As I was saying…

When a well-known British newspaper columnist died many years ago, his obituary contained something that made me laugh out loud. He’d started his column not long before the Second World War broke out. He’d been called up to the army (artillery, I think). After six years of fighting and waiting, he returned to his old job. His first column on his return started, “As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted…”

So – I’ve been a long time without posting. I haven’t been to war and it hasn’t been six years. I’ve been busy – writing-related things, political activism, birdwatching… I haven’t posted poetry because of publication issues and because I’m not writing as much of it as I used (some short stories instead). I suppose also I see social media as something interesting I can take or leave, not as a pressing need.

Anyway, sorry I’ve been silent so long. A book collaboration with Colchester artist Angella Horner (her art, my poems) will be out soon. I’m very tied up in preparations for our local elections. Just over a year ago I was in Ecuador, my first visit to Latin America. Maybe more about that later. For now – just Hello.

 

Anyway,

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Happy Christmas

Snomans

Writing exercises

Quill    Apparently that’s an image of “Medieval man writing”. How do they know it’s a Medieval man? Hands look very smooth to me. Could be a modern man or a woman.                                                                                           I’m getting off the subject.  There are two kinds of writing exercises or prompts – the sudden and the considered. The sudden I dislike and tend to avoid poetry or other groups that do this – without warning, all write about – I don’t know – HANDS.  The ones where you get your prompt and can take it away and think about it, play with it, or forget about it till the evening before – those can be interesting. Liking play with words as I do, I tend to try to find a way to twist the topic from its obvious meaning. In a fun Chelmsford writing group I go to, I took “AS THE DOOR CREAKED…” (Gothic, ghostly, threatening maybe) not to mean “as” in the sense of “when” or “while” (as the door creaked, I felt a shiver in my spine) but in the sense of “because” and started, “As the door creaked, I didn’t buy the house”. This time the prompt was “Dressed for success” – not really my thing, dressing up I mean, not success – and came up with a story involving a fictional River Drest in Sweden, the town named after the waterfall on the river (Drestfors) and the local brewery’s premium beer, Drestfors XS. This turned into a comedy of cultures, the cultures being Swedish and Japanese. Really interesting showing two different cultures interacting and misunderstanding when neither of them is your own.

The other efforts were downright brilliant. Many thanks to Tom the Mad Psychiatrist who organises it.

 

 

 

 

 

Liberty

A break from literary comment. Since so many labour to enslave others and my own country of Britain is in the middle of an election where “the national interest” is preached so often that it seems to take on the character of a delusion, spreading far beyond the common concerns that are the national interest (prosperity, defence, crime, pollution, good education) so that any dissident is a kind of traitor, I thought it worth sharing two quotes about freedom from military men in politics, both of which I want to use in my book in draft on Liberalism.

Your pretended fear lest error should step in, is like the man that would keep all the wine out of the country lest men should be drunk. It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy, to deny a man the liberty he hath by nature upon a supposition that he may abuse it.

Oliver Cromwell, Letter to Walter Dundas (12 September 1650).

 

“Fascism…has found a way of overcoming social antagonisms…but how can one accept a social balance whose price is the death of freedom?”

 

Charles De Gaulle to Jean Aubertin, around 1938.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”