Thursday, September 18, 2008

keep the swelling, lose the pain

Have you ever,

howled in woods?
whinnied and nickered,
pranced, danced, shied
and cried and generally
made a great fuss...

At least there was no one around, be thankful for small mercies. And there was me, and the boys, enjoying a long walk in the woods on a beautiful autumnal morning full of great grey almost trees hesitating in a slow lazy mist.

And then I stuck my dick in the nettles.

Not just like that you understand, rather I went for an alfresco wee and was distracted by Charlie scratting around in the leaves behind me.....and then I stuck my dick in the nettles.

It hurts. You can't imagine how much it hurts. I don't want to describe how much it hurts because then I'll have to remember....exactly how much it hurts.

The only 'tiny' crumb of comfort is that it also swells up.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

you'll never guess but...

Where a river floes, where people are apt to gather to the source of traffic and commerce, of liquid life.

Great cities, gritty purposeful towns, villages becalmed in seas of green meadow, divided by arterial waterways, green, brown or sparkling brook that give and take in measure the ingredients and effluent, the fish and fowl, and crop and cooling balm to set the form of white hot steel in shapes we know and need in clouds of screaming, scalding steam.

All edges in the land, the mighty crinkle cut, where once great glaciers wove patterns in relief or soft stone slipped and slid, warped over under, layered, thrown up in laval anguish. The land lent gravitas by movement now set in stone.

We are drawn to edges.

We are drawn to boundaries. To cliffs, to river banks, the gates of mountain ranges, the beginnings and ends, the exclamations of mineral vocabulary.
Perhaps we stop and stare and whilst we do so put down roots. Or we come here and go no further, define our life by a boundary we did not set but perceive as fate, a natural given, a literal perceptible border about that which we might consider known and therefore ours.

And build, and often prosper, comforted, in our place.

But boundaries have two sides, by definition they divide, a division which invites the naturally inquisitive and inventive to connect. And so we build.....we bridge.


Too small a word.

Too small a word for herculean iron of Victoriana or gossamer suspended ribbons, spider trellis, gothic multitudinous arch or square ribbed stalwart cage that leaves what I know, where I am and disappears like a lover’s promise into hope filled otherness beyond.

...lately I’ve been thinking about bridges.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

starry starry night

I remember years ago climbing in Glencoe (Gleann Comhann in the celtic tongue), being happy to be alone with the sparkling granite and soft dew lapped moss. At night, weather permitting, to lie outside the tiny tent under star speckled skies so clear that the milky way shone and sparkled, a moonlit brook coursing across the firmament. A million miles it seemed, from the smoke and smells of the city and constant ambient light that obscures so much more than it illuminates.

Later in the year, in the autumn months to glimpse with awe the southern veil of the aurora borealis, swift tendrils of smoke high in the atmosphere as if lit faintly from within, fleeting across the sky, constantly changing, wisps that glow into life then fade to nothing in the blink of an eye.

And although I’m not a morning person, the mornings were the best. My dispute with morning is the sudden rush of information, the tv, the radio, the letters (bills), the drudge of pre work routine, but mostly the people and their bland cheerful or surly, aggressive stupid faces. Alone in this tiny tent the information stream is slowed to snail’s pace, a manageable trickle where half in, half out of sleep many questions may be answered before emerging fully into the world; where am I, does it hurt anywhere, what’s that taste in my mouth, is it raining....

Then luke warm tea and a damp fried egg roll all cooked on the smallest gas stove imaginable, sometimes in the sunshine but more often sheltering from the rain or sleet and occasionally snow in the lea of the zippered tent door. Sometimes in the sunlight, sometimes pre dawn, always when your bladder yells at you that it is time to start the day.

Once, on a crispy cold morning at sunrise through a yard tall thick mist that rolled down the steep mountain face, around my tented island to a sea of grey in the valley below, to glimpse reflected in the azure blue above - another mountain - reversed, hanging like a giant stalactite, peak down from the roof of heaven. It’s one thing to understand the science (a layer formed between warm and cold air rather than a gradual transition between the two forms a mirror reflecting objects beyond the horizon), but still it’s difficult not to think in terms of one of God’s chandeliers.

The tent is a little larger now, but not much, I have to carry it after all, and there’s more to carry with the boy’s stuff too. At night we start apart, but pretty soon there’s a wet nose draped across my neck and invariably we wake up in a tangle. There’s no climbing now, we are better (as a team) at rolling hills than sharp inclines. It’s more complicated, still fun, but in a different way.

We go away as often as we may, I’m still a man of leisure you see, and it’s beginning to get on my tits.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Old Possum's book of Practical Dogs...

(Or very impractical dogs...)

like small, snarly, gittish dogs

or dozy dogs

or dogs that make most excellent pillows?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

walking backwards

This weekend I had…..Christmas.

Yes, that’s right, we have Xmas whenever we like here in the pond. I’m planning to have Easter sometime in the summer and Shrove Tuesday on your Labour day so that I don’t feel left out.

And Valentine’s, as usual, will be indefinitely postponed.

Christmas was delayed primarily by dint of the fact that when the rest of Christendom celebrated I was pathetically unaware of what day (month…indeed planet) it was.

This weekend I shall enjoy letting in the New Year (tall dark stranger out there anyone, with own piece of coal and pocket full of salt?). I supply the whisky, you bring the luck.

As an aside I can heartily recommend Xmas shopping at this time of year, it’s far less crowded and considerably less expensive in the sales – I did rather well, even if I say so myself, which may not be a surprise to you since I am after all buying presents for me – but that hasn’t stopped me buying entirely inappropriate, tasteless or just plain ugly gifts for me in the past.

So there.

This year I will free style. Not sweat the small stuff, like dates. My birthday is on ebay with no reserve and I shall call the chief rabbi this afternoon to discover if I have irrevocably timed out on my bar mitzvah.....

Friday, January 25, 2008

I've lost my marbles part ii - let us speak of many things

My shrink wants me to write, in a very particular way. Whatever I feel in that instant, my thoughts, feelings, intuitions, hopes and fears, whatever comes into my head. I am supposed to keep a daily journal of this ‘stream of consciousness’. I’m struggling with this. Am I so structured, strictured, why do I find this so damned hard.

Of course at present I have the concentration span of a mayfly, but this is the opposite of concentration, it is intended to be free flow….a release, the putting down of mental burdens on paper to release them from the prison of my mind. But I can’t, I’m second guessing myself all of the time….

Instead my mind wanders back again to a time line. I need to know what happened and when, where I’ve been (in my head), in fact how long it’s been because this blurred and jumbled tapestry of time is killing me. I feel nauseated by it.

I think, only think mind, that the last time I was in the office was December the 20th. I have a recollection of going home and returning with the dogs and resigning and weeping and driving home with some vague intention to pack and leave for god knows where.

In the weeks before that I remember being admitted into hospital twice, once with my heart and them with pneumonia, a revolting surgery under local anaesthetic and an accident on the motor way, in the replacement Bongo (I’d had it for six whole weeks). I remember the latter because it was dramatic, turning round and round before smashing into the central reservation, I remember Charlie floating past, across the windscreen and looking at me quizzically en route. Thankfully the dogs were both shocked but uninjured.

After that is chaos. I have not the least idea what happened for the first week, I think that I must of slept mostly which balances the equation neatly considering the sleep that I can not find now.

Christmas and New Year were, well, just days in bed, not significant land marks on the featureless terrain of my calendar. I don’t remember shopping, although I did, of visiting the doctor, but I must have to renew my prescription, of changing the bed, doing the washing, eating…..but there’s evidence of all of these, clues cast around the kitchen and bedroom. Perhaps the shoe elves paid a visit? I wonder if I ventured into the living room this past month.

I mentioned that doors are unlocking on memories I don’t necessarily want. I’m not sure I’m happy with this version of me, what nerves this damned psychiatrist is exposing. Well there are other by product too.

We walk, a lot.

There is a path through the park lined with venerable sycamore so closely packed that they touch and tangle overhead and with their neighbours. We are on the 10pm shift, the pre snore potty run that the dogs have grown used to. It’s dark and we are alone.

And I am seeing ghosts.

It’s not as if I believe them but I can’t deny what my eyes reveal to me. Here comes an ethereal glimmer figure on a bicycle.

Imagine a pool or pond under a glabrous moon and the plop of a tossed pebble, the ripples, not seen, but inferred by silver and dark shadow. These were the wheels on the bicycle. The figure was made from similar stuff, transparent, a waif defined by haze and shimmer.

He rode past and gaily waived, I waved back.

A dog, a canine wraith, ran around and around the bole of a dark sycamore, its stardust tail tick tocking.

And from a round open litter bin clouds of pitch billow, far darker than the night, like bin bags, shards of midnight ripped and gathered in a fierce wind.

I’m unmoved, the dogs race amongst the trees and puddles and there’s nothing here to convince me that I should even quicken my step.

Whatever this twilight world is, whoever occupies it, means me no harm.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I've lost my marbles part i - sweet dreams

The bed has begun to breathe again. Rhythmically. In out, in out, it ripples in and out under my bum and back. I can hear it too, over and above the light breaths of the person by my side. Even though I’m alone, I’m not afraid, neither the bed nor the stranger are threatening, only there.

I lie with my eyes open, I think (I shall check in a moment) and watch the blinking red light on the ceiling. It swirls into the shadows and vibrates briefly in the corner of the dark bedroom before returning to the centre as I focus.

My eyes close, I think, and I wait to need the toilet again.

If I relax my grip on my thoughts and allow my subconscious to be the keeper of my night soul then anything can happen, unbidden thoughts will run riot. So I try to keep a measure of control, waking dreams.

A single daisy sandal sits atop the privet hedge by the gate of 56 Poplars avenue.

A few doors further down an elderly man stares incredulously at the bright red child’s sweater hanging from his guttering.

In the gutter by the pavement outside his garden is the child’s arm that once occupied it.

All down the street clothes and limbs litter the roadway, gardens and roofs as people emerge from their houses to stand aghast or sink to their knees and weep.

Poplars Avenue runs parallel to Canal Street, 3 roads down. Even so the terrific, terrible blast had dislodged roof slates and shattered windows. As they sat inside on a sunny Saturday afternoon the huge explosion had come as a complete surprise and most wandered outside in semi shock to confirm that they were indeed survivors.

The 6th of June, the day of the Ryland summer children’s fete There may be a war on but it will not dissuade the altruistic owner of Rylands from throwing the regular annual party for employee’s children and other less fortunate children of the borough.

There were games and sandwiches, fizzy pop and jelly and hats, and all of the children in their Sunday best.

Two days earlier the German pilot had dropped his half ton mine 2 miles further up Manchester Ship Canal. A waste in terms of his mission, it was intended for the harbour of Liverpool, to wait in the gloomy, turgid waters for a passing supply ship or perhaps an inbound troop ship from the USA. He may have been put off by the flack, or it may have been a mechanical failure, but he dropped it eventually on his return journey.

Canal’s do have slow currents, prompted by the opening and closing of locks downstream - and slowly but surely the mine made it’s way with the flow towards the centre of Warrington so far spared the worst of the blitz.

The mine made contact with the metal hull of a barge offloading at the pier of Rylands, only 50 yards from the seated children, and 20 yards from the finish line of the ongoing egg and spoon race, the egg and spoon race.

And 500 lbs of high explosive went about it’s ghastly business with ruthless efficiency.

Across the canal for 7 streets down people watched or found clothes and miniature human detritus flutter down out of a dumbfound smoke blacked sky.

I don’t want to but I glance at the clock. 4 am.

No worries, I may sleep yet.

But I shan’t so I try to take stock once again because even these black dreams are better than the bizarre offerings my other unconscious selves have to offer.

I think about the morning when I will get up and try to brush my teeth, and vomit because my gag reflex is accentuated. I don’t mind, oddly it settles my stomach for a little while, long enough to force down a little cereal, a few spoonfulls…’s just that I regret that my dental hygiene is going to pot.

It normally takes around 4 visits to the toilet in the morning before I feel confident enough to rush the dogs out of the house for our regular walk in the park.

Momentarily I am confused and try to concentrate, it suddenly seems important to remember whether yesterday was Christmas day, or is it today, and I eventually decide it is tomorrow. Why am I relieved? Because I have not missed it? I laugh to myself which disturbs the no one next to me who sits and gets out of the bed and leaves the room - and although I am not scared I hope I will not have to use the toilet for a little while after all.

I try to concentrate on the morning ritual, on the 8 pills I will take and the order I will take them in.

And listen to the music, to the back beat of my life, the rhythmic base playing in my pillow. At least this was an accomplishment and not another mystery. I had worked this out. At around 3 am the previous night I had become enraged that my neighbours were still playing reggae so loudly that I could hear/feel it in my pillow. Eventually plucking up the nerve and the need and had slipped into track suit bottoms and gone downstairs to complain. Only to find out that it stopped. 3 times I did this, with the same result. And 3 times when I got back into bed the beat remained in my pillow.

I lay there for a very long time before I understood that the beat was in my head. The beat of my heart, the pulse, the rushing of blood through the veins and arteries in my neck. I was hearing myself live.

If, only if, say, I give up on any notion of sleep (and why not, even though my eyes are full of grit I have not slept these previous 3 maybe 4 days or nights), I may get up briefly and call for the dogs. After all if it is Christmas day tomorrow we could wake up and greet the dawn together, it’s the only treat I have for them.

I close my eyes for a moment as the bed takes a deep breath, and I see a tiny white shirt floating down from the sky.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

through a glass darkly

I’m beginning to understand that memory is like a Russian doll, leastways memory that has been suppressed.

So much of what I (we?) remember seems to belong to someone else, as if I were reading about an alternate me in a novel. The memories are woolly, vague, assumed almost. So imagine my surprise when my psychiatrist began to unlock doors for me, onto whole dark vaults of specific memory.

Some are good, more are not - I’m sure I’m supposed to feel grateful but I feel rather as though I’ve been handed a box of spiders, and a key.

Apparently this is the way to deal with suppressed memory, suppressed grief, slowly but surely unlock it.

To be honest I’m not so sure.

I think I was happier mad.