Saturday, 31 March 2012

Butterflies and bastards…

An eventful week; it started well enough with sightings of a peacock butterfly basking in the sunshine on the paving at the front of my house and a brief and spirit-lifting glimpse of bright yellow as a brimstone butterfly fluttered along like a sunny-day smile on our suburban street.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a brimstone, not for a few years at least. Since then though the sun has gone back into the cloud and I didn’t despite trying so hard.

Then today that puddled man-boy poking me in my forehead repeatedly, long and hard, mad eyes flashing fire, threats of beatings. I didn’t run and I didn’t stand down I’m proud to say, but I’m not proud of letting it go in my usual way. Sunshine on the paving at the front of my house and a brief and spirit-lifting glimpse of bright yellow as a brimstone butterfly fluttered along like a sunny-day smile on our suburban street. I can’t remember the last time I saw a brimstone, but I didn’t run and I didn’t stand down.

‘What’s my problem?’ Well, in answer to that oafish question oaf, I can’t tolerate the type of injustice that sickly boy of yours dishes out – stamping on every butterfly he sees, congratulating himself for making the world black with his loathing, and you condoning it… chip and block comes to mind – you nightmares.

Back in the long ago when the air was full of butterflies all summer I wouldn’t have let it go I think. Lots of butterflies then – blues, browns, reds, oranges – these days it’s unusual to see even a cabbage white. But at least I can see the butterflies, appreciate their beauty and charm, know how to let their wings lift me and take me back to other, better days - at least I can put all this into words.

He’s just a thug, a bullying stupid thug and perhaps I would have let it go even back then.

Well maybe. You nightmares.

So, two butterflies on a warm march day. It has to be a good omen.

Friday, 30 March 2012

1,000 - and I missed it...

I missed it. I knew that I would. My thousandth post came and went without me noticing and here I am on post 1,005.

What can I say, other than I missed it.

I missed it.

At this point I guess I should write something about my thousandth post, but I can hardly spell it let alone write about it and in any case is post number one thousand really so very different from post number one or post number one hundred and eleven or even seven hundred and twenty-seven? Are any of my posts so very different from each other?

I guess despite the variety of subject, ultimately my posts are all the same – they all about me. And just how do I feel about that? Well. it is all that I know really. Isn't it all that any of us really know?

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Message from the FBI...

Well, I was going to write something around this e-mail I received yesterday but I don’t feel that I need to... just read it. This one’s quite well written for a change.

PS – I love the last line.


Federal Bureau of Investigation

Counter-terrorism Division and Cyber Crime Division
J. Edgar. Hoover Building Washington DC

Attention Beneficiary,

Records show that you are among one of the individuals and organizations who are yet to receive their overdue payment from overseas which includes those of Lottery/Gambling, Contract and Inheritance. Through our Fraud Monitory Unit we have noticed that you have been transacting with some impostors and fraudsters who have been impersonating the likes of Prof. Soludo /Mr. Lamido Sanusi of the Central Bank Of Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Aziza, Bode Williams, Frank, Anderson, none officials of Oceanic Bank, Zenith Banks, Kelvin Young of HSBC, Ben of FedEx, Ibrahim Sule, Dr. Usman Shamsuddeen and some impostors claiming to be The Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Cyber Crime Division of the FBI gathered information from the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) on how some people have lost outrageous sums of money to these impostors. As a result of this, we hereby advise you to stop communication with any one not referred to you by us. We have negotiated with the Federal Ministry of Finance that your payment totaling $5,900,000.00(Five Million Nine Hundred Thousand Dollars). will be released to you via a custom pin based ATM card with a maximum withdrawal limit of $15,000 a day which is powered by Visa Card and can be used anywhere in the world where you see a Visa Card Logo on the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM).

We guarantee receipt of your payment. This is as a result of the mandate from US Government to make sure all debts owed to citizens of American and also Asia and Europe which includes Inheritance, Contract, Gambling/Lottery etc are been cleared. Below are few list of tracking numbers you can track from Delivery Company website to confirm people like you who have received their payment successfully.

Name LINDBERG:DHL Tracking Number 1426425615 (
Name :PITELIS :UPS Tracking Number h8433223480 (
Name: GERALD D. WARNER FedEx Tracking number 875777537332 (

To redeem your funds, you are hereby advised to contact the ATM Card Center via email for their requirement to proceed and procure your Approval of Payment Warrant and Endorsement of your ATM Release Order on your behalf which will cost you $200 Usd only and nothing more as everything else has been taken care of by the Federal Government including taxes, custom paper and clearance duty so all you will ever need to pay is $200.00 only.

Mr. Luis Kally(ATM Card Center Director)
Central Bank of Nigeria
Central Business District,
Cad astral Zone, federal
Capital Territory,
ATM Card Center Director Mr. Luis Kally
Phone: +234-80-88-656-777.

Do contact Mr. Luis Kally of the ATM Card Center via his contact details above and furnish him with your details as listed below:

FULL NAMES: __________________________________
SEX: _______________
DATE OF BIRTH: __________________
OCCUPATION: __________________
TELEPHONE NUMBER: _____________________
EMAIL ADDRESS: _____________________

On contacting him with your details your file would be updated and he will be sending you the payment information in which you will use in making payment of $200.00 via Money Gram or Western Union Money Transfer for the procurement of your Approval of Payment Warrant and Endorsement of your ATM Release Order, after which the delivery of your ATM card will be effected to your designated home address without any further delay, extra fee.


Note: Disregard any email you get from any impostors or offices claiming to be in possession of your ATM card, you are hereby advice only to be in contact with Mr. Luis Kally of the ATM card center who is the rightful person to deal with in regards to your payment and forward any emails you get from impostors to this office so we could act upon it immediately. Help stop cyber crime.


The money is on it's way....

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

How Earth got its name...

I guess everybody in the country has been snapping Jupiter and Venus over the last few weeks, so I decided that I wouldn’t be any different. Of course I missed them when they were really close together, a combination of cloudy skies and stupidity, but now that we have the crescent moon it remains a sight worth seeing – Venus glowing bright above and Jupiter a tiny spec in the bottom right.

Of course I’ve been watching them as they hang all a glow in the night sky. ‘Planets not stars’ I keep correcting myself and others. Jupiter will be gone soon but Venus is going to hang around for a while I’ve read, and somewhere out there in the eastern evening sky Mars is visible, a bright reddish-orange orb. I’ve not seen it of course, I can’t find my compass to find which way I should be looking and even if I did it would have to be pretty obvious – I’m no astronomer I’m afraid.
Venus, Mars, Jupiter and the rest – the Roman gods of our solar system… and here we are on Earth. I wonder who named the Earth and where the name came from?

Perhaps in the dim and distant past two of our equally dim and distant ancestors got together and perhaps one said “What shall we call this thing we are standing on?” and perhaps the other replied “Errr thingy.” And over the years Errthingy got shortened to Erth and then the French (who very much enjoy their vowels) came along and stuck an ‘a’ in the middle of it to make it a little Frenchier - and voila… Earth!
Yes, that was probably it - the French... I might have guessed it.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

With Weird and Gilly...

He played guitar didn’t he?

He did - jamming good with Weird and Gilly - two of Bowie's band mates in The Spiders From Mars: bassist Trevor Bolder (he of the magnificent sideburns) and drummer Woody Woodmansey.

Oh, what a day in 1972 when 15 year old me was first blown away by this album. My hair turned bright red almost overnight as Noddy Holder’s mirrored top hat was forgotten and Marc Bolan’s satin jacket was flung deep into my wardrobe never to be seen again.

Suddenly I was born anew, and all because of an album cover of a pretty thing in an electric blue jumpsuit and boxing boots. Discos at the youth centre would never be the same again. How well I remember gazing at that hand coloured over-exposed image. Where had he come from... Mars?

I knew every inch of that street on that cover. I could smell the slight rot of the rubbish, knew what was going on in every lighted room and what was going on in the darkness of the others. I'd sat in each car parked by the curbside, pushed in their cigarette lighters and lit a Gauloise from each of them, coughing on the dry, perfumed, French tobacco fumes. I'd walked through that tall green door a thousand times, up the grimy wooden stairs, visiting every business announced on those rain drenched signs outside - tailors and theatrical agents, publishers and poets, furriers and photographers and whores.

I poured over that sleeve for hours, so many hours that I became Ziggy sometimes - making love with my ego, becoming that special man, making them my band.

Heddon Street in central London is very trendy now but back then it was rubbish strewn and ratty and on that cold, wet, January night Bowie must have been freezing when photographer, Brian Ward, who was shooting pictures of the band in his crummy photographic studio above, persuaded Bowie to step outside for a frame or two. Of course Weird, Gilly and poor old Mick Ronson thought it was too cold and didn’t join him for the picture. The rest as they say is pop history and I was never the same again.

The reason for this post is that today, forty years on (yes, forty years!) Ziggy is to have a plaque dedicated to him on Heddon Street – and why not? After all, he was the Starman who took it all too far… but boy could he play guitar.

I wonder what the alternative sleeve would have been – spider from mars maybe?

Monday, 26 March 2012


No, not a painting - well, not one I've made - and not water either. Simply the play of sunshine through the front door glass on the ceiling of our hall this evening. It caught me up in a reverie as I stood watching the play for a few minutes.


Let's just call it a chant to go with the bay leaves in my shoes shall we.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sixty minutes in time...

So there goes that hour again, it catches me every year; not that I forget to reset the clocks, but for the rest of the day at least - I’m running late. It’s only sixty minutes, but what a difference those sixty minutes make and throughout the day I find myself returning to that same old question – where have those sixty minutes gone?

I fell asleep with that thought flying through my mind like birds last night. Long before the official o'clock for the putting forward of time, my clocks were already changed in anticipation. 'Where have all those sixty minutes gone?' I thought as my eyes closed heavy with the lead of the day.

Almost at once I was standing in front of a long brick wall on which somebody had painted, in huge white letters: ‘waste daylight at your peril’.

Men in grey coveralls, weaved in and out of laughing children riding bicycles, boys in grey shorts and green pullovers, girls in candy striped frocks.

A siren sounded -‘Inside! Inside!’ the coveralled men began to shout, pulling on gas masks with clock-faces where the glass eyes should have been. Suddenly doors, which had been invisible until that moment, slid open in the long brick walls as the children furiously rode their bikes inside, the men following up behind. "Move along, move along."

And then the doors slid shut and from a speaker high above a man’s voice warned ‘three minutes until the hour is lost. Seek shelter if you haven’t already.”

I was getting worried, the clouds overhead were darkening, the breeze - warm only a few moments before - had turned into a cool wind. There was a hum in the air. I ran down a dark alley towards the harbour, a yacht was moored besides the harbour wall. “Wait for me! Wait for me!” I cried to the two men struggling to pull up the anchor. I ran towards the gangplank but as I got there the anchor came up and the yacht rose quickly into the air, straight up into the clear black sky, barely missing a passing passenger jet, leaving the gang plank to clatter to the quayside below.

The sky was lead, the hum a screaming roar - and then it stopped.

Black iridescent feathers began to fall from the sky as I trembled and then awoke to the sound of flapping wings.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Dali giraffe with corned beef can…

Gaynor and Holly spent the afternoon in the sun on the beach. I on the other hand didn’t. Damn this sunshine, it fills my head with sea and sand and makes me want to get back to my beach creature building again. After all, I still have my Dali giraffe to make – you know the one I’ve been planning for years.

Still you can’t have everything - but there is always something you can do.

Last night I made myself a corned beef hash for tea. A posh one mind, courgettes and read onion, leeks and Worcester sauce, a dash of Tabasco, some chilli flakes, squares of crisply fried potato, and the best tinned corned beef available.

I love the key and can thing. How many times have I placed the slot of the key in the fine metal tongue only to find that I’ve got it wrong? How many times have I turned it half way round only to have the curl of tin unravel and snap? Answer: Too many times. But last night I managed without mishap.

I normally throw the can straight in the recycle but last night it caught my eye. It was so shiny under the red and black paper wrapping, so not quite square and thinner at the top than at the bottom, and that curl of twisted steel looked so interesting, the key so old-fashioned keyish.

Hmmmmm… what if I… and then I… and then took the key, a few nails for flames and… and what if I?

So I did.

So here it is: Dali giraffe with corned beef can. I still don’t know why I felt the need to make it, but I made it anyway. I think that I’ll stand it in the front garden and watch it weather, place it in a corner and wait for the rain and damp to render it down to rusted red, the way that weather will, and then set fire to it.

Dali giraffe with corned beef can – for your amusement and delectation.

Friday, 23 March 2012

A spell by the sea...

It’s been a while since I was on a beach, even a grey day one like this. How I love to wander along them hunting things down, picking up shells and stones, particularly the ones with the holes in. Pocketing claws of bleached gnarled twisted twig and sea smoothed glass, maybe some seeds and cones, perhaps a bird skull, some bones - anything that looks interesting.

My pockets are usually full after twenty minutes or so and there’s always a few feet of fishing line if you look hard enough, sometimes yards of it, often with hooks and weights, even the odd float or two.

On a summer’s evening, a spring afternoon, or even an autumn day, I’ll take my finds, string them to the found line and hang my seaside strings from a piece of stick or root then leave them strung from a propped up branch, or if can find one an overhanging rock.

A seaside mobile by the sea side.

I like to think of it as some kind of primitive art or a ritual, a way for me to join with the landscape. It’s nothing permanent, there’s nothing to be taken home and away from the landscape. It's just leavings, my small comment about my time on that beach, a seaside spell, a broken shell chant, a stone song, a thought.

I know - crazy dreamer of dreams.

I leave them behind as I leave; knowing that my bits of wash-up will return to the beach as the tide, wind, and rain claim them back, each tiny tie falling to the sand below, becoming part of the landscape once more.

It’s such a satisfying thought and a satisfying thing to do. This ones a wish for a kiss.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Red book…

I came across one of my old red books yesterday, the red books where I kept my notes on and about the flotsam and jetsam of the world I used to live in.

Looking through them at the words and thoughts that are scribbled down, page after page, I wonder these days what it all meant. Who were these people with names that sounded as if Lewis Carroll had invented them just so he could write nonsense verse?

Snalune… I ask you?

Custom video seemed so important back then, a key to the future, a way of surviving in an ever-changing on-line world. Sitting in meeting after meeting, listening to so-called experts talking crap and nonsense about customer journey, value propositions, success criteria... they seemed to talk endlessly without going anywhere.

Looking at that page now it simply looks like a lot of stock phrases made by somebody who really had no clue about how to do anything but make calming noises – new realism, sales and marketing driven, adapt quickly, there-there let me kiss it better.

Looking back, whilst the sentiment of the words seemed right I must have known at the time that the reality was never going to happen. That’s probably why I quoted Amelia Earhart in a note on the page – ‘The best way to do it is to do it.’ Pity that they didn’t.

Still, even doing it couldn’t stop Amelia from disappearing.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Jack of clubs...

I’m finding it very hard to write at the moment. I think in part it is because my life isn’t as various as it once was, but more importantly because I have stopped seeing as much as I used to. It’s as if my sight has somehow become flat and even the most interesting things have become ordinary.

I used to see potential blog posts everywhere and when I saw one my heart would quicken and the words would begin to pour – gush in some cases, gush so much that it turned into one of those ramblers that I guess nobody really read.

For instance last Wednesday as I stumbled on my weary way to Greysville I passed a playing card, not an Alice-in-Wonderland, walking, talking, type card you understand – just a playing card discarded on a suburban street. The Jack of clubs to be precise; a solitary fellow just sitting on the tarmac of the path as if he were waiting for something of someone to come along.

As I passed him I glanced down, saw him, but didn’t really take him in. It was only when I was another hundred yards down the road that I realised that I had to turn back and pick him up. Who knows, he might have been a message, or a lucky charm, or a warning? I picked him up and put him in the pocket of my jacket, all warm and snug.

The Jack of clubs – the card of shame. Shame is dangerous. One need not be ashamed of oneself; there are many other things in this Universe that demand attention, and warrant more. But there he was anyway – Mr. Shame, the Jack of clubs.

I still have him. He’s still there, wrapped within the black waterproof fabric lining of my coat, waiting to fulfil whatever part of my destiny he’s been sent to fulfil. He may have a story or two to tell, who knows? He may even have a purpose. Maybe I’ll work it out and maybe I won’t.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


At last...
At last...
At last...
At last...
At last...

Bees do so enjoy Spring...

Monday, 19 March 2012

A year on...

It was a year today that I got the message that my uncle Len had died. I can’t remember where I was, probably at home, it was my mum who let me know. It wasn’t unexpected, I deal with these things in a matter-of-fact way, but it stopped me for a few moments in my tracks, remembering.

I’ve written about Len here before and his wife my aunty Kate, an old fashioned couple who saw so much of real life in the way that couples did back then, far more than I will ever see or even want to ever see - war and hardship and loss and separation. Through it all though I think that they kept their spirit with a whistle and a smile and a kind word or a harsh and a gossip and endless cups of tea.

Ah, yes tea... the wine of the time.

Susan, Alison, Judith and Lindsey. They had four children, my four cousins, all girls; and their girls were the apples of their eyes, their faces lighting up when they spoke of them, eyes all a twinkle when they talked about their latest success. I remember visiting them in their house in Towersey when I was young. I’m sure that we walked there, passing the fields so full of corn, the hedgerows heavy with fruit. I remember apples from a tree, the Wicked Queen from Sleeping Beauty, jam sandwiches, best china, doilies, cake and a doll’s house with electric light.

Later at their house on Windmill Road I remember hearing Susan's copy of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band for the first time - milk rounds, old coins, watches, morris dancing, cards, berets, gammy legs, the long grass in field by the side of the house (and is that aubretia and an old battered shed?) - all back then, so long ago and remembered in a moment on that day.

A year - such an instant and such an age simultaneously. How can that be?

Anyway, a year on I remember that time again. My Uncle Len and his lovely bride Kate, his four girls who grew up to make them both so proud. I have no time for sentimentality, I am far too the cynic for that... but memory? Well, memory is what I'm made of and although I miss them both they are still both here in there with me.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

If, a clockwork orange, lord of the flies...

I watched a documentary about William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies last night. It was a ‘must read’ when I was at school like If and A Clockwork Orange. The book’s about a group of boys shipwrecked on an island. The boys begin by spending their time playing, but as with all boys games they eventually revert to savagery despite the few rational kids' attempts to prevent it. It’s a boy’s book, girls rarely like it - well they just don’t get it - or at least they didn’t back then..

How much like my schooldays that book was, I never realised just what savages small boys could be until I started at Lord Williams’ School. There were all sorts there – sons of film stars, politicians spawn, boarding boys whose parents were away in darkest Africa, even a Kurdish Prince. I was a lowly day boy from a council estate and wasn’t I made to feel it.

Grey suits, white shirts, school ties, black shoes, caps and rugby.

The school was founded in 1559 so there was a tradition for everything, good and bad, formal and informal, light and dark. The good ones included – Founders day, speech day, school plays, the orchestra and choir, chess clubs, croquet on the headmaster’s lawn, matron, female French assistants from Paris and tuck.

I have happy memories of Robert Morley, the actor, declaring a half-day holiday one sunny speech day morning, the principal grabbing the microphone from him and screaming at us boys to stop as we began to walk, one-by-one and cheering, from the hall.

But there were bad traditions also; traditions that had been ordered to stop long ago when a more enlightened headmaster took over. Of course they hadn’t, they’d just gone underground, turned a blind eye to in some cases - the clubs and societies and passing rites of another time, rumbling along just beneath the service.

Fagging was outlawed, but it still went on; the plebs making toast for the prefects and polishing their rugby boots, some even warming their beds at night. The prefects no longer carried canes, but the beatings hadn’t stopped or the lashings to the red-hot radiators, heads down toilets, cold showers, and cutting the croquet lawns with nail scissors.

Prefects still wore waistcoats, no longer brocade though, and a Templar knight still led the procession on Founder’s Day in the local church. But gin was banned in the refectory, beer and opiates forbidden, and ties and jackets would be worn at all times even on the hottest days.

It all still went on though except the opium was now cannabis and the gin had become less noticeable vodka.

Bullying was an accepted part of school life and I’m not just talking mere ragging. The bullying was so bad that one boarding boy tried to kill himself by hanging himself in the showers. It was all hushed up and a new scrumming machine suddenly appeared (a bribe) and the hanging boy was sent off to another school.

There were secret societies and high gambling card schools, drinking clubs, fighting clubs, unguarded fencing clubs whose members wore their scars with pride and sniggering, hateful, cliquey groups who hung around waiting to trip the fat boy over, or throw his homework in the pool. Cigarette burning was common, cutting with blades a rarity but it happened - and only once did I know a shot to be fired on the Army Cadet rifle range with another boy intended as an accidental target.

And all of this from the son’s of the rich and famous – surgeons and bankers, politicians and industrialists - not yobs, like us poor day boys.

Once, on a field trip, a first year was made to stand against a kitchen door while a group of fourth years threw knives at the door surrounding him. He wet himself and was for ever afterwards called Piss-baby.

All the boys from William Golding’s island were there at my school - Ralph, Jack, Simon, Piggy, Roger, Sam, Eric and a host of others. All savages inside, all on the edge - me included. Thank God for the teachers, pretty much all male, twisted and angry and lonely though most of them were, without them anything could have happened.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

sometimes you just have to watch and wait...

sometimes you just have to watch and wait
sometimes you just have to watch and wait
sometimes you just have to watch and wait
sometimes you just have to watch and wait


it's always too early
it's always too late

Friday, 16 March 2012

Mr. Evening...

I know someone called Mr. Evening. I known him for almost always, he pops in and out of the gaily coloured cavalcade of my life bringing his own blend of calm and certainty. He’s been hanging around for a while now and sometimes I wish he’d just pack his battered steamer trunk and leave taking all his dusty corners with him.

The first time I met Mr. Evening he was hanging around under the elm tree in the old school playground. He must have know that I was worried about the maths test that afternoon because he took out a battered old notebook and began to write down algebraic formulas in a curiously cursive script.

I didn’t see him for a while then, until one day I found him sitting on a wall by the side of the road waiting for me. He had his steamer trunk with him and after that he began popping up every few months or so no matter how I tried to avoid him.

And then a couple of years back he came for an extended visit, maybe even to stay – or so he thought – but no, it wasn’t to be. I won’t let him be.

Anyway, it’s time for a change and don’t they say that it’s as good as rest? So, I’m saying goodbye to Mr. Evening for good, picking two bay leaves and placing one in each shoe. I’m stepping out, best foot forward, off to pastures new I hope and pray and cast my runes and he’s not coming with me.

Good evening, Mr. Evening, and goodnight.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Running the hill...

Ah, the hill above West Wycombe. We used to go there sometimes when I was a kid, I loved it. It was such a strange and mystical place to an eight year old boy – strange, mystical and dangerous.

It was one of those Sunday afternoons, one of those afternoons when dinner was done, ‘Family Favourites’ just finished on the radio, the Instant Whip sitting heavily in our bellies and the sun, bright and hot outside our dim little kitchen, blazing.

My dad was never one for inactivity so after dinner we’d usually pile into whatever battered old car he had at the time - my sisters holding pennies or sitting on newspaper to stop them from being sick. Anyway, off we’d go, my dad just driving where the mood took him, usually not too far although occasionally it turned into a real adventure and we would end up thousands of miles away from home – or at least it seemed that way.

Occasionally my mum would drive, she was learning. Once she stalled on Chinnor Hill in the days before the motorway and began to roll back on a 1 in 4, the dead drop to the right getting ever closer and closer, my sisters screaming, my dad shouting, my mum panicking, the handbrake just-in-time stopping us eventually though.

That may have been a West Wycombe day or it may not, it may even have been the West Wycombe day - the day I took a tumble and saw the devil in the stars.

The gold ball on the top of the church was a fascination. My dad said that they used to eat dinner inside it but now it was too rickety and nobody was allowed in. He said there were caves under the hill where the devil lived and if you looked at the ball for too long you might see the devil reflected in its gold. He said that it was under the hill that the Hellfire Club met, drinking wine or brandy or blood, getting drunk and generally doing things that should never be done.

We’d park up by the entrance to the caves and I’d quickly run past them into the woods, just in case I caught a glimpse of the devil. The entrance was all boarded up, an old gothic castle full of bones and dust. This was once the ancient village of Haeferingdune, the Hill of Haefer's people, a village of hundreds before the Black Death washed them all away.

“Bring out your dead, bring your dead - they’re all stacked in the caves” my dad smiled.

The caves were chalk, expanded into a network of tunnels and passages by the infamous Sir Francis Dashwood, founder of the Hellfire Club. He used the chalk to build a road. A man about town, with influential friends - Benjamin Franklin was a close one and visited often. My dad said that ladies wearing masks and badges that said “Love and Friendship” attended the meetings in the caves and sometimes danced naked and drunk in the golden witches ball high on the hill.

Whores and witches plagues and secret societies, the Devil and chalk caves deep inside a hill – what a wonderful place for a summer’s afternoon dream.

We sat in the sunshine at the top of the hill for a while; maybe we ate a sandwich, or just watched the world go by. I was bored; boys my age bored easily back then. What to do, it was too hot to sit? Kicking my heels and looking around I decided to run down the steep chalk slope just because. Yes, I'd run the hill - it would be a dare and fun.

And at first it was fun, the cooling wind in my face, the green of the grass and the white of the chalk flashing by – green – white – green - white - green. At first the slope was gentle; my white-plimsolled feet steady as I gained speed, my striped blue T-shirt stretched across my back. One, two, one, two - my feet drumming on the ground, flints flashing past, grey and white and white and grey and black.

And then I knew he was watching high above my head, wanting me to fail. I glanced around, a flash of gold high on the hill behind - and there he was all horns and beard and coal black eyes, clinging with his talons and peering out from behind the golden ball as it gleamed in the sunshine.

He flicked a wave as my foot caught a flint and suddenly I was falling. The world turned upside down - blue - green - white - blue - green - white- as I tumbled over and over, hearing the echoing laughter, the dancing music deep in the hill below, the ring of the bell, the “bring out your dead”, seeing the stars and flashes and cutting flints as I tumbled and tumbled and tumbled.

I stopped when I hit the thick bramble hedge at the bottom.

When I came around, my mum was dabbing my face with a hankie. It came away red and red again. My face was sore; my clothes all smeared grass green. My dad shouted something loud and I began to cry.

I wore the scabs for weeks. Just grazes really but sore and covering almost all my face, raw and red and brown. A mask just like the a Hell Fire lady.

Of course, they flaked and faded away eventually – and the devil? Well he remained.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Parrot talk...

Imagine a rainbow swooping down out of the sky - blues, violets, greens, oranges, reds and yellows - a tropical paradise of colour on such a grey day, swooping in like a circus to make the world laugh out loud and God knows we all need that.

My sister posted this picture this morning; imagine this landing on your bird table. What an adventure that would be. Well, at least it would where I live. Where my sister lives though it’s an everyday-run-of-the-mill-nothing-out-of-the-ordinary event. A parrot or two on your bird table… yeah, nothing special, what of it?

I remember the places we used to take a run-out to as children, Bourton-on-the-Water with its Birdland and model village, a tiny stream running through the cream stone town, thatches and beams and spiked hollyhocks. Every Sunday a sun day, windows wound down to let the heat out, red leatherette and egg sandwiches, picnics by the side of the road, bluebell woods, strange old carnivals hidden in the trees, a house of mirrors, damp Welsh caves, chalk and flint hills with trees to climb, Bristol Zoo, London Zoo, Whipsnade Zoo, Woburn Abbey, deep green pools of orange fish as long as my arm and peacocks and parrots.

A parrot on my bird table? Well, no stranger than the rest of my life just now.

I wonder if she’d swap for a sparrow?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Favourite shirts...

I bought a new shirt today, a proper one, one that you wear with a tie and suit, one that you couldn’t easily wear with shorts – although I do sometimes wear proper shirts with shorts.

I’m funny about shirts. I like Oxfords best, broad weaved light blues with button down collars. At one time I had sixteen in all and all sixteen exactly the same, bought as a job lot from a well known store, a brilliant bargain at forty quid. I’ve been wearing them for years and I’m down to about seven now. I’ll miss them when they’re gone.

My oldest shirt is over twenty years old. It’s still in good shape, the pink a bit faded but the cotton still good. It irons well and still fits. I call it my lucky shirt, but not so lucky that it’s still good enough to wear on such an important day.

Then there are the shirts I never should have bought… don’t worry I’ll wear them one day if Gaynor doesn’t throw them away first - as she often does in an undercover operation hoping that I’ll never notice… and who knows perhaps I don’t.

I have a couple of dining-out shirts – in your face in a stylish, Antony Worral-Thompson way… and no, I didn’t nick them, and four white cotton shirts still in the packaging bought for work shortly before the work went away.

How many shirts have I got? Over fifty and less than a hundred - but I stick to my dozen or so favourites; mainly blue, mainly me.

Anyway, my new shirt is a dark grey stripe.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The other side – 54 to 55…

Here’s the other side, the other half of the painting which is really two paintings – the me that is me, and the me that is me but not me.

That other me that, whilst I know he is there, doesn’t surface often. This is the me that keeps all those ‘F’ for forget filing cabinets firmly closed, feral me, flight/fight me, my deep subconscious me, the me that knows everything, the me that is really in control. Calculating, protective, stand back from the flames me, ancient, collective, past-present-future me. The me that has gone and the me that is yet to come. The real me. The one that makes my dreams, the one that walks my dreams.

He’s not a mirror image, no attics for him. He’s part, a big part, but an individual in his own right, full of his own hopes and dreams and needs. Sometimes I can feel him with me, sometimes he is me.

I’m not afraid of him, anymore than he’s afraid of me. We live side-by-side; I his shadow, he my shadow. We don’t fight much. We simply live in duo – I feed him and he keeps me safe. He isn’t another personality, he’s integral to my personality – an influencer, a control, an escape mechanism, almost a friend.

We all have one, that other, your other, a subconscious other. Best not ignore yours.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Fifty-four to fifty-five...

So here’s another March 10.

I’ve seen a few now. This year though it all steps up a gear as all those tick boxes that were previously ticked 49-54 will now be ticked 55-60.

What’s that banging I hear? Sounds like a something made of steel being pounded into something made from wood, plywood probably.

March 10th again. I saw this one in with a doodle, crossing from one year to another with a splash of paint, a smudge of ink, a spill of wine and a drop or two of blood. Just the usual really.

Here I am ‘fifty-four to fifty-five’ – a slash of paint and a nudge of ink. All the years and thoughts - changed by time and really still the same. A wine or two, some laughs, some hurts, things remembered, things best forgot. All the things I asked for and all the things I never asked for. People lost, people found. Memories cherished like chilled vodka and memories filed under ‘F’. All the things I expected and all the things I never expected. Promises made and promises broken, fears and flings and feathers blown out on the wind, scars and smiles, talks and conversations, arguments and silences and a drop or two of blood and sweat and tears.

Just the usual really.

Fifty-four to fifty-five.

Happy Birthday me.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Imaginary postcard…

The human mind is a wonderful thing, our minds creating enough room inside for whole worlds to reside, our powerful imaginations forming any fantasy or terror. Just look at the worlds that sit on your bookshelves – worlds in other dimensions and galaxies, other times, in countries that have never existed, families and people that have never walked on this solid earth.

Go to the movies, watch television, listen to the radio – worlds from inside our minds are everywhere.

And then there are our dreams, nightly worlds created out of thought, processed from subconscious and left to play, fragments of some leftovers of the day, our fears and hopes flickering on the screens inside our minds.

We can travel anywhere in there, be anybody and anything we want to be. No need to get a grip on reality, we are making our own reality and it is no less real for being of our mind.

I wonder what it would be like to get locked inside your mind, in a coma maybe, inhabiting a world of your own making. Would it be like a dream, coming and going in short bursts - episodic meanderings? Or would it be a different state altogether, a wandering in a landscape that you may or not control – melting clocks and burning giraffes and castles on stilts in the air?

Purgatory or paradise I wonder?

Purgatory or paradise?

Answers on an imaginary postcard please.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Every good boy deserves favour...

It seems that my eyes are skyward at the minute. Meteorites, crows in trees, time pointing my way, fluffy pink clouds and then this evening a brilliant rainbow – the first I’ve seen in a while. Well, what’s the point of keeping your feet firmly on the ground when you can float?

Richard of York gave battle in vain. A mnemonic - mnemonic what a great word and what a great technique for remembering.

Cows often sit down carefully. Perhaps their joints creak?
Persistent early oiling might prevent rheumatism.
Father Charles goes down and ends battle.
Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants.
Richard Of
York Gave Battle In Vain.
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.
A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream.
High to Low; look out below. Low to High; clear blue sky.
How I like a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics.
My very easy method. Just set up nine planets.

There you go. Spot any you know?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Powerful therapy - fluffy, pink cloud...

Just a fluffy, pink cloud hanging in the sky on my way home this evening. How good it feels now that the lighter evenings are beginning, spring only two weeks away, British summer time only five days later.

I stood and watched the cloud for a while, just standing in the road and - no one about - breathed in.

In through nose, and hold, letting slowly out through slightly open mouth, feeling the heavy calm of exhalation taking me down and down and down. Clearing my mind.

And in again through nose, hold, slowly out through slightly open mouth, feeling the heavy calm of exhalation, down and down and down. Sharpening my senses.

And in again, hold, and slowly out, down and down and down. Making my mind a fluffy, pink cloud - watching myself drift away.

Feeling myself drift away, a fluffy, pink cloud. Being myself, a fluffy, pink cloud and drifting away, down and down and down. Breathing myself, a fluffy, pink cloud and drifting away, down and down and down.

Powerful therapy.
Try it.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Should I have seen that?...

Everything is going on all around us, in full or partial view, hidden from sight behind doors and curtains, around that next corner, inside that old barn.

Sometimes it's the things we almost don't see that stop us in our tracks and make us ask "should I have seen that?"

The young woman reaching into her blouse, down into her bra, adjusting her breast, then the other, pulling at her pants adjusting them as well. I sit, almost invisible, in my corner. Where is she going I wonder, who she is meeting?

There's kissing at the house across the way, deep and passionate and in the kitchen. Regular kissing with different women, unmarried, man about town, after shave kissing.

Walking home a few evenings ago, cool and lemon blue blended sky, I looked up into the tall tree and saw a single crow. I heard it first - cawing, cawing, and it took me a while to spot him. As soon as I looked it took to the air - then fell, not swooped, fell. Like a stone. Flat wings spread behind, disappearing into some unknown garden so I could almost hear the thump as it's grounded.

Then this morning, off out and about, I passed a coffin laden hearse. Saluting gently as I always do to stop the deceased person's spirit entering my body, I noticed the driver and his mate laughing, laughing fit to burst as they puffed away on their cigarettes. Spittle and smoke as they laughed, and laughed.

See the fool sitting on his window. See how he stares at the open shutter, missing the kissing and drinking and killing inside. Just look as he drops the cards. I wonder who he drops them for?

Across the way, on the roof of a neighbours house, old Father Time with his sickle so sharp blows this way and that, pointing here and pointing there. Pointing at me.
Should I have seen that?

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Missing the meteorite...

Here’s a doodle of the comet I didn’t see.

I missed the comet over Knutsford last night. I took a look at it on Youtube though and it was quite a spectacle. Thousands of people spotted the chunk of fist-sized space rock burning up as it smashed its way through the earth’s atmosphere at about 10pm last night, 60 or 70 miles up. Not me though, I was having a beer and watching the telly while all the celestial excitement was going on. Just what do you have to do to see this things, spend your evenings on a hill in the cold your head ever skywards as you crane your neck? I guess you do.

Once I spent a whole night in a cornfield on my back, gazing up to the sky waiting to see a promised meteor shower. All I saw were planes and one single, solitary satellite as it slowly passed its way across the sky.

I did see a shooting star the other evening, out of the corner of my eye as I walked home, about a seconds worth and hardly a spectacle. Better than nothing though I guess, and there was a rainbow yesterday afternoon.

Maybe that light in the sky wasn’t a comet at all. Maybe it was an alien spacecraft falling to the earth from who knows where, or an angel - all burning wings and a long musical scream. Maybe it was even an old soul returning home after ages of wandering the cosmos. Who knows?

But whatever it was, I didn’t see it.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Phil Morgan..

Message on Facebook:

“trudy, phil's partner here. phil is in intensive care at the borders general hospital. he didn't return as planned from a wild camping trip on wednesday, & failed to make contact (completely out of character for him). tweed valley mountain rescue located him on minchmoor in his tent around midnight barely alive & severely hypothermic. he has suspected carbon monoxide poisoning & irreparable damage to the basal ganglia. the prognosis is bleak. outcome to be determined within next 24 hours. i'm very sorry to announce such sad news here, but i'm in a state of shock. Xx”

So sad and shocked to hear by text of this today, then logging onto Facebook so sad to see it again.

Hard to know what to do, just hope and wait I guess. My thoughts are with you Phil and here they are, wake up and read them.You'll understand, after all like you said Hoss: "You an me we're just the same" and in many ways we are.

Come on soldier, you an me we’re just the same. That time in Nam when all them gooks was on our ass we slipped them the finger. Mighty fine – yep, mighty fine. Then when Buddy dropped his grenade and plum blew his foot off we cracked open another beer and played Aerosmith till we could hear them choppers coming in to get us. We was fine after a shower and a bottle of Jack. Remember Phil, remember?

And Phil the crowd await in an anticipatory awe, amazed, arrested, artfully allured, awfully alarmed and all actually alliteration armed by his wonders to perform. With practice the Peanut would make perfect his miracles to perfectly perform them daily…Ker-ching!!! Performance is performance. May the Peanut and the Hoodoo-Voodoo watch over and keep you my friend.

I’m thinking of you Phil- I want to see more piss biscuit photographs.

Here's the Ju-Ju bad magic, may the magic be with you. All hail the Holy Peanut.

Thursday, 1 March 2012


You know that life is a bit boring when all you have to blog about is what day it is. Goodness knows what I'll do tomorrow? Maybe I'll have to invent some day or other 'Frangipan Friday' or 'Saint Trembles Day' or something.

Anyway, back to today, March 1st, St David’s Day and my dad’s 75th birthday.

I mentioned this fact on Facebook this morning and got some great responses when I asked my Facebook Friends to guess his name…

Rumplestiltskin – Well, he does have a tendency for foot stamping.

Dafodil – Yes, he’s a veritable ray of sunshine.

Saint – Could be. He can change wine into water, it’s a family trait.

Alphonsa –That’ll be his Mafia connections then.

Jeff – No, he’s not really a Jeff kind’a guy. No submarine you see.

Rather imaginatively though, his parents called him David. Well, they were from darkest Lincolnshire and not really given to thinking long and hard about the naming of their first born.

Yes, my Dad’s name is David after the Saint, Dewi Sant as they say in his native Welsh (look you).

I think old Dave must have been quite a character. He’s the one who came up with the Monastic Rule of David, making a monk’s life one long party in the process.

They were banned from using beasts to pull the plough and had to yoke themselves up to pull (f’naw f’naw), were only allowed water to drink – no beer or wine, it was bread, salt and herbs at all meals, and to amuse themselves in the evenings they could play pool, cards, or beat each other with hot towels… only joking. Evenings were prayer, bible reading, illuminating bibles, prayer and then even more prayer… much like my childhood really.

Yes, Dave must have been a bundle of laughs to have around the place and even better he’s said to have lived to be 100 years old. Just imagine that - 100 years of Monastic Rule of David… what a happiness that man must have been. Just imagine…

“What’s for tea Dave?”

“ Some nice bread, a little salt and I’ve got some really tasty herbs from Jones the herbalist, aven't I?.”

“But we had that yesterday, and the day before. In fact we’ve been having that every day for the last ninety years or so. Where’s the variety I ask you?"

“Well, we have water as well and not that usual stuff, I’ve managed to get some from St. Cybi’s well, guaranteed to cure the ague and the pox.”

“Gave me the trots last time, and I've still got the pox”

“Now stop complaining look you, we’ll have some fun after dinner won't we. I’ve got a brand new prayer to try out.”

“What, no Bible work?”

“ We’ll do that after if you’re good, now eat all your bread and herbs – more salt boyo?”

Thinking about it, he really does make my dad look like a Saint.

Happy 75th Birthday Dad, here’s to the next 25.