Nessie’s Hair Extensions…

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Ali’s imagined Nessie look!

Now, then, let me canvass opinion and ask advice…

I have been chosen to play the villain in the village pantomime this year. No acting required, as you can probably imagine!

This particular baddie is a sea serpent (of the lethally seductive variety – type-cast again!) named Nessie who, when not trying to get her slithy scales round Neptune, is causing mayhem and merry hell to all landlubberish creatures.

Without giving too much away, our director wants me to look all wild and Pre-Raphaelite in the hair department – and this is where Ali’s dilemma comes in.

I want waist-length tresses! I want ‘em orange and curly and full of attitude! I want them NOW!

The good news is that I am a tad Pre-Raphaelite in looks anyway, and I do have my very own mare’s nest of orange hair…

But it does not reach my waist. Nowhere near.

I want a cloak of the stuff. I want to be able to twirl in a mystic and menacing circle and have lengthy red strands flying out all around me.

Damnit, I want to be able to hide in the foliage, pitch a small tent in its follicular abundance…

I asked about hair-extensions and there are two serious drawbacks:

One, they cost an arm and a leg, and there is NO WAY I am spending that sort of dosh for a panto!

Two, they take hours – if not days – to weave into the existing barnet. How effing tedious!

So, I nipped online and found a bewildering array of wiggy-type things in all kinds of shades – and, frankly, made of some truly peculiar materials.

Human hair, it says – and I find myself just hoping that willing donation is at the heart of this very lucrative little business rather than Burke and Hare (HA!) type of entrepreneurial activity.

Call me squeamish, but I have no intention of appearing on stage with something which once belonged to a stiff perched atop my bonce.

We Panto Nasties have our standards, you know!

Halo hair pieces do look promising, however, and I am sorely tempted by the apparent ease with which one applies the things – and by how gloriously natural and abundant the finished product looks…

But…

The models were…models.

You know what I mean?

Young, slim, beautiful, shiny of hair and unwrinkled of visage.

It looks, if I may be so bold, too good to be true.

However…

It also looks as if even I could manage to slip my orangeness into a few yards of supplementary dome coverage.

Let me show you a picture of my fantasy look:

Have a gander at this clip from YouTube and see what you think!

Any comments?

Death of a father : Speakeasy # 165

alienorajt:

This is my entry for this week’s Speakeasy competition. I am reblogging it because, having written it on Sunday, it had become lost in the plethora of newer posts. It is a true story (as many of you will be aware) told from a slightly different viewpoint than normal.

Originally posted on ALIEN AURA'S BLOG: IT'LL BLOW YOUR MIND!:

Speakeasy # 165

He had become fragile, unstable.

The comas were accelerating.

Mealtimes and night-times had been enclaves of fear, for years, decades even.

Not his fault. He did not ask for the trauma and privation which, way back in 1957, spelled the end of his Military career and the start of an insulin habit, allied with strict Diabetic control.

Hypos were frequent in those early days before we knew him as anything other than the larger, and deeper-voiced, of our parents. We carry those memories locked tight in the sea-shell of our minds. If we hold it to our ears, harsh rasping sounds emerge – and we see, instantly, the flailing upon the ground, the rigid facial muscles; we feel, once again, the helpless terror that, THIS TIME, he will not come back.

Blood sugar, a potent phrase in our home, was responsible for the wobbles, the frantic…

View original 610 more words

Ghosts

April Moon 14, Day 3. Home: earliest memory…

Ghosts

Home for me spelled, and smelled of, fear. There were many reasons: my father’s diabetes; the fragility of my parents’ marriage; the anger between them…

But I do wonder if the fear started when I was sent to stay with people I did not know whilst my next sister down was born. I was one year and three weeks old. This is my earliest memory.

Mummy and Daddy are not there any more; they have abandoned me. I am in a carriage. With horses. One is grey and soft; I stroke its nose and laugh at the warm air on my hand. The vehicle bumps over cobbled streets, and I feel scared. But the big tomato-faced people in there with me have given me a white-papered triangular packet. I open it. The lady has to help me because my fingers are very small. There are foam shrimps in there. They are sweet and yummy. I take my finger out of my mouth and eat a shrimp. The I put my finger back and suck it because I do not like this at all.

We are in a long corridor. The ceiling is really high. Miles away. There is a long, long crimson carpet; it stretches for miles; it may even go into another country. I feel very small.

The adults take me into an enormous room. The bed is too high for me to climb on to. I try. I stumble. I cry a bit, tears leaking upon my curled up finger.

The sheets are very stiff and cold. I feel as if I have been stitched in forever. I want my mummy, but she is lost somewhere.

I stand under the bright turquoise roof of a gigantic swimming pool. The water is greeny and swirling, and deep. I am frozen to the spot, too frightened to move in case I fall in and am sucked down and lose myself.

The woman towers above me. Her mouth is wide open and her face is the colour of a brick. Her eyes are all squinty and nasty. She is yelling at me, calling me a horrible little girl.

I am holding a piece of soft material, and I smooth it over my upper lip for comfort. It catches the crook of my wet finger. I try to swallow down my tears, but they come out anyway.

My bottom hurts through the thick nappy. The terrifying female has smacked me. I don’t know why. Don’t know what I’ve done.

I call, ‘Mummy!’ but no one comes.

I have been abandoned. Forgotten.

 

 

 

 

The Great Freeze

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2014 has been such a year of extremes. I have had some sublimely happy moments – and these are gathered together like chestnuts, ready to be roasted in the fire of my heart during the emotional freeze.

Meditation is a bridge.

When the crazy times threaten to take over, I replay the inner film of joyful experiences and feel again that little glow, that tiny hope, that connection with the world.

Or I go to far distant landscapes and learn from their other-worldly wisdom.

This is going to be a bitterly cold Winter. That is the background to my canvas. That is the dominant perspective. The Thames has frozen for the first time since the mediaeval period. I can, and will, paint colourful scenes of traders, minstrels, courtiers, pick-pockets and animals as they go about their business on London Bridge. But I cannot paint out the thick ice, the falling snow, the greyish-white skies or the ragged babies, dead before their time, the birds plummeting to their death, the animals and humans starving. I cannot gloss over truth, no matter how much I would like to.

Find the hope! This is what people want and expect.

No!

Find the point of grim reality, I say, and face that first.

Because if you don’t, hope will rise on false and flimsy wings, attached to the sprites of illusion.

My happy imaginings cannot change the bloody post-mortem of a death denied, a bereavement interrupted, a rite of passage waiting to be completed.

They cannot thaw the icicles, nor halt the advance of the Snow Queen’s sleigh.

But I break open their charred shells and feast on the pulpy sweetness anyway, for I adore hot chestnuts.

And one day they will be part of my kingdom!

Fairy Dust

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Oh, just give me a sack of Fairy Dust and let me sprinkle it where I will.

Let me start with myself, and flesh out the fearful skeleton of self-esteem, making it plumptious and ripe as a mediaeval wench.

Let me sparkle and soothe the hurt places in both body and mind; let me pour glitter into the tight tunnels of defensiveness, flushing out their dark treacle of angry pretence and pouring in the syrup of healing.

Let me use the magical dust motes to illuminate the Sword of Geburah as I stand poised to sever blackened and rotting ropes of connections dead for years.

Let me puff the iridescent shine of the Fey into the eyes of those I love, both family and friends, so that they may see their way clearly and receive love, light and blessings.

Let me empty the bulk of the bag over the surface of our wounded world – and let all the beings, animate and inanimate, receive that promise, that connection, that hope of a lateral tomorrow.

For money cannot, alone, buy any of the things that matter. It can only aid the true of soul, the compassionate of heart and the inventive of mind in their search for real value.

Print on Demand

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I have decided to go down the Print on Demand route.

This means that, if you enjoy my weird sense of humour, my prose-poetry, lunatic erotica and all the rest, you will, eventually, be able to get your mitts on a real physical book full of the stuff…

This is both exhilarating – and terrifying. It is a challenge and a risk. It is fear and joy.

The ‘What if?’ s are fighting a cosmic battle with the inner vision and need to create.

The ‘I CAN DO THIS!‘ is under attack from all manner of doubting gremlins.

Full details in a future post.

But I have SEEN my books on the inner; I know that they are, like embryos in the womb, waiting to be born. I can see and feel them already.

For too long I have allowed fear to get in the way of potential.

I know that doing this is not guaranteed to make me rich. But holding my literary ‘baby’ in my hands will give me wealth beyond mere coinage.

Now? I need to open the doors to fulfilment, creative growth and abundance both material and spiritual.

You don’t look the type…

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I wrote this over a year ago – and am reposting it because it expresses something important.

‘You don’t look the type…’

How many times has that been said to me over the decades? Too many to count. Yet, each thoughtless flinging of such appearance-based acid has pitted a bit more of my soul.

It seems, in our society, that you have to LOOK a certain way in order to justify ill status, whether that illness be physical or mental.

Pale, wan and wilting, for starters, preferably on the thin side of so-called ‘normal’ – frail and obviously vulnerable makes the point very clearly, doesn’t it? Fainting helps, as do copious public tears, as does an endearing tremble. A tendency to leap into male arms at the mere sight of mouse/spider/worm/bully also speaks volumes. Long winsome dresses, trailing scarves – a look which indicates, in so many words, that you are always a hair’s breadth away from either cracking up, giving way to Consumption or Bedlam-bound.

You see, it’s not enough to claim that you are anxious, depressed, hearing voices, hallucinating or about to cough up your gobbet unless your physique can, in some weird way, prove these – to others, dubious – claims.

Well, that’s me comprehensively buggered, then, isn’t it?!

Put it this way, the expressions, ‘pale and interesting,’ and ‘palely loitering’ were QUITE DEFINITELY not penned with an Alienora in mind.

Bucolic and rosy-cheeked from birth, I have always had more than a touch of the wench about me. I look as if I ought to be wearing a tattered rustic skirt, a revealing blouse and be disporting myself amidst the haystacks with various local youths! Probably was in a previous reincarnation.

I am a big girl. Let us not beat about the bush here! There’s lots of me. Too much, probably! Lots to grab hold of, I suppose – but not, let’s get this clear from the outset, the kind of gal who slips down drains or disappears when she turns sideways.

I went through a phase of wishing I COULD go into a swoon. It seemed so romantic, somehow, such a badge of being a Proper Woman! In assemblies at my all girls’ grammar school, the droning of the Headmistress was regularly interrupted by decorous crashes as yet another nubile nymph hit the deck.

I tried EVERYTHING! Gave up breakfast, tightened my belt until I was in danger of the complete extrusion of my internal organs, spun in mad circles at break (hoping to induce the requisite dizziness) and longed for that moment of whooshing collapse.

Might as well have been waiting for Godot.

Bog-all happened.

But this is, perhaps, just as well. Any bloke foolish enough to try and catch a felled Ali would be asking for a hernia or worse. It would be like trying to pick up a Giant Redwood, or possibly a slain mammoth!

Other than the time I went bright yellow all over (NOT a becoming shade for me!) when I had hepatitis, I always look as if I am in rude health even when I feel dreadful.

This has caused no end of problems in my life because people simply don’t believe me when I say I am sick.

‘You LOOK all right,’ they say, peering at me suspiciously.

This is bad enough for purely physical stuff, but the situation gets far, far worse when it comes to emotional and mental distress.

You see, I don’t look anxious. Although I often feel like so-doing, I do not hide in small corners, gibber under the bedclothes or shake without stopping.

Sometimes, I feel like saying, ‘Do I need to have a panic attack in front of you for you to believe me?’

The depression, for me, arises because I feel powerless, because there is no let up on the pain and panic front, because I cannot get through to people who are hurting me.

But again, I tend to be disbelieved as often as not – perhaps because I am not to be found slicing into my wrist, taking an overdose or driving my car into a tree at ninety miles an hour.

And you would not believe the righteous and defensive BOLLOCKS I get presented with by people who should know better.

‘You’re putting it on, making it up, attention seeking,’ I am told. ‘You are exaggerating.’

‘If you’re going to be like THAT,’ I am told, ‘don’t bother coming to the event!’

‘Be like that!’ I am told – or, that great estian fall-back, ‘Get off it!’

‘Get therapy!’ I am told. ‘Find God! Be grateful! Stand up for yourself! Be assertive! Get out more!’

I have learned, for the most part, to put on a brave face, to pretend all is well even when it isn’t.

Perhaps I am my own worst enemy because I do not wail and cry and scream out in pain as much as I probably should. I am not easy with my own tears, and rarely shed them in front of others. I have to trust another human being implicitly before I let go.

So, today, I am full of anxiety – and physical pain. The former state relates to the ongoing situation I am in. I would actually go as far as to say that I am frightened.

But, you wouldn’t guess if you were to meet me.

My body, as so often before, is sore all over – but, again, I give no outward sign of the inner torment. I do not grab bits of myself, or groan and go white or faint.

But, look folks, the fact that you cannot see something on the surface does not mean that it does not exist.

Looking fine does not mean that you are.

Looking normal tells you NOTHING.

Few people with mental health problems conform to our worst fear norm of drooling and making odd noises and looking weird and rocking and so on.

You do not have to look fragile to be fragile!

There IS no type where suffering is concerned. It does not conveniently alight upon those who are pale and thin.

Many of us who suffer from anxiety have a peculiar relationship with food and eating. Some, sad to relate, fall into the grip of Anorexia, starving themselves in order to try and gain some control, to wrest some power back into their lives.

Others, like me, over-eat in a desperate, and doomed, attempt to fill the enormous emotional gap inside.

But, food and meals provoke even more anxiety, whichever route you choose.

I am not going to go any further on this one because it is making me extremely agitated just thinking about it.

No, I don’t look the type. Even those who have not seen me in the abundant flesh probably get a sense of that through my blog posts.

But, looks can deceive – and mine certainly do.

Do not be mislead by appearances.

I laugh, joke and have fun whenever I possible can. I appear bold and confident, loud, jolly and gung-ho.

It is a MASK.

And, under that apple-cheeked, brazenly in yer face, effing and blinding outrageous piece of work is a woman who is terrified of being hurt, rejected, abandoned and betrayed; who goes through phases of doubting her own sanity, and of thinking that she is a complete Narcissistic Sociopath.

And who has come to believe that the only safe way is to keep feelings under wraps.

Badger Squeaks: A Tale of Two Guinea Pigs

Here I are…

Squeak! Hello. I is Badger. I is Guinea Pig. Please don’t kill me. I not very big and I plenty much scared. Tremble tremble.

Ooh, I done a poo. And ‘nother one.

Mmmmn, nice green stuff with twiddly bits up middle, all crispy and crunchy, yum, yum. Rusty gate noise. More rusty gate noise.

I share big wooden thing with red pig sister twin called Star. Silly name. She not star. She fat and furry, like me. Eek, eek, just falled in food bowl, not comfy, legs up in air. Help! Don’t eat me. I only little. Not much meaty stuff on small piglet.

Ooh, ‘normous giantess outside, making odd soundy things; she weird! She put nice orange long thing in. If I rock bowl, might fall out…

Leggies against side…not good…aaah! feel sick…

Star, she wheeking and weeing; she showing sharp pointy teeth, and pointing bum into straw; she not brave guinea pig, not like me.

A long time-a-yesterday year, huge Goddess pickeded us up, and put in slidy blue cage. We not stupid, you know. Know our colours and numbers, one, two, thirty-ten, red-and-pink-and-green-and…fnee, fnee, big hand grabbing bowl…

Back in dark pig ages, on long many bit journeys to thing called Gar Den, I ‘scaped! Me, Badger, clever little pig, saw her hand not quite tight and jumpeded – wheeeeeeeeeeeeee, all lovely through wet air, cos Ray-Ning, and landed kersplump in Amazon Forest they Youmans call Hedge.

I hided in scratchy tree den for years; it were muchfun; she couldn’t catch me cos I were scurry scurry on little paws in teeny holes and, bang, into next door’s bottles and all lovely squishy mound, bit smelly but warm.

She lied down on grass and it were funny! I could see her, and her big talky thing opening wide and my name coming out, and some rudey words too, like, ‘Badger! Come here, you little …..’

No, I not say, I very polite cavy. Not like her!

She got Big God too, with strange big stringy hat on stick. What he going to wear that for? Got holes in.

Star, she very frighted, mega wees and poos and meepy noises, and, ‘Badger! Come back! Me scared! You get eated by catdoghorse!’

It gotted dark, and plenty lots water fell from sky on me; I wet cold guinea pig, not such nice, bit scary; up above filled with silvery plate, and shiny bits on back and Gar Den, and lots of cats looking at me and making ‘OWWWWWWW!‘ noise. Not like.

Some red up there came in soon and lighted all my trees up, and made the dark go away, and some hot came in too and drieded my fur a bit.

God got out his hat and wings and flied down the Gar Den, flap flap! Goddess standed there sounding like lots of pigs having fight.

I liked this game! Till God put hat thing in my way, and Goddess stuck head in near me and made me jump in air; I runned, and called, ‘Star! Star! Help!’ but she were eating anapple.

String hat bited me all over, and I were on back, not diggiefied for small pig, and lifting high high up into sky.

Don’t drop me! Don’t kill me! Squeaeeeeeeeeek! More squeaeeeeeeeeek!

And that was end of braveness. Back in cage. No more Free Dumb. Me sad cavy.

Still stuck on back. Bit barrassing. Feel a nidiot.

‘Badger,’ I hear, ‘you silly little guinea pig! What have you done? Here, let me pick you up! There’s a good girl!’

Not tummy, not tummy, not tummy…ouch, tummy!

But she got warm hand and snuggly fur, and she stroke not bad for Youman, and I give little happiness noise like oil on rusty gate, and she make much of!

Good day night!

Cultural Spacecraft Debate…

HOPE-X_spacecraft

Aha! 10, 9, 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 – TAKE-OFF!!

Thrusts on Super-Charge! Zooooooooom!

Very phallic, the whole thing. Come, Firmament, let me slip you a rockety length, you star-twinkling old slapper, you! Weyhey!!!

Ok, so NASA‘ s latest ejaculation, albeit of the virtual kind, is to be a variation on the old Balloon Debate Concept, is it? With a precious load of CULTURE?!

Did I hear you aright, oh Silver-Tongued One?

CULTURE?

Why? What is the bloody point?

Look at it this way: If the idea is to save the best this benighted species is capable of, presumably to populate another planet with our foetid morals and Celebrity obsessed crap masquerading as art, the underlying suspicion has to be that the world, as we know it, is buggered. And, furthermore, that all sentient life has been flash-fried, decimated by heinous disease or Dinosaured out of existence.

As long as we think, in our arrogance, that we are alone in the Universe, that we are the best the Creator could manage – ye gods, he must have been having an off-day when he came up with humanity, mustn’t he?! – we can continue to delude ourselves that the paucity of spirit, the want of talent and the thin dribblings of corporate tossers constitutes greatness…

But, we are fools, aren’t we? Any other civilisation would, in all probability, be light-years ahead of us in all the cultural realms – and would recognise the child’s tin buried in the sandpit nature of so much of what we bow slavishly down before.

Are we, in this Promptish world, going to be accompanying our prized Best Of – or is the implication that we have been conveniently euthanased so that the story fits?

My cynical self says this: Bung in an enormous vat of live yogurt (counts as culture, in its own inimitable way!) and enough spoons to satisfy the most pernickety of aliens.

I could furnish you with the epitome of the centuries – the true masters of their spheres: the great musicians, painters, writers, sculptors, poets and madmen.

But, I won’t. Because ‘culture’ has been so bowdlerized and buggered about with, so efficiently dragged down to the commonest of Common Denominators, that many of us wouldn’t recognise true talent if it used its fine cheese-wire to decapitate us.

As, in a very real sense, it has…

Do we want to confront genius? Or snuggle up to the faux comfort of duck-down, fuck-down, suck-down cultural wasteland-imprinted ‘sleb’ duvets?

The two are not compatible.

In Balloon Debates, you justify, through cogent and powerful rhetoric, why YOU should be the only one to stay in the rapidly sinking dirigible.

And I suppose, to continue my initial analogy, this NASA gig is just another way of firing millions of sperm up into the great Vaginal Vault, knowing that only one of them is going to end up meeting the great Cosmic Egg!

In which case, that metaphorical tadpole of the testes had better be the finest minds compressed into one pulsating, tail-waggling jelly – so that the true seed of cultural creation can bang that ovum, Baby, and bring forth the offspring of brilliance!

Alienora, the Blogging Brassiere…

Written in response to a Daily Prompt which asked us to produce an INFOMERCIAL.

Red rag to a bull or what?

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INFOMERCIAL?!!

Fucking HELL! What a repulsive word! Had no idea what it meant – and, having looked it up, am none the wiser…

Except for this: if you are expecting a programme of an hour’s duration, you’re on the wrong channel, mate!

Right! That’s got you sitting up, I trust! That’s pushed a few buttons of righteousness, caused a mass tongue-clicking in Tediousville.

To put it another way, if you have switched on in anticipation of Candy Floss, pert, youthful mammaries encased in lingerie or romantic bollocks, think again.

I don’t DO sweetness. I throw up over shallow and vapid romance. Bosoms I can do, but am buggered if I’m hoicking them out just to sell a blog!

I tell it – no, I shout, scream, and exalt it! – the way it is.

My blog IS me. It is, at times, big, loud, hilarious, vulgar, bawdy and blunt.  At other times, it is lyrical, mystical, descriptive. And HONEST.

If you want lies, flattery and all the other tricks of the Politician’s trade, listen no further because, sure as dicks are dicks (in all senses!), you won’t get such stuff here.

Diplomacy is not my bag.

But humanity IS.

In a sense I am EVERYWOMAN. Maybe EVERYMAN too!

I think I represent what it is to be fully human, totally open to all the chemical surges, feelings, moods and aches and pains. I flinch often – but I do not turn away from describing what it feels like to be sad, anxious, happy, turned on, despairing and all the other doubloons in the great Pirate Chest of the emotions.

I have, in the past, been described thusly: A masculine mind in a feminine body…

And there may be some truth in that assertion.

Certainly I am BUILT, as the saying goes, STACKED higher than a large freight-load  on one of those huge ocean-going buggers. We won’t go into the difficulties I have experienced over the years finding tit hammocks up to the job of supporting Cecil and Rodney (as I affectionately refer to my pride ‘n ‘joys!); suffice it to say that whalebone figures prominently, as do steel girders…

Up in the cockpit of the Alienora plane, away from the sprawling acres of the body, there is very different pilot at the controls! Definitely NOT a lady! Has none of the necessary accomplishments, frankly. Has all the domestic aptitude of a rogue tigress, though fierce in protective love for her cub. Has no sense of fashion and usually looks like Wurzel Gummidge’s  Granny – or one who got lost in the maze of the seventies and is thirty years too old to be wearing that kind of latter-day hippie trailingness! And, perhaps worst of all, one who is more at home with the four-lettered than the honeyed word.

But, do you know what?! I am PROUD of who and what I am! Damnit, I really like my bolshiness and feistiness and refusal to be what society dictates I should be! I love the fact that I am not going to conform to Authority, that I call a spade a spade, that I write so bouncily about sex – and that, defiant to the last, I wear DMs at every opportunity. Yes! Even though I am nearer Bus Pass than Male Making a Pass time, I take delight in kicking against the pricks – whilst also celebrating their wondrousness (if you get my drift!) – and screaming, shouting and generally causing as much mayhem as I can before I am carried off – resisting to the last, I hope! – in the box from which there is no bodily return!!

And this uncompromising attitude is precisely what I bring to my blog.

Some of you will warm to me and admire me; some of you might even learn to love me! Stranger things have happened!

Others will loathe me on sight (saves time, you know!) and will think I am a complete bitch.

You will, inevitably, disagree with some of what I say – and there are bound to be those amongst you who will disapprove of some of my thinking. People will get the wrong end of the stick.

Let ‘em, says I!

If you climb aboard my crazy blogging wagon, if you are up for that mad dash across the Prairies of the Wild West, I can promise you that it will never be dull, cosy or anodyne. Infuriating, yes; uncomfortable, frequently; dangerous, very probably!

But, though you may go white in the face with fear, as you cling desperately to the sides, though you may laugh until you are sick one moment and cry until your eyeballs fall out the next, you WILL be enlightened, inspired, touched, amused and uplifted.

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Alienora: the Blogging Brassiere!

Get one now, whilst stocks last!

Now, bugger off!

Anonymous Letter to my Attacker

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I wrote this over a year ago, before I knew most of you, and am reposting it.

I was sexually attacked, by a stranger, on September 1st 1988.

He was never found. I could not identify him. I have no idea who he was. That hurts still. It scares me.  I was never able to express my anguish, fear, anger and pain.

He is still out there.

People were patient for a few weeks. Then, when I remained ‘disturbed’, many grew angry, accused me of being self-centred, stubborn, of making a meal out of nothing.

I was told, ‘You were lucky. You weren’t raped or murdered.’ Leaving me with the feeling that my brokenness would only have been justified had things been even worse.

Why, oh world, do we judge and quantify other people’s pain in this way?

There are sad parallels in this, echoes for so many of us who walk around with hidden wounds – and are accused, by the empathy-free minority, of feeling sorry for ourselves and not getting over it to order.

NO gratuitous, unprovoked attack upon another human being can be justified – and those who play the, ‘Oh, but it was only…’ game are, in effect, condoning an act of violence, an act, furthermore, which could lead to far worse in the future. Because the intent to hurt another is, for some people, addictive – and giving them Licence to Wound is lethal.

 

You deserve no greeting phrase and you aren’t going to get one.

How dare you feel you can grab hold of me and throw me around, bang my head and cut my lip, just so that your shaky sense of self, your doubt about your own sexuality, can be assuaged for a few seconds?

How dare you hold me so cheap, so utterly anonymous, that, even in a situation of abuse, I was but one of seven?

How could you even entertain the thought that pain, brutality and intimidation would turn me on, make me want your disgusting probings and wounding scrapes?

How dare you think that crushing another human being to turn yourself on, to get your rocks off, is a sign of masculinity, of strength and power?

As I lay on the torture bed of that pavement, bleeding and crying and screaming out for help that never came, I was far stronger than you will ever be. Because I do not feel I have to wrest control from every situation in order to make some fucking specious point.

How dare you pretend to like and fancy women by day – and then reduce them to trembling nothings by night? Why do I say this? Because you were never caught, were you? You never faced the years and decades of trauma, self-disgust, terror and diminished belief in your own sexual allure. You never faced even a day of feeling like damaged goods.

And the fact that no one caught up with you tells its own story, doesn’t it? Someone, somewhere, must know who or what you are. Someone, a wife, a girlfriend – for all I know a boyfriend, since you CLEARLY loathed women – must have seen that unholy red in your eyes, felt the terrifying seethe in your mind – and, what? Blamed themselves for provoking you? Made themselves out to be in the wrong for not satisfying you as masochistically as you demanded?

Wherever, and whoever you are, you are living a lie. You must be. Otherwise that predatory violence and fury would have boiled over and killed someone by now.

You were, I suspect, in the Closet. Not a repressed homosexual. No. A repressed sadist. A potential murderer. A man whose loathing of all that is female was so intense that it burst out in this one night of scatter-gun attacks, of mindless punching, grabbing, slamming slapping rage.

But, you are not alone, are you? There are others like you out there – men and women – who hide their desire to pull wings off butterflies, to torment small mammals, to kick, punch, humiliate and dominate anyone perceived as ‘weaker’ than they are: people who are aroused by pain and fear, who actively enjoy  tears and sobs and pleas to stop, to show mercy and care.

You tried to destroy me because you could, because it was fun, it made you feel like a real man – even though you were clearly nothing of the kind. It gave you twisted power, a high, a glow…

And then you fucked off, didn’t you, cowardly loser. You ran away and left me. You have, no doubt, forgotten the whole thing – or, even worse, have turned it into some kind of unholy wanking fantasy.

But, I am left carrying the burden of that night, aren’t I?

You are inhuman, a man without a conscience, without the slightest understanding of compassion, empathy, kindness.

You probably justified your attack by telling yourself that I was obviously asking for it, that I was giving out sex signals or some such rubbish. People like you read sexual acquiescence into rabbit-in-the-headlight terrified and shaking silence, don’t you?

Because the truth is this: since you and your tribe have no recognisable human feelings, you give not a shit how anyone else feels: it’s all about YOU and what you want. And God help anyone who thwarts you, pisses you off or gets in your way.

Only t’ six hours? Luxury!

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Four Yorkshiremen…

This should be read in a Yorkshire accent if possible!

Wesley Otterthwaite:

Ee, it were right awful, it were. Six hours we ‘ad to wait, in ‘t broiling sun, wit’ knackered Air Con – and t’ wean screamin’ ‘is ‘ead off. Toilets were full o’ drunken Chavs, sippin’ multi-coloured cocktails wit’ names like sex acts and then throwin’ up all o’er shop. T’lad were so bored, ‘e chewed all ‘is own toenails off.

Terry Braithwaite:

Six hour? SIX HOUR? LUXURY! I’d a killed for only six hour, me. There was the one journey, only goin’ to Glasgow we were, could’a drove it in five hour, mind, but the wife gets car sick. Waited in that terminal for twelve hours, we did, and couldn’t go out in ‘t fresh air due to low-flying dirigible shaped like large naked porn star with big boobies. Kids got so bored they played leapfrog over a line of nuns – dead embarrassing, that were – and littlest went wee wee all over posh bint’s hand luggage. Then, when we got on ‘t plane, some daft bugger tried to join Mile High Club as Pilot went down ‘t runway – and had to be surgically removed when t’ Co-Pilot ‘ad to slam on brakes to avoid line of snipers trying to take out ‘t naughty balloon in ‘t sky…

Darren Scuttlesthorpe:

We really ‘ad it tough. Stuck in ‘t military airport for five weeks, to catch plane that’d took off three years afore I were born; wife in traction after goin’ arse over tit on puddle of vomit; kids playing hopscotch in ‘t middle of longest queue, trying couple’s shoe laces together, shouting, ‘I’ve got a bomb and I’m not afraid to use it!’ at Customer Services Desk. And when we got on ‘t manky old plane, after two minutes’ sleep and mouthful of molten lava for breakfast, we was four to a seat, the gangways was crammed with licensed bandits selling sarnies at a King’s Ransom a go and queue for toilet went right from one end o’t plane to t’other.

Jake IlkleyMoorBaTat:

Right! We got t’airport in 1979, just before ‘t Iranian Crisis, wit’ just the two kids. Over ‘next three decades in Terminal Five, we made nest under ‘t luggage carousel, where we lived, in ‘t cardboard box, had three more kids and waited, in vain, for Concorde to come up on ‘t board. By ‘time EasiFlop plane took off, ‘t wife ‘ad gone funny in ‘t head, we’d forgotten what country we was ‘eaded for and ended up in Manchester;  I ‘ad to lay me tools out on ‘t conveyer belt -and ‘t Pilot were a GIRL.  What IS the world comin’ to? That’s what I ask…

Bright Moon brings trailing in her wake…

 

She burns my mind and sifts through the extraneous ashes of the ego.

Such extremes she brings in the wake of her swollen belly and lazy lighted labour across the birthing stool of the sky.

She feeds my mind full of the tangled chains of insecurity – so that, locked within wordlessness, I shudder and blink and swallow tears back down into the ocean within.

She creates illusions and delusions of gross power, so that people seem larger than life and threateningly harsh in the hook-nosed parody of screeching anger personified by Punch and Judy. She paints me as a mewling miniature in the canvases of my own soul, so that I run from room to room, picture to picture, magnifying glass in trembling hand, searching, searching, never finding…

She brings me dreams of such bright and colourful eroticism that I am convinced, briefly, that the man’s tongue is teasing open my wet lips and that the full swell of my breasts is parting to receive him in a pre-penetrative act.

She leaves dark red and black stains on the floors of my mind so that I feel I am a bloodied afterbirth, a nothing, a mistake that should have been rubbed out long ago. The spears of her rays – mysteriously flame in colour – both wound and heal. But the pain is severe and lasts for a life time of seconds, hours, time frantically looping back on its essential non-existence.

She cuts clean through, a circular saw of milky radiance, deadly and beautiful. She cuts me down to size, reminds me that the ‘I’ causing such anguish is thistledown in the wind of eternity, is tethered only lightly to this universe – that my preoccupations and fears and sadness count for nothing in the gigantic fresco of the Ages of Man.

But, as my lower self crashes and bashes and cries and hides amidst the ruins of former selves, she reminds me that, from the jagged rocks of the inner Wasteland comes the sprightly hare, the White Hart, the Salmon of Wisdom – and, stepping lightly through the ashes, tall, flame-haired and commanding, my higher self, the she-cat in waiting.

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Wayne Trebilcock and the Durex Boys: Part 2

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In this section, Wayne Trebilock 2, the Welbeloved Brothers (jobbing builders renowned for their Weapons of Mass Seduction) arrive –  to lay rubber on the bottom of the school’s moat – and Geraldine finally gets to meet Wayne!

The Archers, based upon members of the Craft Department at the school I taught in, relieve stress by firing arrows from the battlements of the castle/school!

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CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

The builders moved in the next day, though the horse was a bit of a surprise, I have to say. It was break time and I was up on the battlements with Jasper and co when we spied a most peculiar entourage toiling its way up the steep hill to St Thelma’s. First was a Land Rover, crammed to the gunwales with men. Behind that there was a Volvo that was pulling a caravan and, bringing up the rear, though not apparently being towed by anything, was the horse.

Red started to whistle the theme tune from ‘Steptoe and Son’ and, as the caravanserai turned the corner, his reasoning became obvious: craning out of the far window of the Land Rover was a wisened little party with a pipe in its mouth and great blasts of smoke blowing back down the hill.

‘It’s Old Man Steptoe!’ Cap cried, having finally decoded Red’s somewhat tuneless dirge.

‘It’s bloody Grandad!’ Jasper muttered. ‘Sod gets everywhere!’

We watched, fascinated, as they rattled over the drawbridge before coming to a stop in the courtyard.

‘God, they’re not setting up camp down there, are they?’ said Jasper. ‘They’ll be mobbed by nubile fifth year girls, the jammy buggers!’

The builders had got into a huddle outside their vehicles while the horse, having evidently got rid of its last meal on and around the drawbridge, was now settling down to a nice soothing graze.

‘Maybe they’re not the builders,’ commented Red. ‘Look more like the Antique Gypsies to me!’

They looked far from antique to me, more like toned twenties, but I could see where Red was coming from: there was a certain, how shall I put it, shiftiness about them which suggested a life at variance with the strict letter of the law.

Red must have realised he’d confused me because he carried on, ’They come round to people’s houses, sniff out any valuables, rubbish the lot and then sneak back under cover of darkness and purloin anything which can be flogged at auction.’

He might have said more but, at that moment, the Head swept out to meet the men.

‘This should be fun,’ Red said.

The horse chose this moment to relieve itself at great length and with evident enjoyment. A better stale I’d rarely seen.

The Head leapt nimbly to one side just in time, otherwise he’d have been wearing it.

‘And you’d be?’ the Head said pompously.

One of the men stepped forward and put out a hand, which had clearly seen better days.

‘Fred Wellbeloved, brothers and Grandad,’ he announced. ‘Layers of rubber for the whole of Cornwall. No job too small. Satisfaction guaranteed. And the horse,’ he finished somewhat ambiguously.

‘Well, you can’t camp here,’ the Head said recovering some of his equilibrium. ‘Health and Safety rules are very strict about livestock near educational establishments.’

Fred laughed. ‘Sorry, squire,’ he said, ‘but Hengist here ain’t livestock; he’s part of the team being as you’d never get a steam roller down into that there moat. And we got special permission from the county council to set up camp right here on account of it’s protected and so forth. Don’t want us all freezing our gnadgers off, now do we?’

‘But…’ stammered the Head.

‘Don’t you worry, gov,’ said Fred. ‘You won’t hardly know we’re here. Quiet as mice, we are.’

The Head looked most put out: this clearly was not going the way he had envisaged.

‘But,’ he said,’ what about, er, latrine facilities vis à vis the horse?’

‘Don’t get yourself in a lather, mate. When nature calls, Hengist answers, if you get my meaning. Your missus grow roses? Brilliant for roses, is horse manure, brings them on a treat. People pay serious money for dung, you know, and you’d have loads of the stuff for free. Look on the bright side! Now, if you’ll excuse us; we got work to do. See you around, squire!’

‘Round one to the builders or whoever the hell they are!’ Red announced. ‘They should brighten things up no end. All the first year girls’ll want to pet the nag, while the fifth year ones will want to shag the blokes. Just as well they are rubber layers, eh?’

‘Oh God,’ said Cap, ‘believe it or not, I hadn’t even thought of that. Must be losing my touch! But if you think of it in those terms, they are about to put a giant prophylactic down a moat aided by a horse – sounds like a porn film, does it not?’

‘We’ve had the Dulux Dog,’ quipped Red. ‘Now we’ve got the Durex Men!’

We watched for a bit longer. The five men tethered the caravan and began to unload their equipment. Soon the courtyard began to resemble a builders’ yard. The horse appeared to be asleep – or dead; one can’t always tell with horses.

I had more pressing matters to occupy me, however: next lesson was to be my first meeting with Wayne Trebilcock. I just hoped that Clive had been singing my praises loud and clear. There are times when it is important to let a child make up its own mind – and this was definitely not one of them. I wanted him firmly and speedily on my side, to make up for the ones I’d already lost in that class. I had a little longer to wait than I’d initially thought, however. The little darlings had performed a preemptive strike and locked me out of my own room. Fortunately, there was a connecting door leading from Tom’s classroom. As I walked through, I could see that Giblet was nesting once more. Perhaps he thought he was a hibernating bear cub. Nothing about that boy would surprise me.

I felt quite angry by the time I got into my room, but decided not to play into their hands by admitting it. ‘We have a new boy starting in this class today,’ I said brightly.

‘We know,’ said Gary lugubriously. ‘That’s why we locked the door. ‘E’s a nutter, Miss.’

Pot. Kettle. Black. ‘Oh?’ I queried.

‘’E’s got ‘is own coffin!’ added Gary.

‘It’ll come to us all in the end,’ I replied. Perhaps Wayne believed in forward planning?

‘No,’ said Kevin, obviously feeling I’d missed the point. ‘Not for being dead in!’

Call me conventional, but I couldn’t offhand think of any other obvious use for a coffin. I mean you can’t cook in one or plant your begonias or have a bath.

‘’E sleeps in ‘is coffin,’ shrilled Gary, ’with the lid down and all.’

‘Does he wear a shroud?’ I asked sarcastically and, as it turned out, unwisely. I’d forgotten how easily a single word could, as it were, ignite a red herring with this crew.

‘What’s one of them, then?’ Kevin, inevitably, was caught on the revolving door of vocabulary, unable to come in or go out.

‘”S one of them sheet things what you wrap deaduns in,’ said Gary proudly. ‘Like the shroud of Tulip. I seen a telly programme on that.’

‘You don’t have to use a sheet,’ interrupted James. ‘My nan wore her best clothes. You look stupid in a sheet.’

‘In any case, ‘said Peter, who’d been mercifully quiet up to now, ‘It’s Turin not Tulip. Honestly, can’t you get your facts straight, Gary. It’s not exactly nuclear physics, is it?’

Fortunately Gary was too absorbed by the whole coffin/shroud dilemma to take offence at Peter’s words. ‘Ow does that Wayne breathe anyway?’ he asked the class at large.

‘Praps he’s one of them undeads,’ suggested Kevin. ‘Praps he’s all sewn together under his clothes, like that Frankincense monster. He’s prob’ly got someone’s else’s brain.’

‘Bit like you then, Pendoggett,’ muttered Peter. Despite himself, he was obviously as gripped by the macabre rumours as the next man. ‘I wonder if it’s silk-lined or just wood?’ he mused.

‘What? His brain?’ asked Gary. ‘Wood for brains! Wood for brains!’

‘No, his coffin, you spaz,’ Peter said viciously.’ Tight fit, I should imagine: snug. You couldn’t turn over in the night.’

At that moment, the door – which I’d unlocked – opened and in came the putative zombie, Wayne Trebilcock. The rest of them were instantly as silent as the grave. I have to say that, just for one brief moment, the desire to make the sign of the cross came upon me.

‘Oi gart larst,’ were Wayne’s first words in a Cornish accent so broad, you could have mangled a whole field of wurzels with it. ‘E told Oi to go roight dewn thart corridar to the cattycoomers, but there were a gurt brick wall…’

‘Never mind. You’re here now,’ I said. ‘Sit down.’ I gestured to the chair next to Kevin and Wayne sat down.

With the idea of catching their attention while they were stunned, I said, ‘OK, now Wayne’s here, I’d like you all to get out a pen and, Karen, give each person a sheet of paper please.’

We had made progress since September in this area, if no other: each pupil now had a pen, of sorts. The original owner of the Sherbet Fountain – who had turned out to be Peter, who else? – still brought a selection of sweets to every lesson, but even he lined a revolting looking pen up by the side of his tuck.

There was something horribly familiar about the shape of Wayne’s huge bag, now I came to look at it closely. I know a sarcophagus when I see one, and I was looking at one right now. Wayne unzipped the lid and took out a skeleton-shaped pencil case, from which he extracted a pen adorned with a skull motif: Very fetching.

I had decided to base this month’s work on a series of tasks based on the poem ‘Jabberwocky’ and had already written the poem up on the board, fortunately. Striding up and down, doing the actions where possible, I recited. I gyred and I gimbled; I paused in uffish thought; I even staggered manfully under the weight of an imaginary head on the end of my vorpal blade.  There was a baffled pause at the end.

‘So ‘e died then, did ‘e?’ Kevin asked.

‘Who?’ I said.

‘The brillig,’ Kevin explained. ‘im what got his ‘ead chopped off in that machine.’

‘What machine, thicko,’ said James, ’there weren’t no machine.’

‘There was,’ insisted Kevin. ‘Didn’t you listen to miss? It’s like one of they combined hamster things what farmers use and its blades went snick snack snorum as it cut ‘im to pieces.’

‘OK,’ I said. ‘I’ll explain the storyline for all of you…’

‘Oi met one of they jabberwockies when oi was outside moi bardy the other day,’ said Wayne.

I couldn’t hope to compete with that, so I quickly dictated the story of the poem and then got them copying while I thought about my latest class member. Fortunately, they all liked copying because it meant they didn’t have to think. We’d also come to an agreement last term whereby they could use any colour of pen they wanted as long as the work got done. The standard of handwriting was execrable, Kevin’s being the one exception, but the colours were vibrant.

By lunchtime, when I went outside to snoop, the Durex Men seemed to have a very cosy little set up. The caravan, tight against one of the inner walls, now had a small flight of steps leading up to the door; long planks lay in piles all around and the boys, reclining on deckchairs, were drinking cups of tea and smoking. Of Hengist, slightly worryingly, there was no sign.

The battlements were calling, so up I went. The usual suspects had beaten me to it and were leaning over, as if indulging in a sponsored vomit. Jasper spoke first.

‘Fun though this is undoubtedly going to be, chaps, I can foresee a problem – viz, they’re going to restrict our practice times considerably. Tempted as I am to use that bloody horse or, even better, Grandad as a target, I can see that this would be frowned upon in certain quarters. Any suggestions?’

Red suggested moving the whole centre of operations down into the staff car park and aiming down the hill. ‘Can’t do that,’ Bilbo objected. ‘I’ve nothing against picking off a few of the more noisome of our teaching groups, but I think a hail of arrows meeting perfectly innocent visitors is slightly over the top.’

‘Or through the gizzard, as the case may be,’ said Cap. ‘No, I think we’re going to have to move to the opposite side of the battlements and use that space pointing out over the forbidden hill. I don’t see any other way round it. It’s got that socking great iron fence to stop the little buggers getting in. Bit of a challenge, I say.’

‘Bit of a bloody climb,’ Red said. ‘Looks as if it’s practically vertical. We’re none of us as young as we were, except Gerri, probably all keel over with heart attacks.’

The Trappist, who’d been communing with nature, suddenly reappeared.

‘Look!’ he said succinctly. ’Here comes the jail bait!’

Since we’d last looked down, things had moved on. Fred and brothers had gone, as had a fair few of the planks, which suggested that they were actually doing some work. Hengist remained conspicuous by his absence, but a loud and tuneless voice was bellowing snatches from ‘Have some Madeira, my dear!’ It seemed to be coming from the inner sanctum of the caravan. Suddenly a posse of fifth year girls, tarted up to the nines, came in from stages left and right. Flouting the strict rules on the use of make-up, they teetered in on high heels so precipitous that I would have kissed both ankles goodbye had I so much as tried them on. With their undulating buttocks and swaying hips, they resembled a platoon of fighting camels going into battle.

‘…it affects yer prowess!’ screamed the voice from the caravan.

The girls, not seeing the objects of their desire, had evidently decided to take the bull by the horns and were mincing up to the caravan.

‘Have some Madeira, my dear…’ warbled the voice getting into full chorus mode.

Lana, of the Himalayan appendages, knocked firmly on the door. The voice stopped in its tracks. There was a pause, during which the girls giggled and adjusted their skirts.

The door was thrown open with a suddenness that took the girls by surprise. They jumped back. With the inevitability of Greek Tragedy, there stood Grandad, in need of a good iron, wearing a gaily hued beach towel and nothing else.

It was a splendid moment. You could see from Grandad’s face that he thought his luck was in. He leered; he smirked; he wiggled his posterior suggestively. It was like the courtship dance of an elderly turkey. ‘Come in, my lovelies!’ he said in what was probably meant to be a seductive voice, but sounded more like a vulture choking on an awkwardly placed rib.

The girls lost their nerve almost immediately. They slunk off like a bunch of deflated meerkats. Had it not been so funny, I would almost have felt sorry for them.

‘Good lesson in reality,’ Jasper said heartlessly. ‘dream of fit young things and princes and what do you get? Grandad! Not so much a frog as a skunk. Bitten off more than they can chew there, methinks.’

Wayne Trebilcock: Part 1

 

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Three of my favourite characters in my novel ‘Long-Leggety Beasties’ are Wayne Trebilcock, Kevin Pendoggett and Seth Golightly. The last of the three is the Head of Rural Science, a man who lost a leg during an unfortunate accident involving a rooster and a rake and whose prosthesis lives a troubled life of its own.

Wayne and Kevin are two year eleven pupils – and what they lack in brain cells they more than make up for in personality! Kevin’s parents loved the name ‘Kevin’ so much that they called his brother Nivek! Like you do!

Wayne, a new arrival at the school, is introduced in the pre-term House meeting for staff.

Anyone who has ever taught in a secondary school will recognise much of what I am saying, even if the characters are wildly exaggerated…

In the second part of this (which I will post as a separate post), Geraldine (the narrator of the novel), and the rest of her bottom set year eleven group, meet Wayne for the first time…

Bart Hogg is Geraldine’s Head of House, a man, as I put it, ‘...of the Easter Island style of good looks, with a voice like a hamster in a blender…’

When I started teaching, year eleven was called the fifth year – and I have kept that name in the novel.

 

After a few more general notices, Bart came to the real shocker:

‘We’ve got a new inmate starting tomorrow: Fifth year boy, with form.’

There was a groan at this. I must have looked as puzzled as I felt.

‘As you can imagine, Geraldine,’ explained Bart, ‘ just after Christmas of the fifth year is the very worst time to start a new school, but this one’s going to be trouble with a capital T. I’m warning all of you to be on your guard. He’s going to be a bottom setter, I’m afraid, which means he’ll be in lessons with all the other fifth year head cases. I’m sure I don’t need to name names.

‘He has been expelled from several schools, to the best of my knowledge, and the comment from his previous school was brief and to the point: “Future member of Dirty-Raincoat Brigade. Avoid at all costs.”

‘Unfortunately the reality is that more pupils mean more money and even if this child committed an act of gross indecency in front of the Board of Governors we’d be hard put to refuse him entrance.’

‘Does it specify what his particular penchant is?’ asked Seth Golightly.

‘Buggering owls, perhaps?’ suggested Tom who, like me, was a third year tutor.

‘There’s no evidence that he finds our feathered friends any more erotic than the average man,’ Bart said, rifling through his notes. ‘Though there is a small note here to the effect that the lad is obsessed by death.’

‘What’s his name?’ Tom asked.

‘Wayne Trebilcock,’ Bart answered, not a muscle moving in his face.

‘In name only, it is devoutly to be hoped,’ muttered Seth.

‘I expect you are beginning to realise, Geraldine, that certain names carry connotations in teaching. Waynes are inclined to be below average in intellect and above average in nuisance value, I’m sorry to say. You’ll find that, by the time you are ready to have children, there will be very few unsullied names left.’

‘Have we a likeness of the blighter?’ asked Seth. ‘Know your enemy and all that.’

Bart turned a page and frowned. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘He looks distinctly syndromey to me!’

‘Ye gods!’ said Tom. ‘It’s Cro Magnon man! It’s the missing link! Look at that forehead! You could balance a tea tray on it!’

I took the photo from him and drank Wayne’s visage in. He looked like a gorilla.

‘Is he unpleasant sort of trouble?’ I asked, knowing there was a 50/50 chance that he’d join my English group.

‘I don’t know,’ Bart admitted. ‘But, for what it’s worth, my guess would be no. I suspect he’ll out-giblet Giblet, if you see what I mean. I doubt he’s bright enough to be a Peter Dixon. He should really be in an ESN school, but they don’t want him either, on account of his unspecified trouble.

‘I know it’s difficult, but we must try and give this lad a chance. If he doesn’t last, he doesn’t last, but it behoves us as professionals, and adults, to try and help him fit in.’

‘As long as I don’t have to procure cadavers for his gratification,’ Seth muttered.

Break arrived and, as I was on duty, I saw the children arriving. Quite a few came into the office to say hello to me, which was lovely. Once I’d chucked a few girls out of the toilets, I went along to the fifth year tutor bases, basically to see if I could catch a glimpse of Exhibit B. I’d checked and he was in the same group as Clive Penderby.

I walked in and Clive was lounging against the radiator talking to some of his friends. When he saw me, he raised a languid hand in greeting and strolled over.

“Good morning, Miss Dolan, and belated compliments of the season to you. A word in your ear: we have a new chap – lift doesn’t go anywhere near the top story, if you catch my drift. Definite example of Mr Hogg’s pet theory.’

I was intrigued. ‘What theory would that be, then?’ I asked Clive.

‘One with which I heartily concur,’ replied Clive. ‘The bigger the school bag, the smaller the brain. Works every time! As soon as I clapped eyes on our new recruit, I thought to myself, “Aha, here’s a man who’ll have a portable trunk for lessons!” And I have to say I was bang on. I’m not sure what he keeps in there – his bed maybe – but he’s asking for scoliosis to add to all his other infirmities. Take a look!’

Casually sauntering to the teacher’s desk, as if looking for something in the drawer, I gazed at the new boy. He was thickset and long of arm, with an almost continuous line of eyebrows and the deepest eye sockets I’ve seen outside the primate house in the zoo. To be fair, he didn’t look unpleasant as such. I saw immediately what Clive meant when I saw his bag – or should I say suitcase? – the sise of which tended to suggest that he was in another country when brains were being handed out.

A sudden inspiration hit me as I walked back to Clive.

‘Clive,’ I hissed. ‘See if you can befriend him, will you? I dread to think of the company he’ll keep otherwise.’

If Clive was shocked, he certainly didn’t show it.

‘Consider it done!’ he said with a faint smile. ‘I cannot promise blood-brotherhood, but I’ll see if we can rise to the dizzying heights of matiness!’

 

To be continued…

So, what HAVE I written in my life?

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‘What makes a proper writer?’ people often ask…

We get the answer to this one wrong all the time, don’t we?

We tend only to count those who are successful – wealthy and with many published books to their names – as TRUE writers.

Somehow, writing a blog doesn’t count. Nor does writing a journal, or letters, or emails. Nor does self-publishing.

Aren’t we completely missing the point here?

It is the WRITING that matters.

The only real question to ask is this:

Is writing your heart and soul, your life-blood, your very breath?

And, if the answer is an unequivocal, ‘Yes!‘ then you ARE a writer even if you live and die in complete obscurity and never publish a single syllable.

I have felt a failure this weekend. Why? Because I have not been traditionally published. Because I have no writing-generated money in the bank. Because I am not well-known. Because, despite my unusual name, I am NOT a NAME.

And then I thought, ‘Hey, hang on just a minute…look at what you have actually achieved!’

I started to make a little list, and here it is:

1) Four novels: ‘Heneghan‘ (set in Mid Wales: a taut prose-poetry novel); ‘Long-Leggety Beasties‘ (set in a fictional school in Cornwall, and a riot of bawdy humour, with some of the most eccentric teachers – and pupils! – you are ever likely to encounter); ‘Riding at the Gates of Sixty’ (novel on Virginia Woolf) and an unfinished one, set in Oxford where I was dragged up and written when I was in my late teens/early twenties. Of these, ‘LLB’ has been self-published on Amazon Kindle ((http://www.amazon.co.uk/Long-leggety-beasties-Alienora-Taylor-ebook/dp/B00A0XPUGG/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413097155&sr=1-2&keywords=long-leggety+beasties)- and the other two named ones both won prizes in the South West Arts Writers In Progress awards back in the eighties.

2) Play scripts : I wrote the first one when I was eleven – and have written several more since then. One, my own take on Noel Langley’sThe Land of Green Ginger‘, I am hoping will eventually be performed by the local drama group.

3) Journal ……..: There must be a hundred or more volumes of it by now, stretching all the way back to January 1972, when, aged thirteen years and 363 days, I wrote the first date (January 7th) in a school exercise book, and so began what has become a forty-plus year habit! My blogging style comes from the journal.

4) Blogging.…….: I am, from habit and inclination, a disciplined writer – and, during my twenty-eight months as a blogger, have written something virtually every day. I must have written well over a thousand blog posts – though, being very self-critical, I have deleted over half of them because they did not come up to my high standards.

5) Reviews………..: Since I saw Living Spit’sThe Six Wives of Henry V111‘, back in April 2012, I have written several play reviews; I have also reviewed books in my time – and was, in fact, asked to to so for the first time when I was nine!

6) Letters/emails: During the seventies and eighties, I was a prolific letter writer; now, I am equally prolific on the email and text front – and I absolutely LOVE communicating with friends and family this way; it gives me immense pleasure.

7) Criticism………:For thirty years, that was my job in a sense: Every night, I’d come home from school with a huge pile of exercise books – and would spend HOURS correcting errors and writing constructive criticism!

8) Poetry……………..: Writing poetry started at around the same time as the journal – and, although I don’t see myself as a poet, it is something I enjoy reading and writing.

9) Essays…………..: As previously stated, I did English and History A’levels (both essay-rich subjects!) and a degree in English Literature, followed by an English/History PGCE. Loads of essays!

And this is not counting all the stories and projects I wrote as a child, and all the little bits and bobs I scribble down now – humorous lyrics, for example, and rude verses!

What have I written today?

Three posts, six pages of journal, a few texts – and some notes relating to magazines I can contact about either Greeting Cards gaglines or erotica!

Do I write every day?

One way or another, yes, I do.

So, to finish this off, let me just say this: I am not famous, or lionised; I am not wealthy or the recipient of prestigious awards; I do not appear on chat shows or watch my books being turned into highly lucrative films…

…though I think ‘LLB’ would be absolutely hilarious on the big screen!

But, I DO write, all the time – with love, creativity, humour, colour, bawdiness and passion for life!

And, if that isn’t being a writer, I don’t know what IS!

Publishing Short Stories the Traditional Way

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After two weeks of fretting, and tears, and sleepless nights, it suddenly hit me that I already have the raw material with which,  potentially, I can make a small living.

My words.

All this time, I have been cudgelling my panicking brain in a desperate attempt at stirring the beginnings of a new novel – and, of course, nothing came.

All this time, I have been spending hours online looking up jobs as a cleaner, or a lunch time supervisor in schools – or even as a Teaching Assistant – and have felt my heart and spirit dropping ever further into my boots, have felt the stress of it all taking me back to my final high-anxiety weeks and months as an English teacher; have felt this sense of, ‘Oh God, I really don’t want to go down that road again…’

Mike Steeden (one of the LOMM writers, as well as the owner of a damn fine blog of his own: http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/) gave me some much-needed inspiration and encouragement yesterday, after I wrote my ‘Vulgar Verses‘ post.

His suggestion – that I should write gaglines and rude verses for Greetings Cards – was so staggeringly brilliant that I was knocked back, and grinned all all my face at the very thought that I could, potentially, get paid for doing something I adore: Writing rude, risque and raucous material!

Thanks, Mike!

I have investigated and have already found a company in the USA which looks right up my Boulevard, and am going to write to them and send examples of my work!

And then it dawned on me: I have hundreds of short pieces I have written since June 2012, some of which I am very proud of, some of which are excellent pieces of writing in their own right – and the idea is taking shape rapidly.

‘Why don’t I gather them together in genre groups,’ I thought to myself, ‘and see if I can find a traditional publisher to publish them as books of short stories…’

One could be all humorous pieces, another prose- poetry; still another could be my growing collection of erotica, both funny and more serious; yet another could be family-related stories and so on…

I know I could do this as another self-published e-book – but let me be honest here:

I KNOW that the Amazon Kindle publishing route works like a dream for some, and you hear bracingly bright stories of unknowns going viral, making millions, appearing on Oprah and all the other tricks of that particular trade – but it has not worked that way for me, and ‘Long-Leggety Beasties‘ (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Long-leggety-beasties-Alienora-Taylor-ebook/dp/B00A0XPUGG/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413097155&sr=1-2&keywords=long-leggety+beasties), though admired and supported by some (Sue has been incredibly supportive, for example, as has Gary Vasey), has languished in virtual obscurity since it was published nearly two years ago.

I have made almost nothing from sales of the novel, and it is not being widely (or even narrowly!) read…

I think I was, in some respects, a fool to publish humour first. I say this because it is, apparently, a notoriously difficult genre to shift in the financial sense, unless you are already a known comedic writer – which, of course, I am not.

In addition, I made the mistake of not realising how crucial appearance was/is in selling a product (be it book, hair extensions or clothing) and chose a truly dreary front cover which in no way reflects the lively and anarchic satire upon education which lurks within.

Shot myself in the foot there, I’d be the first to admit.

To make matters worse (is this possible?), few people were familiar with the Scottish prayer from which the expression ‘Long-Leggity Beasties‘ came – and, having gathered that it was set in a school, assumed it was some kind of sleazy romp involving gym-slip-clad nubile teenage girls, with legs up to their armpits, having sex with, and accepting ‘punishment’ from, much older predatory male teachers.

Not what I had in mind at all! Yes, there is a bit of bonking in it – but not of that variety, and strictly of the adult/adult humorous kind!

Now, I need to find companies which will either take me on as a writer they are willing to publish (without it costing me an arm, both legs and my liver) or at least give me the chance to get some free copies made for distribution to friends and others.

If any of you have any ideas, publishing firms you have worked with in the past or contact details you could send me, I would be enormously grateful.

Meanwhile, I shall start combing through me genres (sounds bloody painful, does it not?!) and transcribing them onto Word Documents ready for this latest initiative to become manifest in reality.

Start with erotica, do you reckon?

Or should I go Amgel and Prose-poetry first?

What do you think?

I am not yet ready to give up the writing dream, or to assume that I do not have the ability to get out there and be read in physical printed book form.

I WILL do this, one way or another. I WILL see my work in print, and I WILL make some money too!

And, although my father is now dead and my mother no longer compos mentis,  I am determined, in my own way, to make their spirits (if you like) proud of their first child.

Tales From The Tulgy Wood: Satire

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Imagine, if you will, that the denizens of the Tulgy Wood, in Lewis Carroll’s famous poem, have been turned into the vile and variegated members of a bottom set English class being, as it were, taught the poem of their adventures. The narrator of the poem becomes, therefore, the teacher, God help him, her or it!
Narrator: ‘Twas brillig and the Slithy Toves
                 Did gyre and gimble…
Slithy ToveNo, we didn’t!
Narrator: I beg your pardon?
Slithy ToveWe didn’t do none of that gyring and gimbling stuff, did we, lads? That’s libel, that is!
Narrator: Yes, well, passing swiftly on
                 …in the wabe
                 All mimsy were the Borogoves…
Slithy Tove: Ha, ha, ha! He’s callin’ you gay, Gove! Mimsy, mimsy, mimsy!
Borogove: Eff off, Tove, or I’ll punch your lights out, you gyring gonk!
Narrator: Now, now, boys, let’s  all just calm down, shall we? Don’t want an inter-species war on our hands, after all, do we?
Borogove: Bring it on, mate!
 
Narrator:  If I could just carry on with the lesson? Thank you...BANDERSNATCH! PUT THE JUBJUB BIRD DOWN IMMEDIATELY!
Borogove: Yeah, pick on someone your own weight, Fatso!
Bandersnatch: Aw, Sir, can’t I just a quick nibble? He’ll never miss a leg.
Narrator: Certainly not, Snatch; you know full well it never ends with just the one limb. Why, only last week, you ate the entire Front Row of
the Rugby Scrum, and a perfectly innocent vicar.
Can I carry on now? Or would anyone else like to put in their six penny worth of irrelevant and time-consuming balderdash? No? Excellent!
Now, assuming for the moment that the Mome Raths are not going to make an almighty fuss about their relative state of outgrabeness, or,
indeed, not outgrabeness (Ye gods, this lesson becomes ever more remininscent of the Schrodinger’s Cat Conundrum), can we now move on to
verse two?
                  Beware the Jabberwock, my Son!
                  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch;
                   Beware the Jub Jub Bird, and shun
                   The Frumious Bandersnatch…
Wock! Are you sulking there, boy?!
 
Jabberwock: ‘Snot fair! I shouldn’t have to share a verse with them two THINGS.  I’m the one that does all the action stuff. What does that
bird ever do, eh? Tell me that? What did the Jub Jub bird ever do for us?
Narrator: Don’t whinge, lad; you’ve got more lines than anyone else. You must learn to share!
Jabberwock: Jub can’t hardly read anyway; he has to have a ruler underneath the line – and even then he gets his letters the wrong way
round…
Jub Jub : Don’t!
 
Jabberwock: Do!
 
Narrator (shouting):
                      He took his vorpal sword in hand…
Prince (diffidently): Er, it wasn’t actually a Vorpal Sword, Sir; it was a surface to air missile. Sorry!
Narrator: Doesn’t scan! Completely ruins the flow, Cloth Ears. Listen:
                       He took his surface to air missile in hand??!!
                       RIDICULOUS!
So, to summarise… Yes, Wock, you’ll get your moment soon! Do stop muttering!…The Prince takes his weapon in hand (don’t be so disgusting,
Snatch; you know exactly what kind of weapon I mean!)  and waits ages for the manxome foe. Wock, you either accept manxome or you can go
straight to the Headmaster’s Office for six of the best. Your choice!
Jabberwock (excitedly): Ooh, is this the bit where I comes a’whistling through the wood and we has THE FIGHT? And I win, and I eat
him?!
Prince (nervously): Um, not exactly WIN; not as such; sort of more like, er, lose…
Bandersnatch: And it weren’t whistling neither. Sir told us that last lesson, but you wasn’t listeningYou’d look a right plonker going through the wood whistling! 
JabberwockWhad’ya mean I don’t win? Course I win? I’m here, aren’t I?
Prince: Actually, and terribly sorry and all that, old chap, but the poem is quite clear on this pointI blow you into the middle of next week
with my mighty missile!
Narrator: Snatch, if you say one word – just one word – you’ll be in detention for the rest of your time at this school!
Dear God, why do I bother? I’d be better off banging my head against a brick privy! Prince! For the last time, you do not have a missile, mighty
or otherwise. You have a sword – and, with this sword, and after a bit of ‘One, two, one two and through and through…’ ing, you part Wock from
his head with a nice clean swipe across the wezand. Do I make myself clear?!
I’ll take that as a ‘yes’, shall I?
Now, Wock, before I blow a gasket, or have a heart attack, you do not whistle or swagger, nor do you go for a wee behind the tree;
you WHIFFLE, ok? Perfectly simple. A child could do it.
PrinceAnd then I kill you!
Jabberwock: Yeah? You and whose Army?
Narrator: One,Two, One, Two, and through and through,
                  The Vorpal Sword went snicker-snack!
                  He left it dead, and with its head,
                  He went galumphing…
 
DING DING DING DING!
NarratorSit down, Snatch! I know you’re hungry; you’re always hungry. Tapeworm? The bell is my signal, not yours…
…back!
You may now leave, boys, and we shall plumb the linguistic depths of the final two stanzas next lesson!

One Visitor? ONE VISITOR?!!!

‘Strewth, Bruce: Try pressing that little lot!’ 

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Are we in Glitch Territory or something?

I ask because things seem to have slowed right down to a crawl – a backwards crawl at that.

According to the Delphic Oracle which delivers up my Cosmic Predictions (or blog stats, as they are also called!), only one visitor has arrived on my blog site today.

This is most peculiar.

Now, I know that I have been swinging between sites for a while, and that many people may not, therefore, realise that I am back on here – but still, it is bloody odd, to say the least…

But, I would just like to reassure you all that the usual Search Term Trolls are getting through with no trouble whatsoever. Gladdens the heart, does it not? To think that, whilst my hits are right down, and only one real human has visited, creators of the following classics of their kind can navigate their way even through a glitch!

. sexually frustrated old grannie

. adult dirty words

. boob pressing in kama Sutra

. full moon effect on thyroid

The one in bold has made me chuckle, particularly so because I attended (and Ghost Weed played at) a lovely and very successful Apple Pressing Day last weekend – and I just wonder, in my inimitably bawdy way, quite how one goes about pressing boobs, and whether the resulting drink is alcoholic or not! The mind boggles!

Anyway, doubt if anyone will see this since I appear to be down to single figures…

 

Update: Now, how’s this for a miracle…

I went out for a couple of hours to help a neighbour in need – and, Lo-and-Behold (that well-known village in the Cotswolds!), when I returned, I found several LOVELY comments and forty-five new visitors!

There’s tidy, as they say in Mid Wales!

Orange Hair-Extensions – update!

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Well, my dears, things have moved on as far as my Luscious Long Locks Plan is concerned…

Aided and abetted, albeit from a distance, by the equally vibrant and marmalade-tressed Sue Vincent (who, as ever, gave me a shove in the right direction…), I signed on to ebay and began the search for El Cheapo extensions in earnest.

What a bewildering, and hilarious, array!

I viewed long stringy things, which looked like dangleberries from a sick sheep; I gawped at riotous manes more befitting a proud stallion – or mare, as the case may be – than we humble humans; I thrilled to tonsure-hiding topiary so silky and smooth that I yearned to stroke it – and I winced in horror at headpieces which looked as if they had been woven from a warthog’s privy hairs (and probably had!)…

Then my seeing orbs lit upon the glory shown in the photos above – and I was, as the saying goes, in like Flynn.

Burgundy-red,  I was promised by the blurb – and, as this looked like my sort of colour, I thought, to myself, ‘Oh, YES!’

Now, some of you may already have caught the flaw  contained within my spontaneous approach to such matters – and may well be head-shaking and tutting quietly in the background as we speak.

You see, I have no idea what colour my hair actually IS at the moment – and dragging a hank of it up to the screen for purposes of comparison availed me nought since I couldn’t see my own hair clearly enough to judge the match!

Still, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it – and, after all, I can always get my own crowning glory dyed to match the extensions next time I am being done!

I read the ‘literature‘ and it seemed to be implying that one piece of the stuff covered half a head – so, in a moment of typical rashness, I ordered two!

Now, I can confess that, had I opted to have this professionally, it would have cost me upwards of £300. Frankly, I don’t pay that much to have my hair dyed in a YEAR never mind in one fell swoop!

But these tempting burgundy-red numbers will set me back just over a tenner – yes, you heard right: £10!

As an experienced Car Boot Sale buyer, and enthusiastic prowler round all Charity Shops, that’s MY idea of a bargain!

Now, it could well be that reality and dream will be appallingly discordant and that I’ll look like roadkill when I clip the damn thing on. It could well be that one will prove to be more than sufficient, and t’other will be surplus to requirements.

In the former case, I shall just have to scream and scream until I am sick – and go back to the Vanity Drawing Board.

In the latter, I can either use it as a Merkin (thus ensuring that Collar and Cuffs really DO match) or hand it over to my fellow orange-haired wonder, Sue, so that we can swan about hill and dale together, a pair of slightly unconventional land-locked mermaids!

My mother: a natural musician

My mother was one of the most talented untaught musicians it has ever been my pleasure to meet. Possessed of a beautiful soprano singing voice, she had an inbuilt vibrato and soared gloriously above most other people.

She had an accurate and inventive ear, and could catch not just the tune but also the more subtle harmonics within it, and could accompany others, making the descant up as she went along, or so it seemed.

She sang around the house constantly, little snatches of folk songs and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, strange melodies from far distant lands, pop songs from the charts – and music her own mother had hummed whilst bustling around the home doing the chores.

She would, I know, have LOVED to have played an instrument – and, when we finally got a piano (when I was fifteen), she would sit at it and pick out tunes by ear, smiling with pleasure at the achievement and sound. Whenever I practised, she would be within earshot. She was so happy that I could play so many tunes on the recorder – and felt, I think, that I was doing what she had always longed to, and was, if you like, living out a little bit of her musical dream.

There are many numbers I associate with Mum, and I have found YouTube clips of three of them. Let me talk you through them.

My paternal grandparents lived in a big old house, named Flagstones, in Budleigh Salterton, and every Summer we used to make the long and evocative drive from Oxford to Devon – and, as we drove, we would sing, me, my mother and my next sister down. Because we would go through the Dartmoor village of Widdecombe at some point, we always launched into a spirit and sepulchral version of the folk classic, ‘Widdecombe Fair’, really giving it some ghostly and deathly welly when we got to the infamous phrase,  ‘Tom Pearce’s old mare doth appear ghastly white‘ in truly dire cod Zummerzet accents.

The word ‘ghastly’ alone got about twenty-five syllables on a good day, with a fine pastie behind us and the sea approaching our excited gaze over that final hill.

And Mum would be hooting with laughter, and joining in with complete abandon.

Two other songs bring tears to my eyes whenever I hear them – and a wide smile too. Strange, the mix of emotions music can bring, isn’t it?

As she cleaned and hoovered and darned and sewed, and did all the other mysterious things mothers did while their children played, Mum would sing, very sweetly, ‘Dashing away with the Smoothing Iron’ - putting just the right amount of tremulous warble, weft and lyrical weave into her voice for the final line of the chorus.

I have tried, over the years, to emulate this magnificent achievement – but, although my own voice isn’t bad, I will never reach Mum’s effortless octaves, her sheer joy and wonder at each note, her infectious enthusiasm.

The final piece I wish to share with you is the brilliant ‘When the Boat comes in‘  – which, in the seventies, became the theme tune for the television series with the same name starring the then-rather-gorgeous Geordie actor, James Bolan. I don’t mind telling you that the tune became welded in my mind (and lower bits!) with nascent lust for this versatile actor!

So, when I hear it, I am plunged straight back into the sixties and early seventies – and, mostly, Mum giving it some really authentic Newcastle spirit, for she was a superb mimic and had as good an ear for accents as she did for music. Her Irish voice had to be heard to be believed – and she was one of those people who segued naturally into the accent of whomsoever she was gabbling away to on the phone.

Our American friends? Yup, she’d be twanging away within seconds. Japanese? Don’t go there! Russian? Oh, yes! The Steppe and Red Square could have moved into our Living Room!

As children, we found this talent acutely embarrassing, and used to cringe and cover our ears and beg her (in our heads) to stop and, ‘Talk like Mummy’ as we put it.

Back to music…

Her memory for the lyrics was equally impressive, and we all learnt a vast number of classic folk tunes at her knee.

My siblings and I have all inherited a love of music from her, and most of us either sing or play instruments. My next sister down plays piano and sings with Girton Operatic (a Gilbert and Sullivan group); my second sister played violin (far better than I ever will) and got as far as Grade 8 – and I have always sung in choirs and played various instruments pretty roughly but with great verve!

Unable to read music and having never had an instrumental lesson in her life, my mother outperformed us in every respect – and I feel very proud of her accomplishments, of her zest for music, of the way she gave us such a wonderful gift.

Now, in her home, and with her mind crumbling by the day, I do hope that some little echo of those tunes till remains – and that she can still hear, in her head, the huge collection she once shared so generously with friends and family.

On being Passive-Aggressive…

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I am a classic example of the above, I’m ashamed to say – and I don’t always like myself very much for these traits.

I can be an awful whinger, moaner, seether and blamer of others. I can refuse to take responsibility for my own less-than-perfect character, whilst feeling sanctimonious about the flaws in my nearest and dearest.

I can be, in short, a bit of an old bitch.

One of my worst faults, in my eyes anyway, is the stealth attack through writing.

As an adolescent, I exploded via the journal rather than face-to-face.

Fear really is no excuse for such cowardly behaviour.

Now? I am more than capable of doing this through the medium of the blog.

It is self-pitying, pathetic and stupid.

My inability to stand up to others is my problem, not theirs – and, as such, it is something I need to sort out because no one else can do it for me.

Those who are assertive and have strong personal boundaries tend to be far healthier emotionally, tend to attract fewer bullies and are able to defend their corner without descending to the wheedling and manipulative ploys of the Passive-Aggressive.

Oh, I have some very positive strings to the personality bow.

But this is not one of them.

When you are a weak person (as, in many ways, I am ), it is only too easy to blame the World and His Dog for your every heartbreak, trip and source of misery; it is terribly tempting to fall into ‘I am powerless: poor little me!’ mode – rather than getting off your backside and doing something about the situation.

Self-righteousness is a well-hidden pit in the Forest of the Psyche – and is one I fall into frequently.

I can be very unforgiving, and hold a grudge so close to my chest that no one is able to prise it away from me.

So, what am I going to do about this?

Speak up, that’s what, face whoever it is that I wish to express feelings to and tell it the way it is like an adult, not a sulky five-year-old!

Wish me luck! This is going to be confronting, to say the least, because I have conditioned myself to this bad habit over a fifty-six year period.

Gulp!

The Family That Sneezes Together, Stays Together…

My mother has Alzheimer’s Disease, sad to relate, and has been in a home since 2008. She is deteriorating and we know that she may not last a great deal longer. She is at the end of her life’s span – and will, I am sure, be remembered for many things, versatile lady that she was. But, I should like, in this post, to pay homage to one outstanding talent she had: THE BEST SNEEZE I HAVE EVER HEARD! Sometimes humour is a great way of coping with pain.

The humble nasal eructation, the siren hoot of the hooter, can be such a bonding experience, my dears!

Take my mother – PLEASE! Free to a good home. One careful (ish) previous owner. All inoculations up to date. Full set of quirks guaranteed…

…as a classic example.

Her sneezes, in those halcyon Headington days, could stop wars – and regularly did. Why do you think the Korean conflict ended when it did? Ah! I am sure you have been fed all the convenient slop about politics, winning sides and so forth. Actually, Mrs Judy Browning released such a splendid fusilade of snoutal gesundheit that the troops froze, like Meerkat, and stopped fighting IMMEDIATELY.

Same happened with our next door neighbours: they were prone to a familial spat or twenty, especially when the Moon was Full, and could often be heard ranting and raving and throwing garden furniture at – or in the general direction of – one another on a summer’s evening. Better than the telly, it was!

Summer’s eve is a bit of a give-away as far as my mother’s delicate constitution was concerned. Her allergies were so wide-ranging that they had allergies of their own: hay, sun, grass, dust mites, small children, husbands – her airways responded to them all with the kind of cheerful lack of discrimination which made her such a byword in the neighbourhood, and drove her offspring to distraction.

Partly, it was the timbre of her sternutation: in some mysterious way, each blast encompassed the entire spectrum of colours – and all notes upon the musical scale. Simultaneously! The fact that there was a distinct hint of Four Minute Warning in there, with perhaps a soupcon of Avalanche, and a pinch of Bloody Humungous Tempest is an indication of the bigger picture.

My mother’s nose was a weather system in its own right in our neck of the woods.

There was usually a warning whuffle or two – thus giving the rest of us time to don the protective gear and dive for cover: normally, this involved ear-plugs and a most undignified scuffle up the ladder and into the attic.

Once in situ, and with the attic trapdoor sealed by blankets to prevent after-shock, we would kiss our keisters farewell, and await the nuclear holocaust from below.

Distantly, we would hear a ‘Whaaaaaaaaaaa‘ and the odd crash as roof tiles cracked and fell under the strain.

This would, inevitably, be followed by a road-ripping ‘Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa‘ – and then, as traffic stopped on the dual carriageway outside, and local cows gave birth backwards, the terrifying, ‘Cheeeewwwwwwwwwwwwaggghhhhhwheeeeeplasma…’ would be launched upon the world.

Those near neighbours who had not been instantly vapourised used to find the whole thing utterly hilarious – and the marital shindigs referred to previously were as nought compared to the gales of laughter produced by just one smallish sneeze.

Mrs B-next-door swore, in later years, that my mother’s shattering Symphony for the Sinus saved her marriage: she and Mr B fell into such paroxysms of mirth that they kissed, made up and decided to give it another go. Part of that decision, I suspect, sprang from the fact that they could not decide who would get custody of Judy’s sneeze!

The Browning cackle – er, laugh! – is equally memorable and has regularly caused babies to cry uncontrollably and Significant Others to cringe in toe-curling embarrassment.

Unfortunately, we have all inherited some of my mother’s allergies, and, whenever we do meet (a rare event, you will be relieved to hear), the cacophony of snorts, sniffs, nose-blowings, coughs and sneezes – all at a decibel level guaranteed to bring on early labour – usually empties the room/building/park/county within minutes.

Now, one or two of you reading this may well be experiencing a twinge of jealousy at your own somewhat meagre attempts to really give it some welly via the nasal passages.

If so, take heart!

One can reproduce a most satisfactory explosion from the beak as follows:

Divide your family (or self, if you are accoustically sophisticated – or mad, as it is also known!) into three. One group says the word ‘Russia'; the next, ‘Prussia’ and the last ‘Austria’, all at the same time. Loudly. Do not hold back. Imagine you are on stage! A very large stage – with a somnolent audience.

On the count of three, YELL, ‘Russia/Prussia/Austria!’  – and then accept the plethora of handkerchiefs, cough sweets, and Eucalyptus-soaked tissues which will follow.

Or, befriend a Browning sibling and wait for the hayfever season!

HaaaaaaaaaCheeeewwwwww!!!

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My mother, in hysterics, after a particularly gargantuan sneeze: she demolished the house next door and managed to ‘suck’ a perfectly innocent dog, intent upon its business in a park five miles away, onto her lap…

The Suffering of Small Animals

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Watching a human suffering is agonising.

Watching a pet in pain is almost as bad.

Do you find that?

Ten days ago, Si noticed a big lump on the back of Badger’s head. Now Badger, as some of you may recall, is the Houdini of the Cavy pair – and was, in her youth, a frolicsome and lively little number.

Now she and Star (her red-headed sibling) have reached three plus, they are elderly maidens of sedentary habits, disarming docility and natures as sweet as Candy-floss.

They also eat like it was going out of fashion – with the result that both are now on the corpulent side. In Star’s case, she is broad of beam – or, to put it another way, has fine child-bearing hips. She would, I suspect, get stuck in a cat flap…

Back to the story-line…

So, today, I put Badger in the carrying cage and walked down to the vet’s. The poor little soul was shaking so hard that the box was rattling, and when the vet examined her, she squealed piteously.

The lump having been palpated, and diagnosed as an abscess, out came the syringe, the antiseptic wipes, the gloves – and the Receptionist (because I couldn’t bear the thought of holding my little pig and having her associate me with agony for the rest of her life…).

Shaved, shivering and terrified, she trembled as the vet gently made a hole with the needle – and then squeezed.

I have seldom heard anything as heart-rending as the noises from my small pet over the next few minutes. She squeaked and shook and tried to pull her head away. I was close to tears myself.

The people in the Waiting Room wondered what on earth was in there – and what was being done to it.

We now have antibiotics, which have to be squirted, via syringe, into the corner of Badger’s mouth twice a day. She is not keen, to say the very least – and, the first dose was met with frantic little paws scrabbling to dislodge the instrument of torment.

Harrowing.

Dowd’s Reel: Jordi Savall and others…

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Dowd’s Reel

I came across Jordi Savall quite by chance during the Spring. I was returning from Clevedon, having dropped Si off at orchestra, when this amazing music came on the radio.

Lady Mary Hay’s Scotch Measure


‘Lady Mary Hay’s Scotch Measure’,  it was called – and it featured the Celtic Viol.

I was transfixed immediately – and, when I got home, found it on YouTube and played it to my heart’s content.

More recently, during a time of huge emotional upheaval, I discovered ‘Dowd’s Reel’ (a version of which I first heard, back in 1977, by Steeleye Span):

Peter Knight playing ‘Dowd’s Reel‘ in the early seventies…
And, finally, a wonderful playing of the tune by Lydia Warnock during the All-Ireland Fiddle title (which she won) in 2013:

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Much as I love the Steeleye and Lydia Warnock ones, Jordi Savall’s interpretation has an emotional depth which works at many levels – and usually reduces me to tears within seconds.
This was very healing, actually, during the week in August when everything was a whirlwind of pain, fear and endless waiting.
I share all three with you, and hope that you will enjoy them as much as I do. I have deliberately put my favourite at the top: We are all busy people, and I am well aware that you may not have either the time or the inclination to listen to more than one.

Too soon for laughter?

Humour is one of life’s great gifts. Animals may show signs of being funny, but they do not generate laughter the way humans do.

Humanity is flawed. Our world is imperfect. Imperfection is, or can be, hilarious. And hilarity is healing. Physically and psychologically.
But I think several factors need to be brought into the humorous equation. One is timing. Both comic and humanitarian. Another is sensitivity, and a third is appropriateness.
But, let me make one thing very clear: there are some things in life which are not funny, no matter how much you turn your back, thicken your hide and hide your head in the sand of denial.
Other people’s anguish is not even remotely laughter-inducing, though their actions – when replayed at a safer and later date – may be.
This takes me back many years to a conversation which should have appalled me at the time – but didn’t because I was besotted with the person concerned, and not, at that stage, willing to lift the rock of his psyche to see what crawling horrors lay beneath.
I cannot now recall the precise words – but the nub of the so-called humour centred upon a woman who had suffered the heartbreak of a stillbirth.
Now, to me, there is nothing on this earth of ours which could make such an event anything but tragic and ghastly.
Death and illness are two obvious, and contentious, candidates for the, ‘Can it be funny?’ award.
And my feeling is that it depends on the context. Let me share a few thoughts with you.
My father’s death was, and continues to be, traumatic and deeply upsetting.
Yet, on the day of the funeral – June 19th 2007 – there was a brief moment of, I believe, healing and necessary laughter.
We Brownings – my mother and the five of us – went in the lead car, right behind the hearse, on the way from the church, in Headington, to the Crematorium.
And, on that slow journey, with Daddy’s flower-bedecked coffin in clear sight, we became almost hysterical with laughter – just much-needed release, and the inherent silliness of family jokes, vocabulary special to us, our nervous and fractured love for one another.
We were not laughing at Daddy’s death. I think we were simply cementing the bond between the survivors with black humour.
Illness, too, is a difficult one. My father, as some of you will be aware, was an insulin-dependant diabetic for fifty years. The condition eventually killed him – and was not, in itself, the least bit funny.
But, Daddy used to laugh about it when he could. He used to make light of its injustices and indignities. He tried, where possible, to see the bright side of his suffering.
I try, when I can, to make other people laugh with exaggerated tales of my various ailments. It is not always possible. My experience of anti-depressant induced Hepatitis, for example, was a nightmare from start to finish – and even now, seven years on, I cannot find anything to laugh about in that year of profound anxiety and pain.
I do make jokes about my low acting thyroid, however – focusing particularly upon the fact that I blew up like a dirigible prior to being diagnosed and treated.
Two of my aunts have had ovarian cancer – sad to relate, one died from the disease nine years ago – and, both very forthright individuals, they made light, and at times raucous, comments about aspects of their treatment.
You cannot assume, however – and nor should you – that anyone else’s sense of humour (however robust it is under normal circumstances) can survive serious illness or bereavement or awful injury.
It is, I think, appallingly insensitive to broach subjects in a throw-away, ‘let’s have a laugh’ manner to anyone who is fragile and vulnerable, bereaved or wounded.
Post sexual assault, I got at least one person sidling up to me and saying, on the upward wave of an unhelpful guffaw, ‘Oh well, at least you weren’t raped! Ha ha!’
I do have to say, though, that for myself – and I can only speak for me – the areas of my life which resist laughter are the ones which are most stuck, painful and intractable.
Some people laugh too easily. There is a falseness, a hollowness, to their sense of humour. They very often accuse others of taking life too seriously. Their laughter can be seen as a defence, almost a physical tic. It covers up a lack of emotional versatility.
On the other hand, there are people who resist laughter at every opportunity, who insist that everything should be taken seriously. Who accuse others of being insensitive clods if so much as a giggle escapes.
I adore laughing. I love comedy. I revel in shared humour, word play, puns, jokes. There is something truly addictive, and wonderful, about being with another human being and laughing so much that both cry and ache and fall about in mirthful paroxysms.
But, if someone else in the room is weeping, or trembling, or trying desperately to keep head demons out, you might be laughing too soon, too hard and too long in order to keep their suffering at bay – and your own unacknowledged negative emotions out.
There is power and wonder in the act of satirising, sending up and exaggerating an incident for comic effect. And I believe that, when we are able to do that freely, we are on the road to recovery.
As long as we have grieved for its painful side first.

Welcome to my parlour

Come in, come in! Draw up an armchair and sink into its luxurious depths. Better? Oh, good…

I have a stockpile of fragrant wood in that basket over by the hearth, all ready for the cold spells ahead.

Tea? I have all manner of varieties, colours and aromas: Peppermint, Rose, Orange, Earl Grey, Camomile, tea bag (for the undiscerning!)…

Coffee too – rich and dark and aromatic, percolating away merrily just for YOU.

Hungry?

Oh, I am glad: I baked a cake only this afternoon, and there is a box full of delicious Hungarian Chocolate Biscuits, lovingly made earlier.

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Help yourself! Dig in!

Now, if this is your first visit, do allow me to explain my little system.

As you will be aware, most of my precious literary jewels are still in storage in the WordPress archive vaults, and I am bringing them up, from below ground level to the surface, a few at a time. Mining, you might say, letting you see the old and the new…

I have culled ruthlessly, Cariad, the way you have to sometimes – because too much from the past can close the door to creation in the NOW, can’t it?

Here, let me top up your mug!

Now, this little Tea/Coffee/Cake Ceremony is partly driven by the sheer joy of seeing you in my home – but is also in the nature of an experiment.

I would love to receive some comments – though I appreciate that this may prove tiresome or troublesome – and, most of all, I would be so happy to know that YOU, my special friends, are actually receiving these virtual envelopes crammed with Ali’s words.

I ask because the whirligig of moves recently has certainly got my head in a spin, so I dread to think how confused YOU must be!

Symbolic of my life, bach, very symbolic…

I’m all spooked and a’tremble at the moment, splintered like ancient wood and grained of eye from the freight of old tears held back.

There’s silly.

But, so glad to see you I could dance a merry little jig and twinkle my heels till sundown…

So, once you have left – and I do hope you will stay for hours yet, maybe even take dinner with me – I shall send this ‘letter’ to all those in my Google Circles. Very exciting!

Now, enough business…

Would you like the guided tour?

Follow me…

Today I made a doctor laugh…

In I went, told Dr D. that I suspected my right forearm (which I gashed a few days ago) was infected – then ripped off the duvet-sized plaster – never being one to do things by half! – and showed him.

He wrote me out a prescription for an ointment which sounds more like a sex act (FUCIDIN) – and then recommended that I keep the wound uncovered so that the air could work its magic.

He must have seen the dubious look writ large upon my face, because he then added, ‘Unless you’re one of those people who keeps banging the site…’

Well,’ I drawled, ‘the fact that I ripped myself to pieces colliding with a wooden box probably tells you all you need to know on that front!’

I won’t say he ROFLd, but he certainly LOLled – discreetly at first but then, when I added, ‘Do you really think, with that track record, you could trust me with a sharp surface?’ he burst into window-shattering guffaws.

Before adding, lugubriously, ‘Of course, if it splits open, you’ll need intravenous antibiotics…’

Which had my face falling faster than a tart’s undercrackers.

‘But I think you’ll be all right,’ he added just this side of Ali Panic Attack, and then subsided into another fit of whinnying giggles, bless him!

Po-faced when I arrived, that was one cheered-up medic by the time I left.

Glad to have been of service…

They ought to hire me out on the NHS!

A kind of peripatetic ‘Carry on, Patient!’  - that’s me!

Opening the Wound

This post, written on September 27th, symbolises much that is going on at present, and ties in with the Hallowquest.
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I am angry. But, beneath the anger, there is deep unhappiness and, I suspect, fear.

The whole thing has manifested physically, as it so often does, in a painful metaphor.

Wednesday morning, I was making up the bed in here for visitors, when my right forearm scraped heavily against the rough and broken edge of the big wooden box standing against the Southern wall.

It hurt. I looked. There was a long ragged gash, seeping blood. Not bad enough for stitches or emergency treatment, but nasty-looking.

Large plaster at the ready, I covered it – and then, later when it had stopped bleeding, let it dry in the air.

But it was throbbing and sore – and, by yesterday evening, I realised that it was looking red and puffy, and that it was dotted with dark bits which I realised, with a sinking of horror, were fragments of wood from the box.

I knew I was going to have to open the wound, clean it and pull the many splinters out.

I filled the upstairs sink with water as hot as I could bear and, cotton wool balls nearby, started the ghastly process.

It was a stinging and miserable quarter of an hour or so – but, by the end of it, the now-widened injury was free of darkened wood and flowing freely with blood.

Near tears, I covered the whole thing over with a large Mepore plaster, and am just hoping that the small pockets of infection I noticed don’t get any worse.

It’s a mess, a jagged and horrible trench – and there’s a big part of me that wants to keep the plaster on forever and just not look at it, just hope it’ll go away and sort itself out without my active intervention.

You can, I am sure, see the parallels with my life. I do not need to labour the point, not really.

Except to say this: All too often, I fail to clean wounds adequately after they have happened, and am very poor at getting the tweezers out at the right moment and, painful though it is, digging deep in order to remove foreign bodies and potentially damaging detritus.

Thus, I set myself up for infections, for worse pain, for more serious procedures at some point down the line – and for eventual healing which leaves a prominent scar upon skin and soul.

Too often, I have simply turned my head away while applying the biggest plaster I could find – and then hoped, against all sense and logic, that the suppurating cut underneath would just disappear.

Deep splinters may eventually work their way to the surface – but they can wreak havoc while so-doing.

Better, by far, to risk the pain and the streams of blood and remove them immediately.

‘Elizabeth 1: Virgin On The Ridiculous’ – review of Living Spit’s Latest!

Elizabeth’s Wooing Frog is Voted Out!

Ah! What a fabulous night, a chance to catch up with the lunatic energy and sparkling wit of that terrific twosome of thespian delight, Howard Coggins and Stu Mcloughlin, equally well known in the borough of Bristol as Living Spit...

Back in April 2012, just after I left teaching, I became a community reviewer for the Theatre Orchard Project - and my virgin gig involved a traipse up to the Old Vic, and my first (of five thus far!) glimpse of  Howard and Stu in ‘The Six Wives of Henry V111’…

Being a bawdy old bag, I took to them, and their material, immediately – and, although I have subsequently reviewed half a dozen other shows, Living Spit touched a part of me that no other brush would reach!

Frequently outrageous, pushing the boundaries of language and humour in a way I thoroughly approve of, their madcap and maverick approach to matters historical has won them a strong following in the South West, and a chance to show Edinburgh what they are all about. Quite right too!

As tends to be the case, the six foot plus Stu gets the frock (in this case, a fetching pinkish effort, teamed with pearls) and the abundant red curly wig – and Howard (that Henry V111 look-alike) plays all the blokes!

Tattooed and clearly a masculine presence, Stu’s donning of female attire shouldn’t work – but it does, gloriously, time after time. The pink diary and pen, used as Elizabeth’s way of confiding her feelings and sharing exposition with the audience, was both funny and curiously touching: So true to life in terms of early teenage girls, and thus a universal theme of fantasy life, loneliness and the need to be ‘heard’ somewhere, by someone.

The relationship between Elizabeth and Robert Dudley was tender and funny and ultimately tragic – and the hardening of the young Queen’s heart (and loins!),after permission to marry was refused, was powerfully enacted and eminently believable.

Howard, an endearing Dudley with his blue t-shirt (and, later, his farcical marriage to a lettuce named, with stunning originality, Lettuce!) and air of slightly uneasy bumbling, was an effective foil to Elizabeth, and the bit where she was informed of his death was sensitively handled.

Audience participation was encouraged, nay demanded, as we all, for a few minutes, became the infamous Privy Council – and, ‘encouraged’ by Howard’s ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ signs, voted the young French suitor out and, ironically, loveless virginity in.

A Living Spit production would not be the same without the musical accompaniment. Both Howard and Stu are accomplished and versatile musicians, playing a wide range of instruments – and the performance was enlivened by such wonders as ‘OMG‘ and ‘The Spanish Armada‘ (CDs of which are available at all shows).

They do a wonderful line in stepping out of role and bickering amongst themselves, alternately supportive of one another and tetchy as a long-married couple – and last night was no exception, with egos being paraded naked and the audience brought in to boost Stu’s supposedly flagging morale! Great fun!

Elizabeth’s speech at the end was beautifully written and performed – its simplicity a touching contrast to the lively eccentricity of so much of the action.

Howard and Stu are experts at watering history’s dry soil with the hose of humour and humanity

Catch them in action if you possibly can!You will have a brilliant evening!

Burial at Sea

My novel ‘Heneghan‘ ends with the burial at sea of one of the main characters, Edwin.

Now, so many years on, I can fill in a bit of the back story.

In the Summer of 1976, when I was eighteen years old, I worked for an agency in Oxford called Oxford Aunties – and, through them, I got two jobs as a live-in nanny/general help. The idea was for me to raise some dosh for university.

The first experience involved a family named Eykyn*. They lived in a most beautiful house in Gloucestershire, and had three boys, the youngest of whom was my little charge.

From them, I moved to Paignton and a fabulous family of three. The Ms (Nina, Wadir and their two year old daughter, Lisa) lived in a village near Oxford, and I was to accompany them on holiday to Devon.

Nina and I bonded immediately, and she was a dream to work for, and with. Lisa was very sweet and extremely beautiful – half Egyptian, with the most gorgeous eyes.

During the two week holiday, I was introduced to a friend of theirs, Archie. He was pretty old and a wonderful character. He wore a bracelet round his wrist which said, in so many words, that, if he was found dead in the sea, it was by choice.

I cannot now recall whether he knew he was dying (which may well have been the case) – or had just decided that, when the thread of his life was frayed beyond repair, he would submit himself to the great amniotic sac of the ocean rather than face the indignity and pain of a hospital end.

I admired him enormously – and have never forgotten his take on death.

Edwin, in the novel, is based on Archie – and, faced with incurable illness, the former walks into the sea one wild and stormy night.

I knew, instinctively, that Edwin (who was ex-services) would have wanted to be buried at sea – and so, in August 1988, I rang my father who, as an ex Naval Officer, would know about such matters.

In my naivety, I had assumed you just rowed out to the deep and bunged the body in – but it is a great deal more complicated than that: You have to get permission from the Rear Admiral at the Admiralty. The body is then shrouded in a hessian type sack, or put in a coffin. If the deceased is an ex Service man or woman, the whole thing is conducted with full Military Honours: The draping of the flag, the service, sometimes The Last Post – and then the slide into the sea.

This section of the novel, written when I was thirty, was an incredibly emotional journey: It incorporated my memories of Archie, the strong military strand in my family and an attitude towards death which has influenced me in the decades since then.

There was something special about ‘Heneghan’, I think because it captured a time and a place so intensely – and I think I have delayed editing it because I am afraid. Afraid of losing Aberystwyth, of writing something which is diluted and tame; afraid that the last links with my soul land will melt if I touch the novel.

But, although it has raw power (and some beautiful descriptive passages), I am well aware that the novel is far from perfect, that it needs attention and revision if I want to go ahead and publish.

For nearly thirty years, I have been afraid of what I might lose in the re-writing.

But what I should be focusing upon are the potential gains. I have grown and matured as a writer since those days, and am far more able to produce something tight, taut and tense.

I have to be realistic, however. If I decide that the novel is dying, I may have to make arrangements, sew it up in a metaphorical sack and give it a decent burial at sea.

* By an extraordinary coincidence, I met one of the boys five years later when Boyf started teaching at the school all three children attended!

Alienora, one of the ‘alive’ people. Guest Post by Stephen Tanham

Originally published on Blogspot in September, I am re-blogging it on here because I love it – but also because it’ll give Steve’s links more exposure.
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 My second guest blogger is Steve Tanham. He will be known, I am quite sure, to many of you as one of the directors – along with Sue Vincent and Stuart France – of The Silent Eye School of Consciousness. He is the Director of Teaching at the school, and is a lovely man.
 
This post has moved me to tears, so I shall say no more other than heartfelt thanks to Steve. Read on…
 
 
Ali has agreed that, at my request, I can use this guest writer’s spot to talk about her.  As fellow writers and bloggers, we tread a path that can sometimes feel narcissistic – but we have to trust that we can write journals that are of interest to a wide range of people. I wanted to write about her because she writes so honestly about herself. 
But, there is much more to Ali than she sees in that personal reflection . . .
People, and their spiritual potential are my main interest. The Silent Eye School is all about people; what types they are, what motivates them, how each type can follow a path of self-development and how that journey to what can be a radically different view of the world can be shared with others.
Ali has always fascinated me. I first met her, when, like Tigger, she bounced into a magical workshop that I was helping to organise in Cheshire. She came into the tea area, looked at me and smiled. Now people have been known to do that, before, but this smile was different; this one was among the most full-of-life smiles I have ever seen, short of those given by my own children, when they were in that magical age range, between two and ten.
Ali has what I call imperishable zest - a wholesale appetite for what life has to offer. True, she wears her heart on her sleeve, and the full-on life fest can be tempered with some sadness. But the honesty that underlies that is profound. How many of us would dare to be that brave? Very few, I suspect.
Ali and I have worked together on many occasions – and I use the word ‘work’ in the context of spiritual effort for “The Work” – that grand sweep of the re-unification of men and women with their own spiritual natures. Let me stress that this is not a fixed thing, and that each person’s path may well be legitimately different, but the various strands that work together in this mixture of traditions, ancient and modern, make up a wonderful collection of people. There are extremes of course – a room full of fairies may not be your thing, but neither might a room full of dour folk in perfectly lined up chairs, intellectual debating the rights and wrongs of a supposedly divine perspective.
Somewhere between the extremes lives a seam of very dedicated people who put in an enormous effort to set up events where the conditions for spiritual growth are present and where the sheer magic of a well-intentioned gathering is unmistakable.
The Silent Eye uses what we call Ritual Drama, based on the same principles that underlay the Greek Mystery Plays.  Others may refer to it as psycho-drama, but essentially it goes beyond (well loved) conventional ritual in that each person is allocated a single character role for the weekend in a continuing story whose depth is slowly revealed as the plot thicken. Because of that formula, we come to ‘live’ the parts in an almost method-acting way. Due to this disciplined focus, the energy, and therefore the potential for spiritual growth, intensifies over the whole weekend. We run Friday evening to Sunday lunchtime. By the Sunday morning, you could fry an egg on the temple steps . . .
None of this requires that we be oscar winning actors; nor that we need learn a weekend’s worth of lines off by heart. No, we simply read from scripts, attempting to bring them to life as best we can. it’s a time-honoured approach, and one we learned at the hands of great teachers.
Two of our best times with Ali have been at such workshops: in April 2013 when she came to play her role in our official birth as a School, and April 2014, when we built on the success of that ‘temple as enneagram’ formula to create a deeper psychological and spiritual working in which each person acted out the life of a crew-member of a starship that had been deliberately sabotaged by the ship’s computer.
This is a familiar sci-fi scenario, of course, but the role that Ali was asked to play was far from standard. We cast this part around the real personality of that feisty woman, and true to form, she rose to the challenge, ranging across a huge span of emotional responses as her character changed from rebellious chief-victim of the rather sadistic computer’s attentions, to glorious woman-redeemer of his childish ego, which her responses had stripped bare. Not your average pantomime role . . . I played the baddie – the control-freak cyborg, a humanoid extension of the ship’s computer who was a metaphor for the negative (and ultimately positive) forces of the ego.
I can still see her in the final act, kneeling between my bound thighs (yes, we know how to have fun!), holding the laser device with which ‘I’ had terrorised her into obedience, with the now-impotent cyborg begging her to “finish it” – and then the magical transformation when she came into her full power, transcending her imposed role and seeing that the way forward was to neutralise the machine by sparing his life . . . Details of Ali’s roles in both workshops can be found in the references below.
As humans, we suffer the fate of having twin natures. Biologically, we are animals, albeit highly intelligent ones – but we are not alone in that. Psychologically, we appear to be something different, having a concept of ‘self’ deeper than anything we can compare ourselves with. The Self lives in a world of values, though science may pay too little attention to these in our intensely materialistic age. Deep appreciation of values, which is what Ali has, can create an uncomfortable life at times, as our true essence grinds against the dull and lifeless rules of the world.
There are many who, despite centuries of failed attempts, believe that life is all about ‘transcending’ the human animal; and living only in the mind. There are a small number who speak of the necessity of embracing all that we are, and giving the whole stack of our potential its true life.  Ali is one of these. She is a joy to watch and to be with. I’ve seen a room light up as she bounced in on more than one occasion – and to watch her play fiddle or get drunk with us on the Saturday night of the April workshops in the next-door Queen Anne pub is a thing of joy . . .
She writes from the heart and from the body. She is as at home describing the finer points of ritual as she is reliving white hot passion on a beach. She takes life by the scruff of the neck and insists that it play – and the world would be so much richer if more of us (me included) could have just a bit more of that in our lives!
And, as we say i’t north, we love her to bits . . .
The April 2015 Silent Eye workshopis called “The River of the Sun”. It’s set a hundred years after the fall of Akhenaten, the ‘heretic king’.  There will be a complex interplay of nurturing and confrontation, much like life, really. I’ve not asked her to play her new role yet – I’m saving that  . . .
References:
 
Steve is present on Facebook (Stephen Tanham) 
and has a daily blog at:
 
He is the author of two books:
The Land of the Exiles
The Song of the Troubadour
 
Both are a combination of the scripts for the Silent Eye’s weekends of 2013 and 2014, mixed with personal experiences from those who were present. The Land of the Exiles also contains alternating Enneagram theory sections which introduce each chapter. 
 
Both books are available as Kindle and paperback editions, see:
 
Steve has an author’s website at: http://stevetanham.wix.com/silent-eyelid
 
The Silent Eye School can be found at www.thesilenteye.co.uk
 
Details for the River of the Sun workshop, in April 2015, can be found on this link:

 

Death and Hell

You do not need to be dead in order to inhabit Hell.

For days, I have felt smothered on the creative front. As I lie in the icy dungeon of hellish fear, I feel that I do not deserve to be a writer, that my words are not useful and cannot be justified…

…and this is the saddest feeling in the world of the descriptive writer. It actually hurts physically. The feeling that my little colourful birds of imagery and hope are caged brings a great wail of grief surging up through my throat.

Oh, see? Here they are again, alighting gently upon the branch of my writing tree, heart-breakingly beautiful with their plumages so perfectly stained with my favourite shades of colour. I could very easily cry at the very sight, so moved am I.

My little humming birds of the senses, don’t desert me – please. Don’t give up on me because the huge grey Bully-birds muscle in and threaten to push you into the path of predatory animals and humans who would sell your bright loveliness for a pile of dollars.

Hell is not an abstract concept designed to keep the religious under temporal control.

It is the twisted gift conferred by all those who, in their desire to rule the roost, crunch the skulls of the tinier birds under claw without a thought – and call it punishment designed to fit the crime of being small and easy to prey upon.

Perpetuating the Cycle of Bullying

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Roger levering the rock that killed Piggy…

If we covertly condone bullying, we are perpetuating the problem. If we secretly think, ‘He/she asked for it/provoked the situation/needs to be more assertive…’ what we are, in fact, doing it to keep the green light permanently on for the speeding vehicle of abuse.

If we smile inside, think, ‘I wouldn’t have  been so cowardly; I would have stood up for myself!’ and pat ourselves on the back for our amazing strength of character, we are, in effect, turning a an eye which is both blind and self-righteous.

If we tell the bullied that they have chosen to press rage’s buttons and, therefore, deserve all they get, we are failing to understand the fundamental truth about bullies.

They do what they do because they enjoy it. It is a choice, whether conscious or not, to victimize those they see as weaker, inferior, easy prey.

It is not as simple as blaming a deprived background, poverty, the early death of a parent, being bullied themselves – because, although any of these things can be contributory factors, there are a hell of a lot of people who suffer all of that and more and yet turn out to be decent and empathic.

Bullies are those who like to experiment with pain – other people’s.

They are often the ones who like to see what happens when wings are pulled off butterflies, or legs from frogs; they can be those who pull cats’ tails, kick dogs and set fire to tiny defenceless rodents in order to see them burn and hear their piteous squeaks.

They are often very low on compassion – and asking them how they would feel if such things were done to them does not work because they are unable to walk in another’s shoes, or fly with another creature’s beautiful wings.

But the main thing is the pleasure aspect. Like Roger, in ‘Lord of the Flies‘, true bullies get a warped, almost sexual, buzz from wounding, frightening and maiming others; it gives them a fleeting adrenaline rush and sense of overwhelming power. This is, of course, as addictive as any street drug – and the Rogers of this world need to lever more and more rocks off cliffs and onto the heads of the Piggies in order to get that rapidly-diminishing high.

If we say, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t let them get away with it!’ we are deluding ourselves and insulting those who become prey.

Every time we doubt the evidence of our own eyes, and say, in effect, ‘He didn’t cause that rock to fall deliberately; it was an accident…’ we are opening the door to more, and even worse, of the same. Every time we doubt another’s witness statement and say, ‘No, I don’t believe this. So and so has never seemed like this to me. You are imagining things…’ we are leaving a vulnerable fellow human being out in the cold.

Nearly fifty years ago, I was a passive member of the whole-class bullying of a little boy named David. I have never forgotten that dreadful day, have never forgotten the pathetic excuses and justifications I allowed to take up residence in my mind. I have never forgotten that naked child, tears streaming down his face, and his walk of terrified shame from one end of a primary school changing room to another. I condoned bullying that day. Had I refused to get involved, maybe that would have made a difference. I shall never know.

We told ourselves, this nasty pack of eight/nine year olds, that he deserved it because he was victim material, because he was pathetic and weak and had an undescended testicle.

But I know the truth. Some of us did it because it gave us an unholy joy; others, like me, because we were too cowardly to stand up to the ring-leaders and tell them to stop.

Bullies get the go ahead from their followers, their hangers-on – and they get their power, their moments of arousal, from the act of hurting someone else.

Let us stop telling ourselves that this kind of behaviour is justified.

Let us stand up to these people, whether they inhabit playground or office, hospital or old people’s home.

Let us refuse to take their side through fear – and stand up for what we know to be right.

Sekhmet’s Song

 
‘The grapes of my body can only become wine after the wine-maker has trampled me. I surrender my spirit like grapes to his trampling so my inner-most heart can blaze and dance with joy.’
                                                          – Song of Sekhmet
 
Many thank to Stuart France, whose lovely post this morning has inspired this. Here’s the link:
 
 
Did I know, at some level, that I would wake from that cryogenic slumber, upon the Starship Hawk, and find Setaxa? That the trampling in a former life, the intense pain of my spirit being stamped upon with hob-nailed boots, would give way to a terror more immediate and visceral?
He resembled our Captain in every particular – but, how can I put this so that you will understand, oh my Soul Love? The resonances were subtly wrong. The connections were not true, and his essence jarred in a way I was unable, at the time, to understand.
I had been Defence Officer One for as long as I could recall – and a fitting role it was too, for I had a natural instinct to protect, to turn back the wrath of other humans and the weaponry of hostile tribes and nations.
Did I hate Setaxa at first, Captain-stealing (as I thought at the time) sight? No, oh my treacherous body, I did not: for he was beautiful, and I young and naive; his harmonious tones concealed the aridity of the inner desert. I saw only what I wished to see: succulent dates, dripping honey and wine so nectarously sweet that my tongue was parched for want of it.
He read me with terrifying ease. He saw what I was in an instant.  His eyes pried behind the uniform, the work-plaited hair, the mask I was not even aware I had donned.
He saw – and he applied the sharp knife of cruelty between the softness of the oyster’s body and its pearl, causing a scream of wild rage from my lips. Rage and pain, for I had much I was holding on to: a festering sack of unthinking statements, precepts and soul-denting dogma.
I roared, fired up, a lioness emerging stealthily from drought-seared scrub, by his challenge. Unheard by the other tremulous crew members.
Did I think he would admire this stance? Did I think he would respect the glimpse of fangs? Was I under the sad illusion that showing my feline nature would gain his adulation?
Perhaps.
Who knows?
All this happened in the fluttering of an eye-lash. Thought was far from my mind.
The shock of the taser was intense. But not unfamiliar. As I pitched to the ground, a writhing heap of sobbing flesh, I could feel triumph, gloating – and something squatting in the corner of his mind which I could not, then, identify.
From nascent predator, I reverted straight to prey.
Modesty prevents my telling of the ways in which he subdued me, and bound me to his will. His need to tame was a hunger as strange as it was visceral. He wanted, I sometimes felt, to suck my spirit dry, to consume the fire within.
Flesh heals. A badly bruised spirit is a different matter. And this Cyborg knew exactly how to apply the pressure, and where. He knew my uncertainties, my vulnerable points – and he dug deep, exposing the nakedness beneath.
The collar was, in a sense, unnecessary. I was already a shadow-being, capable of little more than hissing defiance and tiny stones of verbal rebellion thrown inaccurately at the thick hide of his unconscious need.
As I crouched in weeping terror, and agonising pain, on that cabin floor, I reached for the only point of fiery hope I could find: the red robe I had brought with me for ceremonial occasions, and which had lain, forgotten, for the Gods only knew how many journeys of the Moon whilst we all lay in our strange sleep.
Blood-red, it was, a soft and smoothed velvet, hooded and comforting. As I struggled into it, paper dolls of other selves, stretching back into times ancient, held hands, an infinite line of scarlet-clad Wise Women, ladies of the night and a host of others. Mirrored, I was tumbling back into the hot sands of Egypt, to a time before pyramids and pharaohs; to a time when the Gods strode the earth and bellowed out their anger and vengeance; to a time when Osiris and Isis, Anubis, Set, Nephthys, Horus, Hathor, Nut – and, of course, Sekhmet, carved the beginnings of myth and legend in stone.
Did I truly surrender? No. Of course not. Why should I? My body gave way. My voice was silenced. My essence, a lame child in the wilderness, limped and wept and turned imploring eyes upon the chained passers-by.
You can remove the chain, the yoke, the symbol of servitude after seventy days ( did you think the time chosen for the Natron treatment was random?), but the trampled grapes cannot become luscious and plump again.
Released from physical bonds, I was little but fermenting mess pooled at the bottom of a vast amphora.
The voice came as I ate, alone and sad, in Setaxa’s cabin.
‘Be the person you used to be!’
A friend. Calling to the spaces beyond confinement and endless weeping. A companion who saw further than many.
Did I find her, that previous self, immediately? No, I do not believe I did. I was still a muzzy whirl of weak wailing womanhood and lithe lioness.
But. But…the Gods emerged. Oh, yes, they did. From roles, they fleshed out and became real. They towered.
And I, red-robed and leonine of body, tipped the Scales of Justice so that the coins flew in every direction and stood up to the bound and distraught Cyborg.
And I saw that this crumpled figure had played games, for power – but also for good. Through his crude ministrations, inner beings had been coaxed out.
He had to learn the subtle favour of humanity.
Many do not.
Many are content to poke knives and sticks into the wounds of others, in order to record their jumping and pain-torn screams.
Setaxa embraced his human side.
There is a lesson in this for us all.
I, Sekhmet, raised eyes to the beautiful Isis – and wept.
And then I sang, my voice rippling out over the assembled multitude; I sang and, in so doing, broke free of the mean-spirited one who sought to control my soul’s music.

Speakeasy: Pieces I am proud of…

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Until I started out as a blogger, I had considered myself to be, first and foremost, a creative writer. That is to say, a writer who experimented with language, wrote for the love of it, tried to create outside the box – and only very rarely wrote autobiographical pieces.

Writing about myself, outside the necessary self-expression of my private diary, did not interest me in the least.

Looking back, to the Ali of June 2o12, I think I was attempting to work my way up to what I saw as more serious writing, and specifically my novels, by trying something very new to me: Short posts about funny and sad events in my life.

To me, at that time, they were, if you like, a starter, an entree, with the main meal coming later.

Only it never did, did it?

I seem to have been working my way through the Tapas menu for two years and three months – and, although it is delicious and filling in its own right, it is not what I set out to do.

I feel as if I have lost my way.

Briefly, between April and July of this year, I entered the Speakeasy competitions on here. Not every week. In fact, I think I only wrote five altogether before becoming thoroughly disillusioned with the whole thing.

Not because I did not win every time  – but because too many of the winning entries were, to my mind, poorly written, trite and tedious.

It did not strike me as being a true showcase for excellence – was more like a popularity contest. Now I know there are arguments on both sides of this divide – and I do not, in this post, wish to get into the whole elitism thing – but I would like to make the point that many creative writers have high aspirations, and do not learn or improve if the benchmark is an indifferent or low standard.

Putting such considerations to one side for the moment, let me say that I am proud of my Speakeasy pieces – and I think they reflect what I was aiming to do on here better than almost any other posts I have written.

To my shame, I got caught up in the very thing I was determined to avoid as a writer: Trying to be popular, get lots of hits and Likes. This is understandable, but not, ultimately, very helpful. I think that my writing has suffered as a result of this loss of focus: I have been trying to please, or be provocative, or elicit some kind of response – rather than writing because I love it!

You can call me a snob if you wish – and some will – but I see nothing wrong in wanting to be, and do, the absolute best (and reach the highest standard) with talents given to you by the Creator.

I include the links for these posts – and intend to go back to being the writer I actually am.

http://alienorajt.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/5769/

http://alienorajt.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/speakeasy155-lienas-journey/

http://alienorajt.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/little-girl-lost/

 

MISANTHROPY

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Anne Robinson in full ‘Weakest Link’ flow…

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/delayed-contact/

You mean some people actually GET ON with other homo sapiens, blood-related or otherwise?

Well, stap me vitals! You certainly live and learn in this writing business, don’t you?!

The more I see the human race, the more I like dogs – speaking personally and possibly satirically.

Meeting the buggers today, yesterday, tomorrow, on Mother Kelly’s Doorstep makes no odds to me.

They are still revolting – in every sense!

As Anne Robinson would say, and frequently does, ‘You ARE the Weakest Link: Goodbye!’

Not just a pretty face, is she?

Misanthropy’s got a lot to recommend it: True equality for one thing, in that you cordially loathe everyone without any kind of prejudicial eye being cast at colour, creed or gender.

Saves time too, and wear and tear on purse and heart strings!

I jest – of course...

Or do I?

Now, come along, Fido, let’s go and play Backgammon in the Billiard Room!

Sleep and healing

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Sleep which knit the raveled sleeve of care’: So said Shakespeare, in ‘Macbeth‘, four hundred years ago.

Now admittedly, the eponymous character’s sleeplessness was due to the guilt caused by the murder of Duncan – but the sentiment behind his famous utterance holds as true now as it did then. Sleep’s purpose is to restore, to heal, to break down the bubbles of the day into harmless gas and let them float away on a cloud of deep slumber.

The cares of the mind can be washed away, or at least the stain can be significantly reduced, after a peaceful eight hours; bodily aches and pains can also lessen as the muscles, nerves and tendons relax in the mattress, and mood can be enhanced too.

I am struggling mightily at present, to be at ease during the day and to sleep at night.

It becomes a vicious cycle: Because I am often very tense during daylight hours, I creep into bed already in pain. This, in turn, makes it very difficult to find a comfortable position in the bed – and, given that I am a worry-insomniac anyway, makes uninterrupted, deep sleep a rare, but much longed for, event.

My squirrel mind does not even have the decency to wait until I’ve dropped off before it begins its nightly torment. Not for me the symbolic laundering effect of dreams. No, I go through the whole misery again, and more, whilst still fully conscious – and then, when I DO finally fall into an uneasy twitching sleep, in the early hours, I go into the most terrifyingly lurid nightmares anyway.

Sometimes, a specific incident keeps me from sleep. Saturday night, segueing into Sunday morning, for example, my mobile phone rang at 3.30 in the morning.

I rushed into my study in order not to disturb the rest of the household.

It was a wrong-number call  – but the domestic aftermath caused me to freeze in Fight or Flight and then to go into a pain-panic attack which went on until about 5 am.

Usually I keep my phone in here, and off, at night – but, on that night, I had forgotten to do this.

I try everything when this sort of thing happens: I try and control my breathing; I plug myself into my meditation tape and attempt to go into a relaxed state that way; I walk downstairs and get a glass of water and drink it slowly to try and stop the shaking; I shift my mind into fantasy/daydream mode and, if I can, travel to beautiful places on the inner.

But it doesn’t always work – and the more anxious I am to start with, the less effective these methods are.

It is fairly common for me to be awake for most of the night, to watch the hours pass, to see the sky lightening – and then, exhausted, to give way, only to be woken some time between five and six when other members of the house get up.

The stress of early Sunday morning (following a very tense Friday evening) has caused the usual back and rib pain to flare up yet again – and it hurts to lie down, sit up, drive, turn on my side, sleep.

Ironically, Saturday was delightful – and, had it not been for the phone call, I suspect I would have slept brilliantly because I felt so happy and carefree and relaxed.

But the pattern has begun again – and, for the last week, I have barely slept at all.

Sleep is SO important. It is easy to underestimate this if you are one of those lucky people who falls asleep instantly and goes through the night undisturbed.

But, for those of us who toss and turn, worry and fret and lie, wide-eyed and wide-awake, well into the dawn hours, an uninterrupted eight hour stretch beckons like a glimpse of Paradise.

We long for the clicking knitting needles of sleep to stitch up our tattered garments.

And then reality intrudes, bringing with it the gritty eyes, the sore mind, the stiff body and the incipient tears of insomnia.

I feel as if my sleeve is unravelling fast.

Chew Valley Beer Festival!

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My drink of choice both times!
I have now been to this splendid annual event twice – and both times had a whale of a time. This post, written two years ago, deals with my Maiden Voyage upon the great ship Beer Festival!

We went, twelve of us from the surrounding area, by minibus, to the 10th Chew Valley Beer Festival at Ubley.

It turned out to be an absolute hoot: a thoroughly enjoyable, at times hilarious, and convivial evening’s worth.

My Marital Helpmeet and I were alerted to this Oberammergau of the South West by a close friend of ours (who, for simplicity’s sake, I shall refer to as GG in these annals). Unfortunately, there was only one seat left on the bus – and, having drawn lots, I came away the winner. Actually, that’s a downright lie! The Husband confessed that he would have struggled – being as deaf as a post – with the level of noise, and very gallantly let me represent this branch of the Taylor Tree at the proceedings.

Well, someone’s got to do it, eh?!

So, this tatterdemalion band of beer-loving brethren (with the odd lurking sistren as well…) convened outside the local boozer at 7.30, and leapt eagerly upon the bus.

The outward journey was a merry affair, with much laughter and, certainly in my bosom, eager anticipation. And, as an unexpected bonus, I was totally unafraid. Often, as you know, travelling is a scary thing for me, and I get very tense and anxious – but not this time! Oh, the relief!

We got to the Village Hall – and it was already heaving at the seams with gallimaufries of guzzling gannets, all pushing their way towards the long Beer Table.

I joined forces with the afore-mentioned GG, and two other friends, BOS and O2 – and, although we drifted in and out of other groups, other conversations, other spaces, we tended to operate very much as a quartet much of the time.

Let me share our modus operandi for the benefit of those who may wish to emulate our approach on future occasions: we adopted a kind of liquid variation on the famous Pot Luck theme. Or, to put it another way, it was a case of Share and Share Alike – each member of the group trusting that no other was afflicted with galloping Foot and Mouth!

We were given, as we entered the sacred portals, a beer guide – fetchingly decorated with a picture of a dozy (or possibly drunk) cow, apparently supping contentedly from a glass of beer. Inside, each beer, with its label printed colourfully by the side, was lovingly described.

We each bought a strip of seven tickets, and, for each ticket, you could choose a half pint of the beer of your choice.

My eye was immediately caught by the Lady of the Lake – well, it would be, wouldn’t it?! what with the Glastonbury connection and so forth – and so I bludgeoned my way through the crowd, to be rewarded with a generous half pint of nectar.

BOS, O2 and GG had, in the meantime, got their own first choices – and so, we stood around and sipped from one another’s glasses, making many a comment upon the taste, the accuracy – or otherwise – of the description, and the beer’s relative strength.

GG, clearly far better prepared than I, made copious notes, which made me laugh. Frankly, my dears, by the end of my second half pint, I was barely able to string two words together, never mind write! BOS borrowed a pencil from someone, and he and I occasionally made a half-hearted tick in the requisite column – just to indicate that this was one we had chosen.

As beer succeeded beer – and I tried five altogether (plus large mouthfuls of the others’ choices) – I began to loosen at the edges, to relax, to mellow into the groove, man!

And groove it most certainly was. There was a live band. As opposed, you understand, to a dead one. These four – after four beers, they multiplied into eight! – young men had hot-footed it down from Manchester to entertain us. Like you do…

It was strangely, and deliciously, reminiscent of the Saturday Night Hop at the Union Bar in Aberystwyth – an event attended religiously by the boyf and I. I recall vividly that we used to Pose Dance – or space clear, as it was also called – to such lovelies as, ‘Eton Rifles’, ‘Geno’ and ‘Echo Beach’. People learned to give us a wide berth, as the whole idea of our strategy was to cover as much of the dance floor as we possibly could.

Enough of the nostalgia! After beer number three – a rather toothsome little number called Molecatcher – I dove for the dancing space and flung myself frenetically, frenziedly and foolishly (as it transpired) around, collecting an extremely drunk young man on my travels.

He was quite determined to gather me to him, and made several attempts upon my waist and bosom – but I, slippery as a greased eel, evaded his roving hands, and danced round him.

BOS, O2 and GG had scuttled off, severally, to the yeasty call of the wild – and, when I came off the dance floor, there were three more variants upon a beer theme for me to sample. I have no idea what BOS had ordered, but it tasted execrable, and GG, in a planned moment of madness, had exchanged a ticket for the infamous Old Engine Oil. This stuff, though no doubt invaluable for refuelling jet aircraft, was vile!

Mind you, by this stage in the proceedings, it all tasted like ear wax to me anyway!

Like an eccentric bunch of Cinderellas, we were picked up, and whisked off, at around the Witching Hour – and, clutching our free beer glasses, beer guides and general detritus, we lurched back onto the coach, narrowly avoiding the attentions of a would-be stowaway.

On the return journey, I sat next to BOS. He was even drunker than I, and appeared either to have gone into Trappist Monk Mode, or to be in a coma; I’m not sure which! I was pretty quiet myself, mulling it all over in my mind, letting the assorted beers slosh around my inner woman – and beginning to hear a plaintive whine from my right hip!

Back home, I drank a bucketful of water (hoping to dim the effects of the inevitable hangover) and then went to bed, feeling very happy but slightly deaf.

This morning, the illusion of youth was rudely shattered. I was reminded, as I limped downstairs, hip twanging away painfully, that I am chronologically nearer grave than groove – but hell’s bells (which happened to be the name of the band! Now, there’s a thing!), why should I conform to the thick rule book of being in my fifties?

I shall dance till both hips give way and pop out like bony cuckoos from my life’s clock!

Ha!

 

Self-Confidence

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Me during my most confident years (thus far)

Confidence is, I believe, one of the greatest gifts parents, teachers and other adults can confer upon a child.

If given grudgingly or with conditions attached, it does not stick – and is easily knocked, or destroyed altogether.

Perhaps the saddest thing is parents who believe that instilling a positive self-image is, in some way, wrong, evil, injurious to the growing child. Or those who withhold praise as a punitive measure, and encourage the little one to see him/herself as a failure.

For some, making others feel small and worthless is part of a power game – and I am afraid that many teachers fall into this trap when controlling their classes, and when dishing out the knowledge which makes them feel so superior.

Parents: Giving your child a healthy self-image should never be confused with the wilful passing over of haughtiness or arrogance, nor should it be doled out sparingly because your Holy Book disapproves of lavish displays of love.

To me, it is an integral part of the package of love – and to undermine another’s sense of self-worth is NOT a sign of tough love; it is a sign of domination.

To place limits on love, lest the young person becomes spoilt, seems, to me, criminally negligent. To tell a child that they do not deserve praise because it’ll make them big-headed – or, even worse, because they did something of which you disapproved two weeks ago, smacks of an unforgiving and rigid nature to me.

Of course, and as many of you will realise, I am using ‘parent’ in the very loosest sense in this piece, and am referring to anyone who is in a position of power over another/others, and who thinks it’s funny to play mind games with someone else’s burgeoning confidence.

My own level of confidence has fluctuated over the course of my life. It reached a height during my university years – and has plummeted badly at various times since then.

I am not a naturally confident person, though I can give the impression of being so – and it takes very little for my belief in myself to evaporate.

I want my son to feel that he matters, that he is loved unconditionally, that his talents and positive traits are encouraged and appreciated – and that his faults are works in progress, not evidence that he fatally flawed.

I want him to have the confidence to be who he is, and to do what HE wants to do with his life. I want him to inhabit his own skin with ease, and to know that he has unlimited potential for magnificence.

I am lucky in the sense that loved ones (family and friends) rock me in the cradle of worth they can see and I am often blind to. I am blessed because my truest friends hold out the hope of what I actually am even when I see only the dark and negative sides.

Too many of the children I taught had no self-confidence, and no one to prop them up or tell them how brilliant, lovely, kind and delightful they actually were – and, though I often tried to convey these messages, there is little one can do when faced with the dark tsunami of relentless parental disapproval.

Parents (in every sense): Material gifts are all very well and good, but the love you give your child (and the worth they gain from it) matters far more in the long run.

Alive!

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Yes, I am alive! Fizzing and whizzing and frolicking! My mind is spinning, a colourful stream of clothes in the skull’s washing machine, squeezing out the dirt, hitting the door with a palpable crash from time to time. Shocking in its Hammer suddenness, reminiscent of Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Frankenstein‘ – the moment, in the symbolic birth scene, when the monster’s hand banana-bunch thumps, in thudding terror, against the round glass eye of the artificial womb.The suds drain away, and the garments lie, like petrol in a puddle, in the merest glimmer of remaining water.

There is a moon-bright cast to the world at present. At risk of sounding fanciful, it is as if we have been visited by angelic beings, here to stir things up with their radiant wings. There is a questing finger of madness, pulling aside certainty’s drapes and revealing the dusty tatters of the room beyond the illusion.

There is an echo of the Higher Self, whispering in the ears of the poets, dreamers, visionaries and sensitives.

Something, this Autumn day, is on the move. Something which will not be barred any longer. Something of immense power.

The outmoded is being questioned, challenged; the psychically wounded are being made to bleed, to haemorrhage in fact, and then to heal – or to undergo the death that leads to rebirth.

Silvery webs of connection are now spreading out, lacing the ceiling of the group mind, the collective unconscious. Minds are linking, and reading one another’s stories with an ease previously thought impossible.

Our cynicism is being given a good, hearty shake – whether it likes it or not – and forced to confront its dark and inhuman side, its life denial.

And maybe the children of this world will ride out as wise horsemen. Maybe the writers, the painters, the music players will take up sword and shield and fight for artistic freedom, for the soul of Logres, for our rich and wonderful global land.

Maybe the song will become a universal anthem, a call to gentle arms, a sound in the darkness of sad times, a tuneful beacon in the brilliance of light.

I gather my ‘clothes’ into a wicker woven basket, peg them out on the line, watch as a strong wind flurries them flutteringly up into the sky, whisks them off who knows where.

There will be others. Different colours, different patterns. But more, nonetheless.

And, meanwhile, here I am, outside the bony cranial prison, head back in joyous laughter, ALIVE!

‘If music be the food of love, play on!’

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‘If music be the food of love, play on!’

So said Duke Orsino (if memory serves me correctly) in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ – and I think he was absolutely right. There is, I feel, a very real connection between music, food and love.

Today, I am going to create an ideal scenario involving all three. 

Unrealistic? Probably! But isn’t it our dreams and visions which give us hope and span the bridge between darkness and light?

He picks me up from my house, and his eyes smile with kindness, love and desire so that I feel warmed and cocooned and safe despite the cold weather.

It is my birthday – and, in honour of both the occasion and my date, I have dressed up in a long seventies Laura Ashley dress, dark blue with a tight gathered bodice which shows off my breasts to perfection. My hair, now waist length and dyed, once more, the feisty marmalade I love so much, ripples down my back.

I feel tingles of anticipation as I get into the car, for I know that this man will have chosen with great care, sensitivity and, in all probability, that little sprinkling of humour which first bonded us all those decades ago.

We talk, easily, about everything; we always have, since the day we met. And, although there is a sexual charge between us, there is also trust and friendship. We LIKE each other.

The car heads into unknown territory, and the man and I begin to reminisce, laughing, about our dim and distant past, our conversation full of code words and, ‘Do you remember?…’s and, ‘This reminds me…’s.

The journey is long, and we fetch up, eventually, at a hotel just down the road from the Eglwys Fach Water Wheel.

Parking the car, my man takes me by the arm and we walk towards the entrance.

It is a beautiful night: chilly and still, but the stars are so bright and everything feels as if it were caught in a net of magic.

There is a table, set for two: heavy silver cutlery upon a white tablecloth, yellow and purple freesias (my favourite flowers) in a thin vase and, by my place, a bar of Lindt chocolate.

We smile at one another, my oldest friend and I. He knows me so well still, despite the long years apart; it is as if we had never moved away from our previous intimacy.

Behind us, on a little dais, there is a band: fiddler, guitarist, saxophone player, mandolin player, drummer, flautist.

They strike up a tune, a sad Irish song I love so dearly – and, within minutes, I am swept up into the wonder of their sheer versatility, for they can play ANYTHING – and do!

Fragrant dishes begin to appear: finest soups, accompanied by thick rustic bread and butter; pates and thin toast; Tapas in all its piquant variety; fresh fish and organic vegetables; roast chicken, with all the trimmings; chocolate mousse with cream and raspberries; superb red wines, sweet dessert wines, sparkling clear water to refresh the palate…

And, all the time, we flirt with each succulent mouthful, licking lips with laughing suggestiveness, giggling like children at the sensuousness of asparagus dipped in melted butter, offering one another fingers to suck, spooning gooey puddings into one another’s pouting mouths, swallowing with conscious lust.

The music becomes slow and sexy; so do we!

He takes me in his arms, this familiar man from my young girlhood, and I rest my head on his warm shoulder as we sway, eyes closed, to the haunting tunes from our youth.

And I know that we might make love later  – but that it does not matter if we don’t, because, with him, I have all the time in the world, no need to hurry, to fret, to become tense.

What will be, will be.

He loves me, you see, my fantasy lover, the man I first ‘met’ when I was fifteen.

Does he exist?

Who knows!

Maybe he does, somewhere in the world.

Maybe he does not, was only ever hope for a lonely child.

It does not matter.

He has fed me, loved me, cherished and comforted me.

And it was the perfect meal!

Attributes_of_Music

 

Gifts of love

From now onwards, I stand up and I say a clear and resounding, ‘No!’

The anger can be filtered into firm intent and clear boundaries.

Thank you to all of you for reading, commenting upon and getting my rage pieces.

Now, let me turn the table so that sunlight falls upon it, rather than the lava, howling wind and torrential rains of the past three days.

On Saturday, the door bell rang: ’twas a jolly delivery lady, with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in her hand.

Mystified, I opened the card – and had to blink back tears, so touched was I: the flowers, a rich riot of lemon, orange and pale peach colours, had come from the parents of one of my close friends.

They sit upon the Conservatory table, an area of brightness and hope even on the dullest of days.

Sunday evening, three of my best friends came back from holiday – and gave me the most beautiful green leather bracelet, intertwining flowers and butterflies: just the sort of thing I adore; they also got me a wonderful stone decoration,  which will hang on my Western wall: It features the half Moon and the Sun cuddled up together, and is, like the bracelet, just ME!

I have also received some wonderful warm and loving messages on here.

Stupidly, I did not start a Box of Positives this year; I wish I had now – because I have much to be thankful for, and it is all too easy to become overwhelmed by the negative and lose sight of the many good things.

Never too late, though – and only convention dictates that the year MUST start on January 1st.

I shall be starting the Grail part of the Hallowquest on the Autumn Equinox – how appropriate! – and am intending to begin a new tin around the same time.

Some relationships cannot be mended; some situations cannot be resolved – and some conditions cannot, unfortunately, be healed. It is very easy to become despondent, to feel powerless and furious and overwhelmed by it all (the way I have done recently)  – but there is ALWAYS light to counter the darkness; there is always that little Hope at the bottom of Pandora’s Box, and there is always the choice to take the Path of Love, even if that love does, sometimes, have to be tough.

130px-Pandora-1879

Words of love from a child

This, written years ago – when the child concerned was eight – hangs upon one of my walls. Yellowing now, and creased at the edges, with greasy BluTac splodges in each corner, it nevertheless holds part of my heart – and can still reduce me to tears.

MY MUM

Mum you are as yellow as the sunshine

You taste as delicious as sweet chocolate

You smell of sweet-smelling perfume

You look like a snuggly teddy bear

You sound like a singing bird

You feel like a big bundle of hugs in the air

A rock warm in the sun (Granny Speaks)

We sit upon these rocks, don’t we, my dearies? Warm and safe, or so we think, our bottoms planted securely upon the ancient and weathered stone, our heads tilted slightly so we can catch the last of the sun’s rays.

And we think, if thought passes the placid blue of our mind’s ocean, that this is serendipity, that the rock is there for our convenience.

It isn’t, of course. It pre-dated us, and it will outlive us too.

Some of us, filled with curiosity or dread, delve under rocks and find a very different, much darker, landscape: a world inhabited by slime and scurrying creatures; a world far messier and more loamy; a world untouched by the solar, with a distinctive smell all its own.

We are, in a sense, very like these chairs of nature.

We can appear so comfortable, like elderly furniture worn into the shape of centuries of human use; people can sit upon us, stretching their parched white souls into the life-giving nutrients of our inner grails. They can sup upon our surface as if it were the richest, and most satisfying of meals. They can assume that we are there for their security and nurturing.

And so we are, my lovelies, so we are…

Often-times, that is.

But, if we lift the heavy rock, we sometimes find scary dark crevices, nasty smells and death ‘neath the beaming sun of a smile.

Sometimes, all unwary, we rest ourselves upon the dun hide of a crocodile sunning itself  – and we only know what we have done when the great teeth close in upon leg’s fragile bones, ligaments, flesh, and, with a great wail, we are sucked underneath to thrash our bloody way into Death’s great hungry maw.

We think we know.

We think the patterns on the skin, the fine painting upon the face, match the heart’s engravings.

Or, lust-struck and Moon-calved, we do not think at all.

Beware, my children, the scorpion poised beneath your stone sanctuary.

Do not be lulled by sunbeams and seductive smiles.

Lift. Look. Learn.

Post-Natal Depression (Granny speaks)

Not much was known about it in my mother’s day. You just got on with it, didn’t you? And, if you suffered from a touch of the Baby Blues – as it was known back then – you kept it to yourself.

I tell you frankly, though, my dears, that it can be very serious indeed – and can even, in extreme cases, cause deaths.

The most frightening aspect of the whole thing is the touch of psychosis which sometimes – though by no means always – accompanies the depression.

I can tell you now that I felt a little bit down, a tad under the weather, with all five of my babies. I was, to coin a phrase, not quite myself. Cranky and weepy, scared and clingy, I retreated from the world for a few months – until the intensity of the feelings passed and I was, once again, able to laugh and socialise and dandle my babe in comfort.

For some reason, my fourth pregnancy was the hardest. The unborn baby’s heart gave cause for concern when I was eight months gone, and I spent the morning of one dreadful day in hospital hooked up to a monitor.

The midwife feared that the little one was going to be under-size and there was talk of transferring me to a specialist maternity unit, in a city twenty miles away, when I went into labour.

I was, I can now see, in a state of considerable stress and anxiety, far more so than with the other four.

As it happened, my labour, though long, was perfectly normal – and my daughter, when she arrived, was a decent weight and in excellent condition.

Felled perhaps by the ‘What if?’ s which had run round my head for so many days, I descended into the dark world of paranoia and terror with terrifying speed.

This was not the slightly withdrawn weepiness I had experienced before. No. It was far more scary than that.

I became convinced that I was going to hurt, or even kill, my vulnerable little baby. I imagined hitting her fragile skull against the stone fireplace; I saw, with vivid horror, myself holding a pillow over her sweet face and smothering her. Violent acts and their bloody consequences seemed to run through my mind in a constant stream.

And yet I felt the most profound love, and protectiveness, for this tiny being. I was terrified that she would get hurt – and yet, at the same time, I could imagine only too readily killing her myself.

I told no one of these dreadful scenes. Felt too ashamed, I suppose; felt I was the most unnatural and potentially abusive mother ever.

Fortunately, this dark phase passed as quickly as it had begun – and I did not need to take any medication.

But, having been through this myself, I would urge any new mother who has baby-harming thoughts to seek medical help IMMEDIATELY. Do not wait, as I did, in the hope that this too shall pass.

The incidents of matricide which occasionally hit the news are all too poignant testimony to the fact that the Baby Blues can be fatal.

Seer and blind too (Granny speaks)

I am wise-woman – and very stupid too. Cannot always see the beach for the pebbles.

I am Seer. But I am also blind, though not in the strictest sense of that word.

Let me say that I can read the cards clear as clear can be; I can See the colours of your life in limpid pool and turbulent river; I am in tune with the beating heart of our Earth Goddess, Gaia.

Yet, my eyes did not see past the beauty of Dorian Gray.

We see, they say, what we want to see – and this is not the preserve of youth either. We older ones are just as prone to willingly don the spectacles of lust, or love, and read a shining spirit into darksome eyes and the sort of smile that curls round the erotic centre.

Age does not protect us, nor do the bodily privations caused by donning the black cloak of the Crone.

At any age, we can be told, warned vehemently,’ This one is NOT for you,’  and do we listen?

No. We don’t because we are under a spell. We are entranced. And we do not imagine that the dire prognostications will happen to US.

Our loved ones tell us, ‘Look at the way he treats other women. Look at the way he sneaks around, all furtive like, in order to see you. Look ahead – and that is how he will deal with you too. He shuffles the pack called Woman identically each time – and deals the same pattern.’

But we think we will be the exception to that deep-grooved rule, don’t we? In our careless youth, or liberated age, we assume we know better.

Until we find we don’t, that is – and then the crying starts, or the held-in screams. Then we gather about us the cape of fear. We walk on thinnest shells day in day out.

No hand needs to be raised in anger. That is not always the way of the world – though God know too many women in our world bear the fading spectrum of a fist’s domination.

Maiden I have been – and blossomed in the white.

Mother, too, my scarlet robe held proud against my swelling belly.

And now, in the dark shadow of the black – and in the knowledge that my life is over half done – I reflect upon mankind’s mad hope and sad self-delusion. I think of womankind falling, like dominoes, at the feet of the swarthy villains of literature – and thinking they are demigods in disguise.

Ah, women! Ah me! For I am no better. Just older. I too am trapped by the oldest illusion of all, one shared by men and women alike.

The illusion that love, if strong enough, must needs be reciprocated. That open heart attracts open heart. And that the heroes we create in our minds will take flesh and become real.

It is not the heart you need to listen to, young things – and older things!

It is the gut.

That speaks the deepest truth – and gives the clearest bell of warning.

Childbirth (Granny speaks)

A while back, I started another blog under the guise of one of my alter egos, Granny. It did not work: For reasons of technological ineptitude, it did not provide the privacy I needed, and I did not/do not have the energy to maintain two sites.

Waste not, want not, however – so, in this fallow period on the main blog, I am going to transfer the Granny material over here and then close her down.

No obligation to read any of this, of course, especially as I shall be posting several in a short space of time.

I am hoping to get a handle on my current state of pain and anxiety without needing to see a doctor. Meanwhile, thank you for your patience and kindness.

In the dim and distant past, when I was a maiden, before I grew a babe in my own womb, I used to find images of child-bed curiously erotic.

‘How strange!’ you may say – and maybe you would be right.

But, think about it: Most babes are conceived under the sexiest stars you could think of. Their cells start dividing post orgasm!

The news reports women give about their own experiences can be so distorted, exaggerated or pared down that the mother-to-be doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going!

Some ladies love to embellish the slightest twinge into full-blown agony. These ones tell their stories as one long medical emergency, involving gallons of blood (some not their own!), forceps the size of cattle castrators, cords wrapped five times round the wean’s neck and near-death experiences by the score.

Others, who claim that their cervixes open as easily and quickly as peeling an egg, sing their sisterly sagas of ten minute labours, minimal pain and a little’un entering the world peaceful as a Buddha.

The reality?

T’ain’t pretty, let me tell you that! Nor dignified. Doesn’t always go to plan, either.

I was all of a doodah when I found I was expecting for the first time – and, being both young and naive, sought the opinion of the Merewife from Hell. This lady, a near neighbour, had had ten children – and, though I didn’t know it at the time, was just the sort of expert the primigravida (whether elderly or otherwise) least needs.

She seemed the motherly sort, you know? Built like a Cottage Loaf, warm and comforting in her demeanour, all smiles and offers of home -made scones.

After admiring the many photographs of her brood, I got down to brass tacks.

‘So, what is labour actually like?’ I asked.

‘Graphic’ doesn’t begin to describe her horrific journey through, as far as I could see, ALL known complications.

It was a real case of, ‘Been there. Done that. Got the (stuck) Afterbirth!’

Worse than life in an Abattoir, the way she told it. Pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, extra-large offspring, foetal distress, positive Nile Inundations of haemorrhage, it was a wonder she’s survived ONE, let alone TEN.

I tottered out, some three hours later, absolutely terrified.

Her unfeeling cackle, as I fainted for the third time, did nothing for my self-esteem either!

Come the day, though, what’s gone in has got to come out – not to put too fine a point upon it – and, though full of images involving quarts and pint pots, not to mention real trains forcing their way through toy tunnels, I knew that, with babe nearing Exit Door, I’d just have to get on with it.

Can’t be doing with those women who give you all that guff about, ‘Oh, you soon forget the pain of contractions…’

You don’t – and it is BLOODY painful. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

As for the bit when you get the overwhelming urge to push, don’t be mislead by those who claim that all it takes it one minor squeeze and your babe lands neatly on your chest.

It is damn hard word. ‘Labour’ is not an euphemism. It can take two hours, or more, to birth just the head – and that bit hurts like hell, take it from me!

When the little love comes out, he or she is not all pretty postcard clean and tidy, looking up at you with speechless devotion. Wizened, purple and blood-stained is more like it. As, indeed, are you!

If you’ve hatched the sprog through the Tunnel of Love, you’ll struggle to sit down for a few days, your, er, natural functions will feel like passing an Ocean Going Liner and you’ll be afraid, with every visit to the toilet, that all your internal organs are about to leap out.

Sex? Forget it!

Believe you me, it’ll be the very last thing on your mind in those early days – and, if Hubby so much as sidles up to you, you’ll deck him with the chamber pot, like as not!

Breast feeding?

Looks a doddle, doesn’t it?

It isn’t. Can take days to get the little darling clamped on securely – and it hurts like hell initially.

But we do it again and again, don’t we?

Irrespective of horrible stories, gruesome true-life videos and our own experiences, we continue to love and labour and love again.

And I still think there something erotic about it!

‘The Six Wives of Henry V111′ by Living Spit – play review…

Review of ‘The Six Wives of Henry V111’ – Living Spit Company

Written and Performed by Stu Mcloughlin  and Howard Coggins

From Catherine of Aragon to Catherine Parr; from divorce through beheading to natural death, this gloriously Rabelaisian and irreverent trawl through the amours of England’s most infamous jouster at the lists of lust, was an utter delight.

Ever thought of History as boring? Ever considered, even privately, that the plethora of princes, the hegemony of Henrys and the wash of wimpish women were just a little yawn-worthy? Think again, for this show will drag you, by the privy parts, kicking, screaming and roaring with raucous laughter, into its surprisingly soft under belly.

In we trickled, a tatterdemalion collection of Bristol’s finest, into the apt darkness of the Basement – and settled, at stiffly British intervals, upon the chairs, high stools and benches provided. The set, bordered on three sides by audience, was simple: a sofa, covered by a purple throw (denoting majesty perhaps) and occupied by a portly, bearded man of indeterminate years, bearing a strong resemblance to the eponymous star of the Tudor Rogering for England contest. A leather armchair; a crown hanging symbolically upon the wall; a gallimaufry of guitar-like instruments posing upon a post – these completed the picture.

The play wove ribbons, bright and colourful –past and present, Henry’s Harem and the two actors down on their luck or quarrelling like a long-married couple – round the central Maypole of the dramatic conceit:  Howard Coggins and Stu Mcloughlin, incensed by a poisonous review of a previous play by one of the local papers – which featured, amongst other hilarious phrases, the wonderful, ‘…like a giant praying mantis trying to put out several fires…’ – deciding upon, and performing, their new idea: Henry’s wives.

Stu Mcloughlin, in cadaverously sinister public school twit mode as Henry 7th, was alternately avuncular and utterly withering to his beloved Arthur and barely tolerated Henry – both played by Howard Coggins. His words of wisdom were enhanced by the wonderful acronym, DRIBBLE, which meandered down his abdomen, the ‘E’, for exercise tucked neatly in the marital foliage – and we all know which variety of exercise was on offer there!

Howard made a richly coloured tapestry of Henry V111’s character: nasty at times, vulgar, insecure, libidinous, yet tender and vulnerable too, especially at the end. Who could possibly forget the moment when he nipped behind the sofa for a protracted, and clearly audible, draining of the infamous leg ulcer into a bucket? You do not get many moments like that to the thespian pound!

Stu Mcloughlin, who brought cross-dressing to ribald new heights by enacting the entire sextet, was a revelation.  All six were brilliantly portrayed, but I have to confess a particular weakness for the fur-coated, Jazzercise -and -sport –instructor- loving Catherine Howard (from County Durham and thus sounding like Gazza on helium) ,who chose her moment of execution so that she could get in a last session of Pilates. Second favourite would have to be the garrulously proletarian Jane Seymour, with her Wiltshire accent and penchant for embroidery: her musings upon her Battersea Power Station design and the imperfect fourth chimney had the audience rocking with mirth.

Quirky takes upon modern television programmes were cleverly woven into the structure: a version of ‘Britain’s got Talent’ to find a suitable Archbishop of Canterbury, and the superb ‘Blind Date’ as Henry looked for wife number four – and, it has to be said, bit off rather more than he could chew with the marvellously Teutonic, political dominatrix, Anne of Cleves.

The splendidly skanky Barbies, used to play Mary and Anne Boleyn – and operated by a lusciously moustachioed Catherine A – caused one of the biggest ripples of laughter of the entire show, and were a great idea.

Supported by regular in- house sniping, excellent songs and a spectacular hissy fit, this was first class entertainment.  We clapped, and cat-called, with great enthusiasm, and were thrilled when Howard and Stu came on for a second bow. I am sure I am not alone in wishing there could have been several more of those.

I have now seen the play five times – nearly as many viewings as Henry had wives – and I still laugh like a drain, nay an entire sewerage system, every time! The Dynamic Duo have other irons in the proverbial fire: They tour pubs with shows; they are coming back this Autumn with their own take on Elizabeth 1( Elizabeth 1 – Virgin on the Ridiculous) and, if we are all very lucky, they will be reprising old Henry at some point – PLEASE!

Here is a hilarious trailer, featuring the lads, of  Henry and his bevy of beauties!

From Ruth to Belladonna: My Amateur Dramatic Experiences

I am, I would be the first one to admit, a total Drama Queen – and yet, until comparatively recently, I was convinced that I had no aptitude for board-treading whatsoever.

When I was at university, I was fascinated by the Drama Department students and would – secretly and not so secretly – have loved to join their edgy and Bohemian throng.

But I did not dare.

In 2001, I auditioned for ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ with the local Drama club. I did it because I love singing, was regularly in a choir as a child and wanted to sing once more.

I thought, at the time, that I’d be lucky if I got a chorus part – but, to my amazement, I was one of two people picked to play Ruth. Mabel would have been wonderful – but, let’s be honest, I was past forty, enormous and, as it turned out, both taller and heavier (far, far heavier) than the chap who eventually played Frederic. Link below to my first solo (not, I hasten to add, sung by me in this version):

Playing Ruth suited me down to the ground, however, and released a vulgar and hilarious earthiness I thought I had lost in reality and had never suspected I possessed in front of strangers. As I hoicked my mammaries up night after night, as I warbled my middle-aged heart out, I knew I was well and truly hooked.

And, even more astonishingly, people said I had stage presence, that I was very good, very funny.

Since then, I have played a variety of roles – but seem to fit most naturally into the large pink fairy mode. Though I did branch out on my second foray into thespiandom and played a drunken old bag. As part of that one, I had to lurch to the piano, in a state of total inebriation, and, flashing my cami-knickers at all and sundry, attempt to play a tune. Hmm! The part could have been written for me actually!*

Two years ago, I finally got to be the evil villainness of the piece, playing Belladonna in ‘Snow White’.
What a relief that was! No more Mrs Nice Pink Fluffy Bunny for a while. No, I lept straight into Cruella De’Vil mode and embraced my inner fiend with relish.

I love the eccentric and the off beat when it comes to productions – the loonier the better, actually. And I still vividly recall the production of ‘Ubu‘ performed by the Drama Department at Aberystwyth, and the stonking portrayal of the two main characters by Damien. and Hilary.

Things shifted in an odd way and I become, for a year or more, a Community Reviewer. This was fantastic and I loved the whole process. I worked with the brilliant Theatre Orchard Project, an organisation which promotes local, often al fresco, theatre.

In the spring of 2012, I reviewed a play by a two-man theatre company called Living Spit. Their play, which I have mentioned before, was so original and funny that I saw it twice – and laughed just as much the second time around!

To my delight, they did Edinburgh last summer.

I think it is great that, in these days of recession, we have such variety in dramatic terms, and that we have people, and groups, with the vision and courage to support and promote that which is not mainstream.

Long may it last. Hats off to the Theatre Orchard Project! Please support such life-enhancing initiatives wherever you are in the world. For they can, and do, make a huge difference to the quality of our lives. And, if you are ever able to catch Stu McLoughlin and Howard Coggins in  ‘The Six Wives of Henry V111‘ (which I have now seen five times) or anything else they have written, do go- and be prepared, be very prepared, to jettison a lung laughing!

*not, you understand, that I ever allow a drop of intoxicating liquor to pass my lips. A cauldron, yes, or a drip plus canula, definitely, but not a drop…

 

Farewell for now. I shall be back in a few days.

Give me healing and peace, Grail…

chwllid

Oh, Grail, come to me -

I am hurting and sad;

Let me ask that question -

And be answered

By the cooling flow

Of chaliced water,

Upheld by mystic maiden,

Trickled into aching body.

 

Please, dear Lady,

Protect me,

For I am in need.

Give me your warm arms

And comforting voice;

Let me feel less alone

And fearful

In this thorny wilderness…

 

I cannot rock

Upon that wooden horse,

Any faster or longer;

I cannot take on

The ghosts of

Ancient parental sobs,

Their screaming

Fear of scarcity.

 

I cannot

Be abandoned

To deal with

Thrashing aftermath

Of my mother’s denial

Of deepest terror;

I am a child, eight;

I need looking after too.

 

I cannot lie awake,

Muscles agony-knotted,

Night after night,

To ward off

Bogeymen

And illness’ spectres;

I am too little

To drag my family to safety.

 

Let me cup hands

Around the warming draught,

Oh Goddess;

Let trembling lips

Receive love and care;

Let hyper-alertness’

Sore and scary damage

Be healed now.

 

Alienorajt – of the inadequate todger fame!

Ye gods, this I MUST share!

The more smutty Spammers have clearly decided that Alienorajt is a bloke’s name – though God alone knows how they came to THAT conclusion!  – and I have been overwhelmed by kind and thoughtful offers to increase that which nature clearly held back on.

Well it would, wouldn’t it? What with me being a girl and all that, and thus destined, from birth onwards, to be a tad lacking on the penile front.

For some days/weeks now, I have been lured in – NOT! – by the promise of Penis Enlargement, one assumes via pills, potions and unpleasant suction devices, all of which, no doubt, plunge the Member for Bedfordshire into the torment and embarrassment of acute Priapism and a testing trip down to A&E.

I have been consistently underwhelmed by this genital generosity – and have, in fact, put all such communications through the cyber shredder as quickly as I could – though, in the more absurd cases, with a wry laugh or twenty.

To put it crudely (and when do I NOT?) these buggers are going to have one hell of a job trying to get ME a girthsome choad!

The funniest one arrived just before this post. Having failed on the salesman techniques, these egregious sons and daughters of leprous camels went for the ‘ Appeal to his Vanity‘ approach – by stating that I would give immense pleasure to countless women, presumably if I took their parlous preparations and ended up with a dick the size of a Giant Redwood tree.

Put it this way, if I end up with a Sequoia in MY National Park, it will not be my own – if you catch my drift…