Tuesday, 31 May 2016

On being a cat...

After over an hour of trying to decide what to write about I’ve decided (as I always do in this situation) ­­­to just write. So this may well be a bit of a ramble as I have no idea what is going to come out at this point - I'll know in a few minutes though when its done.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with a bit of rambling in my opinion although I have been getting some strange looks recently as I walk down the road muttering to myself.

Being focused is fine, but how limiting it can be. Focus by its very nature means concentrating on just one or two things and when you do that you forget to absorb all the wonderful stuff that is happening around you. Increasingly I find that it’s getting harder for me to focus. Some of it is that I’m tired of going over the same old issues in a world that really never seems to change very much; or at lest if it does it’s only in small increments. The EU debate, ISIS, immigration, Trump, cures for illnesses, warnings about illnesses, child abuse. Of course all of these are very important but they require focus to work out what you think and feel about them and I don’t always have the time, or rather the inclination, to think that hard.

Today is Meditation Day, well it is in America but I don’t mind borrowing it for a day or so. Now there are some forms of meditation that require you to focus on a single thing – a thought, an idea, black light, an apple. I prefer to focus on nothing and let everything wash into me and take me over. I’m not even sure it’s meditation but listening to the wind and birds, that train horn in the distance, somebody moving their wheelie bin down the alley with the chug, chug of the plastic wheels, a piano being played somewhere across the way – well it sets me adrift and from there I am free to simply enjoy the experience and live in those unfocused moments without concern.

I have a friend who takes lots of photographs which capture the essence of the moment but are intentionally out of focus. You can either look at them and try to work out what is going on, or you can choose to just absorb them and let their meaning wash into you. I choose to absorb and try to become part of what I am looking at. The photo above is one of his. I hope that he doesn’t sue because I didn’t ask to use it.

Anyway, that’s enough of my ramblings for one day. I’m off to stop thinking for a while and let myself just be. It’s the closest I’m ever going to get to being a cat. 

Monday, 30 May 2016

About the doctor...

I do not like thee, Doctor Fell, The reason why - I cannot tell; But this I know, and know full well, I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.

To be honest it isn’t just Doctor Fell. It’s any doctor really. I can do dentists, I can manage the tax man, I think I’ll be able to cope with the grim reaper when he arrives all smiles and smelling of lilies, but the doctor…

It started young. Going to see the doctor was used as a threat. ‘If you don’t stop complaining I’ll take you to the doctor’, my mother would often say when I awoke not feeling too good and trying to avoid that times tables test at school. Headaches, sore throats, stomach pains, it soon became clear to me that getting on with it was preferable than going to the doctors with all the anticipatory fear and the threats that it brought along with it. I once walked with a limp for six weeks after a fall and a probable slight hip displacement rather than mention it and have to go to the doctor.

The doctor was not so very different to the dreaded policeman; ‘I’ll get the policeman to come around and see what he has to say about your behaviour,’ she’d say. Of course years later she often did. She wasn’t in charge of the doctor threat any longer though, that was inbuilt in me by years of conditioning. I sometimes wish that I could see the doctor as a healer rather than someone to help you along your way to whatever comes next. Even Doctor Foster on his way to Gloucester stepping in a puddle right up to his middle fills me with dread rather than making me smile.

Truth is, I didn’t need Dr Fell or Doctor Gloucester. I had my very own doctor at home and he was a far bigger threat than the doctor or the policeman and I had no choice about him. He was always there dishing out his medicine. Oh well, that was a long time ago now. But it still cuts, taking my medicine like a man and the consequences were all mine and never his.

Of course recent experiences of the medical profession haven’t helped. In the front of my mind I know that you really go to hospital to die and those places are inherently dangerous. It’s a tough one for me, pain is transient and most things get better with time, and of course they are constantly telling us not to bother the NHS with all the silly health worries that bother us. Yes, we are all hypochondriacs these days; except on Casualty where every sniffle turns into a deadly virus and every twinge ends you up in intensive care and then the morgue and doctors with no conscience live a sanctimonious life next to loved ones in houses next door.

‘Doctor, Doctor I feel like I’m at death’s door.’
‘Don’t worry, you’ll soon pull through’.

This fear of the doctor is no joke you know.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The spice of...

I guess most of us have a shelf in one of their kitchen cupboards where they keep spices and herbs. Usually it’s a collection of funny shaped jars bought over the years to make this dish or that and then bought again the next time that you make it. We have a spice shelf, almost two actually, and it stretches five jars deep across the full width of a double kitchen cupboard.

God knows what you would find if you took the trouble to work your way all the way to the back. Some eye of newt, a little wolfsbane, perhaps even a love potion or two. But whatever is in there smells fantastic each and every every time I open that cupboard. It reeks of warm yellows, deep reds, sunshine and mystery, cold winter evenings warmed with paprika in soups, a sprinkle of mystery, a teaspoon of magic. It's the whole world and more in a few jars.

Sometimes it’s Mysore that hits me that first time I landed in India at the airport late at night the smell of heat and the scent of spice on the breeze. Other times it’s Barbados jerk chicken or Memphis hot pepper ribs. Curries, chipotle, garlic bread, goulash, beef tomato salads, even a shepherd’s pie or two. It’s all in there when I open the door to the spice cupboard. It’s like having free travel tickets to anywhere in the world and instant access to all of my memories.

How brilliant is that?


 This is the fifth year for the mimulus pot and it just keeps coming back without the need to do anything. This really is gardening heaven.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Becoming Beatrix Potter...

My coleus plugs arrived today and I immediately potted them up in the twenty small pots I'd pre-filled with compost in my wild, excited, expectation of them turning up. They were in pretty good shape - despite the Royal Mail - and seem to be good quality, so maybe this time I will succeed. My previous batch - from a different supplier - weren't great and only one-in-four made it to my garden. I complained of course and got a full refund, but it does make me wonder about the wisdom of buying mail order plugs. Anyway, this new batch seems much better and I'll give them a few weeks to see how they go then, if they are ready, I'll plant them out in early to mid June. It's strange, I've never been a big fan of foliage plants but somehow this year I seem to have got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about them.

My staged cold frame just about managed to hold them all along with the beef tomato I'm trying to grow. It has a couple of tiny tomatoes already but the trick will be getting them to ripen. I shan't hold my breath, but it would be nice to make my own beef tomato and mozzarella salad with a drizzle of basil oil (how very River Cottage) - which reminds me, I must do something with my basil seed pot, I won't hold my breath with the basil either.

I did however hold my breath when I noticed a little grey-brown mouse darting from behind my pots. Back and to, back and to he went. I have no idea what he was doing, but I'm sure that he was up to no good. For a moment I considered setting a trap or maybe laying a little poison and then, despite my better judgement, I though 'nah' just leave him alone; his life will be short enough anyway and he has a right to live it despite what he may do to my plants.

Oh dear, I think that I may be turning into Beatrix Potter.

Spot the mousie

Wednesday, 18 May 2016


I hope that nobody minds but I'm trying hard not to think about anything at the moment. It's much easier if my head is full of nothing and if I'm doing nothing about anything. Everything is too confusing and serious and nothing is a much easier bag to handle.

Of course I can't do completely nothing - that isn't the way I'm built - and I need something to take my mind off everything and in times like these I turn to gardening. So, I apologise in advance for all the gardening posts I'm likely to be making for a while. For me gardening is like doing nothing whilst it being everything for a few months. It's something I don't really have to think about it because I've been doing it since I was too small to understand what I was actually doing and it has stuck with me since then - thank Priapus.

My sort of gardening is easy; I like small spaces I can make into a tiny world of my own. Fortunately choice and happenstance have provided me with just that which means I can spend a lot of time doing nothing, thinking about nothing, and at the same time considering everything from my small world's tiny perspective. Is that the best place for the pottery hare? Should that pot be an inch or two to the left? This is a place that I can almost control, and what I can't control doesn't need to worry me. It can all be changed if I need it to be - a snip here, a new plant there, some slug pellets or a spray.

This evening, whilst I sat in my broken, three-legged, wall-propped garden chair, Mr Robin came to take mealy worms from the feeder. It wasn't long before Mrs Dunnock joined him, hopping around on the ground picking up seed in its small grey beak. How could I do anything? I couldn't move for fear of scaring them away, so instead I did nothing except sip the first glass of red of the evening and watch them from my hiding place against the wall shielded by a hollyhock.

It seems to me that there is nothing so good as nothing.

Friday, 13 May 2016

The big thought thing...

Friday the 13th again but let’s not worry about it, they come and go and I’m still here and aboutish which is better than the alternative. 

It was windy last night and, for some reason I can't really define, I lay listening and thinking about how the difference between myself and a single cell amoeba isn’t that much at all. Oh, I’m bigger and maybe more intelligent - probably - but I’m still a tiny speck in the vastness of whatever this universe really is. Just a tiny insignificant spec. Nowhere near as big as a blue whale and small fry compared to a brontosaurus.

From there, as the wind blew these thoughts into my head, I got to thinking about what the very biggest creature in the universe could be and how big it actually is. Is it God? Does size really matter? There has to be a biggest creature, despite those much talked about infinite opportunities. I’m sure of that, just as I am sure that there are a finite number of planets - or at least as sure as I can be as I'm not counting.

That’s the problem with the big thought thing, I can only base it on my own belief set and my mind isn’t really up to believing that somewhere there’s a monkey blithely tapping out the complete works of Shakespeare whilst an infinite number of me live longer, shorter, same and very different lives or not, as the case may be.

Compared to all of this then Friday the 13th is pretty easy to figure and believe. Anyway, thinking about all these things as I fell asleep, the wind still blowing the windchimes around outside, distant monkeys rattling keys on an infinite number of typewriters, and vast animals cruising the deepness of the cosmos, I found myself laughing at the almost snoring speck in my bed as all those wonders moved on.

I'm lucky I don't take take myself too seriously.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Sparkle jar...

I guess that I should - need to - write something. I haven’t been doing it for a while because my mind is full of muddle and futility. I’m losing you see, losing at everything it seems ,and whilst I wouldn’t describe myself as a winner I didn’t think that I was a loser either.

Loser - make the ‘L’ with your fingers and thumb, slap it on your forehead and point at me. I’m losing so frequently these days that I question why I even bothered. I even wonder if any of it is important anyway. So what about justice? Who cares about cheating and lies? Well lies are just what people do to stop them from being accountable aren’t they?

I’m lost in the process and lost is just another form of losing. I’m directionless and I can’t see when I’m going to find direction again or even if I want to. This isn’t depression – God knows I recognise that – this is lack of hope. So not only am I a loser and lost, I’m also hopeless.

So where’s the sparkle jar these days? Did I leave it somewhere? Did somebody take it when I wasn’t looking?

Listen, I need to pull myself together, get a grip, sort my head out. I’m not expecting the lights to come fully back on or the sparkle jar to start gleaming again. But if I can’t find a few lights then it’s all going to be darkness and, whilst I’m not scared of the dark, there has to be a little light even if it is at the end of this very dark tunnel. I have to keep remembering what a wonderful life this is, or could be if I’d just accept the unacceptable inevitability that I'm not going to win in the end.

I’ll work on that then basis then and try and get some sparkle back in my jar. So that's enough of that. Tomorrow is another day.