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A British Monsoon

In lieu of a camera

In the park, at eight this morning
A men’s singles tennis match skids
Along wet asphalt, volleying
And far off commuters hiss
Their way to work
Through thick sky spray.
One, fat, wood pigeon
Takes a short-cut jacuzzi
To puddled bedragglement.

Sodden roses hum
An old show tune
Whilst bruised petals
Fading fast, fall…
As I walk,
At these sinful feet
My mud soles
Soil in my toes
From bringing in
barefoot 4 a.m. washing
As MC thunder interrupted
To announce the rains

Old Roses

My Nan turned 90 today and we had a family gathering to celebrate at the weekend.
The truth is that the old roses are the most beautiful, they simply glow.

These are the flowers that were on the birthday cake that my sister made for her. I couldn’t bear to think of them thrown away with all the other ordinary rubbish, so I snapped them this morning, for posterity.


Dead roses?

When you’ve been doing your head in listening to scientists and rabbis (see last few posts) the only thing for it (in my world) is to dive straight into some new tactile experience. A few weeks ago I discovered that if I peeled off the outer petals from the ‘dead’ cut roses I was throwing onto the compost heap it revealed a vibrant inner core that pulsated with colour and life. The qualities of the petals are not something I can describe in words, so this morning when I found some more cut roses in the bin (not the compost heap *tut*) I repeated the exercise and took some photographs.

I learnt from this that taking still life photographs is not as easy as the professionals make it look. As a consequence I had to fiddle around with backgrounds and camera settings which sounds technical but involved old shoeboxes, a vase and a battery charger on the kitchen worksurface. Still, I had some fun. I also discovered that the waterproof qualities of a rose petal are quite astounding; intelligent design indeed.

Straight out of the bin

The rose heart

Cut in half


My Grandpa used to grow a lot of roses; we bought him one for his 80th birthday and I have long since forgotten the name of it. His garden, that it was planted in, is still there, but neither of my grandparents are. There’s that Elvis Costello song, isn’t there? He sings It’s Been A Good Year For the Roses, I don’t know if this is one such year, but I do know that they’ve preoccupied my thoughts more than ever before in my life.

I bought a patio rose tree about a year ago, in a terrible state, on sale for a few quid. It looked like it might not survive but after a little while, it flushed into bloom again, but with two different shades of pink: one very pale going towards apricot and one a proper rich, almost blowsy pink. It’s done it again this year, but with the constant rain, the colours seemed to have become washed out, watered down a little. And, strangely, it has hardly any leaves this year. I just don’t understand it.

The bi-colour patio rose, ivy backdrop

A few months ago, I moved another rose that came with the garden. I didn’t move it gently, it was dragged out of the ground and I think I even took my spade to one of it’s more stubborn roots to get it to give up its spot. I then replanted it, knowing that it was the wrong time of year to move it altogether. The rose felt that brutality for a while. Its leaves wilted, some fell off. It looked a poor specimen. I watered it and fed it and asked it to do its thing and now it has started to come back, bearing one deep fuchsia pink, tight-lipped rosebud. I do not deserve it, but nature does that for itself and is far more potent than me with my destructive spade and garden rearranging, thankfully.

I have also bought a ‘Sunset Boulevard’ rose as a gift recently, which I have not yet had the opportunity to give. I must confess that I became intrigued to know what colour it would bloom before I gave it because I had bought it in mind of a particular orangey ginger dog and, as I discovered with half-dead patio rose, you never know exactly what you’ve got with a rose until it flowers. As it just came out this week, I realised that, yes, it will do. It’s a rather Flaming June sort of nasturtium orange, the catalogues show a duskier, softer tone, but I think it is ok. It makes me think, when I think about trying to describe roses in words, that they defy colour description. Really, they do. The closest I can come is to emergency draft in another species of flower using comparison as description. Poor, really. Surely the rose deserves better. Look across a range of pink, or red roses and try and describe each variety in words. Impossible?

Sunset Boulevard, leaves dusted with Saharan Sand

At the time of buying the Sunset Boulevard, I also bought a climbing rose, an off-white with a yellow centre. It too has flowered this week. At first, I was disappointed with the small, flat flowers, but I have realised that the scent is so beautiful that I must forgive it its conservative display. And that really is all I have to say about my roses; except that last night I was in someone else’s kitchen with the back door open. The evening sun was shining through, there was a slight breeze. The black and white cat of the house, who has the most magnificent ostrich feather for a tail, was playing underneath a large rose bush about four feet high, covered in fat, shocking pink, fleshy blooms; the kind that Georgia O’Keefe might have painted. I was watching the cat when I saw a single petal fall from one large rose.

We think we know all about rose petals and how they fall, or at least I thought I did: they might float, or drift, downwards and land with silent grace somewhere in a romantically poetic sort of way. This bruiser of a petal did no such thing. It plummeted with a perceptible thud onto the concrete below. It’s probably still there: a big, fat, pink petal pulsating with the universal energy that makes us all that we are.


Having dispensed with the services of the apostrophes, added some elision and a dash of inspiration from my sister – we have a whole new word: a neologism.

Snappindahood: the practice of taking everyday images in your neighbourhood with a mobile phone

This is 75 yards south of here about ten past eight this morning; where I sometimes walk the dog. There’s a nod to red, white and blue in there.

A Gift

I was given an unexpected present on Monday: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It is a very beautiful book. The perfect length and structure for a tired brain like mine, and with *deep joy* author illustrations. Thank you to my wise Finnish friend for sharing it with me.

And the story, well it is profound. I need to read it a few times to be certain, but it is about the human condition and the nature of friendship and love; this being partly related through the Little Prince’s taming of a fox and care for a rather difficult rose with four thorns – her only defence against the world.

I suggest the best thing to do would be to read the book, but in the meantime I will share the fox’s secret with you.

He tells the Little Prince: It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

The Reluctant Consumer: stay on the sofa & cancel the Direct Debits

Some days seem to cost me a hundred quid.  Not all fortunately, but even a quick shopping trip to feed the family rarely sees me parting with less than £30.  We don’t eat smoked salmon all the time either.

There was a day in the summer holidays where I thought I’d stay in and save a bit of money, because leaving the house with two kids seemed to cause a cash haemorrhage on a daily basis.  What happened?  I’d booked a mobile hairdresser got the date wrong and wasn’t expecting her until the following week.  She duly knocked on the door for her money (I didn’t have it and had to hop off to the cash point leaving her to answer the door to me in my own house…)  I let her cut my hair anyway sort of in passing.  That seems to be the role of us consumers these days; even when we are lying low, trying to stash our limited cash and pay off the global trillions of debt (that is all our fault obviously), we are still consuming en passant.

We are locked into mobile phone contracts, direct debits for insurance policies (see my Swinton outburst), utilities, parking charges, council tax and most things come smothered with VAT like one of those cheap fake ketchups watered down with vinegar.  I sit in my front room looking at the relaxing fish relaxing but I am noting their innocent consumption of electricity.  Ok they aren’t eating it, but their pump and anti SAD light are and they are chomping on fish flakes and the occasional constipation-inducing bloodworm treats.  In short, they cost.  Everything costs!  But we are constantly told: consume less, stop costing the earth and yet that electrically run screen or box in the very same room incessantly blasts out the message that we need to buy more of more things.  No wonder I’m conflicted.

Today I should get my road tax.  Actually I should have got it last week.  Instead I have parked my car on the ex-front garden (not my doing, an area of hardstanding that probably contributes to localised flooding but handy nonetheless) and am having a bit of a protest.  I don’t fancy taxing my car.  I don’t want to give the government any money today.  I think I’d like to see how much they do or don’t owe me in the great tax code debacle first.

I am going to sit here, and do some work and enjoy holding on to my virtual money for a few hours longer.  I’ll have to give it up eventually, if I don’t no doubt (like the mobile hairdresser) someone will knock on the front door and demand it, but sometimes I think we should all just be a bit more awkward.  A bit less compliant.  Make these people (the I never knew about no phone tapping government, those licence to print money utilities, and those not far off evil Murdochian type firms) appreciate us and our ceaseless munificence just that little bit more.

Something for free from the blog