Eight Years A’Blogging


Dear special and appreciated readers.  Eight years ago today, May 6th 2011, I awoke after a sleepless night and penned my first post “Waking Thoughts.”

To those who know me, and those who wish they didn’t, these eight years have been a voyage and a half, but the interest and affection of my readers has been a constant source of emotional nourishment during the journey.  We pass by lives in the blogosphere, hearing people say the profoundest, most personal and intimate things about themselves before they move back into the mists of anonymity, but all the while I have been struck by how common are the struggles so many of us face, even if we express them privately.

I will leave you with a re-print of my “About page” because it says a lot about how special the meeting has been with so many of you.  Bless you all and may the coming blogging years be filled with the contentment and serenity so many of us seek

 

Some come by to read a line or  two, see nothing here and soon move on their way.That I understand . Life is full of glances. But to you, who read  beyond an opening phrase I say this:

Online we meet.. inside.. out:  emotions first, and dreams of course.  Some anecdotes: piecemeal at best. Brief glimpses of a passing life,  written in faltering intimacy.

Reader meet the writer of these words.

Let us imagine , you and I,  standing in some forest glade, or on a sidewalk in some busy town. Feel a  wind rise up, magic in its properties, and watch the scenery round us fall away .Lift the objects gently, one by one, till buildings, trees,and  all but ground are gone. Nothing to see now, just you and I: alone in words with stillness in our hearts.

What would  we see: alien or lover. Confused of spirit or finally at peace. Naked, uneasy or living harmony. Would you see danger, and cautionary tales, or some  stranger on the road, hold out his hand to help you safely home .

Life soon passes, my skin attests to that. Those nimble limbs that ran as if a breath are now at rest on  this, an average day. And you; where are you in this? Still out for love, or running from the cost. Dreaming of spires with bells that chime your name, or dragging  your history down some deserted path. The tragedy that caught you, or the blessing of a charm are present now and written on your face. Mine too is full of complex history

But in this moment, nearly at an end . Let me hope that you who caught my words, and held them briefly  in your thoughts, find the peace to quench your doubts and walk with me towards your chosen path.”

 

 

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Annual Reflections


By tradition I and  a number of chums at “The Last Resort” decided, some years ago, to hold an end of year party on the 28th December in that period identified as being in the social wilderness between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

There were normally six of us but this year we were reduced to five because Clive had had too much of the “Let’s live life to the max” thing and decided to die in late June. Among his notable career triumphs was a period as the Lord Mayor of our proud and noble town, and so, at his funeral, the church was full of people who felt they should have known him, together with his wife and children who, it must be said, had seldom seemed happier in the time I had known them, but that may be another story.

It’s a bit too soon after his “passing” to write the cutting edge biography of a man of whom it might be said that “He never knowingly bought a round of drinks,” so we will add his biography to that comforting list of yet-to-be-started masterpieces.

Moving on, the five remaining stalwarts of the club were finally assembled, pints in hand, and Geoff, the most pompous among the throng, took it upon himself, as always, to be “Chair” as we now call it, and went round the table from left to right asking us all for our best memory of the year, “retrospectively speaking” as a journalist might say.

The first person called upon, Sam Hislop, or “Jammy” as he was known, placed his drink on the table, looked towards the door, possibly to check if any passing sage or bookmaker were about to enter the premises, and said, “The year is nearly over: that’s about the best thing I can say” and raised his glass to his lips taking a soothing sip of that nectar which blunts our awareness of the every-day.

Our custom was not to cross-examine each other on our statements so a short period of nodding, slurping and pursing of the lips followed. I was second from last and mentioned winning the “Largest Marrow” prize at the village autumn fair which  came dangerously close to boasting: not welcome in our fraternity, but it had been a couple of decades since I’d had anything to crow about so I just threw caution to the winds.

Finally we came to Colin, who used to be a “Copper” or police officer to the uninitiated, and was the quietest member of the group, although not the least observant, which I suppose goes with the territory.

“Getting engaged” he said, and this was a bit different, because none of us were under seventy and getting engaged at that age indicates, to me at least, that you’ve missed out on one or two important lessons in life, although I wouldn’t say that to the wife.

“Who to?” Nick asked, a painter of sorts “And still to fulfill his promise” as he always said. “Jane” said Colin which raised a few eyebrows because Jane was the widow of the recently departed Clive, and therefore known to us all.

 You could sense a stiffening of the atmosphere because friendship has its code’s, and not fancying the wives of men in your circle is one of the first rules of social stability.

“I wanted to be with her” he explained, which raised more eyebrows and then I said, “That was quick,” trying to lighten the mood, because I was always “The joker in the pack” and he replied, “Not really, we’ve been lovers for thirty years and I just wanted to make an honest woman of her” which is fair, I guess: him being a policeman after all.

Of course, his answer raised more questions than it answered, but that’s life I suppose, which is something you discover by the time you are seventy. Apart from a gulp or two, nothing further was said: it’s always the same with important questions don’t you find?

I mean my wife was “Second choice” if truth be told, but I’d never say that to her face would I, because that would be tactless and, if life teaches you anything at all, it is that manners are more important in the every-day than meaning, because manners are a matter of survival while meaning is just a subject reserved for prophets, and I was never one of those.

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A Dream Too Far Beyond My Courage


You lived creatively letting art define your life, fearless in your every day, walking the path I would have walked if I had courage in my veins; but I was a percentage man, careful always not to fail. I talked of art but lived by common sense and progressed cautiously toward an unmarked death.

At first you welcomed me: drowning me in kisses and opening yourself up to me in pagan celebration sure that I, like you, was of the chosen few, who recognised the secret beauty of our lives will only be expressed through fearless creativity. How we loved to swap observations, and nestle with each other by the fire and talk of love. I touched your skin and felt each brush of it awake my soul. Your lips, for that short time, were mine to kiss and face to hold: wonder was our chemistry, and through each other we had found love for our eternity.

I lost my nerve at last, and talked of safe professions, a refuge from the fear that those who live to dream will pay a cost until, one day, that love I drank so freely from your eyes shrank to a trickle of regret.

You painted like a girl possessed while I trained for my bar exams and we drifted on complicitly, avoiding the unspoken truth, that you were fearless and I was not. An agent came to see your work, sent there by a man of note, and the rest we know is history. You have created these forty years and I have not, but I read of you in magazines, and sometimes when silence fills my life, I take the portrait you made of me, a young man with a dream to chase, staring out courageously, for that was how you saw me then.

Life becomes your memories and in that place I love you still. I never speak your name out loud, and make no reference to your work but every day I take my walk, past the garden where we sat  as, safe within my silent heart, you pass your fingers through my hair.

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Under The Tree Of Life


I’ve read the words of men, or listened to their thoughts expressed as music. The men who walked where knowledge grows. Who’ve passed beneath the tree of wisdom and had it’s shadow grant them peace: briefly it might be. Look in their eyes and  you will find an element of eternity. You may discover in their company that the present is infinite, and events the actors which provide a change of scenery. In life there are many theories but few real explanations. With time I understood that we will know more than we can say, and understand beyond our powers of expression.

Sometimes on a crowded street or in a café, half hid from view, I might a man or women see, and tell myself, “They’ve been there, at the borders between eternity and the commonplace. Compassion is their constancy, wrapped in the scarf of hard experience. Hopeless though the venture is, they watch the pageant of our passing lives and see it stained by human greed,  recognising, all the while, that knowledge of the timeless kind is often touched by melancholy.”

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A Brush With Privilege


As a young man, sometime before the war, I lived in a world “Of certain certainties” as some poet may have said: I’ve never been of the bookish persuasion but you get my drift. We dressed for dinner, played cricket, gentlemen versus players, every August on the green, and obeyed conventions in public as if conformity were as natural as breathing. My private thoughts were of a different colour, but when has that not been true. After all, as another poet possibly remarked, “Manners the wild savage doth contain” and ain’t that the truth by God.

Anyway,  in those times I, unmarried and a recent graduate from Cambridge visited my aunt in Bosham and found myself co-opted onto the cricket team, some young notable having fallen ill, and played, the truth bids me to admit, with some distinction. A  charming girl, with that unassuming charisma it is hard to ignore, approached me after the match and remarked on my bowling in a manner which invited further conversation.

Her name was Araminta I discovered, and she was the younger daughter of a noted family. Her manner was bright, engaging and possibly beguiling and I wondered how I could extend our acquaintanceship to later in the evening when I knew a small number of the local “worthies,” among others, would be gathering at my aunt’s house for “Drinks” which in those days was a way of inviting people to your home without the bother of preparing a meal.

My aunt who had little of note about her, apart from having attended the funeral of Queen Victoria, an incident which frequently drifted into her conversation, did what many in declining circumstances do;  stick rigidly to convention, albeit on a reduced scale, so that offering “Drinks” instead of a meal was her way of clinging to gentrified circles without, in her case, incurring the expense of providing full-blown hospitality.

Emboldened by Araminta’s  friendliness and forward manner, I asked her if she was “Coming up later” for drinks at my aunt’s, whose name I told her, was Mrs Derringer. Her  face stiffened very subtly, in the way only those who have been repeatedly slighted on social grounds would notice, and she said “Sadly I have other plans” before drifting off to talk to another young man I did not know but who had played in the same team as I.

She was a dazzling beauty who added a brief glamour on my life but marked with social caution who, I later discovered, went on to marry a senior civil servant some years older than herself  who “worked tirelessly,” at the Home Office during the war. Later, I was employed by an engineering business in an undistinguished capacity thus emphasising, much to my aunt’s dismay, how far we had drifted from the county set.

I married a woman who grew fond of me but viewed me without magic in her eyes. As for Araminta, I never met with her again, but my conversation with her was the closest I got to being part of a romance. The snub she gave still stings me to this day: the harshest truths, it seems, are often implied rather than stated.

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An Unlamented Passing


“Beauty,” my wife believes “Lies just beyond the next alteration to her wardrobe or figure.” Her search for the perfect husband stopped with me some years ago, and that jaundiced look around her eyes suggests that she still blames herself for ordering from the menu of life without fully weighing up the choices. I suppose it’s fair to say she is not alone with that feeling.

Anyway, I’m failing to get to the point, if I can remember what it is: I know it centres on memories of my old friend Charlie who did the “Mystic Shuffle” last month and who enjoyed the send-off a man of his character and social standing deserved I’m afraid; no one turned up for the service apart from myself and some guy who was seeking shelter from the rain. My good lady refused to attend, citing a backlog of ironing, but I suspect she did not wish to be seen in the company of morally worthless individuals, including her husband, whether in or outside the box. ( No thinking required inside the box apparently, but that’s another topic: I must not get distracted. )

Thinking outside the box is my forte, My “Specialité de Maison,” which actually means I often lose the thread of my conversations, wardrobe or anything else which is not firmly attached to my person. Still, where was I. Oh yes.

Charlie, God bless him, because who else would, was a man of colourful character whose egalitarian approach to life was born out by the fact that he managed to offend the vast majority of people he met without regard to race, sex, age, height or fashion sense. However, he had two friends, myself and Sid, (Who missed the funeral because he forgot to use the stairs when going down to the cellar recently, and broke his leg. )  We used to hang around him like those small fish who sit on the backs of sharks enjoying the odd morsel which escapes their host’s attention.

In our cases it was Charlie’s social faux pas which added spice to our day, and I will miss the drive and sense of purpose he brought to achieving social ruin before his demise. The lack of attendance at his funeral suggests he got as near as anyone can in achieving their life’s goals. Indeed, there was a certain edge to the vicar’s brief eulogy, possibly resulting from that time when our Charlie got a bit “fresh” with the vicar’s wife at some fund-raising gig to do with the church roof. On that note, I must say, the church remained dry throughout the service which just goes to show that not all these fund raising efforts are pointless, however poor the catering, but that’s another story.

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The Ultimate Sacrifice


He loved her in his non-committal way, and  every morning without fail, as he left their home, would say, “Enjoy your day,” and wave his hand to emphasis the  comment: he didn’t believe in altering routines! His wife, was more expressive than him, she thought, and with just that edge of manicured hysteria which markes out the gifted; setting her apart from those who munched their way blindly through life, like soulless cattle feeding from the trough.

“He doesn’t love me. Where’s the hunger ?” had been her silent cry to any lover, but still her husband cared for her in every material way and her wardrobes spoke of everything but neglect, yet she, clinging to her version of lament, was past noticing those truths wrapped in humdrum details.

Alfonso, her new landscape-painting tutor, whose class she joined two months or more ago, searched her soul with brazen soulful eyes, ravaging her composure with those words of his, dispelling the air of boredom which was her signature reaction to the world around her. “Love has no boundaries and no government, he said.  “It sweeps all before it. It sculpts us with its passion”

“Oh yes” said Karen, for that was her name, ” What depths this man from foreign climes possesses: he is both painter and a prophet!” and so when he suggested she displayed a raw if untrained genius with her brush , so he must coach her privately at his home, she agreed without hesitation and soon with a deft, dare we say practised, hand he removed her clothing proving, once again, that love hath no boundaries, and, he might have added, “Can be vague about morals.”

Two souls caught in a sublime light: fragile beings trapped in a dull suburban landscape: oh how they longed for a more glorious backdrop, with moonlight and the scent of  tropical flowers to celebrate their newly discovered urgency. Both of them lacked resources, which stifling fact threatened this sacred union where eternal joy and beauty both found sanctuary.

Lying awake in bed, some time after husband had drifted off to sleep, she said to herself, “No more of this” and determined to remove this dull pedantic obstacle from her path. “You are not worth another moment of my time” she mouthed silently to his inert figure as her  delicate heart filled with chilling purpose.

Promising herself to reveal her thoughts to no one but her lover, she investigated poisons which could kill, and yet leave no trace within a couple of hours. Impressively, she managed to obtain some after requesting help from her darling Alfonso, who had brought her to the gates of paradise and wished for nothing but her happiness, recognising their life and love together required a larger canvas and must not be denied by suburban morality. Her husband, they agreed. could show no greater appreciation for his wife’s frustrated genius than, leaving this earth, allowing her to make their dreams come true.

As it happened, her husband, dull beyond all powers of description, and without imagination she believed, tasted something odd in his first mouthful of soup and raising his eyes, saw the fearful unease she tried to hide as she stared back at him. Somehow he understood her plan, and sadness more than anger filled his heart. He loved her beyond definition but she sometimes could be a silly: now she clearly wanted free of him, if not his wealth.

With calm deliberation, he filled his spoon again, and looking back at her said, “Lovely as always.”  Her heart filled with remorse and something approaching self-knowledge, but as she opened her mouth to tell him “Stop,” he swallowed the noxious liquid. His dry acknowledgment reminding her of his unspoken gentle qualities, but now the die was cast, and his eyes, filled with uncritical love, dulled, then ceased to shine  as he tipped sideways off his chair leaving this life without unnecessary comment.

“Heart attack,” the doctor said. Truth be told his own mother was ill and he, distracted and not that fussed with this routine event, allowed Justice to sleep a while longer, so the romantic pair could set off on their enchanted voyage of self discovery. In time our heroine sat quietly on the beach while Alfonso, her new husband, reminded his growing class of ever younger ladies how “Love has no boundaries” and neither,  it seemed, did his appetites.

He seldom commented on practical or domestic matters but he might remark, if pressed, that he never let his wife do the cooking.

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