Monday, 25 May 2015

If there’s a word for it

it must be true.

I may be an ‘Episodic’, not a ‘Diachronic’.*

Standing in front of the mirror wearing a spring neckline, i.e. lower than a winter-up-to-the-chin neckline, I saw a faded scar running in a big arc just under my collar bone,  like a thin-lipped but wide smile. I had forgotten every word about it. Every so often doctors ask me about my medical history; although this was a particularly traumatic experience I have omitted to mention it for years. I clean forgot everything about it.

I am not an amnesiac. I have a past, like any other human and I have a fairly normal amount of factual (and imagined) knowledge about it. But I don’t see myself as a product of this past, having arrived in a continuous stream of experiences at the point I find myself today. Looking back over my life, I find episodes that resemble rooms; each one with its own furniture of comfort and discomfort, pain and pleasure, heartache and joy. But each room has a door which is firmly shut and I have no feeling that I have passed from one to the other.

Since I started this blog I have delved into the past and resurrected  it. But the child I wrote about is not the younger self of me today, nor is the young girl who came to the UK and found squalor and tawdriness my direct antecedent. Factually, that is nonsense, of course, but to me my life feels real only now, during my current ‘episode’. As it felt real during each of the preceding episodes. But, as soon as each episode came to its natural end, so did my connection with it. I feel that past experiences do not belong in any way meaningfully to the present-day ‘me’.

Most people live their lives as a continuous narrative; ‘episodics’ much less so. Or not at all. Looking back over my life I see each of the rooms I mentioned containing a person who was me, but I feel almost no connection to her. That doesn’t mean that I can’t dissect her or write her biography. Or feel for her; passionately and dispassionately at the same time.

I’ve often wondered why I feel able to move on quite easily, why I’ve never felt that even the most unpleasant or traumatic periods in my life have touched my ‘core’. as if there is something deep inside me which is inviolable because it is forever detached. I used to think of myself as just not caring enough but I don’t think that’s true. Equally, my inability to make lifelong friends has puzzled me. But if it’s true that the ‘episodic’ lives a life of separate chapters which are without continuity then any relationships are only meaningful for the duration of that particular episode in which they come about.

I am neither sad nor happy about this realisation, just accepting. It’s like somebody switched on a previously dimmed light, illuminating vaguely perplexing shadows.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

* The terms are mentioned in a paper published by the philosopher Galen Strawson
“Against Narrativity”.

Thursday, 21 May 2015


 Some of you asked for an explanation
of the yellow stripes in the distance
in the picture in the previous post.

Romantically: Fields of Gold
Prosaically: Fields of Rapeseed

Rapeseed, also known as rape, oilseed rape, rapa, rappi, rapaseed, is a bright-yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae, consumed in China and Southern Africa as a vegetable and grown in the UK as a valuable cash crop.
 Rapeseed oil is very popular and supposedly a healthy alternative to other fats and oils.

I use it for frying and braising. It has no strong taste of its own
and is therefore suitable for all dishes which demand a light touch.

We needed the rain.
Getting a brilliant rainbow thrown in
was a bonus.

Monday, 18 May 2015

My World In May

I am still struggling with my new computer;
it looks like all my thousands of photos have gone to a place
where Yosemite cannot go.
The app which recovers photos from the original iphoto app
isn’t available in the UK at present.

I can foresee hours of fun with Apple Helplines.

Still, new photos are accepted happily.
Editing them is a bit of a headache yet.

But practice makes perfect 
so here are a couple pf pictures I took yesterday
just to be getting on with

 Queen Anne’s Lace over the River
The Castle from the Bailey

Despite the fine weather clouds and sunny aspect,
 and the deep, juicy green of fields and meadows
the wind was chill and we made for home quickly
after just one circumambulation of the castle.

For many beautiful pictures go to The folks there will be happy to welcome you.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Tipping out, tripping up and going underground

For several days now I’ve been feeling guilty for ignoring my blog; yes, I’ve been busy, but not that busy. I’ve gardened, walked the dog, read books and even, once, a magazine for the over 50s. Take last night, for instance. I was going to come upstairs straight after supper and start composing. Instead I decided to see what’s on TV and 2 ½ hours and a whole 100 gram bar of chocolate later I finally switched it off. And got ready for bed instead of switching my computer on.

Talking of getting ready for bed: when I went to the loo the seat unexpectedly cracked under me and bit my bottom. I knew I shouldn’t have had that bar of chocolate. Whenever I use the upstairs bathroom now, and until we have a new seat, I have to be very careful. Perhaps we should get one of these elevated loo seats they advertise in the magazine for the over 50s. And while we’re at it, perhaps we should check out walk-in baths and showers, stair lifts, Zimmer frames, motorised scooters, beds and chairs that tip you out when you press a button on a cord. The magazine is full of good advice on expensive holidays, investment opportunities, retirement apartments and leisure activities. All interviews are with glamorous and famous people of a certain age, who lead interesting lives. The letter pages are written by smarmy, self-congratulatory pensioners in need of a friendly slap to remind them of the reality of a penurious and frail old age which is the lot of so many of the ancients.

At Friday’s poetry group meeting I was confronted with another side of reality: old people who find themselves not only hard up but also isolated and lonely because of an inability to cope with modern life. When Lorna first mentioned them I misunderstood and said something unfeeling and flippant like: 'well, hadn’t they better learn to live in today’s world?’  It turns out that this inability to cope is not self-inflicted as in unwilling to learn to use digital media and smart phones, but due to EHS, or electromagnetic-hypersensitivity.

We’ve both considered Lorna to be a bit of an eccentric - well, to tell the truth, a regular fruitcake in some respects - but it seems that many of her idiosyncrasies are due to the symptoms she experiences when exposed to mobile phones, for instance. One side of her bungalow is swathed in yellow draperies over walls and windows. It’s like swimming in a murky aquarium. She has a strict rule that no mobile phones are allowed inside. Once I forgot to leave mine outside and after no more than ten minutes she became restless and red in the face. “Someone has brought a mobile in,” she said. Naturally, I apologised and took it outside. When she uses her computer - only ever for a very short time and mainly for emails - she covers exposed skin in aluminium cooking foil.

EHS is not recognised by the medical establishment. Wikipedia says: The reported symptoms of EHS include headache, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, skin symptoms like prickling, burning sensations and rashes, pain and ache in muscles and many other health problems. Whatever their cause, EHS symptoms are a real and sometimes disabling problem for the affected person. However, there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to electromagnetic field exposure.

Lorna and the members of her self help group are often unable to go out at all 'because there are more and more masts around' she says, and she won’t visit anyone else’s house because most people have numerous digital gadgets. The other day she fell on her steep and stoney garden steps and hurt herself rather badly but she refuses to use ambulances, doctors and hospitals. “They’d kill me’, she says

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Oh Misery !

 First it looked like everything would change,
we’d tax the rich and allow the poor to eat without feeling guilty.

Children climbed trees and parents sat underneath
awaiting the miracle of rebirth.

 Horses grazed peacefully
and riders took a breather.

Then, Oh horror!
It all went down the pan again;
another five years of fat cats getting fatter
and belt tightening for the rest of us. 

They’re lining up to chuck themselves off the cliff!

Oh Misery, Oh Horror.

The images are borrowed and misused - Valley’s End had its Green Man Festival.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Out To Lunch

It’s spring, time to reacquaint ourselves with the natural beauties of the 
Shropshire and Herefordshire countryside.
It’s always pleasant to sample the delights of hostelries sprinkled across our nearby counties 
in the company of friends; our small group of ‘luncheon club' foodies 
gives us the ideal opportunity to do so.

The Riverside Inn is situated deep in the heart of the Herefordshire countryside just on the southern edge of the Mortimer Forest, yet still close to Ludlow and Hereford, ideal for walking, hiking, fishing and all kinds of country pursuits. Authentic and atmospheric, the 16th century black and white building is surrounded by the natural beauty of the River Lugg valley. The Inn sits on the river bank in the small village of Aymestrey. The river and its banks are full of wildlife – dragonflies, dippers, otters, kingfishers, brown trout and grayling all live here.

The bar and restaurant are deliberately kept in a traditional style – log fires, candles, hops and oak beams, bricks and stone. There is plenty of space by the river or in the terrace garden to eat when the weather allows. Our table was ancient, Beloved thought it might have been made of elm because it was covered in thousands of black scratches and marks, much like the wood of elm looks like under the bark. You had to keep an eye on your cutlery, a careless shove could have sent it down the open cracks between the thick planks.


The place is totally unpretentious, no fine napery or fancy drapery; everything is plain but in excellent good taste. We sat at the table under the big picture in the back, there was ample room for the six of us before our dishes arrived; after that it was a bit cramped, there was rather a lot of food. Every course was generously proportioned.

This is exactly what the Lugg (funny how all our local rivers have these one syllable names, as if the ancients had barked them out in disgust) looked like today. Millie came too but I wouldn’t let her go for a swim, it was just too cold in a rather bitter wind. Instead she got a massive doggie bag. We could of course stop with two courses, or maybe have just a starter and a pudding, but when you are in a first class eating establishment you want to sample as much of the delicious fare as possible.  We were three couples and each couple ordered different dishes, so we could have a taste of each other’s food. Bad manners, I know, but we’re not really bothered. Rules and regulations are ignored when you’re indulging yourself.

Here are just a couple of examples of a starter and a pudding. The Inn is perfect for me because guests with special dietary requirements presents no problem to the chefs. Normally, I have to dissect menus very carefully and ask for changes to be made in the preparation. The Riverside Inn happily caters for even the fussiest eater and still manages to provide excellent dishes.

I think we’ll probably go back very soon, with or without our luncheon companions. There’s only one thing wrong with a meal like this at lunchtime: I have absolutely no need of anything else to eat for the rest of the day.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Time to drop everything

and make for the hills.

Who would stay at home
and wrestle with a computer on a day like this?

My back hurts, my neck is stiff
and I have cursed incessantly for hours now.

Buying an up-to-date computer is all very well,
but the damn thing is turning up
its fancy nose at any other gadget I want to connect.
It’s going to take days to incorporate all the data from older computers.

That’s bad for an obsessive, impatient maniac like me.
I want it done, and want it done yesterday.

Sod it, I’m off out of here.

First stop is the secret pond.
Sitting here and sniffing the dank mouldy earth
and brackish water can only be good for me.

Millie loves it too. I only just stopped her from jumping in.

Then off up into the woods.
The path is narrow, steepish and very overgrown towards the top.
I swear some more at the difficult terrain,
wheezing and stumbling and forcing my way through
wild rhododendron thickets.
Millie is better off than me.

 Looking down at the idyllic Shropshire landscape,
the gentle, aimless hills and
a farmer doing what farmers have done for millennia,
long before the abacus was invented,
much less computers;
my bad temper subsides.

I am calm enough
to appreciate a bit of accidental modern art:
a mudguard off some small motorised vehicle
stuck on a post (which used to hold a dog poo bin).

And so back home to my own garden
whose spring glory is bathed in bright sunshine.

The season is well advanced, even the tulips are fading.

I gazed a while, and felt as light and free
As though the fanning wings of Mercury
Had played upon my heels: I was light-hearted,
And many pleasures to my vision started;

from I stood Tiptoes Upon a Little Hill
by John Keats