Saturday, 30 April 2011

Sense of wonder….

"I must hang on to my sense of wonder - I must hang on to my sense of wonder - I must hang on to my sense of wonder - I must hang on to my sense of wonder - I must hang on to my sense of wonder…"

“Five-hundred times please boy.” He shouted.

And he was right. - I must hang on to my sense of wonder -

I found this scatter of burnt, burnished sunshine growing on the grassy verge of our lane, hiding from the spotlights in the longer grass.

Such a beauty that I wanted to share it, a flower I’d seldom seen before, so seldom that I didn’t know its name - so looked it up in my book of plants.

Pilosella aurantiaca – Orange Hawkweed, Devil’s Paintbrush, Fox-and-cubs, Grim-the-collier, a Fireweed. One of the Asteraceae, so plentiful in the Alpine regions of central and southern Europe, even protected in some areas, and this small clump beneath the mountains in that part of Wales I think my own, brightening still further an already full-bright day.

Low growing, shallow fibrous rooted, a lush ground clinging rosette of lanceolate leaves, long leafless stems blowing in the breeze and hairy, bleeding white when picked, all dispersed by wind for seed and fire to travel on.

A wonder.

No weed this Devil’s paintbrush fiery on our grass grown lane, but still quarantined in far flung Tasmania from its borders, pulling and burning every wind-born flower that falls upon its distant shores. No wonder there then.

I wonder where in some few weeks time this one will travel outwards and onwards, caught upon the breeze and gone.

I wonder - and I must hang on to my sense of wonder

Such a small thing this flower, but causing me to stop my car as I glimpse it from the corner of my eye, crouching down (bad back and all) to take this single picture. Yes, I must hang on to my sense of wonder - without it I am diminished.

After all, what else is there?

Friday, 29 April 2011

That bloody royal wedding...

10 am, Fiday 29th April, 2011.

And here it is, the Royal Wedding day - what a bloody nuisance. No street parties down our street at least - thank heavens for small mercies.

I can’t say that I was awaiting it with baited breath but now that it’s here I’m glad that the sun is almost shining for them but there's no way that I'm going to waste my morning watching it on TV. I have better things to do with my time like avoiding the television that is on in the lounge, wife and daughter ooing and ahhing as the scene unfolds.

After all, what has it got to do with me?

"I wouldn't swap places with the royals." some people say. Well I bloody would. It's the money, the travel and the exquisite food and drink that attracts me - not to mention the sex with princesses.

No, I'm not going to waste my morning watching it on the television, but I might just listen to it on Radio 4, so that I can sneer in an informed rather than an ignorant manner. Or I might just have it on in the background so that I can all the better ignore it - after all, it's impossible to ignore something that isn't there.

So I start up my laptop to listen online and I find that even Google are celebrating the day, we have them to thank for the illustration above (please don’t sue me I’ve given you bloody credit).

Yes, I'll have it on it the background but I'm not going to listen.

But as I don't listen I begin to get caught up in the excitement, isn't that annoying. Well maybe I'll listen for a few minutes, not the ceremony though, definitely not the ceremony, just the comments from the common people being interviewed on the streets. The silly people who've camped out for days to catch a glimpse of the wedding procession as it passes by. Poor fools.

“It’s terrific, it’s amazing, it’s electric.” Somebody outside of the Abbey just said on the radio and I’m sure it must be. They must be either mad, American, or Australian to actually be there though.

“I think it’s incredible to be here.” Another spectator on the radio has just commented. I guess it must be then, but she doesn't sound as if she's from the colonies or even a tiny bit mad. Maybe I’m just too much the cynic.

The crowd just roared and the flags are waving. I can't see them but in my mind I see thousands of Union flags fluttering in the breeze. Prince William is on his way in a Bentley I've just heard and apparently he looks magnificent in his red uniform as he travels alongside Harry, his brother and best man, on the way to the rest of his life.

I listen to the cheers as they pass those stupid waiting crowds.

“I wonder what the conversation is between Prince William and Prince Harry?” The commentator has just asked as the bells start to peal high above the heads of the crowd, flags continuing to wave in my mind as the brothers pass Downing Street and approach Parliament Square.

I wonder too. Is it a conversation about beer? Hunting? Best honeymoon sexual positions?

I guess I'll never know as suddenly they are there, stepping out of the car and waving to the ten deep crowd before walking slowly into the Abbey.

I wonder what they look like resplendent in their uniforms, I wonder what the queen will wear, I wonder what the dress will be like. Will they stumble over the words or perhaps a yeoman of the guard will faint with all the excitement?

No I can’t take any more. I’m going to have to watch.

So I casually saunter into the living room and take a seat.

"I thought you weren't going to watch it." Gaynor taunts.
"I'm not."
"Well just keep quiet, and no remarks."
"As if I would." I sneer.

And I don't.

I just watch as the marriage takes place and what an hour full of pomp and splendour; uniforms, flowers, smiles, nerves, hats, bishops, music, choirs, carriages, kisses, waves and a riderless bolting horse. The queen in yellow, Harry and Will so confidently uniformed, and a soon to be Princess in a dress that for once was not a disappointment. No fainting Beefeater though, and they were word-perfect, not a stumble, quiver, or mix-up with the names.

Bloody royal wedding, I wasn't going to watch it. But I’m pleased when the sun comes out for them.

Damn and blast! I bloody watched it.

I know, I won't watch the next one. Well, not unless it's Prince Harry's.

Thursday, 28 April 2011


This is me at the bottom of the pile, all the others finely balanced upon me waiting to tumble all around and into the water at a tremble.

Twelve in total, thirteen would be unlucky and I am a superstitious fellow.

It’s just the way of things I guess. Of my own making. A lifetime spent feeling responsible even when I’m not, some would call it a sense of duty. I call it the weight of the world.

Avoiding 13, never walking under ladders, tipping my imaginary hat to single magpies – and all to no avail. It hardly lifts a single stone from the weight of the world. But then the world is a heavy old thing, estimated to weigh 5,972 sextillion tons, that's 5,972 followed by 18 zeroes.

So the weight of the world and luck - is that what my balancing obsession is all about? Me trying to make sense of things by stacking them one on top of the other, trying to create order, attempting to make this chaos balance by carefully placing stone on stone to make a sense of life and reduce the weight of the world.

Or just another of my madnesses?

Well I’m no Titan, no Atlas broad shoulders to carry all those zeroes, but I’ll keep balancing my stones, looking for the order in things.

Who knows? If I’m lucky one day I might find it.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The beach creature that never was…

So I had all the makings at my fingertips and still I sat.

It’s like that sometimes these days. I set out with good intentions, off to do something, make something from nothing, and somewhere along the journey lose my way and find myself sitting, staring into space, remembering.

Remembering. I get lost in remembering. Remembering.

I’ve not posted anything to my blog for a while, took a few days away, a few days without putting my thoughts down on virtual paper. I missed it, but sometimes it’s better to ‘not’ than ‘do’ and this is one of those times. Remembering. Oh, there’s been plenty to blog about - it’s just that although I wanted to make the journey I couldn’t make myself do the travelling.

I wonder if I’m back now? I wonder if anyone is bothered or even noticed that I’d gone away?

Anyway, I set out to Hell’s Mouth to make a beach creature from the flotsam and somewhere along that journey I lost my way and found myself sitting, staring into space remembering.

Oh well, perhaps next time. I still have Dali’s Giraffe to build, burn – he’s in there somewhere.

All I have to do is find him and stop him remembering.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Keeeping the black dog at bay...

With all the smelly stuff flying at the moment sometimes it is really hard to keep any sort of perspective on things. Life can seem to be a series of mishaps leading to inevitable disaster at times, and yet at other times it seems something else entirely.

It’s all to do with that glass I expect. You know the one, the glass that’s either half-full or half-empty dependent on all the influences around you, how you are feeling, how the people that you care about are doing, who you are, what the weather is like…

With all these variables is it any wonder that sometimes that glass of mine can seem less than full? Isn’t it to be expected that I catch a glimpse of the black dog out of the corner of my eye, sometimes even see him sat by the side of me, all teeth and slaverings, just waiting to pounce?

I’m working on my relaxation techniques as you know, but no matter how well I train myself to relax it won’t make things that much better, take away all the hardships and challenges that are in my life at the moment – and yes, I know - only I can make that happen.

Down you devil, down.

So what a nice surprise to have such a lovely sunny day last Sunday. For once we were at home for the weekend and the sunshine and warmth tempted us out of the house and into our postage stamp front yard to catch the afternoon sunshine. Such a treat to sit on our bench drinking an ice cold beer and watching the world go by.

Not that much of the world goes by generally in our road. Oh, we have had a couple of TV shoots, an episode of Cold Feet, a three part murder, and once Sally Webster passed our gate and smiled a shy ‘hello’. But generally it’s quiet, nothing much happening, just the neighbours sitting in their front yards drinking wine and reading the papers, the odd dog or two out for an afternoon stroll, some children riding bikes, intermittent couples wandering along the road hand in hand nodding a passing greeting as we sit and nod our friendship back to them.

What a nice afternoon. Hardly a murderer in sight.

And later (in celebration of the sunshine and because the mood took us), our first outside barbecue at the front of the house in our Japanese style front yard for almost two years. Lamb chops, king prawns, peri-peri chicken and a delicious selection of salads.

The envy of all our neighbours.

And not a black dog in sight.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Another story started....

Loss was in the village for a long time after the tragedy, tragedy is like that -- long lived in the memories of those that survive.

Long-lived, but not quite immortal.

Still, it smeared the stones of the whitewashed harbour cottages masking the smell of cannery fish with its heady, oppressive fume.

It hid in dark pools of shadow underneath the blue-green, blood -berried Yew Trees that lined the path to the Sailor’s Church.

It clung to the damp, evergreen laurel wreaths laid on sandstone steps in absence of a decent seaman’s grave, and stroked out cat-cries from women asleep in half empty, hand-quilted beds - making them thrash and churn like storm-thrown waves upon an unfamiliar shore.

It made pinkling babies crease calm-water brows in frown and knowingly peeked inside their laced cradles at the new and hopeful life.

It knew each of the weather browned, wrinkled old men so well as they silently sat on darkly worn straight-backed chairs at ‘The Rope’, skillfully playing their memories and taking them down to drown deep in bitter beer and remember what once had been.

Loss took six of them in all that Late August storm - Casey, Hatch, Mitch, S.T., M.T., and of course Skerry, the Captain of the Scarlet Gull.

Yes loss is long-lived, but not quite immortal. As those that remained were to find that sunny April morning when the Scarlet Gull returned home once more to harbour.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Relax, lets do it...

A relaxation experiment?

According to my course pre-joining instructions I needed to get myself into a state of deep relaxation as an experiment.

Now, relaxed is not exactly my natural state. In fact the last time I was really relaxed I was in a beach bar in the Caribbean drinking rum and coke and as it was over twenty years ago I was a good deal younger and a great deal more confident than I am today. Still, it was all par for the course (literally) and besides how hard can relaxing be?

The paper said: ‘perhaps you want to prepare first: are you going to lie down, or sit down? Use music or silence? Any other techniques?’

All good questions that I didn’t have immediate answers for - to lie or sit, sit in silence or lie listening to music, the other techniques… maybe I should cross my arms, or shut my eyes? Should I wear loose clothing? No clothing at all? Could I have a few beers to get me in the relax zone?

I was pretty sure that the beers were not going to be allowed as part of the experiment and all this thinking about relaxation had begun to stress me out, but I needed to give it my best shot so I continued fully clothed and arms akimbo (sorry about the image that just popped into your head, you know the naked one).

It was a hard to decide where to try the exercise. I thought trying it in the car and driving off to somewhere isolated, maybe with a view. But in the end I decided that I’d worry about passers-by thinking me odd. Not that I’m not odd, I am odd in many ways as you all well know, but the oddness of a middling-aged man sitting in his car with his eyes shut and his hands resting in his lap… well, I ask you.

At one point I thought about going somewhere like a church (well a church actually, I’m not sure that there is anything like a church except a church), but didn’t feel comfortable with that either. I’m not at all sure how God might feel about me crashing one of his buildings to do an experiment when I can't even be bothered to pop in for a chat.

‘just experimenting.’
‘relaxation technique.’

I didn’t feel that any of our downstairs rooms at home were relaxing or even empty enough to let me to try this effectively this first time. They are all a bit cluttered at the moment what with the building and piles of flooring all over the place. Just thinking about the mess to come once walls and floors have eventually dried and the dehumidifiers are switched off fills me with a deep angst.

I did consider the big room in the cellar, its empty(ish), light, has low ceilings and is nice and quiet - but in the end I ruled that out on the grounds that subterranean relaxation might be mistaken for death and a quick interment would not be good for my health. For it is written: ‘Never put temptation in the way of your spouse lest she succumbs and gets on the blower to the undertaker.’

Anyway, I knew that I wasn’t going to find it easy to relax anywhere as I have a bit of a problem relaxing. Well, when I say a bit, I mean a lot, and I’m not talking about that ‘always keeping busy’ thing that people do, I’m talking that ‘I can’t keep all this crap out of my mind without a glass or two of wine to relax me’ thing.

Anyway, in the end I decided on the bedroom at the cottage. It’s a very small room, more a large cupboard really, and it has really low ceilings. I’m used to sleeping there, so I thought that it wouldn’t be so hard to relax in a room where I sleep. I seem to feel more comfortable in smaller spaces; I think I may have been a badger or a cornflake in a previous life. Perhaps I’ll try to regress myself at some point in the future and see if my name was once Brock or Kellog.

On the day of the experiment I got lucky with the weather, it was sunny and warm for once. We are way out in the countryside so not many cars pass along the lane and Gaynor and Holly were out shopping. It was a good opportunity to give it a try. I decided not to tell them what I was doing, maybe so that they wouldn’t ask me what I was going to do or how it had gone afterwards, but most probably to avoid those funny looks that they give me when ‘he’s up to his weird stuff again.’

I thought about having a bath or shower but decided that it was making the whole thing too much of a ritual even though ritual is my middle name. Well, not literally my middle name, Kevin is actually my middle name, although thinking about it Ritual would be more acceptable. Andrew Ritual Height. Yes, I like Ritual as a middle name, it has the same ring as Endeavour (as in the Morse). Great initials also – ARH. A kind of choked scream of disbelieving desperation, and there’s not much remit for relaxation with those initials. If only I could use an exclamation mark at the end of it like Prince’s squiggle.

I didn’t drink any coffee or tea after breakfast in preparation, just some fizzy water. I have no idea why I decided to do this but it seemed like a good idea at the time – caffeine and all that I guess. Not that I can really say that I’ve ever experienced a caffeine jag, but relaxing was going to be difficult enough without tempting the coffee demon to put in an appearance.

I considered playing music, but worried I might just end up listening to the music and I seem to have lost that particular habit a while back. I can’t remember the last time I listened to music with intent. Music has become just the stuff that is on in the background on the radio, not a conscious decision at all. Anyway, I’m not sure that music relaxes me and what would I listen to – punk rock, classical, Gregorian chanting, Barry Manilow?

A while back I used a CD of thunder and rain falling on the ground to help me relax and sleep, but I couldn’t find it. If I had found it I would probably have stuck that on, I really do find the sound of falling rain and distant thunder soothing – not the bloody big crashes that shake the house when it’s directly overhead though, although they are exciting. BOOM!

As a child I’d rush to my bedroom window and watch for the lightening forks. I still do actually.
‘Don’t stand too close to the window, you’ll be struck.’ My mum used to warn me.

It never happened though, pity really, I hear that it enhances your susceptibility to unexplainable phenomena – ESP, future vision, the seeing of ghosts, talking in tongues, conversing with higher beings, that sort or thing. That is, if you survive the initial one billion volts running through the fabric of your being.

In the end I decided that silence would be best, but there seems to be no silence. I realised this as I listened to the sheep and birds outside the closed window. I could also hear the low hum of a lawnmower or strimmer buzzing in the distance.

Sometimes to help me sleep I do A-Z’s to take my mind off things. I focus on making an alphabetical list of islands, car makes, fruit and vegetables, animals, minor ailments, anything really. I thought about using this technique because it does help me forget those things that rattle around in my mind. But I didn’t know if falling asleep was an allowable outcome for this particular experiment and was worried that if I used an A-Z to help me relax that I would and end up snoring, dribbling, grinding my teeth and swearing alphabetically.

I lay on top of the bed with my eyes open and focussed on the white ceiling about five feet above me. At first I found myself listening to the birds and sheep but after a couple of minutes they became background noise and even the hum of the – what was it A chainsaw? – became quite comforting.

I tried to stay as still as possible without turning myself into a statue. I felt comfortable but couldn’t say that I was noticeably relaxed and things that I hadn’t done, but needed to be doing, kept popping into my mind. So to try to stop this happening I decided that I would focus on a single image and tried to imagine a red apple floating in a blue sky. I closed my eyes as I found this helped me realise the image.

There it was, a big red apple, floating in a blue sky and wearing a bowler hat. Now where had that bloody bowler appeared from? Oh well, easier to go with the flow. I decided I’d consciously try to relax my body, so imagined my body going numb from the toes up - first toes, then knees, thighs, stomach, fingers, arms, shoulders, all the way up to my head. I’d used this before and think I read about it in an article on insomnia years ago and it worked well, seeming to help relax me. I think my breathing changed and became slower at this point. I could still hear the birds in the distance and the dentist’s drill as it buzzed across the landscape, the apple in the bowler hat smiled down upon the sheep as they danced a waltz in prettily painted reared-up pairs of cloven feet in the fields far below him. Were they dancing to Barry? Was that Mandy they were swaying along with?

I heard a car go past outside but it hardly disturbed me. God was driving. He was off for a few rum and cokes at the beach bar down the road, the one with the palm trees, he was meeting that dentist with the drill and they were going to say a prayer for all toothache sufferers.


I didn’t quite catch the end of the sentence as the sound of the rain and distant thunder drowned Him out, the chanting of all those Gregorian monks and cornflake eating badgers didn’t help much either. It was really uncomfortable on these boxes of flooring and the sound of that bloody dehumidifier was really getting on my bloody nerves and then Rene Magritte and the bloody coffee demon showed up uninvited, all paintbrushes and NescafĂ©.

Arse, Bollocks, Crap, Dildo, Enema…BOOM!

I awoke with a dribble splattered start.

AGH! After all that relaxing my nerves were in shreds so I put on the kettle.

Maybe a strong black coffee would work for me where deep relaxation technique had failed, or at least I thought it had.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Butterfly thinking...

I saw this butterfly in my garden. It made me think.

I've been thinking ever since, I can't seem to stop even when I'm sleeping.

My thoughts are rushing me along to places I don't want to go, outcomes that I don't need to see.

My thoughts are like that butterfly, never still, moving from one brief landing place to another. They move so fast that for a while I haven't been unable to place any words in a sentence, paragraphs have eluded me. I start to fly, settle for a moment and then I'm up and off again, moving on to the next thought, the next

Low white buildings again. An abandoned hospital? I'm standing with two women, one short and the other tall with short dark hair. We are running away from

A TV presenter is getting his hair cut, shaved as close as possible to his head. He isn't sure that it's the right look for children's TV and

People drift away from the barbecue, it's taking too long for the raffle to start and Quo are about to start their set. Malcolm and Steve are standing by the metal fence I wave at

Rushing, rushing, rushing. Where will I land next?

Friday, 8 April 2011

111 - The frog...

A sunny day.

I clean the pond and tidy around, planting out some of my nasturtium seedlings by the edges of the clear water.

For once I can see the fish. I watch them swimming around, diving down, surfacing to suck the warming air.

What a small world theirs, a few gallons of water, a plant or two, a fountain and a feed. A lifetime going around and around, endlessly passing the same passing points, only the colour of the sky overhead and the temperature of the water to add any variety at all.

Small fish in a small pond. The story of my life.

And then I see the frog.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Kate, Eric, time travel and old socks…

Why can’t I dream of Kate Bush?

It doesn’t have to be the Kate of Babooshka or even There Goes a Tenner, the Kate of Sensual World or King of the Mountain would be just fine. I’m not asking for much in my dream, some conversation, or perhaps a walk on her private beach far below her isolated house in Devon. I want to try to understand why her lyrics seem to be grabbed from out of my mind. I was thinking them long before she ever wrote them. I want to know if the affinity I have with her words equates to an affinity with the person.

She’s younger than me, but not much. She was born the year after I was born in 1957, perhaps that explains Rosebud, Citizen Kane, Night of the Demon (it’s in the trees), and why they seem to mean so much to us both. It doesn’t explain the weather machine, the face under the ice, the big sky, or all the other images that I drew in my teens though.

‘Every old sock needs and old shoe, ain’t that a great saying?’ I said to Ju-Ju once, long before Kate every dropped it into one of her songs. I dreamed the curtains and Rhinestones in the video to King of the Mountain long before Catherine ever directed it. I drew Kate’s words.

‘The wind is whistling through the house.’ Yes, sometimes it seems to, but still I dream of work, speeding cars, roads high above night time cities, newborn babies speaking when they shouldn’t, bare-boarded schools and last night time travelling with Eric Morecombe - but never Kate.

By the way Ernie was around but didn’t put in an appearance.

So why can’t I dream of Kate Bush?

Tonight instead of tricking myself to sleep with an A-Z of fruit and vegetables, or the names of islands, or even an alphabet of ailments and diseases, I’m going to go for an A-Z of Kate Bush songs - perhaps it might work. I’ll let you know, and who knows? Maybe Kate’s next song will be about a time travelling comedian.

A. Army Dreamers, B. Babooshka, C. Cloudbursting, D. Deeper Understanding, E. Eric takes a trip to yesterday…

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A marriage made in...

It is a marriage made in heaven, well maybe not heaven but certainly in the Garden of Eden.

No, not my marriage, the marriage between The Archers and Gardener's Question Time. Yes, GQT is coming to Ambridge, reality crosses over into fiction, not that I can really distinguish between the two these days.

I can hardly wait. After the shocking death of Nigel and that terribly stilted appearance by The Duchess of Cornwall, I was thrilled to hear in last night’s episode that Gardeners' Question Time have confirmed to Jim that they will indeed be visiting Ambridge to celebrate The Archers 60th anniversary - 'Per aspera ad astra'.

Joy of joys. Linda can hardly contain herself and even Lillian's Tiger wants a ticket. The GWT panel will include Matthew Wilson, Christine Walkden, Bob Flowerdew (thank God that John Cushnie isn't around with his pathetic attempts at sarcasm) and be chaired by Eric Robson. I wonder what Eddie will ask? Probably something about compost just to get a free mention of his own product, and what about Jolene? Maybe she'll ask about her clematis, I believe Kenton has taken to pruning it for her recently.

Whatever the questions I'm sure that Joe will have his say, Ruth will ask her question in that ridiculous accent, David will stumble over his words and apologise (again) to Elizabeth, and Susan will bake a cake. Just as long as Bob Flowerdew doesn't get Jill and Tony started on organic vegetables and Rory the Dalek isn't featured. In fact let's keep all of Aldrige family out of it, Brian, Debbie, Adam and the long suffering martyr that is Jennifer.

Wouldn't it be great if Sabrina Thwaite or Fat Paul got to ask a question? Not very likely though.

Best of all, not only are the GWT team appearing in an episode of the Archers on Monday 18th April, but Ambridge is appearing on GWT from a fictional Ambridge location on 24th April.

How weird it is going to be. I just hope that that bloody winger Helen doesn't get a ticket.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Rays of light...

Sometimes out of the darkness all around you think you see a ray of light, sometimes you can see it for a while and sometimes it vanishes almost instantly as if it was never there at all.

I thought I saw some rays of light recently, rays of light that would move me on from this twilight that I seem to be traipsing through currently. One of them dazzled then exploded, others flashed upon the water briefly and were gone leaving nothing but dull disappointment.

Maybe I should keep my eyes closed so that I can’t see the rays, those little flashes of hope that dart into and then move so quickly out of view. Maybe they aren’t worth seeing at all.

But what then?

It is so hard to keep an optimistic head, be positive and look to the future, when so much of promise seems to come to nothing.

Hard, but not impossible. Just keep looking for that ray of light.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Ging gang goolie, uncle Len...

I went to a funeral today, back in the town where I was born. I chatted with family I’d not seen for thirty years or more, talking of times happy and sad and I visited graves, listening to the wind and the toll of bells. Standing black amidst so many yet so alone, I felt as apart as ever I could remembering the people who once were but are now gone - Gran, Lucy and Charlie, Kate and Lena, Ian, little Ian, Mary and Linda, Granddad and now after ninety years, uncle Len.

In the town hall room after, surrounded by so many people I knew but hardly know, so sad to see the spaces of those that should have been but are no more, I remembered. Good to see those that remain though, good to reacquaint myself with old relationships. So much to make me smile, so much to make a tear drip down my cheek, as picking up the deep black earth to drop this one last time.

Milko, Len. Milko.

Uncle Len the driver who was there when Belsen was cleared. Uncle Len, card sharp. Uncle Len, gardener boy. Uncle Len, builder of doll’s houses. Uncle Len, milkman. Uncle Len, mayor. Uncle Len, honorary citizen. Uncle Len, scout master. Uncle Len, teller of tales and singer of songs. Uncle Len who bought me my first watch.

Back home, my last glass of 10 year malt old raised in toast, I wondered what did it mean?

And then it came to me. This tale he told to me on that boyhood milk round so long ago.

‘In deepest darkest Africa, every year after the rains, the "Great Grey Ghost Elephant" rose up from the mists and wandered through the land. When he came to a village, he would either go around or through it. The villagers believed that if he went around the village then the village would have a prosperous year, but if he went through it then there would be drought.

The elephant had gone through the village of "Wat-Cha" three years in a row, and the state of the village was very bad, it could not take another rampage. So, Ging-Ganga, the village leader and Ha-la-shay, the medicine man put together a plan to save the village from the ‘Great Grey Ghost’.

Ging-Ganga and his warriors were to frighten the elephant by standing in its path, shaking their shields and spears and Hay-la-shay and his followers were to cast magic spells, frightening the elephant by the sound of their shaking ju-ju sacks.

When the elephant arrived, the villagers gathered at the outskirts of the village and started shouting the name of their leaders, "Ging-Ganga" and "Ha-lay-shay". "Shally wally" was the sound made by the shaking of their magic ju-ju sacks. The villager’s plan worked well, and the elephant went around the village, making an "Oompah, oompah" sound, whilst villagers rejoiced and sang the "Ging Gang" song.'

It’s this song that reminds me of Len, the song that sometimes we sang on those cold, frosty mornings as we delivered the milk.

'Ging gang goolie goolie goolie goolie watcha, Ging gang goo, ging gang goo. Ging gang goolie goolie goolie goolie watcha, Ging gang goo, ging gang goo. Hayla, oh hayla shayla, hayla shayla, shayla, oh-ho, Hayla, oh hayla shayla, hayla shayla, shayla, oh. Shally wally, shally wally, shally wally, shally wally, Oompah, oompah, oompah, oompah.'

I sing the song for you Len.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Ports and storms and dreams...

Ports and storms, any and safe, hope washed against the rocks springing eternal. Such strange and unreal times, bringing such dreams.

For one reason and another mainly to do with learning, I’ve been asked to find a suitable notebook and keep it by the side of my bed at night. It’ll be my ‘dream book’, a book where I can catch and capture my dreams at the moment of waking and record them for consideration later.

I’ve bought a small, unlined white paper book covered in purple and blue peacocks. The images seemed right for a ‘dream book’ and sometimes, just as I wake, I’m sure that I can hear peacocks calling in the distance. It has a light blue elastic cord that can be wrapped around its covers to keep them closed; no need for locks and keys, for secrecy or shame, my dreams are here for all to see. I wear them like a suit of armour, even though they still let the arrows in.

Dreams, I have them all the time. I’ll keep my peacock patterned book, but I’ll place some here to share with you; and if ever I learn what they all mean I’ll share that too.

Last night – One:

I’m in a huge dark green-blue-black lake with mountains all around me. I’m dressed in trunks and goggles and I’m wearing a swimming cap. The water is cold and very, very deep. Small choppy waves surround me. I’m not swimming, I have a box like boat thing in front of me, its motor whirs as I hold it stiffly out in front of me and it slowly pulls me along. I flap my feet to aid my progress. I think I’m wearing flippers.

I glance to my left and two divers appear, surfacing out of the water all dripping. They look at each other and then dive down again and are gone. I notice that there are many boats on the water all around me, mainly rowing boats, but some sails and motors. It may be a race, I’m not sure.

Suddenly I'm thrown up and out of the water as one of the diver’s surfaces beneath me. I’m panicked and let go of my square, black craft. The engine splutters and dies and it begins to sink. I try to stop it, but it's too heavy for me and it slips beneath the water. I watch it as it drifts down, feeling helpless. The diver looks towards me and swims off with his friend, quickly and strongly.

I try to swim but I seem to have lost my strength. I begin to splutter and my mouth fills with water, I’m choking. I cry for help and an old man with a bushy white beard, wearing a sailor captain’s cap begins to row his varnished wooden boat toward me. He’s smoking a pipe and wearing a dark blue turtle-neck sweater. The smoke leaves a trail behind him as he carefully rows.

From nowhere another boat appears on my left hand side and next to me. It’s being rowed by another man who is so similar to the man in the other boat that they could be twin brothers. He looks at me and tells me to get into the boat, but to be careful not to capsize it. The man in the other boat nods and then begins to row away.

A young woman with a short, dark bob sits at the other end of the boat manning the tiller. She has green eyes and smiles at me as I roll into the boat. The boat moves from side to side, but doesn’t rock too badly and I fall into it and lie panting on its bottom. The man passes me a blanket. I wrap myself in it and sit there shivering in the boat.

I awake. (3.30am)

Last night - Two:

I’m working at a hotel or a school where there’s a large hall. Sometimes I think it’s a hotel and other times a school. Groups of tourists and classes of girls in their late teens wander around.

I’m in charge of building a deep pool in the hall, in the corner by the door. It takes up about a quarter of the area of the hall and is very deep and completely square. I’ve built it out of concrete and then covered it with chipboard and laminate flooring so that when it’s not in use it can be walked upon.

The pool is full of tropical fish, they dart and flash in the water, but beneath at the lower depths, other creatures have broken through into the pool through a crack in the concrete. Small aquatic dinosaurs are in the water, they’ve broken through from prehistoric times and are eating the fish.

I put up a danger sign, and then I notice that the chipboard has become wet and unstable and the laminate paper thin. It bends and ripples when I carefully put my foot on it. It isn’t safe to walk on and I can see through it slightly. It’s like looking through dirty frosted glass and I can see the creatures swimming around just beneath the surface. They have sharp teeth.

A group of girls enters the hall and walks towards the pool. I shout and tell them not to walk on the floor above the water but one of them doesn’t listen, steps onto the unstable surface, and begins to walk towards the door. The others stand nervously at the edge of the pool and watch her in silence.

She’s half way across and still walking, the floor beneath her feet quivering dangerously. I know her; it is Kim, a young woman who used to work for me many years ago. The floor splits wide and she falls into the water. The surface of the water boils as the small prehistoric monsters rise from the depths. One of the other girls reaches out with impossibly long arms, grabs Kin under the armpits and slowly pulls her back through the water and up onto the edge. She’s safe.

The dark water becomes still.

I awake. (6.10am)

Ports and storms, any and safe, hope washed against the rocks springing eternal. Such strange and unreal times, bringing such dreams of dark water and potential drownings, mysterious divers, miniature monsters, dark danger, sea captains – what does it all mean?

I’ll keep my book. I might make sense of it, who knows?

Friday, 1 April 2011

Day after day...

Here we are, another April Fools day. I really should find my silly hat with the bells and beat myself with a stick.

What a year since last All Fools, so many changes, so much foolishness. Sometimes I feel like that man in that song - you know the one, that fool who spent his days alone on a hill.


I spend a lot of time alone these days. Hours in front of my computer searching. It’s an uphill struggle sometimes, sitting here perfectly still and I find myself grinning, remembering all those people that I used to spend so many hours with, day after day.

Sometimes it feels that they don’t want to know me any more. It’s not true of course; at least I don’t think it is. Without being there, up close and talking, it’s hard to stay in touch. I guess that they’re busy climbing their own hills, looking for the answers, like me. I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. I never give an answer.

I watched the sun go down today, bright red in the evening sky, my head up in the clouds as usual. It wasn’t until I stopped speaking and heard the silence enclosing me that I realised that I’d been talking to myself. Nobody heard me, so it didn’t matter, but I heard them, a thousand voices in my head talking perfectly loud. I must be going mad.

For a few minutes as I watched the sun, the world seemed like a horizontal Ferris wheel, a crazy helter-skelter, brightly lit with tinny fairground music playing all around. I let it soak through my eyes and into my head as it spun around and around. I was well on my way by then. Not that I noticed. I never do. I must be going mad.

I wonder what they think of me, do they like me? Some of them don’t seem to, maybe it’s because they can sense what I think of them, want I want to do to them. Not that I ever show it, I’m good at not showing my feelings. I never show my feelings - it’s all part of my madness.

I’m no fool you know. Just because I stand here with the sun going down, while the eyes in my head see the world spinning round, it doesn’t make me foolish. Mad certainly, but no fool.

Oh well, time to be off on this magical mystery tour. Mr. McCartney, will you start the bus please.