that it is impossible to imagine. Although I didn’t like Damien Hirst’s actual stuffed shark in formaldehyde, the unsnappy title had a touch of the circus philosopher genius about it, now I come to think about it. Back in the real world, the unimaginable keeps happening, keeps being on the news. The radio has to be kept off, the internet avoided, so one will not stumble on some crass media image. Apparently, we must be force-fed first-hand reports and pictures, it is what the media monster craves. I don’t believe an eye-witness needs to speak to the media in the aftermath of any horror or disaster, they need healing and love.

And I need to keep the gaps in my imagination intact to let in the light, that that is left.

Cy Twombly: The First Part of the Return from Parnassus, 1961

Cy Twombly: The First Part of the Return from Parnassus, 1961

No words for today

Nature comes big and small, beautiful and devastating, seasonal and unexpected.

This is a tulip head my daughter found on a path in the park on Sunday. As it was already picked, it seemed a shame not to share that delicate blue inside.


Tick tock on the clock

How I like to tell the time

Often running ‘late’


Birding (not hunting)

Now that the beach is closed to dogs and their walkers until October, my mission, on at least one of the days at the weekend, is to find a place to walk where there aren’t too many people, or other dogs. It is not that the lurcher of mine is unfriendly as such, rather he can be choosy about the company that he keeps and he generally chooses not to keep the kind of company to be found in an urban park on a spring to summer *bleak laughter* Saturday or Sunday. It seems as if, no sooner have you got rid of the hordes of footballers (teams to give them their technical name) churning up the ground with their studs, than they are replaced with Staffies and toy breeds and pushchairs and children and all kinds of people with picnics and blankets and ball games trying to have a good time *sigh*.

I realise that I sound like a terrible old curmudgeon, but there is nothing that I long for more than to be able to walk over fields without having to worry about disturbing someone else’s equilibrium or mine. So that, on a Saturday, after I have dropped the girls off at their Irish dance class, is my sole purpose. There is no particular problem with finding fields round here, but there is a challenge in finding a place to park and a suitable path that the farmer has not made uninviting (they use various methods, fierce thorny overgrowth, unfriendly signs, confusing the walker by not leaving the path clear and so on). This is why today, in search of a suitable field, I ended up once again walking the sea wall near Barling Creek. The salt water was out, so the mud flats were exposed on one side, to the other there was a rich grassy wide bank down to a ditch, with a field on the other side and a farm in the far off distance.

We set off along the footpath, which is elevated slightly, giving a good view of the surrounding marshes, creeks and farmland. It was only a few minutes into the walk before we came across delinquent dog #1. This is often the case when you seek out solitariness: you come across other dog walkers whose dogs’ behaviour demands it. The first miscreant was a Jack Russell (it was a terrier on a similar walk last week too), but the owners had it on the lead. I caught hold of Rudi and we passed by peacefully, although the Jack Russell woman gave me a fierce sort of glare as if my being there had ruined her walk, although she was clearly on the homeward leg by then. Anyway, no-one owns the sea wall, so, tough. After a few more minutes we came upon dog #2: an insane black labrador, of the working type, also on a lead. The walker was young and friendly, but very silly about dogs in general, so I was rather glad to get clear of them as quickly as possible. I was also very cross with my own dog by now, as in the point between meeting dogs #1 and #2, he had done a poo which I was forced (as a responsible owner) to pick up. Whilst I was doing this, he charged past me and hit the side of my head with some bony part of his canine self; probably his skull, maybe his spine. Anyway, it gave me a shock and it bloody well hurt. What is it about a blow to the head that makes one want to cry? Is it just the shock? Anyway, I didn’t cry, or indeed kick the dog, but for the briefest of moments I could have easily done either.

With me now rubbing the side of my head, we continued on past a small brown and brackish, elongated tear-drop shaped pond. A little egret was fishing from the bank but it soon took off as we approached. I have seen them hunting down on the foreshore before, they have a walk like a tyrannosaurus-rex, all stiff-legged and urgent, but I had never seen one in flight. It turns out that the most elegant thing a little egret can do is stand stock still. In flight, as in their walk, they are a little ungainly. They can’t climb high, but they make heavy weather of the ascent. Their wings look like they are really working hard to make any progress. Flap your wings! In case you don’t know what the hell I am talking about, here is a picture of one.

It flew round in a big circle, coming round over its fishing spot on the bank before landing on the field on the opposite side of the ditch, where it commenced its hunched over, awkward looking walk. I felt quite pleased to see this bird, you don’t see them every day and because I had forgotten my glasses the birds have to be pretty big, or fairly close for me to be able to even notice them. The Latin name for the little egret is marvellous, it is called egretta garzetta which sounds like some kind of fantastic fashion model from Milan.

Once my bird eye was in, so my ears followed. I noticed a pheasant’s distinctive crrrriiuuckk! And a cuckoo’s unmistakable cuckoo. I saw neither. I noticed swallows flitting low over on the muddy side catching the many insects, and a huddle of mallard ducks, looking like they waiting for the tide to come in. Pretty good going for a hard of hearing myopic. I had forgotten about the dog whacking my head so hard earlier, and he had redeemed himself by not going in the mud, although he had fallen headlong into the brackish pond accidentally and dramatically, causing me some amusement, but also now having to carry his now sodden wet, smelly coat. He is worse than a kid at times. Half of me hoped I might hear a lark singing way above. The lark is the bird, along with the lapwing, that symbolises my fenland childhood.

After nearly being concussed, the walk had now taken a turn for the better, but if there is one thing I have learned after nearly six years of owning this dog, it is not to push your luck; rather to leave when the going is good. We turned round and headed back the way we had come. I was mindful of the time, not having any sort of device on me and needing to collect the dancing child. The dunking had not dampened his enthusiasm for thundering up and down the narrow pathway, and he had impressed me when I felt he had gone on too far ahead, by returning to my side after the merest whistle. My goodness, I thought, this dog really has got the hang of it, after all this time.

And then.


A pair of them. They flew up from almost under his paws with a squawk, they had probably been nesting in the long grass down the bank. Like little egrets, partridges can’t do great altitude quickly, but they had the natural advantage of an elevated bank to fly up from, as their pursuer had to take the land-based route down the steep bank. Which he did. And then he hurdled the ditch and was off across the farmer’s field in a cloud of dust. I stood watching his backside receding into the distance at over twenty miles an hour. Like the whack on my head, it had all happened so quickly. If I hadn’t had the thought of needing to fetch the dancer and not having a phone on me, I might have enjoyed the sheer magnificence of the dog’s hopeless pursuit at top speed across the field. He must have covered over half a kilometre before he stopped, and only then because the farm was in his path. He was so far onto the horizon that when he stood still I could no longer make him out at all.

I had visions of me having to drive round trying to find the farm, and the stupid dog by road. Or visions of never seeing him again. At times like these, I will be honest and there is a part of me that thinks, well maybe I can live with that… But I shouted as loud as I could and waved my arms a bit and sure enough I see this fawn dot hoving into view, travelling back in my direction, albeit like the egret, a little circuitously. He does not cover the ground as fast as he did in the original pursuit, but it is an impressive job nonetheless. I feel a bit touched that he does want to come back to me after all, even if I am a poor substitute for a brace of partridges. He arrives at the edge of the field. There is now only the ditch and the wide bank to climb back to where I am waiting, my fingers already twitching on the clip of the lead. He hesitates. The ditch is too steep and wide and wet he seems to say to me. I can’t get across. This is the same dog that not five minutes ago cleared the natural obstacle in one wide Irish lep (we can say that because he hails from Navan). I tell him something to that effect. I might add that he is a stupid fecker. It seems to do the trick and he scrambles over, hunts up the bank and then walks up to me very apologetic-like: head, ears and tail down like he is expecting me to give out to him.

To my own surprise, and his too perhaps, I laugh. I have in my mind all those of us who own sighthounds and are brave, or foolhardy, enough to let them off their leads to do what they do best. To those of us, like me, who drive their dogs miles out of town to find a suitable place to stretch their legs at upwards and over of twenty odd miles an hour. To those dog owners who risk having their head knocked off its block every time they bend down to pick up a shit, and to those owners who own dogs that speak to the wildest and most natural part of their hearts, the part that the world has no time or use for. As I laugh, the little egret that had vanished from view, flies up in its laboured way, up over the field. Even higher above that is a cormorant, heading north. I haven’t seen one of those that high in the air before. I only recognise the dark outline of it’s long neck and beak against the light grey clouds. The birds seem to be telling us something. The show, is over.

The quiet dog goes back on the lead and follows me all meek and mild back to the car. Still, I wouldn’t trust him an inch. A Persian cat hunkers down as we pass by its front door. I tell it, it is wise to do so, given what I have just witnessed. Even my wild-at-heart heart has had enough of all that mad freedom and kicked up dust for one day.

‘Flushed’ by Steven Lingham @

I bloody love this song

And I’ve not even had a drink.

My suggestion: put it on in the car, in the dark, and drive. Anywhere. Until you get sick of it… although, frankly, you are more likely to run out of road before that happens.