Category Archives: Photography

In Focus

I took my bicycle out today, for the first time in a long time. Usually I use it as a means to an end; a conveyance from point a to point b. This evening, I just cycled. Until recently, I would have said one of my favourite sounds was the noise of horses’ shod hooves clip clopping down the road – as a child I would have literally run out to see the horses pass by if there had ever been any down my road, which there weren’t.

Ever the thrill seeker, I rode horses, in part for that sound. Time passes, things change. As I rode my iron horse out, wheels turning, I reflected that perhaps now, my favourite sound might be that of my thin road tyres spinning round on tarmac. There’s not a word to describe that noise exactly; it’s not a hum, but like hooves it has its own music.

How little we know ourselves, as we change, almost impercetibly.

Earlier today, I had to fill out a form. It caused me to ask questions of people who know me.

Do I do this? I said.

Do I do that?

Yes, they said.

I thought about it. When I work with people who have bipolar disorder I think, to myself, sometimes I ask them directly, Do you know your bipolar cycle? (Keep up at the back, I’ve moved on from penny farthings.)

Today, for the first time in a long time, I directed the question to myself. Do you know your bipolar cycle I said.

In my late twenties, my psychiatrist (and I was lucky really to have had that one and not another who I had post-natally and who liked me to hope for the best and prepare for worst) asked me to keep a mood diary for some months. He made it as easy as possible for me, I only had to rate my mood with a number on a daily basis; it didn’t take long to complete every day. I think it was when the diary was eventually reviewed during a consultation that he mentioned the phrase rapid cycling bipolar to me. It was the first time I had heard it, and it was of only passing interest. My up and down life continued on its rollercoaster ride.

Before my diagnosis my moods followed what might have been considered typical bipolar, weeks if not months of lows, followed by the same period of highs. My behaviour was classic for both sides of the pendulum, although I never was psychotic – although some on the receiving end of me at that time might disagree.

I am now approaching twenty years of diagnosis. I now accept, as my doctor told me a long time ago, that I fall into the category of ultradian bipolar (where the cycle is broadband speed, hours rather than days even). I’ve also nearly accepted that this is it: mercurial moods are never going to leave me.

Yet after twenty years of managing moods, and where did that time go to for goodness sake, the strangest thing has happened – strange to me anyway. Firstly, the more I have become alert to the mood upswings and downswings, the shorter the periods of the highs and lows. That’s not the strange part – when I know where I am with it, I can do things to counteract the pendulum, and get myself back onto an even keel more quickly. No, the strange thing is that the more I have noticed my moods and managed my moods, the more I have crystallised the very moment of the sudden slip down – I am not quite as sensitised to the rapid ascent up, although talking loudly and quickly is a sure sign that others are quick to point out and take refuge from…

The slipslide downwards is an extraordinary feeling. And it is just that, a feeling. One moment I can be ok, and then suddenly the old unpleasantly familiar feeling creeps into my bones, its bulk pressed in my chest, its hands round my throat. I am reminded then of Philip Larkin’s poem Toads.

For something sufficiently toad-like
Squats in me, too;
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
And cold as snow,

However, as slimy yuck and toadlike as the feeling is, it is the rapidity of the change in internal weather that throws me off. It’s like crashing your mood car straight into a brick wall, on a fine day, on a good road. Of course, with depressive feelings I know mainly know what to do, and I do it. Hence the bike.

Maybe in another twenty years I will have worked out my triggers. I am often heard to say that I am a very slow learner, but maybe it is more that we really are, in larger parts, often a mystery to ourselves.

dandelion clock

My daughter took this shot, and I love it. The mood and subject speaks of time and focus – like how we drift in and out of focus to ourselves. I have wanted a DSLR camera myself for years, but because of all of the above, I have become wary of purchasing big ticket items, particularly for myself, in case it is feeding a small mania. My daughter recently became a teen, and even as a proud parent, I would say she has an eye and a feel for things. I bought her the camera for her birthday and she’s doing an interesting job with it.

London II

Big city closing in

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London I

The city holds my heart
Seated at the right hand
Of a lead-grained and calloused
Well-thumbed Mount of Venus.

The fingers
Close
Squeeze

Until the city

Breathes us

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Waves on Wood

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On a Clear Day to Kent

kent palm trees

I thought that I had hardly ever seen the old Thames estuary look as blue and green as it did this afternoon.

Sometimes I go down to the front here at Southend-on-Sea and you’d not even know we aren’t on the edge of the earth, so it’s quite nice when the Garden of England across the water puts in an appearance.

Apologies for the double negative but I kinda liked writing it.

Anemone

No opportunity for eavesdropping today as we moved onto the shops in the next village along. Deep devastation ensued when we realised that the posh charity shop was closed for a refurb. The rest had little to offer and no interesting conversations to ear flap over.

On the way back we listened to BBC Radio Devon and a rather gentle feature on pratfall words: words that are easier to read than say. Bizarrely, the Radio Devon list included ‘edited’ and ‘brewery’. Fascinatingly, the presenter confessed to persistently tranposing the m and n in emnity and, if they were still awake, listeners were then invited to ring in and share theirs, whereupon an old gentleman rang in to state publically that he had always had a problem with Huntingdonshire.

As the CD player isn’t working in the car (bound to happen the second you pay £450 for a service) and the roads are too winding to be fiddling around with other stations we were stuck with the show, so the kids amused themselves by saying ‘specifically’ and ‘particularly’ and ‘Penelope’ and some such and when the journey (ordeal) was over I remembered I had used to struggle with saying this flower’s name myself.

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The flower was in the posy on my mother’s dining table last night. I was pretty poor value for money conversationally, and to look at, suffering from some terrible exhaustion but I managed to pull my face out of the soup to snap this bloom grown from some bulbs I succeeded in sending to her a few Christmases ago. (I know.)

In the meantime, the CD player still doesn’t work. Grrr.

Waiting, Mann Island, Liverpool Docks

A sculpture by Judy Boyt to commemorate the working horses that contributed their sweat to make the port of Liverpool great.

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Dazzle Ship in Black & White

In Toni Morrison’s book Home the protagonist, Frank, is described as a tilted man.

One of the indications of this for the reader are the moments in which the colour suddenly bleaches from Frank’s world.

Like this.

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Dazzle Ship, south of Pier Head, Liverpool

dazzleship

Spring: The Ungive of Snow Bones

I have blogged about spring before – it happens every year after all. I have walked plenty this week, and seen much that is new after the dank, dour months of a brown winter: tight-budded pinpricks studding the hawthorn, a lone bee and butterfly brushing against cream walls, both discombobulated by the sun. A battalion of birdsong firing over the rooftops and this unnamed tactile splendour: a catkin that’s been down the gym.

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And yet, as the snowdrops bloom with all their puny might, with the blowsy crocuses and uniform daffodils following hard on their delicate white heels, I  always think of the Fran Landesman lyric, that spring can really hang you up the most. The Landesman lyrical sentiment is taken from the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land

I. The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

The words speak of change, which many of us are hardwired to resist although we generally seem to do worse, psychologically speaking, with external circumstantial changes, not directly within our control. Every year we are aware that spring, a change, is coming about this time – and we might feel, for the most part, that the seasonal change is welcome after months of short, dark days. So what of Eliot’s Waste Land?

For me, it is stark reality of bright light on the ‘dead land’ that unsettles. The sunscald in what once passed for a garden, the illumination of winter dust suddenly strewn everywhere… the fear that spring will, this time, undo us. These tensions provoke action. Spring cleaning and gardening for some, artistic productivity in others. Busyness will save us from the memory and desire, stirring, we hope.

Yes, April is the cruellest month. Be sure to enjoy March whichever way you can.

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The title of this post is inspired by a new book about language and nature titled ‘Landmarks‘ by Robert MacFarlane and published in hardback this week.

N.b. This post has given me terrible trouble what with dodgy punctuation and big ideas gone astray. Apologies if it does not quite cohere.