Monthly Archives: June 2013

Offline

Yesterday something went on with the computer. First it wouldn’t connect to the internet, preferring to remain in a state of permanently ‘acquiring network address.’ Today, I noticed it had also changed the time by an hour. The two things probably aren’t connected, but who knows. I did all the usual stuff to fix it: turned off the router, checked the wireless connection settings, blah blah blah. Then this evening I had a fiddle. I got into the C:\WINDOWS dialog box and I started typing stuff in. I had noticed that the wireless connection had somehow dropped its IP address down the back of the sofa. I tried a few other things – releasing and renewing the ipconfig (whatever that is) and eventually, after I had apparently unsuccessfully twiddled everything whilst trying to set up a new wireless connection – the old one found where it lived in the world wide web, and all was well again.

I like fixing things. I think it’s in the genes.

That reminds me, the central heating timing box was rewired with myself as chief electrician this winter – needs must after a busted valve on the system. Best get it replaced this summer – all two days of it…

Here’s one of the days of summer I made earlier.

stour

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Head full of nothing – and that’s too much

*Random post warning*
*Mental health is fine reassurance for anyone who knows me*

I can work at work at the moment, but I am finding it hard to work on other things. I seem to just keep retracing my steps and it makes my head feel weird. It makes my head feel like it might:

a) implode
b) explode

In actual fact it does c) neither, but that doesn’t alleviate the unpleasant feeling.

There’s a large part of me that just wants to hate this week in its entirety, but just because yesterday wasn’t brilliant it seems unfair to write off all the other days that haven’t done nearly as much harm… There’s a clean washing situation in the house that makes me feel like the walls are closing in and I don’t know where anything is. And I really don’t. The best way I can describe it at the moment is with how the morning’s dog walk went.

Firstly, I think I jumped a red light on a roundabout. I am not a fan of traffic lights on roundabouts, but the fact is I just wasn’t with it. Then I found some real false teeth on the ground in the park. The gummy bit that goes in your mouth appeared to have snapped and there were a great quantity of all kinds of teeth on it. I have never seen such a gruesome pink plasticky sight in all my life. How you lose that many false teeth in a go I have no idea; I don’t want to even think about it. Then when my jangled nerves were getting over that I found a pigeon, headplanted into the dirt under the tree. It looked like it had died on a branch and hit the ground headfirst. It was worse than roadkill, although it was intact. Plastic teeth and dead pigeons, all before half past eight in the morning. Maybe I should have written off today then. As it was I didn’t. I went to work. I then found out two things happen in Southend-on-Sea that make me wonder if I really live in the UK in the 21st century.

The first thing is that when the Job Centre sanction you here, they send you to the local food bank. Like it doesn’t matter that they are taking your benefit for a month, sometimes with no warning. Like it doesn’t matter that you have no gas or electricity for a month because you can collect some free tins a few times a week. The woman I spoke to today had spent a month of the winter in bed for this reason. She is not the first person I have met to be sanctioned.
I have met too many in the last year. The second thing needs some consideration before I write about it. Maybe tomorrow. But it did make me wonder if the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the Taliban are in town.

By David Cox – at the Tate

Take What You Need: Inspiration

Visit the artist, Kristin Dudish’s blog here to download a free pdf.

Print off and spread the love, wherever you are.

takewhatyouneed

Untitled

The Taxi to Delhi

As the pre-paid taxi, number 594, chuntered off in the general direction of India’s capital city, I noticed that we had acquired a solicitous ‘friend’ who had jumped in the front seat next to the driver. The friend was as voluble as the driver was silent. As we sat on the back seat, reupholstered in a thin velour with tiger stripe print, the man assaulted our ears with an endless stream of questions. How long was the visit? Where were we staying? What was our itinerary? Countries of origin? It was then impressed upon us the vital necessity of attending tourist information offices. I started to look out of the window…

Fields with cattle in, but not fields like in England. No fences and cows wander free here. Sacred beasts that they are for Hindus. A white horse, tethered perhaps. More cattle, lazing in a water hole. People hacking crops in the fields. More people beautifying what passes for a central reservation in the road – ornamental bowls on plinths, as yet empty. More people painting large stones white along the roadside. We pass a collection of empty baths in the central reservation. It’s like the main road into the city from the airport is in the process of being primped to make a good first impression. Perhaps the baths and bowls will be planted up in due course. It’s too late now, for me anyway, good first impressions or no; my return ticket isn’t for another three weeks.

We are out of the country now, and into the city proper. Traffic runs to three lanes in each direction: no road markings, lots of vehicular weaving and no indicators of the light-winking variety I am used to seeing. Here it is all communication of intent via vociferous horn honking. The cacophony is not confined to mere matters of indication. Drivers also use them to indicate other intentions, or recognition, also irritation and other things I was unable to define. Rickshaws, both the auto and pedal variety, vie for a rickshaw-shaped space amongst monster Tata trucks, mopeds, buses, handcarts, coaches, cars, bicycles and bullock carts. Some owners have decorated their vehicles with gaudy tinselly ornaments. I don’t know if this is for some recent festival, for luck, or a run-of-the-mill practice.

The taxi passes through a small settlement, not quite a slum. It is forced to slow down whilst the driver swerves round white cows ambling nonchalantly across the road. I see people living alongside dogs and pigs, piglets, children, goats. Washing is hung out to dry. We stop at some traffic lights and a woman with a bundle on her back approaches the taxi. I assume that the bundle is a baby, but I can’t be certain. She asks for money. I have thought about my approach to these requests for money in advance of the trip – tourists are cash cows. I understand this and have a strategy to give something every day. The car pulls away. My western conscience pricks me and the woman with the bundle is left empty-handed.

I know at the next stop the taxi makes, there will be another hand thrust forward. This is not going to be a straightforward trip.

Lovely Estimate

I break into my Delhi doings to note something rather lovely has happened at Ascot this afternoon. The Queen has won the Gold Cup, the great stamina test of the five day meeting. Not only has she never won this race before today, she is the first reigning monarch to ever win it. It’s not an easy race to win. None of them are at Ascot. And this is the best bit – she won the race with a mare on her seventh start ever. The mare, with little enough experience, running the furthest she’s even been in a race in her life, beats the boys. And wait for this, she didn’t just beat the boys, she rallied to beat the boys, Simenon who came second, by a neck. She rallied. Simenon came fast and furious at her and she came back at him to win. Now that’s something worth writing about.

The name of this mare is Estimate and she is trained by Sir Michael Stoute. The jockey up was Ryan Moore. Now, I have had my differences with Sir Michael Stoute but after hearing him on the radio this morning, on the Radio 4 Today programme, I was ready to bury the hatchet. He spoke in warm terms of both the horse and owner. I felt myself soften to the man (after about ten years!). Estimate’s win seals it. He has done a good job with her, and more importantly, he will have given a great supporter of the game, an old lady, who happens to be the Queen, an absolutely sterling day out. Life isn’t easy when you’re older, the weak need not apply as the saying goes. I am no great monarchist by any means, but you can’t say the Queen hasn’t worked her socks off over her lifetime. I bet there are a thousand things she’d rather not have done, but got on with them. A win in the Gold Cup at Ascot must be a right tonic for her.

I didn’t have a bet and I am saving the replay for later, but in a world of depressing old news, a picture of a happy horse owner with her victorious mare is also a bright spot in my blogworld. The Racing Post has the best picture on the web at the moment, worth a click through for touching horse and owner moment.

Estimate and her owner after winning the Queen’s Vase last year

Delhi Airport to Oberoi Maidens Hotel, Old Delhi 29 October 1998

At least I think it was 1998… funny how the old memory works, or not. If I was asked to write about this now, I would say that I remember the people at the airport, they were sort of stacked up behind a high wire fence – faces and hands pressed on the wire. Is that true? Well I remember it. But is it true? I don’t know – there was a metal wire fence, I was on one side, Indian people on the other. Then I remember the hotel room being enormous. The curtains were thick and kept the light and heat out. I was scared to leave the room, but not as scared as my companion who was more so. The room was in a 1970s green. It reminded my of my Nan and Grandad’s decor in Camberley, Surrey. Flying to India, to be reminded of your grandparents home in Everest Road. There’s a synchronicity in that that I can live with. Anyway, this is the start of the travel diary from that first trip to India.


Passing through the exit of the Indira Gandhi International airport carries a the sensation of being unavoidably decanted from a bottle. There is no turning back. Despite the sole poster advertising ‘Indiaaaah’ at the High Commission where I had collected my visa in London, there was no feeling of sliding into an instantly relaxed state. Not that I had expected this in any case, which was just as well.

The task in hand was to get a taxi. First you buy a ticket for a taxi from a kiosk inside the airport. The ticket is blue. Next you find the kiosk outside the airport with the yellow signage that says ‘Pre Paid Taxis’. The man in the outside kiosk takes your ticket and writes a number on it. Then he instructs us to find the taxi with the same number as that on the ticket from the rank of Ambassador cars parked just beyond a melee of people. As I looked for the right taxi, people pressed forwards, looking at the ticket and pointing directions. The numbers on the taxis themselves were not exactly obvious. I was thrust helpfully towards a man in a grey shirt and simultaneously noticed the number matching my ticket written in felt tip on what may once have been the fare meter, somehow attached to the bonnet of the car.

The taxi number was 594.

To be continued…

Miracle Street?

It’s not every day a tall Californian turns up in the road you live on. I suspect it’s even less often that such a man is offering to pray for the people on your street, for a whole year.

But that’s how, a few months ago, I made the acquaintance of a stranger on my street. Let’s call him the Prayer Man. I had heard from a friend and neighbour a week or two beforehand that he had knocked on her door posing an unusual question. Did she need any prayers for her, or the people that lived in that house. I must confess to feeling a little put out that this generous offer had not come my way yet, despite not considering myself to be a fully paid-up Christian. I was brought up a Catholic, which I realise is Christian, so I have a thorough grounding in that which I reject, and in the last year I have asked certain people to pray for others, not feeling qualified to do so myself. Still, I remember to count my own blessings, say thank you for them as often as I remember to and I do consider the power of a positive intention sent out for others to be a secular version of what others might call prayer. I am, therefore, not against prayer per se. However, I am still uncomfortable being prayed for, which was what we called intercession when I went to church as a child. The list of names of the sick and old being read out every week at mass by the priest. Some things stick in the head.

In the end, I finally met the Prayer Man, a few weeks after my friend’s encounter, on the street a few yards from my house. He was on a bike, wearing jeans, and what I might now call a Californian tan. He explained that he was praying for the street for a whole year. He was praying for people, not bricks and mortar, he could only pray for needs not wants and he asked if there was anything that I needed. I replied that I didn’t but mentioned someone else also on the street. The Prayer Man thanked me and rode off on his bicycle. Some days ago a letter was delivered through the letterbox. I read it. I read it again. I put it away thinking it might be nice to mention it on here sometime. I had it in my hand only yesterday. Now I come to write about the Prayer Man and his words to the street he is praying for, I cannot find it.

What I remember is that he compared believing in the word of God to diving into a swimming pool and surfacing into an ocean. What can I say? Good imagery sticks in the head. I also remember he quoted a line from the film ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ a film I have never seen.
The line was what the man who is saved by his guardian angel says to the angel.

Well, you look about like the kind of an angel I’d get.

It’s not every street that gets a Prayer Man, no matter what they look like. He came to a gathering in the street yesterday to meet more people and say goodbye, for now. Again, he turned up on a bike, but this time instead of sunshine it was in between bursts of torrential rain and great gusts of wind peculiar to the British summer. I remember when we first spoke that first time he had assured me he was ‘not mad,’ not that I had asked. Yesterday’s appearance felt a little surreal, but I still can’t shake the feeling there is more to all this than meets the eye. The Prayer Man is returning home to California and I feel compelled to notice and record in some way what happens during the period of the intercession intervention. Something will happen, after all, because something always does…

Not that far from a British summer on our street

I have rather dramatically entitled the post Miracle Street. For the record, no-one is expecting miracles round here, but they may be some hoping and praying for them.

Another poem and a note about synchronicity

The older I get the less I know. When one is young, one is marked out by great certainties. God does not exist. I am right. Love conquers all. And so on.

Then life adds years to us, and each winter that passes chips away at the glorious arrogance of youth. And all the while, things happen, that we just can’t explain. Today I have noticed two dates that have meaning, that had meaning two years ago and have come round on a loop again, on the same dates. One is a post about Henry Cecil I wrote on the 11 June 2011, it’s here should you care to read it, given his sad death on the 11 June 2013, two days ago. I read it myself today. I am glad I wrote it then. I should not wish to be in the business of obituary writing. The second is another post I wrote two years ago today. I have returned to it today to use in a larger project. Whether it will stay there in the longer term, I can’t say. It just seems odd because that intention was never there in the first place. Don’t worry if that doesn’t make sense, I am not sure it does to me either.

Oh well, this is why we have poetry. It can explore the strangeness of life far better than mere prose.

Another poem on the radio programme from Tuesday was this one by Wilfred Owen. I doubt I shall ever keep such hallowed company again. There’s one more by Gerard Manley Hopkins to come, and then we are done.

I am the Ghost of Shadwell Stair

Wilfred Owen 1918

I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair.
Along the wharves by the water-house,
And through the cavernous slaughter-house,
I am the shadow that walks there.

Yet I have flesh both firm and cool,
And eyes tumultuous as the gems
Of moons and lamps in the full Thames
When dusk sails wavering down the pool.

Shuddering the purple street-arc burns
Where I watch always; from the banks
Dolorously the shipping clanks
And after me a strange tide turns.

I walk till the stars of London wane
And dawn creeps up the Shadwell Stair.
But when the crowing sirens blare
I with another ghost am lain.

stairs

‘City That Does Not Sleep’

Well, it was a strange experience to hear my work read out yesterday. I am not sure whether it was fit to be heard in the same programme as some really distinguished and fabulous poets, but the world of words as is diverse as the people that use them I suppose. Here is one of the poems featured yesterday by the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca that I had to see on the page. He hung out with Salvador Dali and others for a while, and I think that slightly melting, surreal quality comes through into this piece. It’s why I will read, and re-read it again.

I feel it’s going to be a new favourite with me.

    City That Does Not Sleep

by Federico García Lorca

translated by Robert Bly

In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the
street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the
stars.

Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.

Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead
dahlias.
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

One day
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the
eyes of cows.

Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention
of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes
are waiting,
where the bear’s teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the
night,
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15869#sthash.OuXDIMxA.dpuf