Invitation to deceive

hoodies

Hoodies

 

It leaps out at me from a regular e-mailing from an outdoor clothing store:

FLEECE HOODIES!

(they’re naive and trusting).

 

I Reject

broken-chain-1024x768

 

I REJECT

 

24 June 2016

 

I reject you, my country.

You who used to be my country, I divorce you.

You have become mean and full of hate

You look over your shoulder for immigrants

And complain even where there are none.

You have no vision for the world

You have no love for the world

No knowledge of other worlds

Resentment is your life.

 

Don’t worry. I’ll still pay my taxes and vote.

We have a business arrangement. In return

You care for me disdainfully if I’m ill

You send a policeman if I’m burgled

And sometimes clean the street. There’s no need

To revise the social contract. But you are not mine.

I know you.

 

 

India, India

Indian rail image

I promised to say more about my trip to India, especially on the wildlife. There is too much to say. My foremost interest was the birds and they were utterly fantastic, the numbers, the colours, the variety. At this time of year India has not only its resident birds, but many winter visitors, some familiar to the British birder (Hobby, Tree Pipit, Little Stint) and others less familiar from Siberia (Siberian Rubythroat, Marsh Sandpiper, Black Stork). I was interested to see many Indian birders. At the main wetland reserve, Bharatpur, most visitors go round in rickshaws (the rider/drivers really know their birds) and I saw one very attractive young Indian woman with binoculars leap from her rickshaw, guided by the driver, to see the Siberian Rubythroat.

 

Sinerian Rubythroat

The tiger reserve – Ramthambore – was similar in that there was a mix of European and Far Eastern tourists with Indians among the visitors. This is obviously good for conservation. We did see a pair of tigers, but since about twelve vehicles – jeeps and boneshaker ex-army trucks – were clustered round them, there was a bit of circus about the drama. The leopards sighting was entirely different. No-one else was there. The leopards – an unusual unit of dominant male, young female and hanger-on male – seemed unaware of us. I don’t think we felt like peeping Toms when the couple proceeded to have sex.

The politics? In the small towns and villages, I noticed many banners hung up with head-and-shoulders pictures of series of people, maybe ten to a banner. I had my suspicions, but I asked the tour leader. They were for local elections. Bad point: the party lists were either all-male or had one woman included. Good point: in a village, I saw a poster for what appeared to be an independent candidate whose appeal, judging by his symbol, appeared to be agrarian. He included his website address and email.

Oh, I haven’t even started.

Back to literary matters next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The silence is ended: India

Yes, it’s a long time since I’ve posted. Like a lot of bloggers, I find after a while the motivation flags. Also I’m being more cautious about posting my poetry. And like most people, I’m a bit lazy.

A poetic post of some sort will come quite soon. But I felt I should post about India.

I’ve known many people in the UK of Indian subcontinent origins and one in the US. I suppose because of the colonial link most British people have India in their consciousness somewhere and maybe not just consciousness: it was a shock to many to find that the Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly was Anglo-Indian (European-Indian mixed race). I’d wanted to go to India for some time; after all, I’d been to Africa and North America, but not Asia at all though I’d seen it from Istanbul and Lesvos.

I was to travel with the nature tours group Naturetrek, but the tour was cancelled because the numbers weren’t enough. I booked on another tour nearly a year later…and the same thing happened, but an alternative tour just a bit later (February 2016 instead of November 2015) was OK.

It was aimed at wildlife with a bit of culture and architectureTaj group

(some Indian government building in the background there. Come on, I’m in that group, so which one?)

A few impressions:

Delhi’s fabled traffic is less disorganised than it first seems. The huge noise is partly because, in passing a slower vehicle, you’re supposed to sound your horn to warn the other driver. There are far fewer accidents than you’d expect and few cars show signs of damage. In India generally, there are few real driving rules and very few traffic lights, but drivers are not aggressive.

The contrasts are huge. Posh hotels with plenty of prosperous Indian guests are not far from people living in groups of old tents by huge expanses of rubbish (trash) and stagnant pools. Then again, Delhi International Airport is well-organised and well-provided and the trains are rather impressive with the latest technology on some telling you precisely where you are (not only the next station, but how far away it is) and we arrived at one station, among the people sleeping wrapped up in robes, to hear a cultured female voice over the intercom informing us that the train was four minutes late: “inconvenience caused is deeply regretted.”)

Advertising is everywhere. The most popular products, judging by the amount of advertising, are EDUCATION, CEMENT and BEAUTY PRODUCTS in that order. One company in the second category had the slogan “cementing relations”. Oh, and underwear adverts are rather different. Getting off a train, we were greeted by a picture advertising “Innerwear”: a filmstar heart-throb kind of guy sitting in his vest wearing dark glasses. What he was doing wearing vest and dark glasses was a matter for speculation. A soldier we chatted to as we waited for our bus thought that advert was funny too.

We visited Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh – Ranthambore, Bharatpur and Chambal River reserves or wildlife areas.

The Taj Mahal? Everything you’ve heard is understated.

More on that, wildlife and even politics next time. I think this post is long enough.

 

 

Happy Christmas!

Christmas is about many things:

CAMELS:

 

Sopwith_F-1_Camel_USAF.jpg

WISE MEN:

Hansen

CHURCH:

Charlotte_Church_by_Law_Keven

TURKEY:

Turkey

And, of course, a child born at just the wrong time to parents struggling to deal with an unhelpful government and soon to be refugees.

 

HAPPY CHRISTMAS, anyway!

Night Trains

 

 

 

NIGHT TRAINS

In daytime, a train journey is anchored by the scenery,
Visible river and industrial estate.
You might see an ornate narrowboat edging forward
Or a small red car manoeuvring into a tight space;
At least if some station names flash by in a blur
There were letters, they exist
The details work hard
Holding you back from flying off into
The unknown or Iceland. You are where what you see.

And the regular commute, even if sliding
Into the night, is clamped dead straight by habit,
The endorsed rule of office or home

But enter into an unfamiliar train at night,
Passengers silent or shouting, not even dark showing outside
But a mirror image of the train’s interior
Patterned seats, bland tables, preoccupied passengers
Trapped by their smartphones into writhing worlds,
But no sign of yourself, and you wonder
Where you are going , if anywhere, in what world if any.
No wonder the retreat into laptop homelands.

So different is the plane, where there are only two options,
Lesvos or death, the first being much more likely.

Night train

The Quiet

At 8:30 precisely on Christmas Eve, the family next door fell silent. The loud music had been belting out for nine hours, interspersed only by yelling over the thump of the music and the sound of something heavy falling on the floor.

 

But suddenly – nothing. Not even footsteps.

 

Leroy looked at his girlfriend. They shared a tentative glance. He spoke:

 

“It’s quiet, Carruthers – too damn quiet.”

Not a poem

That ought to make a lot of people read it.

Well, I haven’t been writing much poetry lately, though this is something written for a small, friendly writers’ group that could easily be poetry.

I thought it best not to use a picture with this since it’d push people’s understandings in particular directions. Make your own mind up what’s happening.

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

Somewhere

Consciousness: a kind of moving light. Aware of the light moving in the darkness. I am the light. Am I?

I am. I’m conscious. I’m somewhere. I’m aware of my body, a dull, vague casing round the bits that see, the bits that hear, the bits that think, the bits that clasp.

I move my arm.

I’m lying on something. Lying face down. Not so dark when I move my head. My arm aches. I hear a regular sound, soft, rasping, reassuring. Cat purring, mother breathing. Waves. The sea. I smell salt tang. I’m lying on a beach. There’s sand stuck to my face.

What’s that? Something blurry. A building? It has meaning. I should get to it.

I don’t want to move.

I’m seeing clearer. I push myself to rise on my elbows and move forward. My elbows sink in damp sand. A pebble pokes at my thigh. I reach the thing. It has a message

EXTRA KRACHT BLEEKMIDDEL

Should I carry the message somewhere? Where, then? I was going somewhere.

Sand is sticking to my shirt. I’m wet.

Who am I? Stupid question, boy. I am me. I am that I am. I am the monarch of all I survey. Sand, pebbles, lost seaweed, a plastic bottle, a flip-flop rising out of the sand like a sinking ship.

The sand around it is smooth, then rough.

Something is angry. That’s a gull. More gulls. Raucous cackles and shrieks.

Something is pushing me into the sand.

I know that. It’s my heart beating. It beats much faster than the sea.

I can see a bit further now. This is a beach. But no girls in bikinis, no fat men, no yelling kids, no barking dogs. What time of year was it?

I’m not wearing shoes. Or socks. Sand rasps and tickles my feet. Why didn’t I notice that before? Sensations returning slowly, top to bottom. Front to back. East to west.

There is a big, dead animal on the beach, its stiff arms outstretched.

It’s a long way off. Can I stand up? Nothing broken, just this huge sensation of weakness, of everything I try to concentrate on slipping away.

Kneel.

That wasn’t so hard. I can see trees now, higher ground. Alternate universe. Alternative?

STAND. I’m standing. Careful. To walk, put one foot forward. Shift weight to that leg. Move other foot beyond first one. That’s the way to do it. Who said that? Edwards. Who was Edwards? Do I have to tell Edwards? I can repeat it: EXTRA KRACHT BLEEKMIDDEL. Good boy.

I can walk. The soft sand tries to stop me. My feet sink in. What I push against shifts. But I move. The dead animal is closer.

I can feel wind. It’s cold. It’s in my face.

It isn’t a dead animal after all. I know this: it’s a tree trunk. A tree that fell into the sea and drowned, its trunk picked clean of bark, its leaves fallen away. The pale grey wood is smooth, very smooth. I can hear the secret hiss of my fingers running along it.

Can anyone else hear it? I must be quiet. I must be invisible. If I sink in the sand I can disappear. The sand tickles. The sea is salt.

 

BAD!

Bad

Some bloggers pretty much blog as if they’re talking to their best friend. This seems to be much more common among women than men. So some personal conflicts, hopes and fears, some things about relationships and childhood memories, come along with whatever that person is most interested in. Their readers can feel they’ve got a pretty rounded picture of the blogger. Quite possibly they haven’t really and one thing life has taught me is that if one person gives you a picture of a relationship or an argument, it’ll look different from the other side. To tell it how you see it is entirely honest, but how someone else sees it might be worth looking at too.

Some bloggers, women or men, talk about the things they’re interested in – maybe only one of them, travel, golf, heavy rock, politics, poetry, science fiction, cars, Buddhism, gardening, architecture. You learn very little about the rest of that person.

This is a poetry blog. I had another blog until I lost access to it after my last computer crashed, but it was a blog of satirical writings mixed with arguments about moral and political issues. So I’m very much in the second camp. I don’t feel a need to open myself out to people I’ve never seen. On the whole, I don’t want to. You can argue that poetry is about all sorts of things, the whole world (so is politics) and it’s intensely personal, but it’s feelings and perceptions through a prism. Not sure if that’s a good image or rubbish. Anyway, a poem is not a confession.

Nonetheless, I thought I’d widen the scope of this blog a bit and say a little about myself. So here are some of the things I HATE, with the things I really feel passionately negative about left out. In other words, these are big dislikes.

THE LIST

Tomato ketchupketchup

champagne

tinned tomatoes

penguin suits (aka formal dress)

people who laugh at their own jokes (I did that once myself and nearly killed myself – a story for which this blog is not quite ready)

jargon that has no clear meaning (e.g. “the modernisation agenda”)

belching (I have a more nuanced attitude to its sister sound)

foreign holidays where foreigners are kept to a minimum

people who drive at forty miles an hour along a good road without passing opportunities when the limit is sixty, but then pass a 30 limit sign and proceed at forty miles an hour and out of sight.

gushing introductions, spoken or printed, to poets, which on reflection tell you absolutely nothing to distinguish poet A from poet B.

toilet/washrooms in semi-public places (restaurants, cafes, pubs, meeting halls, offices, sports venues) that offer you an opportunity to wash your hands in a washbasin, provide a soap dispensers that works and covers your hands in a soapy gel, but also provide taps that then turn out not to dispense any water.

I think that’s enough for now. I might even list some big likes. What are your big dislikes (similarly leaving out things people genuinely feel passionate about)? Let’s hear them!

In the Dark Wood

Dark_Forest

IN THE DARK WOOD

Cross over the steep-sided stream in the dark woods
Where three thick branches offer a dry passage;
There’s little understory and the trees’ green leaves
Are high. The chaffinch’s jangle is distant. Follow the track.
Climb. The shadowed pond will be on your right. Then left
Past the almost-dead great oak and where the hollies grow
Find it: a broken square of smoothed brick, an odd hump.
Here when the hornbeam and cherry were young
You lived.