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

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Blacksmith: Daily Prompt

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/hammer/

Given a choice, I would train to be a Blacksmith, to work in the open-sided forge within that liminal area between the Dark and the Light, for Wayland’s Smithy traditionally lies outside the rivalry of sorcerers, and obeys only the laws of the ancient wild magic.

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I love the idea of a trade which works with all four elements: the metals hacked from deep in the Earth, the fire itself, fanned and ‘fertilised’ by Air – and the water so necessary for cooling purposes.

But, the forge, and Wayland Smith himself, or Hephaestus come to that, stand as the perfect metaphor for the writer – and for the creative process in a more general sense.

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Ah! It is so brilliant to be on this site! So terrifying too! It is sparking my imagination – and plunging me into the cold, grey porridge of profound insecurity.

Do we need the crinkling and colourful festive paper of applause, of adulation? Do we wrap ourselves in the fine cashmere shawl of rarefied words and literary appreciation? Do we hold out our ice-purpled hands to the fires of inspiration?

Yes, yes, yes! We do – and we must. For we do not write, or paint, or compose in a vacuum. We enter our own Hephaestus’ Forge alone, it is true. We pump up the bellows, rasp tinder to create golden-orange flame, shape and pound, hammer and sweat in our own furnaced world of the Muse.

But, we welcome the caparisoned warhorse and its rider stopping by; we shoe the dusted, bloodied stallion, exchange news with the knight; we reforge his sword, beat out the nicks and dents of the battlefield.

We stop for the gently-bred lady, side-saddle upon a dainty mare, and share her tales of life in the Castle, of the lovers and plump children and dogs running hither and yon; we delight in her honeyed triumphs, her sweet puffs of love, her underwater sensuality.

We are Wayland Smith. A portal. A stopping place of the mind and soul. We are sanctuary and solace. We are the rough dwelling on high grey moors, sagging amidst sheep-bitten grass, echoing to the raucous cry of raven.

But, we are alone. I, Hephaesta, am as solitary and isolated as I once was in my mother’s womb. It is a day-long chore, back-breaking and, at times, devastating, to keep the forge fires flaming; to keep that fiery and feisty spirit leaping, in tall playful shadows, upon rough-hewn walls.

And the law of the Smith, drawn in blood and fire-gold down through the ages, is strict: We have a duty to attend to those who come calling, no matter what their rank or business. We cannot refuse.

But, we are hidden, in out of the way shacks near deep, afanc-haunted pools, in hovels by grey-stoned cairns and mysterious tarns – and those seeking our skills must come to us. We cannot go out and look for them.

Other smithies dot the landscape of the world. We compete in this hidden and secretive world of the lightning spark, the transmuting of Earth’s elements into something wonderful – and the inevitable sputterings of neglected fires, the desolation of ashes’ grey penance.

Word can get round. Our thin plumes of smoke are seen by others. People begin to go out of their way, to hear our stories and watch us at work.

But it takes time, and courage.

I am lonely. The child self longs for gifts and reassurance and the excitement of unwrapping. The adult self wants to be warm and safe, loved and read. But, the Higher Self knows the Higher Law, recognises the ancient call of the Sun within – and knows that the rays of creation, once sent out into the world, alight where they will and cannot be stopped.

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Radiators and Drains

Some people can see auras. Clear and bright colours, they tell me, or, on occasions, dull and rotten-looking ones. Sometimes the variations are linked to the state of the person’s health, physical or mental; at other times, something of the soul seeps in.

I cannot ‘see’ auras myself – but I can sense inner darkness and light. Of course, it is not an exact science – for people are rarely wholly good or completely evil – but it can show the true Radiators, and the unconscious Drains.

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Being a Radiator is not, as some people might think, about being relentlessly ‘nice’ and polite; nor is it to do with physical beauty, sex appeal, liveliness or charm. It certainly does not mean that the person has to be sunny-natured and cheerful at all times.

My view is that both types arise from a source much deeper than conscious behaviour choices. I have chosen ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ in an attempt to capture the essentially ephemeral nature.

What I will say is that both types reveal themselves by the effect they have upon others – and that can be very subtle indeed. To put it simply – though it is anything but – Drains are like emotional vampires: they suck all the life out of the room, leaving others feeling…yes, drained! This does not mean that they necessarily sit in a depressed heap, an angry seethe or deadly silence. Some appear to be the life and soul of every party – and yet, you can sense their predatory fangs even as they sparkle and jive and laugh loudly and seduce all and sundry with their wit and sex appeal. Beneath the effervescence of such people, you can feel a yawning darkness, an emptiness; their gaudiness looks forever in the direction of the mirror, and hands held out in apparent friendliness are often a greedy snatch of self, self, self inhibited by societal mores.some-cause-happiness-wherever-they-go...-e1389169873480

Time spent with them is exhausting – and often depressing. The saying ‘All that glitters is not gold’ suits Drains perfectly – because much of it is an act. They are theatre personified. They are roles painstakingly learned. They are the beautiful Dorian Gray and his ghastly portrait mouldering away in the attic. They are, in a very real sense, shape-shifters – though typically they scorn such things as arrant nonsense and illogical superstition.

Drains sneer at the soul. They do not want one. Many are also Narcissists, I suspect – and what they are draining is the essence of you which forms their supply.

Radiators, by contrast, have an inner core of Light, often coupled with an innate generosity of heart. The world seems brighter, more carefree, fizzy as best Champagne, exciting and vibrant when they are around. They illuminate a room and its denizens, leaving others subtly transfigured when they leave.

They pour energy into other people and can alter the whole mood of the gathering for the better.

But, I think they can also radiate love and giving and compassion. Radiators tend to be Empaths – and find it easy to walk in another being’s shoes.

I am not here trying to pretend that we are all either Drains or Radiators. As I intimated earlier, it is far more complex than that. I suspect that most people are capable of being both. That it is not Black and White.

But, I do think that an inner sense of unease about another human being, a sense of things being slightly out of kilter – of the inner person not matching the outer – can be our survival instinct alerting us to the presence of a prowling Drain. Very often, we notice that we feel oddly constrained, inhibited, cowed when in this person’s orbit. We feel that we cannot be our true selves – often because we sense, at a fundamental level, that those bits of us which cannot be ‘consumed’ as supply are at best not wanted, at worst, despised and hated.

Unfortunately, many of us have been taught – wrongly, in my opinion- to view instinct with suspicion, to see it as an organ as vestigial as the appendix in humans. We have been brought up to bow down before the great ungods of science and reason, and to see psychic feelings, intuitions and fetches as pointless survivors from a more primitive age.

We have also been encouraged to take the view that it is all our own perception, that no one else is doing it to us – and I think this, taken to extremes, can be dangerous. I say this because there are Drains out there, male and female, and one of the things they suck from us is any sense of safety and confidence in our own thoughts. They persuade us that our instincts are wrong, that there is no danger. They drain our certainty. For example, the Drain might drive too fast, or aggressively – yet when you share your unease, you get told, ‘I am driving perfectly safely. YOU just have neurotic fears about cars!’

Drains operate like Hoovers gone critical: they start, metaphorically, by cleaning up what they perceive as the dirt, and end up devouring the carpet, the furniture, the bricks and mortar of the house – and, of course, any humans unlucky enough to be standing in their path.

Then, they trundle down the mangled path, trailing flex and chunks of masonry, and look for another dwelling…

With Radiators, you come away feeling that you are loved, precious; often, you emerge from their company dancing with happiness because something in their souls confers this great gift. With them, you can burst from your chrysalis and become the beautiful butterfly you were always meant to be.

They give light because they know it is infinite, that it belongs to all – and that, in the temporal sense, it is just borrowed briefly in the short May Fly ‘day’ of our lives.

They do not give because they expect anything in return. They give because it comes naturally to them.

Drains, by contrast, often give with unspoken expectations that they are, actually, buying a service from you.

Is it possible to mistake the two types? Unfortunately, yes, it is. Drains, as I said earlier, are often highly-skilled performers – and, since their main aim in life is to suck from others, it is in their interest to appear as attractive, interesting, sexy and fascinated by YOU as they can.

Often the warning signs are there from an early stage – but, since seduction in its various forms is an integral part of the game, you will have become so hooked that you either won’t notice or YOU’LL BLAME YOURSELF FOR BEING SO UNCHARITABLE.

I had a habit, when I was younger, of falling in love with Drains. One, in particular, cost me dear. Beautiful, talented, bright and persuasive, he drew me in with effortless ease. And yet, one night I had a vivid and disturbing dream. I saw this man walking down a path, beneath a tumultuous sky, and I could see a huge dark sack attached, like a growth, to his back. He was weighed down by it. I was granted the ability to peer within – and it was filled with nasty-smelling gloopy gunk, black and evil-looking. In the dream, I knew that he was being poisoned from within – and, when he turned round, I saw that his face, beneath the Greek God handsomeness, was bitter and twisted and ugly. I knew, in that instant, that I, too, would get sucked into that sack of horror.

Did I heed this dream?

Do we ever listen to the urgent music of the subconscious when we are in love or lust?

No – and no.

Yesterday, and during the wonderful Silent Eye weekend, I was surrounded by Radiators. These are the people I want in my life. These are the human beings, men and women, who are good for me, who cast a glow of inner Light, whose visions I want to follow and breathe fresh life into – and who patiently hold the space for me to grow.

These are my friends of the spirit.

Thanks to Google Images for the yellow warning sign and to Incredible Zen for the Oscar Wilde quote image.

 

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April Moon 2014, Day 11: Reflections

Today has been the happiest day I have experienced for YEARS. I would give it ten out of ten and an A*.I wear a lovely Indian print maxi dress I bought, ten days ago, in a charity shop in Glastonbury – and I know that the mediaeval style, with my red hair, suits me.  My reflection, as seen through the webcam, shows the joy I feel and radiates the special quality of this Thursday in April. Unusually, I am not going to tell the story; I shall simply show the image – and thank those who gave me such pleasure, excitement and validation.

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Teen Idol: Daily Prompt

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/teen-age-idol/

Ooh, now you’re asking!

In my pre-pubertal years, my main crush was Mike Nesmith of the Monkees. Most of my friends went for Davy Jones – and,yes, he was kinda smooth and cuddly and cute…

But, even as an eight/nine year old, I went for a long body, a tall guy – and, for some reason I’ve never been able to work out satisfactorily, that green bobble-hat was a proto-erotic symbol for me! Why, I even made sure I had my own version rammed down upon my unruly curls whenever I went out to play.

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The dark hair! The slightly sardonic smile! The quietness! What’s not to like?!

I didn’t want to possess Mike Nesmith in those early days; I wanted to BE him!

My next sister down and I used to play The Monkees – both our 45 singles of their music, and role playing the blighters themselves. It was incredibly competitive, this game, and Fizz definitely had the upper hand when it came to Bambi-reading and manipulative techniques. We both wanted to play Mike, you see – or at least, I did passionately, and she wanted to see what she could get out of me before allowing me to slip into that role. No malice, just normal little girl one-up-manship!

Her weapon was fluency of speech; mine was a sudden grab, a push onto the floor and then a thump round the ear!

Needless to say, she won every round – since the brutal option inevitably ended in a great wail of, ‘I’m telling Mummy!’ from Fizz! Fair enough: I was much bigger than she was, and a lot stronger physically!

I would usually get to play Mike in the end, and Fizz would be Davy (whom she actually preferred anyway) – but there’d always be a slight after-taste of hollow victory!

Time rolled on, and we reached our teens – and, suddenly, my passionate nature found an idol of such wonder that I near swooned away on several occasions just looking at him. Richard Thomas, who played John-Boy in ‘The Waltons’, was exactly what I wanted in a man, I decided at the tender age of thirteen!

Immensely good-looking, a writer (irresistible then, as now!), a gentle, dreamy sort of soul – OMG, I’d have married him on the spot had he known of my existence! Of course, I mixed up actor and part thoroughly, and fell in love with a weird amalgam of the two!

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Did I fancy him? Is the Pope a Catholic? Do bears crap in the woods?

Put it this way, I used to imagine that we were kissing (about as far as my imagination went sexually when I was thirteen!) and the feelings thus evoked sent me into raptures.

Now, both have aged (as have I!) – and I am no longer the innocent little girl playing at Monkees, nor am I the idealistic and passionate teen who dreamed of handsome young writers.

I wouldn’t wish to be Mike now, nor would I want to marry the still-gorgeous Mr.Thomas – though I suspect I wouldn’t kick either one of them out from under the duvet, as long as they understood that they’d have to wait for me to finish with Johnny Depp!

But, the memories are fresh, and something of that intensity of emotion still remains in my heart.

 

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VIZ: Roger’s Profanisaurus – antidote to feeling blah!

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/make-me-smile/

If I am feeling as rough as a badger’s arse, the tome above can always be relied upon to bring a smile to my heart and a bloody great bellow of laughter to the world at large!

Fellow Bloggers, I have a confession to make: I ADORE Viz, and am particularly partial to ‘Roger’s Profanisaurus’. Now, in some people’s minds, this probably renders me immediately beyond the pale of civilised society – and many would, no doubt, chase me out of town and force me to live far enough away not to corrupt minors (or, indeed, miners), but not so far that I wasn’t available for a light to moderate stoning from time to time.

Now, for those not abreast, Viz is a lightsome and vulgar publication full of, to me, hilarious characters and unadulterated double, treble, even quadruple entendres. We are not talking award winning literature here – more like linguistic romp through our sexual hang-ups, stiffness (if you’ll pardon the hard-on!) and inhibitions.

If you are looking for politically correct, subtle or euphemistic, Viz ain’t yer man! Put it this way, this is NOT a magazine you’d want to leave about when entertaining vicars, in-laws or curious children…

In Opinion Polls, it proves divisive, to say the least, causing hysterical laughter from people like me, and prissy, pursed-mouth disgust from other, more righteous (and possibly RIGHT - who is to say?!) souls.

The two characters who immediately caught my eye and reduced me to a spluttering heap of weeping laughter were The Two Fat Slags. No subtlety there: these two are exactly as advertised: humongously fat (why, their outlying areas would cover most of Wales!) and exceedingly loose in the morals department. Love ‘em!

Another character, Roger Mellie Who’s On The Telly, became the Roger responsible for the now-infamous Profanisaurus. Brief, history: at the end of each edition of Viz, there would be a page of vocabulary (educational or what?!) – and, after a few years, these words were gathered together, in the very best tradition of the English language, into a below-the-belt version of the Thesaurus.

All kinds of sexual references can be culled from the above (says Ali, drifting into Academic Mode!): ‘Roger’, as you know, is one of many words for the sex act, as in to roger someone; ‘profanisaurus’, I am sure, speaks for itself. I do love the play on words here, you know that little twist from Roget to Roger – just the one letter changed, but, boy, what a difference!

As soon as the Profanisaurus hit the shelves, I was out a’grabbing! I didn’t actually shoplift my copy (nay, nay: haven’t stolen a book since I half-inched all four of the Carlos Castanedas then published, in 1977!), but I was certainly in like Flynn as the saying goes…

Trembling with excitement, I opened the first page – and. amidst guffaws so energetic I actually fell off the sofa, realised I’d found my level.

As I read such classics as ‘Abnormal load: an arse so large it necessitates a motorcycle outrider’, as I cackled and chortled my way from ‘A’ to ‘Z’, I was just like one converted to a completely off-the-wall religion.

Since that day of revelation, my copy of the book has pride of place – next to the downstairs bog*, for those who really wish to know.

*’bog’ quaint English euphemism for ‘toilet'; I don’t wish any of you to think I live a kind of shadowy, gluggy dinosaur existence in a real midden or large body of marshy watery stuff.

Like all sudden converts, I was filled with unholy zeal to spread the word far and wide – and, the following Monday, proudly hoicked the book up to the Staffroom at school in order to share it with my table.

Teachers, as you may well be aware, lead very stressful lives – and often, at break, one would find the whole staffroom filled with gibbering, weeping, twitching wrecks after yet another dire hour with year eleven bottom set Rural Science (don’t ask!).

As I surveyed the seeping sea of flaccid individuals, I started to read aloud – ‘access time’, as I recall – and, by God, it was like a mass bolt of lightning. Titters became belly laughs; even Disgusted from the Shires woke up sufficiently to curse me thrice and make his displeasure absolutely plain.

My friend, Marie, and I then started the Word a Day routine (which lasted until I buggered off from teaching) – and many’s the laugh we had as we read out such classics as ‘touching cloth’, ‘wizard’s sleeve’ and ‘let Percy in the playpen’…

Oh, happy days! We became a circle of unashamed raucousness – and would emerge energised and cheered up, able, then, to face bottom set year nine last thing on a Friday afternoon without recourse to gin, weed or horse tranquillizers.

When I left the school, I presented Marie with a spanking brand new copy of another Viz classic: ‘Das Krapital’ – toilet humour at its best!

So, here for the benefit of those of you who are wondering (or, perhaps, those of you who haven’t yet deleted this post in a fit of zealous disgust!), is the definition of ‘access time':

‘n…the time taken for a woman to produce enough moip to allow smooth penetration without feeling like one is scraping one’s giggling stick on the Great Barrier Reef…’

Irresistible to a coarse wench like me!

So, if you know me in real life, next time you come round, look on the shelf adjacent to the downstairs karzi, grab the book and have a read!

You will never again even wish to say something as mundane as ‘large penis’ when such expressions as ‘girthsome choad’ are there for the taking!

Right, I’m off to revisit the hysterical howlers contained in the ‘S’ section…

 

 

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Sacred humour: April Moon 14

I am, as you know, a student of the Western Mystical Tradition and I celebrate the ancient festivals with ritual This, to me, is sacred and, often, both moving and life-changing. However, as anyone who is involved in the Mysteries will be aware, the sacred is often mixed with both the scared (!) and the downright hilarious. Anyone who goes down the Ritual Magic path needs to have a strong sense of sacred ground, respect/love for the earth and its denizens and a damn good sense of humour. Things will, inevitably, go awry during ritual – and the ability to laugh afterwards is very helpful.

As it happens, the Lodge I am a member of was due to meet, in Glastonbury, for the Winter Solstice Ritual, on End of The World day (December 21st 2012) – and there was, I have to say, an adrenaline blend of the high sacred and the utterly craven scared, nay terrified, in this member’s heart as she set off along the familiar roads to the Isle of Avalon. Read on…

Thanks to Google Images for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse below:

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Whilst the Media got its underwear in a doom-ridden twist, and people all over the globe panic-bought, or ran in frantic fear to the most remote spot they could find, a group of us decided to convene in Glastonbury for an afternoon of mystical re-enactment, followed by a feast in a local hostelry. Ritual and food! What, I ask you, could be better? Yes, I know: Hours of the most noisy and inventive sex ever, followed by a bath in Lindt chocolate – mmmmm! – but, let’s get real here!

The road to Glastonbury was slippery and shiny looking as fountains bubbled out of inadequate drains, cascading down the gutters like a severe, and county-wide, attack of incontinence; mist curled and wove and hid behind bare trees, slithering out sinisterly when least expected. The rivers, swollen as a pregnancy gone past its due date, surged and boiled ominously; the fields were already mulched and patch-worked with diamonds of water.

I had written instructions with me. They availed me not! I thought the enticingly twisty looking lane was heading for the Tor (and it may well have been, in its own serpentine way) – but, the further up I drove, the narrower the road got until I realised that a three point turn was verging on the bloody dangerous, screeched to a stop and got out.

All I wanted was a relatively compos mentis human being to tell me where the road I sought was. What I got, emerging like Worzel Gummidge from the bowels of a van which should have been put down years ago, was a dazed looking creature, all staring eyes and straw-like stooks of black hair. Vacant doesn’t begin to describe this apparition – though my father’s wonderful, ‘Thumb in bum and mind in neutral!’ definitely does.

I wasn’t sure he spoke human. Frankly, I wasn’t altogether certain that he was human. Or, if he was, how many bodies had contributed to his overall make-up!

Perkily, I asked him if he knew where let’s call it Raw Stoat Gobbler Road was.

He waved the broom he was clutching in a slightly menacing manner and intoned (or should that be ‘sepulchered’?) a, ‘No!’ so full of tombstones and crypts that I instinctively stepped backwards lest he let me have it across the cranium with the business end of a meat cleaver or similar.

Watched by this Young Frankenstein’s Monster, I attempted the Three Pointer from Hell: It took me about ten minutes and I stopped counting after thirty turns.

Fortunately for the narrative, I happened upon a cheery postman soon afterwards and he was far more forthcoming.

We based our drama upon one of my all time favourites, ‘Sir Gawain and The Green Knight’, and the whole thing was utter pleasure from start to finish – and bang on the nail seasonally because, for the benefit of those of you who don’t already know, the Green Knight appeared, with his challenge, at this time of year, and Sir Gawain had to undergo his part of the Beheading Game a year and a day later.

It always inspires me to think that this poem, written by an anonymous writer back in the fourteenth century, has survived the many tests of time, has been on the GCSE syllabus (I know this because I taught it!) and has been translated by many. I LOVE it – and would thoroughly recommend it. It is sexy, funny, scary, symbolic, highly alliterative and so vividly described that you can almost see the gargantuan and verdant Gringolet.

From thespian wonder to the trough was but a short drive!

We got stuck in, with many a laugh and a jolly (in my case, raucous and vulgar) quip. Of Death, War, Famine and Pestilence (and their steeds), there was no sign: Not so much as a note of apology. Damned rude, I call it! You can’t get the staff, can you?! Perhaps their Sat Nav was buggered or something.

Anyway, as I munched my way through the succulent salmon mousse, the ravishing risotto and the orgasmic chocolate fudge cake, I did occasionally peer out of the window to see if there might be a cavalcade of large quadrupeds, each bearing its own personal dread horseman! Nope! And the Valkyrie didn’t turn up either!

I was very relieved: Would have been really hacked off if forced to abandon my pudding for the End of the World!

So, here we all are still. But things have changed, shifted. As I drove back, abloat with good food and still sniggering from the general bawdiness of the conversation, I reflected upon the fact the each one of us is the world, and that it is up to us to sort things out. It is not the responsibility of the deities, mythological fright monsters and other denizens of the Collective Mysticism to save us. Or destroy us. We are more than capable of either of those options ourselves.

Let us go for the, ‘Sort it all out!’ option, shall we?

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Junk Food Junkie: Daily Prompt

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/junk-food-junkie-2/

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To the tune of ‘Pick a Pocket or Two’ (‘Oliver’ tune sung by the infamous Fagin):

 

Verse 1

Why should we break a fart,

Eating wholesome rhubarb tart?

Better get some

McDonald’s fun:

Better eat a burger or two.

You gotta eat a burger or two, boys;

You gotta eat a burger or two!

 

Chorus:

Why should we all break a fart?

Better eat a burger or two!

 

Verse 2

Robin Hood, what a crook!

Used Maid Marian as his cook:

Veggies are nice

If you are mice:

Better nosh a burger or two!

You gotta nosh a burger or two, girls;

You gotta nosh a burger or two!

 

Chorus

Marian’s a well bad cook

We’ve gotta nosh a burger or two!

 

Verse 3

Take a tip from Farmer Giles,

Fibre clogs and gives you piles;

Better go swing

By Burger King;

Better chew a burger or two!

You gotta chew a burger or two, guys;

You gotta chew a burger or two!

 

Chorus

Fibre tastes like Hell on Earth

We gotta chew a burger or two!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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Ritual and me! April Moon 14, Day 2: juicy

 

 

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‘Juicy’ led me to fruit; this in turn suggested fruit of knowledge – and allowed me to travel the path to the Western Mystery Tradition. From here, I was able to nip across to ritual magic. In this circuitous way, I moved from the physical to the spiritual, Here is the story of my training.

I have hinted. I have called myself a Pagan. I have spoken of Ritual Drama. Now this shamed scurrying is coming to an end. My esoteric studies are an important part of who I am, and, sadly, I have met prejudice close to home. This has made me feel very fragile – but, oddly enough, more determined.

It is a sad indictment of our society that if I were ‘confessing’ to being a Catholic, or a Jehovah’s Witness, a Mormon or a Born Again Christian, people reading might tut a bit – but there would be a secret kind of, ‘Oh well, at least they are reputable RELIGIONS!’ type of relief-sigh.

Are they? No, I am not going to travel down that path. Partly because of my conviction that we are all one, all connected; partly because I think any post which seeks to discredit the beliefs of others is unhelpful, to put it mildly – but mainly because I do not belong to a religious body.

I shall state it very baldly: I study the Western Mystery Tradition and practise Ritual Magic. Many of you will, I suspect, have guessed.

My training started in the early nineties when I was introduced, by my friend D, to Paddy Slade, a Village Witch living nearby in the South West. She had the traditional Witch’s Cottage at the top end of the village – and was a fiery, feisty and formidable character.

Most rituals were conducted outside – and tended to be organic affairs, to say the least!  She had the four Quarter Lights set up in her garden – and we, along with others from nearby towns and cities, would travel over there for the big festivals.

There was an atmosphere of slightly fraught creative chaos about the whole thing – but Paddy, then in her sixties and a real live-wire, presided over us all with a will of iron, an irascible tongue and, under it all, a kind heart.

After the rituals, we would have a wonderful feast, each person – in theory, at least! – bringing some food or drink as a contribution.

We were even filmed, in 1993/4, enacting a Samhaine Rite in the Village Hall – though I am not sure the programme was ever shown on television. If it was, I never saw it.

Paddy was very much a Hedge Witch: close to nature, the seasons, an advocate of ‘Low’ Craft Magic, I suppose you might say – though one or two of those attending her rites were more formal and ‘High’ in their attitude, and this occasionally caused tension.

It was at one of Paddy’s rituals that I first met Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, Director of SOL ( Servants of the Light ), though at the time she was just another cloaked figure.

D and I, as previously stated in these annals, bought Arthurian Tarot decks and The Hallowquest books in 1993 – and set out on our journey of discovery through the year long course (which I am now re-doing as a solo practitioner).

I learned a great deal about magic and ritual from D, and he was my Magus right from the start. We performed rituals in my flat; we visited Glastonbury and other places of mystical significance – and we talked, often long into the night, about the Western Mystery Tradition: about the Arthurian Tales, Atlantis, the various gods (Egyptian, Norse, Greek), the mythical beings, the legends of the British Isles, the Mabinogion and so forth.

I was enthralled and inspired. These talks and adventures met a spiritual thirst I had barely been aware of before, a thirst which my Christian background had never managed to slake.

Years went by, years in which I married and became a mother, years in which magic settled to the bottom of my mind – fermenting, I now suspect, since the interest never went away entirely; I was just busy following the Hearth Path, and teaching full time.

2007 was a transitional year in so many ways. I was broken, by degrees, into bereft pieces. It was one of those years in which I was given a hefty tap on the shoulder and shown a door opening. Times before then, I had failed to heed the ‘voice’, had ignored the opportunity.

Between June and September of that year, my father died, the family fell apart in bitter wrangling, my car was driven into and written off, I was bitten so badly by a dog that I was hospitalised for twenty-four hours and needed five stitches, I met two people who have since become part of my inner circle – and I was invited to join D’s Lodge.

D’s Lodge is an SOL Lodge – and,when I joined, there were seven of us. Initially, since I had had very little training, I was there as an Upholding Priestess. But,as the years wore on, I became the Priestess of the Western Quarter.

We tried, where possible, to meet once a month – and we marked all the ancient festivals with ritual. Many were held in D’s flat – but we have also worked outdoors: on a beach, at a place with strong Fey presence and at the home of one of the other Lodge members. This member,S, is a member of OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids) and used to own a beautiful Grove near her home.

The rituals we did in the Grove were delightful and very moving. Other Druids came along and, since Druids and ritual magicians have a fair amount in common in terms of practices, we were able to create some wonderful rituals.

Because our Lodge came under the general umbrella of SOL, I began to attend SOL weekends twice a year, travelling up to the North in May for Ritual with Purpose, and in November for the Gathering of Light (GOL). The latter is always a lovely event: most of the Lodges in the United Kingdom, the American Lodges and others from around the world, send two representatives and the Lodge Banner. These banners are hung on the walls in the Temple and always look absolutely beautiful.

In 2009, D gave me Dolores’ ‘Your Unseen Power’ course for my birthday. It was utterly fascinating, absorbing, moving and life-changing. It centred around The Tree of Life, and Qabalistic terms; I learnt much about the Hebrew letters associated with each path, about the Sephiroth, about walking the Inner landscapes – and about myselves, both Lower and Higher.

In January 2012, I gained my First Degree Initiation, and red cord in an incredibly moving ceremony.

I finished ‘Your Unseen Power’ at the end of last year – and am now doing the Sword part of the Hallowquest. It is challenging and is bringing all manner of buried nasties to the surface. This is as it should be, but it is incredibly difficult and painful to face.

SOL is an Occult school – and there is a SOL course which many people do.

Last year, Steve Tanham and Sue Vincent (both of whom have been SOL members, and many other things, in the past) set up their own School of Consciousness, The Silent Eye.

I felt drawn to it right from the start – and was one of twenty-two people present at its Birth last April. My post yesterday was my emotional response to this year’s weekend of ritual and bonding.

The Silent Eye teaches through the medium of the Enneagram, and, this year, we enacted the five rituals in the characters of Egyptian gods. I was Sekhmet – and the role was astonishingly accurate in terms of my personal life and sense of being chained and gagged.

Ritual is immensely powerful as a tool for the greater good of group, landscape, country, planet. It is not a game, however, nor something which should be entertained by those who seek personal power or the wounding and destruction of others – though, sad to relate, there are occultists who are drawn into ritual work for very dark purposes indeed. But there is a saying, which I absolutely hold to, that what you send out into the universe in the malign sense will return to you threefold.

Ritual connects us to the land, the seasons, the creatures we share this planet with; it is a way of celebrating the turning points of the year – and, if done properly, of raising the consciousness to a new level.

Ritual magicians come from all the religious groups. It is an interfaith movement. Some people come from Catholic backgrounds, others Rosicrucian. It does not matter what your core religious beliefs are. The important thing is that we all serve the Light – and that stretches across the artificial divides between religions.

Some of us are Craft based: there are Wiccan Lodges, for example; others are more ceremonial, for want of a better word. There are solo practitioners and large lodges with many members. There are those who come from a Druid background, those who are Shamans (and work in the Native American tradition) and many more.

It is, I think, very sad that much of the prejudice directed at occultists comes from media stories of Satanists and sinister cults. These DO exist – and I am not going to pretend they don’t – but judging all ritual magicians by the dark minority is unintelligent and only serves to spread more darkness into our world.

Magic is change. It is an acknowledgement that what we call reality is largely perception, and can shift vastly. Ironically, many of the magical precepts which have been around since the Ancient Egyptians, or even earlier, are now being taken up, and proved to be true, by Quantum Physics! Many people who have an empirical turn of mind pour scorn upon the so-called credulous nature of ritual (and, indeed, religion), and call us gullible and superstitious – whilst at the same time thrilling to the latest scientific discovery in the field of Quantum Theory.

The whole point is this: what we do in ritual goes far beyond our temporal and flawed selves, though we can grow as individuals if we allow that to happen; it connects us to the Global Village, and is an assertion of connection rather than division: it is the WE of humanity rather than the US and THEM.

 

 

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Alienora and make-up: an acrimonious divorce…

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A rare sight: The Greater Spotted Alienora Polyfillad, Plastered, Painted and Bewigged in order to play Anne Robinson (part of the Belladonna role: long story!) in the village production of ‘Snow White’ in January 2012. The wig looked, smelled and felt like a dead civet cat. Several village Toms showed a decidedly unhealthy interest in my head during the proceedings!

Make-up and I have a decidedly edgy relationship; in fact, we have lived apart for most of the past twenty years, only meeting briefly and unsatisfactorily during the Panto Season! Like an affair that never quite gets off the ground – or in the gusset, as the case might be! – the accoutrements of feminine beauty and Alienora eye one another up with a curious mixture of longing and fear (on my part) and, to personify to the nth degree, acquisitive irritation (‘Come on, woman! Get slathering! You know you want to!’) on the wholly inanimate part of the consumer durables themselves.

Every now and then, I am tempted by the astonishing range of colours, shapes and sizes on display! Many of them, to continue a theme implied by the above, exceedingly phallic in shape – and, let’s face it (ha!), designed to provide uplift, shall we say, in the average male’s cod piece. At least that, as I understand it, is the general idea. Girls, we paint our lips an enticing shade of genital pink (which, allegedly, looks like the other end in a state of readiness!) and, wham bam, thank you, ma’am, men are ascending immediately into a high state of erethism all over the country!

Mothers rarely come out and say it that directly – though, knowing me, if I had a daughter, I probably would! – but the implication is very clear, if only in the tuttings and secretive murmerings overheard (via a well-placed glass held at the door, naturally!) between older female relatives, that make-up is both essential as a means of snagging, and snogging, the chaps, and highly reprehensible at one and the same time! Talk about having your lipstick and eating it – make of that what you will, those of a symbolic bent or a down-to-earth nature!

My mother was typically ambivalent about the whole matter – and, from the maelstrom of hints, dire warnings, arcane nostrums and covert blasts of religious disapproval, I, to this day, don’t know whether I’m coming or going!

So, that is part of the unease. The other, far larger, part is this: I am not very good at the fine art of self-adornment; in fact, I am bloody awful at it! My approach is neither Pre-Raphaelite (which I would LOVE!) nor Impressionist (which I could cope with because it hides a multitude of sins); it is, sad to relate, more clown than princess!

A major drawback is my poor sight. Any excuse, I know! Fact of the matter is that I am very short sighted and, as you may have noticed, possessed of a not-inconsiderable nose. The two, my friends, do not go together well when attempting to apply the old War Paint.

Off come the glasses. The room immediately swims into murky depths of vague shapes. Pots and penis-shaped tubes and vials at the ready, I peer into the mirror. Crash! Bang! Ouch! Nosebleed! Or, in avoiding the proboscis trauma, I turn sideways so that my eye, enormously magnified, looks like that of a Cyclops and I quail under the illusion that I’ll need ginormous quantities of the stuff to cover just the one eyelid.

On these days of May Madness, I generally grit my teeth, grab the trowel and start ladling the unguent on with what can only be described as gay abandon. Within seconds, my eyes look as if I have been repeatedly punched by a fractious kangaroo – and my mouth, far from being the erotic centre of the face, is more reminiscent of the lady sleeve immediately after childbirth.

Mascara is, to me, the work of the Devil – or at least Torquemada on an off day. My eyes are of the variety that water for a past time. You only have to look at the damned things and they start to seep copiously. Trying to get contact lenses anywhere near them was a nightmare I do not wish to repeat in the near future!

So, any attempt to draw lines underneath them, or indeed to make my stubby little lashes appear curvaceous and curly, is doomed to a fairly speedy dissolution into bad language, weeping and very sore eyes.

But, having said all this, I have just about enough female vanity, or stupid hope, to venture out into these dizzyingly female realms bi-annually. This year, it was the ‘Everything for a quid!’ that got my Inner Siren. And so, looking around to make sure no knowing teenagers were watching, I hurriedly scooped up twelve items, paid for them and dashed off.

A month on, they sit on a bookshelf in my study, glaring at me. Have I opened them? No! Don’t be silly! They look wonderful – all pinks and golds, turquoises and pale greens – but I feel too intimidated to take the cellophane wrappers off them! And, I am quite sure that the one thing I really need is the only thing I have not got. Foundation rings a bell, as does Polyfilla! That stuff you slap on before all the rest.

Anyway, I haven’t got any of it, and I really don’t think I can face the thought of acquiring any!

I’ll probably end up doing what I always do under these circumstances: I’ll look wistfully at the make-up for six months or so, and then will give the whole lot away to one of my nieces!

So, we keep meeting up, reconciliation in mind – but, as the years go by, I suspect that divorce is the more likely outcome!

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Lunar-Seer

The post below was actually written last June – but not on this blog. Something of the same feeling is washing through the world as the Blood Moon approaches…

blood_moon_03_05_151Three of the Oldest Ones have been recalled in the past twenty four hours. They are needed elsewhere, or their shoes are to be filled with Celestial feet. Summer cannot get through, nor Spring – other than in jerky, jolting fits and starts. The Moon’s rays pull and tug throughout the month. Priestess of Tides, I have become (to borrow, briefly, from Pat Conroy’s beautiful novel) – and I am not alone in this.

In gloomy mode this morning, and upon reading that the oldest Lay Chorister had joined the recently departed, at the comparatively youthful age of 105, I thought, ‘Mass Exodus: they are beating the rush!’

Because there is a sense of something powerful rising. Whether of the Dark or the Light, I am not sure. I do not sense any malign intent – but there is a rushing and a howling, as if a vast storm were on its way, stirring up the metaphorical leaves, making the animals sick and uneasy, gathering the very old and the pitifully young.

We are being put through our paces. Our mettle is being tested, and our metal too. This Long Night of the Moon is aligning us with the blood, the water, the liquids within our own bodies – and those in the wider world.

Emotions rise fast and furious, or slow and sorrowful. We cry and scream, shout and fight – without really knowing why, or what it is that causes such anguish and anger. The pressure causes noses to spurt blood. Children fall easily and graze knees and elbows. Adolescents, suddenly clumsy, burn themselves, trip over, cut fingers on sharp knives.

Sleep surges are billowing and brutish, borne aloft upon a vessel of spears, captained by harsh and forbidding ruffians. The Morrigan holds dark and sinister sway over our dreams, driving the mares ever more wildly.

‘If only the Sun would shine,’ we wail. ‘If only it were hot!’

It seems we are living in the Snow Queen’s realm, as if fairy tale/myth and reality have converged; as if we cannot distinguish between reality and story any longer.

But my feeling is this: we rush towards, and are very good at, all that is summery in our world. We jostle to embrace warmth, colour, wide smiles, happiness, holidays abroad, tanned skin – and many people whistle through the other seasons, especially the cold ones, in order to get to that Seasonal Holy Grail. Like bears, we hibernate through the dark times, the icy periods, the snowy wastes; we mourn the loss of the Sun, the short days and long nights; we cry and shiver in the cold and curse the parlous slippery roads; we reject all that is wintery – in our world and, more crucially, in ourselves.

We adore the Sun, its bright fiery strength, its wondrous heat and power; we feast upon its splendour and grow strong and tall; we ripen like wheat under its blasting rays.

Do we treat the Moon with like reverence? Not always, no. For there is a tendency amongst some to equate emotions with the female, and to dismiss them as irrational, somehow inferior to the world of empirical thought. When tears spell weakness rather than release, humanity, compassion and empathy, we know that the balance is skewed.

When boys are taught, ‘Only girls cry,’ we sense a gaping wound in the male psyche.

But, water and fire are both essential for mankind, for our planet. Each season has its part to play in the cycle of life and death.

Spring is blooming and bountiful, at last, but under a funereally grey sky, plumed hearse-horses walking sedately through the heavens, black feathers nodding rhythmically.

I do not know the answer.

I do not even know the question.

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Straight red hair!

I have just returned from a visit to the hairdresser. My plan was to re-dye my locks ( which had faded somewhat since January!) ready for this much-anticipated Silent Eye weekend. But, enthralled by the idea of really long hair – and unwilling to go through the time-consuming and expensive torment of hair extensions (pu-lease: I am fifty-six, not sixteen! Not that this has ever held me back!) – I asked Sue (who has done my hair for the past fifteen years) to get the straighteners out and set to!

I watched, without glasses, as the curly fronds of my hair were tamed and straightened – and lengthened! Ye gods, I have seriously LONG hair! Okay, it has not yet reached my Equatorial Region (or waist, as you slimmer fillies are wont to call it!), but it ain’t far off!

Thrilled, I am!IMG00107-20140409-1100 IMG00108-20140409-1101

I think the Pre-Raphaelite curls are more ME, if you get my drift, but this straight-haired look (for only the second time in my life!) is a new and interesting variation.

What do you think?

And, irrespective of the To Straighten or Not To Straighten debate, don’t you just LOVE the colour? I DO!

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First Bite at the Cherry: Weekly Writing Challenge

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/writing-challenge-fifty/ 1-the-happy-lovers-jean-honore-fragonard

Berries oozing upon crimped white linen:

Lust’s first blood.

Sweat-mingled orchestral climax against shattered window panes.

Wild Moon riding Tempest’s mares through black and starless plains.

Weight of sated white flesh plaited drowsily with brown.

Tang and sweet creaminess of new bodies revisiting ancient patterns.

Discarded cheesecake, tart cherry, sulking.

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    100. The Saga Continues… | Love, Support, Educate, Advocate, Accept…

Thanks to Google Images for the picture.

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‘Spring and Fall’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Goldengrove Unleaving

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Beautiful picture taken from Google Images

 

This is one of my favourite poems. I know it off by heart. Tonight, it expresses the way I feel very well. ‘Sorrow’s Springs’ – perfect.

 

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89).  Poems.  1918.
31. Spring and Fall
to a young child
MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older         5
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:         10
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Link to the Past

Aberystwyth 1976-77: Are YOU in either of these photos?! Daily Prompt

 

Link to the Past

More Seventies Nostalgia...

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/daily-prompt-make-me-smile/

Both of these photos were taken during my first year at Aberystwyth University( 1976-1977) – and looking at them brings the largest smile you can imagine!

I look at them – and feel tears rising. I can name almost every individual person on each photo. Two of them – Neil Brand (top left in first photo and third from right at back in second) and Anne Davies (front left in second and back right in first) – have made a name for themselves, Anne in television; Neil, also in television, but also as a wonderful composer, silent-film accompanist, script-writer, and now Fellow of our old university.

The first photo was taken during the Drama Department’s wonderfully hilarious production of ‘Ubu Roi’  – late 1976, from memory- and the second during the 1977 Summer Season. The cast performed ‘The Fantastic Fairground’ and ‘Toad of Toad Hall‘. The latter has a lovely little thirty plus years on coda: Neil Brand, who played Ratty so well back in 1977, composed the music for the highly successful ‘Wind in The Willows’ broadcast (with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and four fabulous actors) on Radio 4 in February last year.

I was never actually a member of the Drama Department, being in those days painfully shy and convinced I have no stage presence/talent at all. As it turned out, I was wrong on both counts – and have, over the past twelve years, performed many times in local Drama Club productions. My crowning moment was playing Belladonna, the Evil Queen in ‘Snow White’, two years ago.

Going back to 1977, I was fascinated, and awed, by the Drama students. They seemed so glamorous, attractive and wonderful to me. I wanted to BE them! I also fell in love with one after another of the male members of the department, though I am not going to name names. Fair’s fair: one or other of the buggers might get to read this – and I am quite sure that the notion of the secret love/fancying/crush (or whatever the hell it was!) harboured by a now-fifty-six-year-old-crone would go down like a cup of cold sick!

What I am going to do, however, is to name those in the photos. If you are one of them, I’d love to hear from you. Some I have got back in contact with (Dill, Paola, Pete, Neil, Chris, Lyn); the others? I have no idea what happened to them, and would be intrigued to find out!

Picture One

Back row from left: Neil Brand, Gareth Huddleston, Colette Wilson, Mark Ossowski, Simon Paton-Williams, Damian Hayward, Hilary (can’t recall surname!), four people I don’t remember and then Anne Davies at the end.

Middle row (ie those whose legs aren’t dangling off stage!): Geraldine? Clare? Kevin Graal, Tom Barnish, don’t know, Sue Wilsdon, Maggie Foot, don’t know, Paola Romagnolo, recognise face but can’t recall name (dark-haired lad at the end!)

Front row: Lesley? Chris Dixon, Dill, Kate (know she came from Oxford, but can’t recall her surname), don’t know, Rick Ellis, John Charles?

Picture Two

Back threePete O’ Toole, David Blount and Colette Wilson

Second (standing) row, from left: Chris Dixon, Lyn Dixon, Carol-Ann, Richard Cheshire, Dominic Snowden, Maggie Foot, Sue Wilsdon, Neil Brand, don’t know times two.

Front row (kneeling), from leftAnne Davies, Simon Paton-Williams, Mark Ossowski, Lesley Sergeant, Gareth Huddleston.

I was Alienora Browning in those days. I read Single English and was, for most of my time at Aber, living with a History student, N.C, and our dog, Bonneville – see below.

and More Seventies Nostalgia...

 

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Darkness and Light: awards, prizes and sadness…

A happy start to my Saturday!

dragon-loyalty-awardone-lovely-blog-award1155

 

The Prize

Over half my life time ago, the photo above was taken, and accompanied by an article in the Weston Mercury (local paper) after I won First Prize, for the start of my novel ‘Heneghan’, in a South West Arts competition.

I was twenty-six – and, as you can see in the photo, radiantly happy.

Four years later, broken in mind and confidence after the violent sexual assault, I thought my writing ability had died along with my trust.

Yesterday, thirty years (almost to the day) after that novel-related First, I received notification of another First Prize, for my entry to the Speakeasy competition. Today, Jenni (http://jenniferann1970.wordpress.com/) let me know that she had nominated me for two awards: the Dragon and the Lovely Blog.

Full circle. Something has shifted. Chains are melting away as if they were chocolate. Of course it is delightful to receive awards and prizes – but, for me, the best thing is this: my writing has survived. It has emerged, stronger than ever before – and, seeing this, I have hope that I, too, will eventually burst from my chrysalis and fly away, a beautiful and finely-coloured butterfly.

My random facts are, actually, an organic part of this post. I am in the process of being rewrought, Hephaesta of my own forge; I am moving away from darkness and into light. The choice of the lioness in my ‘Liena’s Journey’ story was not coincidental, nor, indeed, was Ivy’s great gift of the scarred lioness image.

Like Jenni, I am going to break with tradition and give both awards to my chosen bloggers. I wish I could just nominate everyone I know and follow!

Richard Ankers

Raiha

Joanne Best

Noah Weiss

Ivyon

Anne-Marie Hurley

Ranu

Maggie Wilson

Marilyn Armstrong

Sue Vincent

Running Elk

Oloriel

Silverleaf

My nominees have been chosen because they are loyal; because their blogs make a real difference to the lives of others; because they give warmth and comfort to those in need; because they are empathic, funny, inspiring  and wise. There are four or five more who should be on this list – but, since I have nominated all of them for another award within the past week, I am leaving them off this one! I know they’ll understand that this in no way reflects upon my fondness and admiration for them.

155

First Prize! For ‘Liena’s Journey’ – Speakeasy#155

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And now for the winners! With 32 posts on the grid, we safely made it into editors’ pick territory, and unlocked the fourth vote to boot. Let’s get on with the festivities – I’ve got my party hat on and noisemakers ready to go.

Winner of first place at the speakeasy is Alien Aura‘s highly creative mini-saga. Evoking mythological and oral traditions in her fable, she creates a world of fantasy and yesteryear so completely that once we lent our ears, we were hooked. Through a consistent, earthy tone and an indeterminate ending, her piece also speaks intimately, calling us to hope as children do. Congratulations, Alien Aura! Go nab your prize badge from the sidebar, then email us next week’s sentence prompt!

I have just discovered, to my absolute delight, that ‘Liena’s Journey’ won FIRST PRIZE in this week’s Speakeasy#155.

The paragraphs above are copied from the Speakeasy page.

I am thrilled and touched; after such a difficult few days, this is a real boost.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me – and for those who read and enjoyed my lioness’ story.

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Virginia Woolf’s suicide: a fictional account

Virginia Woolf died before I was born. The facts of her death are known. But the inside of her head in the days leading up to it can only be imagined.

Fearing a return of the madness, she wrote letters to, as far as I can recall, Leonard, Vanessa and Vita, filled her pockets with stones and lay down in the River Ouse to die.

Her body was found three weeks later.

In this section of the novel, I imagine what it must have been like to have felt sanity and reality slipping, to have been aware that the waves of madness were climbing ever higher. What is known is that she probably tried to kill herself a few days/weeks before actually succeeding – and I have included this bit in the section before the actual suicide. 

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Writing Room March 25th 1941

‘ Will you………. ‘  An echo years long.

Clear into my brain comes, ‘ Virginia, will you marry me? – and me, hinged at the hips with a taut lemon coloured dress, and hat brushing my face with straw tentacles. I pace and a host of tiny pebbles fall from clenched fists, each complete and perfect, striking the concrete briefly and rolling away from sight: high hill, shaded with August lime, near the office where we ducked into legal transformation; awkward crowds of people stood around outside, pressing out the heat haze with determined fingers.

I hung on Leonard’s arm and mocked the diligent camera with a sly smile; Nessa decided, half way through the service, to rename Quentin; sun gushed out in broad golden streams, and all was transfused, dipping into the milky gold, blossoms froth-shaken.

The fear-sprung train jetted us into Cornwall and a crab-apple pink sky, setting over its clear jar. We were handed keys, towels, expectations – and a spray of orange-blossom to take to the torch-lighted toga streets of Nuptia.

Square and resolute, the oak-beamed hut stood against the tides of passion. We faced one another in a  pain of awkwardness,locked from the inside. Leonard folded towels, I wrung my hands in rapid motion and drowsed my mind in the scent of orange. He hung his hat on a peg by the door; his head, oddly sleek like a polished chestnut, popped out, and he snuffed out the candles around us.

I stood, against the window ledge, listening to strange sounds: material crumpling around the haste of this man, my husband. The bed’s faint protest spat quite audibly up at him. The lemon dress stuck to my bodily projections. I unpinned my hair last, and felt its familiar warmth cloaking my backbone and waist; with a tiny shake of the head, I could draw it around me in a net of safety, and advance- hidden. My eyes filled. In the bed, I lay like a pipecleaner, bent up this way and that by the frantic fumblings of this strange man…

…I am up and pacing; I do not remember moving. The old desperate wish to throw things catches me a blow in the throat. I swallow and my voice comes out huskily. The familiar panic is setting my jaw; a cigarette will not wedge there – frustration.

Leonard’s eyes  are bald, like peeled grapes. I have long legs; I could stride out and away from those eyes, have stumbled quite suddenly into this tunnel. I try out the echo,

‘ I am going for a waaaaaaaaaaaalkkkkkk….’ – and a few word-stones skim back towards Leonard’s open mouth. Was he saying something? I cannot remember. I clutch the door post tightly as I sway to the right. I drift to the left – centred.

My movement is a measure of the taut string between my eyes. I am safe as long as they do not bounce against the sneering trees. Swift they cackle, ghastly voices from the past, imprisoned in tree trunks. I gather all my strength into my stick and beat out at the nearest trunk, catching loops of ivy as I do so. It springs back, unharmed.

‘ Ha, ha, ha1′ – the hollow clunk becomes feet on straw-softened street the day my mother died and I look into the branches to see her bed perched there and her dead face, indrawn, staring down at me. The bed moves up, up, up, slowly with no sound at all until it is almost vertical. She is creaking stiffly from her tight shroud; she is going to fall on top of me; her dead eyelashes will touch my living eyes…she is screaming, sliding- down the willows behind into the water. Her eyes pop out; she is wearing my black cloak with dead satisfaction.

My being is bent down, and I bang my knee on a slimy rock. The stick, outstretched, jars. It is not the right way up; the whole world has tilted. I shake my head and drips spray over the darkening grass. I am soaking wet and shivering and dull as mud, facing a towpath. I do not know what has happened to me. I do not understand why I am wet. I am weeping and my tears are the only warm part of me.

I meet no one until I am within sight of Monk’s house and then, there is Leonard, coming round the trees towards me. His face is skull-tight; he is furious and terrified. I have no idea of the time; I could have been walking for days. He lifts his hand and grabs hold of me by the arm.

1 What have you been doing? ‘Where have you been? Do you realise, you’ve  been out three hours? THREE HOURS! What do you think I have felt, thought , imagined…1

His voice is high-pitched and shaking with anguish. I did not know ; I did not think or imagine. I try to tell him this but he waves away my low words. I feel his pain clearly; I say I slipped and fell and lay unconscious in the wet grass for a while. I am confused • can think of no other explanation for my soaked clothes and cut head; yet I have a sense of something lurking just out of reach.

Take a dog with you from now on; you must. I cannot allow you to remain out for hours, lost or injured. Do you hear!’

He is shouting and shaking me, unaware of what he is doing. I nod, and know at some level that I will disobey him.

The moon puts me to bed. It circles slowly around the room before alighting on my bed, still as a cat, and I burrow down like an obedient child, watching the silver rays and – I go. I am frightened to close my eyes; monstrous beings live behind closed lids. I cannot call Leonard. He is angry with me. I have abused him, have gone too far, am too difficult for him to cope with. If I scream or cry out, he will bury his head deeper into the pillow and turn wearily away from the sounds make.

He has been good to me. All these years he has loved, protected and warmed me; he has listened to my cries and tried to push me out of my dark corners with his kindness. His skull face rises up again and again through all this. I am crying quietly , biting the pillow in order not to disturb him. I try not to think of his life with me, how I’ve hit him and hated him, but images persist.I am holding him back, getting in his way. His life is tethered by my uncertain moods and unremembered walks; he cannot trust me or branch out for himself. I know what is happening and, this time, I do not want to share the burden with him. He is old suddenly and very frail and I want to protect him – from me, should the mood return.

March 28th 1941

Ah! that mirror lies to me! A red-eyed hag glares. I wire my hair out with claws. The Writing Room is a long tube blown violently into my right ear.  I wade to the desk. It towers above me. I hook a quill pen from the tiny white pot and sheets of paper cascade about me. I pull at two of them as they float past. I nave pulled feathers, many feathers, from the tender warmth of baby birds…

… and she was lying; she was waiting for me, aiding the eyes of the trees, milky pupils and sunken fear; the lash of lashes spraying tears, closed but potent.

My hand, a pink splay on leather, The sound of tearing paper is all it takes – and. I can run lightly up the garden path, calling, as I usually do, ‘ Leo, any post yet?’ – and all will be as it always has been. I look up and around the sunny room. There is the muffled rush of horses, the darkness of the cranes’ mass flight, their hieroglyphs against a bloodied sky,  outside. My pen is held tightly.

‘Virginia!’

I stiffen. It is an imperious voice; I think at first it is Leonard.

Virginia, come my dear child – all these books still to be read. You are being very remiss these days. Come closer, that’s right…’

‘ No, no, go away – I’ve made my decision… see the stilled pen? My eyes are clear ; the sun is spritely, dancing its Spring measure; I can hear the birds. You do not understand!’

‘ “Virginia, it has been raining all day; the planks holding your room together bulge and stick with water, are slimy. You are miles from reality.

He wants me back. I’ve been banished from his room for too many years. He’ll tell harsh tales…

I cut my tongue licking the envelope. A. thin line of blood coats the back.

I look out and the leaves are peaches; falling, falling; they do not land but the dolphin swims. Leonard, come in now and hold me back.

The path yawns up to meet me; I fear falling. There are silver fish moving up trunks; I watch them fascinated. They have a bed at the top which they leap onto, and wriggle in and out of the human shape lying there; those are human eyes looking at me.

I must lie down, I must not be seen. She is too high up and visible. My wobbly limbs will not hold me down by themselves; I will fall onto somebody. I need the safety of stones gathered from between trees and crammed into the folds of my being.

My stick snakes through the grass. The mattress has pebbles in it. I am cold.

Finding Boyf…

Boyf and I did keep in touch intermittently for about nine years after we split up. He used to phone me from time to time. This stopped well over twenty years ago.

Son (now, as you know, on his three weeks of great adventure abroad) has always known about Boyf – after all, B was the one significant relationship I had before I met my child’s father – and I have, over the years, told him about some of our funnier times.

By a strange coincidence, Boyf went off on a very similar overseas adventure, forty odd years ago, when he was about the same age as my son – and, before Lad flew out, I was able to show him the printed booklet of Boyf’s long-ago expedition.

When I wrote the ‘Best Friend‘ post the other day, I had no idea how to scan the old black and white image of the much-younger Ali and her bosom companion onto my laptop. Si, who is a wizard on the computer, immediately said, ‘Let me have a go!’ and then, a few moments later, ‘Haver you ever tried to find him?’

When I said, ‘No, not really,’ the lad immediately said, ‘Let me borrow the photo; I reckon I can find him for you in five minutes!’

He pottered away to his technological crucible – and, like all sixteen year olds (I suspect), was soon clicking merrily away at a speed which had me torn between intense admiration and equally intense jealousy.

Less than five minutes later, he called out, ‘Mum! I’ve found him! He’s changed a bit, but the smile is identical. Looking good for his age…’

In I tottered, feeling strangely nervous, almost afraid.

Thoughts rushed through my head.

What if Boyf does not WANT to be found?

What if he reads my blog and is disgusted, horrified, embarrassed?

What if, what if, what if?

I looked on the screen – and my eyes filled with tears.

No mistake: It WAS him.

As Si so rightly pointed out, the smile was unmistakable even after all these years.

There is no way of actually contacting him – and I don’t think I would even if I could – but it was lovely to see him again, to know, even at a far remove, that he is still in the land of the living.

In the image I saw, he looked happy – and I hope that this is a true reflection.

He is married with children and has a career.

I have no wish to intrude upon his life.

But I am so glad Si pushed those buttons and brought a relatively recent image of my first boyfriend back to me.

Kind and thoughtful son!

Back to life

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/back-to-life/

What, we were asked, would bring you back from the brink after a long flight/car journey/ coach trip?

In the old days, my answer would have been, ‘A bidet of cheap wine, twenty Silk Cut, a joint – and a willing bloke!’

Not necessarily in that order either!

Now? I have matured, given birth – and stopped smoking.

So, this is my modified, grown-up answer:

‘Just the three glasses of a damn good red wine, maybe a sniff of weed for old time’s sake (but nothing inhaled, of course!), a soothing massage to iron out the kinks  –  and a willing bloke!’

Some things never change, eh?

Lying, Noses and Spontaneous Human Combustion

pinocchio

Why, I ask myself, do we say, ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire’?

Is it entirely healthy to have this clear, and ominous, connection between an act of deliberate forked-tonguedness and Spontaneous Human Combustion?

Slight over-reaction on the part of Him Up There, wouldn’t you say?

One slight untruth and it’s Farewell, World. Cremation Courtesy of Lingerie!

I mean to say, could it not be graded depending upon the relative severity of the lie?

You know: teensy weensy White Lie equals a slightly uncomfortable few seconds fanning out smoke from the lacy crevices.

Deliberate lie, but kind of greyish, done to protect, localised conflagration in the gusset, easily extinguished by means I won’t go into!

Top Notch, ‘No, of course I didn’t murder him, Mr Holmes!’ type scenario, would merit  the kind of roaring thermo-nuclear destruction which takes out your underwear, you and most of the rest of the bedroom. Except, of course, for that mysterious sock-clad foot which always appears in photos of SHC.

Or are we meant to understand it as maiming but non terminal? Is the implication here that lies go straight to our genitals, putting the kibosh on any future chance of Hide the Sausage?

Isn’t the whole thing just too bloody bizarre, not to mention macabre, for words?!

If it’s not self-igniting knickers, we get threatened with the old Extending Proboscis Ploy a la Pinocchio. Given that he was a wooden puppet with delusions of human grandeur, bet it wasn’t his NOSE he wanted to grow longer!

Have you noticed how often human frailty expressed as everyday mistakes brings the Book of Mutilation crashing down upon the head of the sinner?

Suck your thumb? Watch out for that bastard, The Scissor Man!

Masturbate? Anticipate that ghastly trio of egregious codgers, Messieurs Enfeeblement, Blindness and Hairs on The Palm.

I lie. You lie. He/she/it lies. We lie. You(plural) lie. They lie.

Sometimes it is deemed necessary, the better option. Other times, it is bare-faced and destructive.

I am a crap liar. This is not to say I always tell the truth because I don’t. Who the hell does? But I almost always get found out…

Could that be as a result of my anguished squirming, hopping up and down and screaming as flames shoot out of my knee-length Bloomers?

Or is it the repulsive sight of my already extensive beak trailing upon the ground?

I shall leave you to decide, Dear Reader!

Letting them grow up…

Darling Boy -

And so, on a beautiful warm early morning, we (your parents and girlfriend) put you on a coach – with a small group of other young people – bound for an amazing adventure abroad; we waved until the vehicle had turned the corner, and saw your familiar face, eyes fixed upon us, for as long as we could.

There was a group photograph, or ten, of the intrepid adventurers; there were hugs, both awkward and loving; there were tears blinked back and quiet whispers of, ‘Love you,’ into cool adolescent ears – and there was a sense of bidding farewell not just to ten people outward-bound, but to the essence of childhood itself.

This is, for me, intensely bittersweet – for I have long tended towards over-protection of you, my child.

You had your moment of anxiety yesterday: Came into my Study, as you always do when feeling vulnerable – seeking reassurance, Peppermint tea, a bit of calming love from Mum, your tummy in sore knots ( the way stress has pinched you ever since you were tiny) and your fears needing to come out.

Your phone rang, didn’t it, as you and I talked – and it was A, your delightful young lady. I was so thrilled to see the way your face lit up at the sound of her voice.

I have, I know, struggled when it comes to letting go – and for this I do apologise because I know that this has not always made things easy for you. It must have seemed, at times, as if everyone was allowed to do things which you were not – and that burden of my anxiety upon your young back was not a fair one, was it?

Today has been the most difficult, and the most moving, farewell. We have built up to it, haven’t we? From your first solo trip by train two years ago, through choir trips to Austria and a recent camping weekend with just you and A, you have gradually asserted your independence and proved your sensible head and trustworthy nature – and I have learnt that the umbilical cord can be stretched many miles without there being a painful snap; that you and I do not have to be in the same county, or even the same continent, for the bond to survive and, in all probability, grow stronger; that you need, now, to be the person you are without maternal strings pulling you back every second.

Last night, we all looked at the first two photo albums, covering the moment of your birth right through to the month before you started walking – and many of the signs of the essential YOU were clear from the start! Facial expressions, independence, curiosity, determination, need to escape (thinking there of the shots of you trying to climb out of the playpen!) – and a tenacious adventurous nature even then.

You will, I KNOW, make the very most of your experience over-seas – and will have many wonderful stories to tell, and photos to share, upon your return.

You will always be my beloved son – but how lovely it is to see you making the transition now to caring boyfriend; to see the way you comforted and cuddled another just before the point of departure.

You ARE growing up, and into a fine young man. I salute you for that.

Fly free, my son, and know that you are loved.

Mum

xxx

LUSCIOUS is the new DEEP: Random word-choice post…

This piece was created by choosing five words ‘blind’ and taking it from there! The words: ‘luscious,’ ‘deep’, ‘is’, ‘the’ and ‘new’…

rubens-venus-and-adonis-resized-600

‘Now then, love, if I snatch off the loincloth, will I find matching collar and cuffs?’

Ah! How apt! How joyous! How singularly ironic! And, how fitting for our age…

There’s a wonderful expression, used by people in the South West of England: ‘gurt lush‘…

I fell about laughing when first I heard it because it just sounded so hilarious – and seemed like the perfect name for a tart – Gert Lush.

We use the word ‘lush’ to mean all sorts of things – and so, purist (or, quite possibly, PEDANT) that I am, I dove into Dictionary Corner in order to track down the correct meaning/s of the adjective ‘luscious’.

So, here we go:

1. sweet or pleasant to taste or smell

2. having strong sensual or sexual appeal

3. richly appealing to the senses or the mind

Very earthy, aren’t they? Strikes me that my putative fictional tart’s nomenclature may not be that far off the mark!

And I confess that I would adore to be seen as luscious in ALL the above senses. Ripe fruit, tumblingly erotic bed companion or virtuoso player upon the violin of another’s imagination, I’d be ecstatic to bow down before the Triple Goddess of so sumptuous a word.

But, wait! Listen! Be on your guard!

A snake has slithered into the Eden of my thoughts. It is tempting me. Not with an apple. No, no, nothing so mundane. Been there. Done that. Got the ‘Death’ tee-shirt!

This serpent is spreading the poison of depth in my ear.

Spread Rubenesque upon the rumpled bed of my lascivious self, languidly lifting the satin sheets from my curves, I tense, hearing the tolling bell, sensing the thin scratchy nib, the academic itch of dissertation, symbolism, Doctor of Philosophy.

And I ask, ‘Is it enough to be merely LUSCIOUS? If one is shallow, that is…’

I confess I do not have a ready answer.

So much of life is judged, one way or another, at the level of lusciousness. But, the worm can hide in the heart of the most tempting peach; an immensely sexy person can be heartless and cruel, all practised moves, all art and artifice – and appeal, at all levels, is such a very subjective thing that we can be, and frequently are, taken in by appearances.

Lusciousness, by its very nature, plugs straight into the hormone socket, letting in the bright lights of pheromonal activity.

Confronted by a Gert Lush (of either gender!), we ‘think’ with our genitals!

Yes, men want to go in deep – but they are most certainly NOT thinking in terms of Socratic Discourse at such times!

Not so much Cogito ergo sum as Ego diligentes ergo sum...

But, to take this out beyond the personal, let us examine our beautiful, fragile planet.

It is still heartbreakingly wonderful – and there are many examples of lusciousness.

But, deep down, the poisons are spreading.

We KNOW this. Many of us lament, weep, grieve, even fight in our own way.

But, I do have to ask this question: are we, actually, only able to cope, psychologically, with the notion of the luscious, precisely because to go any deeper forces us to confront unpleasant and terrifying truths about our own culpability, our own destructiveness and passivity?

I do not know.

But it does seem that my random choice of words has more than a touch of the Freudian Slip about it…

Crab Apple Jelly

crab_apple_jelly

Thanks to http://www.foodfrome.org.uk for this delectable image…

Seeing the distinctive colours of crab apples tree-nestling in my friends’ garden this morning brought a great swell of emotion and memory flooding back.

We lived, in the 1960s,  a two-minute walk away from Fizz’s best friend, Penny R, and her family.

They had a lovely big house, with bags of character, at the bottom of Chestnut Avenue in Headington – and I adored their garden, especially the crab apple trees, and the generous fall of fruit once a year.

Baskets in hand, we would all gather and pluck the golden-red treasure from the grass, inhaling that unforgettable smell and squeezing each one, perhaps not very gently, for ripeness.

Did we eat them raw? Ah, now this I cannot recall, though I DO remember that we were warned of the dire consequences to our tummies if we sampled anything still sour and hard.

My mother used to make Crab Apple Jelly – a long-winded process, part alchemy, part olfactory heaven and part gastronomic delight.

It was a time of straining jelly through muslin, of waiting for it to set, of watching the world through a glass full of that sunset-coloured nectar – and then, most exciting of all, the moment of truth, the teaspoon of taste, the texture of it on the tongue – that combination of tartness and sweetness.

It was a time of serried ranks of jars in the larder, each waxed on top of the jelly, and then lidded, the year and ‘Crab Apple Jelly‘ written upon a label affixed to the side.

I haven’t tasted it since the nineteen sixties!

And now? A chance conversation with a friend has taken me back to three little girls scampering about in a Headington garden, picking fruit and laughing.

‘Land of The Exiles’ by Steve Tanham

This morning, I received the two copies of the book which I ordered a couple of days ago – and seeing the picture on the cover brought the whole weekend back.

The workbook contains scripts of the rituals we lived through, explanations about the Enneagram and personal testimonies from those who were there on those amazing Mid April days.

For the second time, I find myself in print! Soon after the end of the experience, I wrote two pieces, one of which is published in the book.

I wrote from the perspective of Sekhmet, the Lioness, the character I ensouled for the better part of forty-eight hours – and I am sharing the second piece of writing again below.

My second post on the weekend, ‘Sekhmet’s Song‘ can be found on here back in April.

I thoroughly recommend the book: It is a great read and has some fabulous, and very moving, sections in it.

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Image of us all after the final ritual drama. I am the one in red.

Blood Moon, Heart Moon, Firestone  -

Ah, Goddess, long have I laboured under the intense pain of cowardice, for I saw fear as its inevitable twin, its risible shadow. Seeing the word ‘courage’ brings tears and years of sadness; it brings the trembling of the mask – and the failure to see the Lion self who was always there, snarling and hissing and unsheathing claws in the deepest well of my soul.

Pink Moon, laved with milk and the blood screams left after any battle, imprinted with dusting wings of ravens and the taut alphabet of their feet.

But, Goddess, you smile, a fierce and terrible widening of the mouth so beautiful that I shield my eyes in arm’s crook and weep.

For I know, with a suddenness as absolute as any Archimedian moment, that fear never was courage’s opposite: that the salamanders of terror and anxiety, perched in their raging heat one upon each shoulder, do not control my spirit’s daily dance; they hold sway only over the tiny girl, long-crouched in the centre of a Galaxyship’s hold – whipped and taunted time and time again – who flexes starfish fingers in mute entreaty and cries to be freed.

I never was coward, Goddess; I have vaulted despite fear, flown with the wind in dark and dreadsome valleys of desolation too many times to count; I have reached into the most foetid depths of the inner me, bringing up an endless supply of buckets – still more to come, Moon Maiden, Oh Gods yes! – of the ego’s offal, slipping and slurping over the rims.

Lack of courage has been thrown at me, with accurate and advance-planned aim, hitting my most vulnerable spots and causing the slip-sideways of self-doubt. For the words of others, if barbed deep and long enough, cause a seismic tremble in the certainty of the spirit, a fraying of the bright spectrum of ribbons, a twisting of sinews from cringeing, craning and crawling in supplication to the never-satisfied.

A hillside in an early morning shroud of misting cold, and the shadow of the hawk’s glorious ascent – and, as the trudge of weariness ends, a trio of Egyptian gods: the bright gold wings of Horus shielding the trussed and mummified body of the dead-and-alive Osiris, Jackal-headed Anubis standing, an immutable force, black staff in hand.

Through the veil, into the Tree of Reckoning, the Trio of Reckoning, fear and wonder at the decomposition and fertility of Osiris’ green face, bending to scry, the perfumed whisper of the great hawk in my ear and a heartstone, pink as the Moon, pressed into my hands.

And I knew, as I watched the slight tilt and deform of a nearly Full Moon, and its ever-widening circle, rimmed with white mist, that I had been chained and enchanted by the actions of a Cyborg – who, in his need to play games, to exercise power, to learn the deeper mysteries of the human emotions, had sought to subdue the feline spirit, had enjoyed the whimpers and fiery feisty impotence of unnatural taming because it puffed up his self-esteem and gave the glowing and glisting illusion of control.

And I saw, as I crouched, collar round neck, in the dungeons of the mind, that his tears and cries, his threats to dissolve and burn and die and be overcome by emotion had always stayed my hand from the final severance, the just reckoning, the yanking of chain and snapping on bonds.

I smelled the scent of the Empath within, its spoor widening the nostrils of the Cyborg and his kind, garnished by the sharp spice of wild creatures captured and tamed everywhere; I saw the hunter, gun cocked, frightened of the wild within, reflecting it in ruthless hunting down of the predators without. Heads mounted on the wall a testimony, in his mind, to unassailable courage in the face of death. Mistaking the adrenaline of risk-taking for bravery.

I felt the heart-breaking ambivalence of physical contact: the loathing of hands stroking hair in power’s lustful pride, and yet the longing and loving too because the touch is all I know – and, bereft of licks and warmth, the intimacy of the pack and the connection provided by mating, the wild creature unnaturally pent reaches out, starved, for any sign of human contact. Needing, for validation, and hating the cruelty of that easy power, the wild one alternately purrs and snarls, scratches, bites and arches its back to be petted.

I tasted the metallic blood, and pinching pain, of the body’s fear, chemicals so awry that the abnormal becomes mundane – almost. The physical self, adrenaline-assaulted, BECOMES fear – and every moment of every day is a churning, a cowering, a shrinking and an inner wailing.

Tethered, surrounded by Egyptian gods, told by Shu to be the true self I once was, I howl at the Moon’s imperfection and rage. The roar against humiliation, against the one who has taken my voice and my freedom and given much pain, rises inexorably – and, though tears bathe his face and shudders wrack his body, I shriek out my hurt and sense of betrayal, all those years of having to be NOT ME rising up and overflowing in a great wailing cry and a harsh slap to the wet red face in front of me.

Lion-woman though I am, I cannot rake claws down human skin, nor can I apply the killing touch to the neck. Not because I lack strength and power, for I am bountifully provided with both. Not because I am coward incarnate, for I am not and never have been.

I am Sekhmet. But I am Hathor too. Passion and love. Tough love and protection. Frightening and caring. Claws and motherly milk.

I can only judge that the Cyborg has enough traces of humanity to be given that chance, and, feeling my blood flowing, know that his ultimate fate is not for me to decide: that others, higher and wiser than I, will continue his transformation into a full human being as they see fit.

Sometimes courage is knowing when to let go. Is recognising that the act of giving another freedom to grow involves handing him/her over to other mentors, healers and Old Ones.

Sometimes, the brave thing to do is to see the toxicity of another’s need to enchain the spirit and, though able to forgive the lack of emotional awareness, to step wide and clear of both person and situation – and, leonine body held proud, step out into the unknown.

 

With heartfelt thanks to Sue, Steve and Stuart for their creativity and love – and to my fellow travellers for their generosity, warmth, friendship, laughter, humanity and support.

They never waste a crisis.

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This powerful, and alarming, post written by Frankie, of Trucker Turning Write, should be read by anyone who is concerned, as I am, about the dangers of fracking – not to mention the greed for money which pushes human rights out of the way time after time…

Originally posted on Trucker Turning Write:

The oil and gas giants never waste a crisis, do they!

While Irish eyes are focussed on the genocide in Gaza, the fracking company “Tamboran” use the opportunity to move their drilling equipment into a quarry in County Fermanagh, last week.

With all the cases of cancer and infertility and birth defects linked to fracking, I honestly thought that the politicians of this island would never allow this drilling to go ahead. But yet again they let the people down. They don’t seem to understand that once the ground and water is polluted, it’s polluted forever; the leaks can not be plugged in these underground fractures.

This first drilling will affect the future of the whole island. This is the thin edge of the wedge unless it is stopped and stopped now. Remember the oil pipe off the Mayo coast? That went ahead because short term big money was worth…

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FEEDJIT: Cyber Plane-Spotting!

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Yesterday morning, I installed Feedjit on my blog – and have been intermittently gripped by the Cyber Planes taking off and landing ever since. I am, already, learning to distinguish them one from another by their colourful livery and cute symbols. The flags are immensely helpful too – or would be if my geographical knowledge were slightly more advanced.

What I find immensely touching, however, is the insight I get into people’s locations. I have no idea who these individuals are – and, in a very real sense, do not wish to know – but it is comforting to know, for example, that someone who reads my blog comes from the same village in Devon where one of my siblings (and her family) lived until two years ago. That just strikes me as being such a wonderful coincidence. Who knows, this anonymous person may have passed my sister in the street without either of them knowing; why, they might even have known one another!

Feedjit has confirmed what I have long suspected: I get more hits from the United States than anywhere else in the world. This is lovely. Thanks, denizens of the USA! I appreciate your interest and support.

The UK comes in second, followed by Canada.

One of my favourite walks with Jumble (the dog) involves driving up to Felton Common (just over the road from Bristol Airport) and watching the planes coming in to land, or, even more exciting, hearing the the great thundering of the jet engines as they prepare for take-off.

I am very new to flying – flew for the first time as an adult (having only been the once as a child) in 2010, when I was fifty-two – so I have a lot of catching up to do!

I can confide this now: Prior to 2010, I was terrified of the sound of planes in the sky, and used to shake and hide when they were overhead.

Now? Ah, let me tell you about now! I watch them from my Study window; I track their sleek incoming when running; I thrill to the powerful noise as they power their way up into the clouds. Despite (or perhaps because of!) the woozy feeling in the head, I LOVE take-off – and, although I was scared when we landed a month or so ago, I usually enjoy the landing too. Okay, I WILL admit that I still do get a bit nervous around turbulence – but I am far better than I was!

Walking on Felton Common is a massive adrenaline rush because the planes come in very low – it is literally the last open area before landing – and I get really excited every time this happens.

The dog goes berserk with primeval chasing joy and gallops off to try and ‘kill’ that noisy bird!

Completing the analogy, I am very new to technology too – and, as a result, the things many people take for granted and find tedious still seem amazing, magical and miraculous to me.  A bit scary sometimes, yes, but mind-blowing at the same time.

Fancy there being a widget which allows you to see that low-flying ‘plane’ of blog traffic coming in to land so close to where you are!

Now, I am sure that there are Plane Spotters far more dedicated and knowledgeable than I who would be able to tell where each plane was coming from/going to, how many were on board, possibly even who the Captain was.

Similarly, I am certain there are those of you who can look at Feedjit’s information and say, ‘Oh, yes, that’s James Smith from Slough popping in for a quick visit!’

I don’t want that level of knowledge, thank you very much!

I am happy just to watch EasyJet, Ryanair, Thomson, Thomas Cook et al as they thrust their magnificent way into our skies!

Dancing with ex-pupils!

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Age is, to me, largely irrelevant. I am me; I am not my age – and I do not limit my interactions in life around the chronology of birth. The life spirit we each have says far more about us than the number of years we have been upon this earth – and I think last night’s events very much sum this up.

Last night was delightful – and a much-needed antidote to three days of intense unhappiness and mind-doubt.

I have never acted my age – and I don’t intend to start now!

You may recall that, a couple of weeks back, I wrote about the leaving do for the final Trio of Mavericks from the school I taught at for so long.

One of them had her own farewell party yesterday. Held in the village hall of a sea-side area ten miles away, it was already thrumming with life and laughter when I drove into the car park at 6.30 pm.

I was thrilled to see all the members of MY table in the Staffroom – and, once in the Hall, we sat down at the same table as if no time had elapsed since I handed in my board rubber two and a half years ago!

All the ex-colleagues at the party were people I liked – the Good Guys, as you might say – and it was lovely to catch up, have a laugh and a reminisce/gossip/bitch…

It was a beautiful evening, balmy and warm, shading towards an exquisite sunset – and younger teachers tried out the Bouncy Castle and the Even Bouncier Knock The Other Off With Rubber Hammer game.

There was a Hog Roast, complete with wise-cracking serving-man, apple sauce and stuffing. W-C-S-M and I got on brilliantly as we traded euphemisms with the slickness of long acquaintanceship (never seen him before in my life, but that didn’t stop me…).

‘Ah, you can never have too much stuffing!’ I said.

Perhaps he shouldn’t have given me the magnificent opportunity offered by, ‘What sized roll would you like?’

‘Ooh, I like a big one, me!’ was my immediate, if predictable, response.

This caused huge laughter amongst those waiting in the queue behind me, and made one colleague say, ‘God, Ali, this is exactly what we miss about you at school. No one else is nearly as vulgar!’

I am sure I was/am a very bad influence on all and sundry.

The place was thronging with ex-pupils, and that, to me, was absolutely LOVELY.

I remembered all of them, and several wanted to know if I could still do the ‘Weird Birthday/Sign Thing!’

Needless to say, I was still able to trot out this Party Trick – and, with one girl, got not only her birth-date correctly, but also those of her three brothers. I taught her for two weeks only, way back in 2000, and she is now thirty. But then, I could still tell you the birthdays of most of my first ever tutor group – and they left the school nearly thirty years ago!

At one point, lurking outside with my friends M and E, a girl in her twenties came over to talk to us; I recognised her, though I had never actually taught her.

‘You always used to wear colourful Doc Martens and strange clothes, didn’t you?’ she said.

‘Yup!’ quoth I. ‘They tried for thirty years to get me into a suit – and I resisted to the end!’

‘I really admired you,’ she said. ‘You really didn’t give a fuck what other people thought, did you?’

I suppose, in retrospect, there was an element of truth to this. Certainly, I didn’t give a rat’s arse what people thought of my sartorial choices – and, oddly, quite a few of the kids thought I was really cool, even when I got to my fifties.  I was determined from the start that I would not be bullied, charmed or coerced into wearing what I saw as pointlessly nobby garb. If I am honest, my attitude was very much, ‘Accept me as I am or fuck off!’

Just wish I’d brought that kind of ballsy attitude to my personal relationships.

There was a live band – and, well, you know me and dancing! Can’t resist!

Once the band cranked up into action and let the seventies numbers fly, I rounded up the troops and leapt upon the dance floor – clad, I hasten to add, in a full length orange-patterned hippy-type dress and shiny blue shoes, my recently re-dyed orange locks, untethered by pin or ribbon, crackling merrily against the frock’s material!

Uninhibited (or possibly abandoned!), I gave it the full works, dancing with colleagues and ex-pupils alike.

Tremendous fun! Very liberating!

And, as I drove home afterwards, hair dripping and face flushed, I could see a clear parallel between the dancing Ali of that evening and the English-teaching Miss Browning/Mrs Taylor: For both, I was inevitably unconventionally dressed, colourful, uninhibited, at times vulgar and unwise, energetic and arresting without always knowing the ‘steps’, happy to dance with anyone, letting it all hang out, a complete maverick who, in some ways, simply didn’t give a fuck. But – and this is important – a woman who knew when she’d had enough, who knew when to leave the dance-floor, and the profession.

It is lovely that ex-pupils still recognise me; still remember my lessons and, in some cases, my less-than-wise moments; it touches me that I WAS loved even though I wasn’t always easy to deal with – and it is a source of enormous relief to me that my spirit has not been entirely crushed by recent events, that I am still capable of fighting back.

Chasing Men: Greek Sexy Sunday Response

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Eleftheria!’ my old mum used to say, ‘if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: The man should make the first move. You won’t get anywhere in Athens if you continue to chase after every Vassos, Christos and Lambros like a ewe in heat…’

Well, all I can say is that dear Mama was a fine one to talk! In a hot and fertile country, full of hot and fertile young things, she was fleet of foot from the earliest age – and her inability to provide me with a father when she birthed me at thirteen tells its own sorry tale, does it not?

She loved to claim that she was nothing but a modern-day Diana – and that, in running toward some appetising Greek God of a man, she was actually just running away from another.

I don’t believe a word of it myself: Surely the whole point of being both chaste and chased is that swift action in the latter prevents undoing of the former…

Be that as it may, I like to think that I have inherited my mother’s talents on the hoof – and, if I may say, on the horn…

But you know how it is? A diet of men, no matter how scrumptious, becomes a trifle stale after the first fifty – and one looks around for more exciting, risky and peculiar phallic entertainment.

So, on that boiling day, when the olives on their wizened trees looked more than usually testicular, I was thrilled to hear that the Pied Piper of Hania had just arrived.

The rules were clear, though unspoken. The Piper would toot many a lively Cretan tune upon his flute – and all the nubile youth in the area would flock to him for an hour or two of private tuition (as you might say). First come, first served. And, of course, the extras available via many a tumble along the way added considerably to the allure of the whole sporting endeavour.

Believe you me, I had been in secret training for WEEKS – and was now able to catch a frightened goat at fifty paces, a fleeing man in a mile or two (one doesn’t, after all, wish to appear TOO keen) and my breath almost immediately. All vital skills for the Young Woman About Town.

And I will confess to you, Dear Reader, that I had another motive stuffed up my semi-revealing toga: There were one or two tasty men whose sandal-work upon the rocky roads of our fair country was even more impressive than mine – and whom, as a result, I had not, as yet, managed to catch up with.

Gorgeous Yiorgos – he of the Memphic Member – was my target. Though he was reputed to be one who Waited at the other Chariot Stop, I was quite sure I could turn him with remarkable ease once I applied that winning combination of sheer determination, natural beauty and mercurial feet to his risible reluctance.

The day arrived and most of the under twenties in the Athens area sauntered, as if by happen-chance, to the Starting Line.

There was much glaring, snide commentary and shark-like smiling as we jostled and kicked, eyed up rivals and made private bets as to which one would be our quarry.

There was much oiling of naked bodies (males) and application of Kohl (both sexes) before the first notes of the pipe blasted through the still air.

I had Yiorgos in my sights from the start – as, unfortunately, did most of the women and a fair few of the men.

Bare feet padding along the dusty road, poorly-attached Perone stabbing me in a most sensitive area, linen folds chafing at bust and buttock, I followed Yiorgos’ unmistakable ‘interest’ mile after parched mile – but, like the tease that he undoubtedly was, he always managed to pull away in the Nikos of time.

Was he playing hard to get?

Or merely getting hard to play?

And with whom?

Ankles were twisted; ladies swooned in the hope of attracting the Memphis’ attention (all for nought); men broke into vicious fights over the beautiful (if brainless) Calliope, and the equally cerebrally-challenged (if hunky) Andreas – and still we ran ever-onwards, the deep red-golds of dawn giving way to yet another heated Athenian day.

Yiorgos, breasting the pheromonal pack, soon ran alone,  magnificent mane cresting his broad shoulders, taut buttocks clenching, girthsome ‘trunk’ at full elevation in front.

Breaking away from the fainting, weeping and wailing of my immediate rivals, I was just about to stretch out the right leg of victory and bring Yiorgos down, when, out of the corner of my eye, and to my intense horror, I noticed that accursed painter, Manolis The Inept, bent over his easel, capturing the scene for posterity.

The shock put me off my stride – and my stroke – and, catching a foot in a trailing hem, I fetched my length upon the hot and gravelly ground.

‘Eleftheria!’ Mum bellowed as, bowl in hand, she cleaned my cuts and grazes with quite unnecessary enthusiasm, ‘What did I tell you about making the first move? You’ve only yourself to blame! In any case, Yiorgos is well-known to be one who licks the other side of the seal…’

‘And?’ I hissed through gritted teeth. ‘Am I not pulchritudinous enough to change an Uphill Gardener into one who Scythes on The Flat?’

‘Not without a strapadictomy, no,’ my mother said with habitual coarseness. ‘Don’t forget, I watched the end of the race, whilst you were limping back home, and the enthusiasm with which Yiorgos greeted the Hania Piper left absolutely no room for doubt – or movement, come to that!’

Honestly! Is it any wonder I have turned out this way with a maternal parent like that?!

Supping with the Devil (‘s Dictionary)…

Ambrose Bierce,  the epitome of Satirical Old Scrotedom, has long made me laugh – or at least he would have done had he not had the gall to sneer his cynical way into the sepulchre some forty-four years before I put in an appearance.

He did, however, have the decency to share his darkly humorous world-view in ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’  – and many a mean snigger have I had whilst riffling through its pages.

Today I am going to share three of his wise witticisms/scurrilous insults (depending where you are on the Sense of Humour Spectrum!), his thoughts on, and definitions of, Cupid, the fiddle (violin) and saints…

CUPID, n: The so-called god of love. This bastard creation of a barbarous fancy was no doubt inflicted upon mythology for the sins of its deities. Of all unbeautiful and inappropriate conceptions this is the most reasonless and offensive. The notion of symbolizing sexual love by a semisexless babe, and comparing the pains of passion to the wounds of an arrow  – of introducing this pudgy homunculus into art grossly to materialize the subtle spirit and suggestion of the work – this is eminently worthy of the age that, giving it birth, laid it on the doorstep of posterity.

Well said, that man!

FIDDLE, n: An instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a horse’s tail on the entrails of a cat.

Hmmm, well, when you look at it in that light…

SAINT, n: A dead sinner revised and edited.

Couldn’t have put it better myself!

Plenty more where that came from.

Ambrose, Let me shake you by the hand! You are a great antidote to sentimental hogwash and saccharine whimsy.

 

Life the Sky-Clad way!

I love being naked, me! Always have done – and, as my previous post intimated, especially around water.

I have always loathed bathing costumes; they seem so utterly pointless to me – and they sag, bag and chafe at all the wrong moments!

Given a choice, I would swim in the nude every time. It feels SO good. Sensual, liberating, wild; I do not think you can connect fully to the elements when you have this artificial layer of material between you and them!

Even as a child, I tended to take my swimming cozzie off, when no one was looking, and frolic around, oh so happily, in just my skin! Of course, it was a bit of a bugger trying to haul the sodden (and sodding!) thing back on again afterwards – in order to appear decent before parents and other beach users! – but well worth the effort.

If I am in a public swimming pool, obviously I have to conform – otherwise I might get arrested for indecent exposure – but, in the sea, it is not unknown for me to pull the costume down as far as it will go, without removing it altogether, and let the warm salty water play over my body: a wonderful feeling!

I have noticed, over the years, that post-swimming showers seem to bring the inhibited teen out in virtually ALL women.

I am, in this respect (as in so many others) both unashamed and down-to-earth: Off comes the accursed one-piece – and into the shower I step, bare as the day I was born!

Same happens with the whole drying and dressing routine. Can’t be doing with all this ‘Twisting oneself into a Pretzel under the towel’ nonsense.

Have you ever tried to put on a bra under a towel?! Dear God, what a palaver that is! Especially when, like me, you are generously-endowed in that department; it really is like trying to cram a brace of lively piglets into a small and damp sack! You get one in – and the other one makes a bid for freedom!

I am out and proud! My body is not as it was in my well-proportioned youth – and I am, to be blunt, a big girl!

But, not conforming to the size nought, hourglass figure we women all hanker after does not disqualify me from either the beauty or the desire to be naked stakes!

We spend so much time worrying about we look like, and desperately covering up every bulge, sag, tear and wrinkle, that we do not enjoy the bodies we have got.

My body is great! It isn’t marble perfection or model-class slim, but it is mine; it is a part of who I am. I am big in the places that matter, and gradually diminishing in those which probably never did!

And I shall continue to leap naked into pools, lakes and forest streams as long as I am hale and hearty enough to walk that far!

Skinny- dipping and madness

Madness is over-rated as a pleasurable life experience. There are people who see it as a romantic option. It isn’t. It is bloody terrifying.

We joke, don’t we, about cracking up, about planning our next nervous breakdown? I know I have. And I have less excuse than some, having experienced, for myself, the reality.

Virginia Woolf drowned herself because she felt the shadow of madness lurching over her once more. A school friend of mine did the same when we were both twenty-three. Her father found her. Parents, can you imagine the horror of that?

I have had two or three moderate breakdowns, only one brush with what I would call true madness. Thank gods. More, I would not wish. Once was quite enough, thank you very much.

It did not last long – and was, I now know, a response to unendurable stress, the unwise consumption of dope cakes and casual mental cruelty. The back story does not, in a sense, matter. I can remember hearing strange claxons going off, and crawling into small spaces because I was convinced the world was about to end; I can recall seeing eyes hovering amidst the branches of trees, and finding them curiously restful, soothing and entrancing – and being driven down a sand-dusted road, with an enormous Full Moon overhead, and seeing thousands upon thousands of rabbits, all facing towards the car, all with silvery eyes. They charmed and frightened me in equal measure. Strange, eh?

The order of events I have given is not accurate – one of my rare deviations from the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – but I am sure you will forgive me this lapse into the chaotic. For, that time was fractured and fragmented, untidy and threatening.

From it, I now suspect, came my, at times crippling, anxiety.

And yet, the resinous cakes were delicious, if strange, and that part of the adventure felt so delectably lawless, rebellious and fun that I’d do it again despite the long term consequences.

I think we ate a couple each, and then caught the bus to Borth: Stoned, we all thought that a swim in the sea, beneath the burgeoning Full Moon, would be wonderful.

As I remember it, Fingerless Fred was our driver that day – and, in the general run of events, a more plodding and curmudgeonly old scrote it would be hard to find. Twenty miles an hour was dangerously fast for him, and one was always in danger of ageing a decade when one leapt upon the Llancynfelyn to Aberystwyth ‘Express’.

This time, he made a bat out of hell look like a sloth on Downers. It felt, to me, as if we were going at about ten million miles an hour; the trees, which, mysteriously, had bred overnight, kept clawing at the sides of the bus in a most alarming manner – and, not just clawing, which was bad enough, but rocking the damned thing like a cradle.

But, it took us weeks, if not years, to get there.

I was beyond terror. Out the other side into the mindless white zone.

Oh, but the silken blackness of the sea, bisected by the whitish-gold line etched upon it by the Moon’s calligraphy brush! How excited we were, the four of us, as we vaulted over the slimy groynes, and ran, laughing and whooping, towards the silent menace of water.

On the shore, we held hands, in a circle, and danced wildly, Moon and sea kaleidoscoping around us in a most peculiar manner. And then, shedding clothes along the moon trail, in we plunged, naked – and, inured to the chill factor by our hallucinatory warmth, we swam and paddled, laughed and shrieked.

I was stoned for three days.

Did the moments of insanity come from that experience? Or did I have a latent propensity for lunacy anyway? A fault line in my character which would, at some point, have shattered and cracked, causing mayhem.

I do not know. Probably never will.

But, for those of you inclined to long for madness, don’t!

If you think it makes you more creative, more profound, more anything – think again. It diminishes; it takes away power and self, without conferring so much as a whiff of greatness.

But…oh, reckless woman that I am, I would joyously skinny-dip under a Full Moon again any day!

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Fearscape

Sometimes metaphor is the best way to express hidden emotions, the in-between-states others cannot see and one cannot convey at the time. I have alluded, many times, to the sudden falls into intense anxiety. Panic attacks, I call them – and their physiological symptoms and causes are well-documented.

I have also brushed lightly the pelt of ‘madness’ – and this piece, written a while back and now edited, is my attempt to take you by the hand and lead you through that dread landscape.

On nights when the Mind Jelly is at it most viscous, when I fear the thoughts dripping through that mess and cannot sleep, I can feel myself flirting with the monster guards who control entry into the Bosch Wasteland and almost hoping, houris-like, to dance back in again.

Would I be able to avoid this kind of descent if my mind were firmer?

I do not know.

I fall, jagged as a brace of zigzagging hares, one black, one white – and the firmament slaps my foetal body into some semblance of vegetable life.

My blood pumps green as jealous hope, through rank gold spines of sinuous bone; I am plant and human fused in a forge of disdain, tapering upward towards the silvery Moonscape, my cloak falling in an arpeggio of notes, a weave-song; a prick-of-the-finger upon beauty’s spindle – and the hundred years of sharply ironic non-sleep in this land of shadows and sibilant whispers of malice.

The mirror ripples a scream. Tolls a sweep of punishing darkness. The pliant body twines, leaflike, round the spikes of mind jutting out, the battlements of crumbling safety a testament to forlorn fantasy and fading hearthstones.

Chimera prowl, their many lipped-mouths agape; they chunk the flesh, spurting screech by roiling gasp, leaving the sad-sack, the bone-bag clawing its mindless metamorphosis amidst Medusan monsters and the ghastly grating of humour played upon a still-living rib-cage.

I have been quartered by skilful claws; the wires in my bloodied brain-pan have been plaited from the joker’s template design.

Hanged by the jelly-webbed foot, from the fecund Goddess of Trees, I am Major Arcana in a Hieronymus Bosch deck; I am a treble clef of pain upon the stave of misunderstanding.

I am the broken Bridge, the tumbling of lava bricks – still hot, crisping the soles of the unwary – into the evil rhyne below; I am the eyes upon the thorn, the swooshing talk of sea shells banked against a lapping pink tongue of tide; I am the small moments of back-crawling between every fearful word spoken.

Cut down by single giant fang, I am spread upon the iciness of wasted earth – my stalk a flattened dermis of the forlorn; my brambled breasts cloaking the hills with suckling and sexing’s long gone memory, a faded gasp in the whale’s stomach; my flayed feet trail their midnight ichor, coating the forests with doom.

The Moon, now full as sorrow within and as dusky rose as a maiden’s first moment of pleasure, bulges at the sky’s rigid garment; she wants release; she wants to fall, in great rings of pink-gold-grey cloud, upon her back – and let the soon-to-rise Sun plant the new day’s seed.

I cry; boiling crimson streams from both eyes, staining the green, setting off deep shock-waves, scouring the planet.

I am dead. I am mineral and animal, human and elemental; I am the tiniest atom of nothingness – and I sleep in the honey-sweet sticky dribblings of the Planets’ great act of love and lust.

Summer Lovin’

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/summer-lovin/

My love of Crete started in 2010. Since then, it has become an important part of Summer’s magic. The two photos below – both taken in 2010 – show us having lunch at Argyroupolis, and an evening of whole restaurant dancing at The White Ladies near Rethymno – both wonderful and unforgettable experiences.

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My Best Friend: Daily Prompt

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/on-bees-and-efs/

Daily Prompts don’t usually make me cry, but this one has.

The guy I refer to on here as ‘Boyf’ was my best friend and my lover too, and thinking of those times makes my heart clench with loss and sadness.

We played together, laughed, collected fruit and vegetables from stalls along the Vale of Evesham roads, cooked together, danced wildly at discos and rebelled against parents, adults generally and middle-class values.

We told one another our dreams, fears and fantasies; we had a craze on Bloomsbury at the same time; he introduced me to Bob Dylan and Steeleye Span; through him, I learned about public schools, Dougal Haston and having to move every three years because of his father’s Army postings.

Through him, I learned what it was to be a woman – to be loved and wanted and desired – and he learned, from me, how to be a man, since we met as virgins and were the first for one another.

The thing is, with this best friend, I did not have to give him back at the end of a day, or share him with a horde of others. We had other close friends – of course we did – both singly and as a pair, but I felt safe with him, knew he would not choose another behind my back or flaunt one in front of me.

I was, I can see now, extremely lucky: One’s partner, as I have learned since, is not always one’s best friend (and, sometimes, is barely a friend at all).

I have had other best friends, male and female, since those far-off days, and have valued the relationships tremendously.

Going back to N (boyf): It wasn’t a perfect relationship (not sure there IS such a thing) by any manner of means, and it ended with sad bitterness and loss of friendship/communication – but, for those years, I DID feel that I was living with a combination of closest friend, kindred spirit and the man who brought me to full sexual life, and I flowered as a result.

Running into Panic

Just back from my morning run, still sweating profusely, I am feeling unhappy and discouraged because, for the first time in this liberating new exercise regime of mine, panic reared its ugly head.

Let me explain, or try to.

It is a beautiful warm sunny day – and I decided to run in shorts.

Did something about this decision store anxiety I wasn’t even aware of?

It is possible, even probable, but I don’t want to go there for the moment.

I set off, down the familiar road, past fields, my pink running shoes slapping rhythmically upon asphalt, my mind in glorious, and unusual, neutral gear.

Crossing the cattle Grid, I watched as a host of flies rose up, suggesting something foetid or dead in the brackish water between the bent metallic slats.

I ran on, up the slight incline, watching a plane coming in to land at Bristol Airport.

Down the slope, through the welcome shadow path provided by tall trees, I jogged, mind mostly white noise and the pleasure of cool breeze on heated body.

Perhaps, in retrospect, my big mistake was to stop running, to slow down to a fast walk as I passed the loveliness of the Tumbling Weir.

I say this because my mind immediately snapped back, like over-stretched rubber, to its starting point – and the worry-sadness in my jelly-mind poured out, lifting me into dread scenarios I really did not want to see.

The palpitations started within seconds, great waves of terror from my heart, a thumping torment of sensation and complete fear.

Breathe, Ali,’ I told myself. ‘Or cry, or something…’

On I walked, fighting Panic’s Tsunami with every step, every jagged breath, trying to bat away the, ‘I could collapse and die here all alone…’ thinking which only makes things worse.

And I could easily have given way to tears at that point because I just thought, ‘How many more areas of my life are going to be invaded by this horrible anxiety? Is nothing safe?’

It made me feel really sad because I fear that, from now onwards, every run will be tainted by the fear of a panic attack – and that running will become, eventually, yet another thing I no longer do.

I am home now – and my sweating hair is weeping orange ‘blood’ from the recent re-colouring process.

It seems like a symbol of my life somehow.

I am trying so hard to show determination, persistence and courage.

But it is very hard to keep trying, hoping and believing when my own mind and body fight back in this destructive way.

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Thanks to Google Images for the Fear Emoticon.

Emotional Control and Emoticons!

Writing on a close-knit site like WordPress has already thrown up several examples of synchronicity, most notably with Sue Vincent, Marilyn Armstrong and Benjamin Prewitt.

With both of the ladies mentioned above, I have experienced the wonder of reading a post whose subject matter, tone or humour is very similar to that which I have just written myself. With Ben, a weaving of emotional synchronicity, and life experiences in common, surfaces from time to time.

Sue and Ben are friends in ‘real’ life as well as fellow bloggers – and, although Marilyn and I have never met, I have felt a bond with her since first reading her posts.

This morning was weird beyond even my belief, though – and I have reblogged pieces by both Sue and Marilyn (because I loved reading them and felt that they should go to as wide an audience as possible!).

I woke feeling scratchy and snarly and teary and sad – and the thought upon my mind’s lips was all tied up with what I describe as Emotional Fascism, specifically centring around the insensitive and relentless nature of some people’s version of Positive Thinking: metaphorically, the need to append smiley Emoticon faces to every part of one’s life, and to judge (and judge harshly) those who dare to put up a tearful or angry one.

This thought process led on to the wonderful Land of the Exiles weekend, back in April, and my role as (and subsequent blog post about) Sekhmet.

The Lioness was, in my eyes, a fabulous antidote to yellow grinning Emoticons!

Switching on the laptop, I read Sue’s first post – and then Marilyn’s…

Wow!

Sue’s deals with the publication of Steve Tanham’s book about that wonderful weekend (a  book which includes my Sekhmet post), while Marilyn’s is a superb piece all about the need to be exactly the way one is emotionally without the Happy Face Brigade sitting in judgement. It is a brilliant look at the difference between Positive Thinking and Emotional Dictatorship.

What set me off is going to sound so innocuous that I am sure some people will raise an eyebrow or two in a twitch of humourless disdain and secretly think me a cantankerous old bag.

‘Let ‘em!’ I say.

Manners can be very important – but, if they are covering over, and denying, great cesspits of dysfunction and unhappiness, if they are the Smiley Face of insincerity and denial, if they are an attempt at stopping up the great outflow of poison, then I think they become little more than rote actions and words.

Very often such mannerly ‘conversations’ leave you with nowhere to go, and no true opening for honesty and sharing.

There is an expectation – which verges, at times, upon an order – that the question, ‘How are you?’ is answered, in a breezy and positive tone, by the words, ‘Very well, thank you – and you?’

But what, I have always asked, if you are not fine? What if your world is falling about your ears and what you actually want/need is to express some of that to your friend/relative?

Sometimes, the answer above can be skating over an whole lake full of very unstable ice; sometimes, it can even constitute a downright lie, an attempt at covering over a truth the speaker will go to great lengths to deny.

I very rarely ask people how they are in this traditional greeting sense. If they are close friends, I can usually read them anyway – and they will almost invariably tell me where they are on the spectrum of emotion without my needing to go through the Pointless Manners Ceremony.

But my real objection to the above lies in this: Few people who ask how you are in that sense actually wish to know – or, to put it another way, they only want to know if your response epitomises Positive Thinking, if you are holding up a big yellow face smiling broadly.

You are not expected to reply, ‘Bloody terrible…’ to that question.

If you do, you are, in some odd way, being unsporting, a miserable sod, self-pitying.

Thinking Positive is great. It is something we can all, as humans, aim for. But denying other people their sadness, their anger, their grief because it doesn’t fit our Smiley Face mindset is cruel and sinister, if you ask me.

There is a prevalent belief that it is somehow brave to show only a positive and fighting spirit when one is battling serious illness, bereavement, poverty, depression, rejection and so forth – and people are almost awarded Brownie Points for their level of cheer during trauma, with points being deducted if you cry, scream, rail against life and evince any kind of bitterness or contempt.

We all, quite rightly, fear Mind Control, were chilled when ‘1984‘ first came out – and rise up against societies and countries which oppress their citizens.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Because we are, as a society, only too happy to stamp on, and dismiss, judge and tut at, the blue down-turned smile and leaking eyes of the Sad Emoticon, to bridle at the fury of the Red Angry Face – and to insist that, while it is perfectly permissible to feel these emotions deep down, you MUST present a happy and cheery demeanour at all times when in company.

Or else…

SOUR CHERRIES AND HAPPY FACE

alienorajt:

I woke up this morning feeling pretty pissed off and snarly, but feeling, as I so often do, obliged to put a happy face upon the inner growl. Then, flicking through blog posts from friends, I found this one. Written by the fabulous Marilyn Armstrong, it expresses perfectly something which many of us, I suspect, secretly feel. A must-read post, in my opinion. Thank you, Marilyn, for articulating this so honestly.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

Bad days are like sour cherries. Even in a great batch of fruit, you hit some duds. As you munch, you’re going to get some berries that are overripe, sour, or bitter. You bite into them, make a face, and put them aside. You don’t eat them because they don’t taste good.

Life is like this. Day follows day. Some days suck.

Yesterday sucked. Finding I’d been hacked, that our money was gone. That after being so careful, we were back in the red through no fault of our own. It put me into a lousy mood.

I did not feel a Pollyanna urge to discover a bright side. I was pissed off. Outraged at what happened, doubly so by the cavalier way the bank made me feel marginalized and helpless in the face of their corporate indifference.

me with debbie's camera

I suppose I could have smiled on through, but I didn’t want to, anymore than I feel like eating the sour cherries. I had every right…

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Land of the Exiles – a new book by Steve Tanham

alienorajt:

Back in mid April, I was one of the Companions of the Hawk when, as Defence Officer One, I woke up and found, after two days of powerful and intense ritual, my inner Sekhmet. I also found the most wonderful fellow passengers, companions – and friends, true friends. Steve Tanham has now published the book of that life-changing weekend; it includes my ‘Sekhmet’s Song’ piece and many other amazing testimonies of the weekend. I shall be buying a copy – and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone/everyone else. Do read!

Originally posted on Daily Echo:

LoE cover frLand of the Exiles:
A Silent Eye Workbook with Practical Notes

Steve Tanham

With contributions from the Companions of the Hawk

The Hawk has crash-landed on the planet Idos, the crew awake from cryogenic sleep to find that their captain is missing and the ship has been taken over by a cyborg who bends them to his will, making them play out the stories of the ancient gods of Egypt as it seeks to understand what it is to be human. Their only hope of survival lies in the strange touch of the Mindstream, and their own inner hearts…

Land of the Exiles is a practical and teaching guide to a fully scripted ritual workshop from the Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School.

“This principle of theatre as initiatory space remains with us today in modern Mystery Schools, particularly in the West. There is something deeply ‘opening’ about being part…

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Risk-taking

Sometimes we have to take that leap of faith.

Make that move. Say those words we have been holding back, for fear of being judged, rejected or dismissed.

Adrenaline junkies seek out the fastest car, the most terrifying roller-coaster, adventures in dangerous lands.

Perhaps they do not know, or see, that the most threatening risk a person can take actually involves opening up the rusted gates of the feelings – and saying, ‘I love you,’ or, ‘I am sorry – but this is not going to work,’ or, ‘With you, I am happy and myself…’

These emotional leaps across the abyss have always held me back from the truth. I prepare myself mentally, gauge the distance I’ll need to jump, make sure I am wearing suitable footwear – and then, faced with the gaping terror of the reality, I back away, run for the grey hills of Stasis. I choose the known – even if it is painful, spirit-sapping and fear-inducing – over the vast depths of opportunity.

Sometimes, however, it is not the big things which galvanise the fleet-footed soaring motion.

Sometimes, it is something very simple – and yet profound in its reach.

Uncontrollable laughter after too long tamping it all down for fear.

Playing, like a child, after years of sad-eyed watching through the bars of imprisoned adulthood.

Weeping over all the little caskets of buried self, and trying to love them back to life.

Recognising, finally, that you do not have to accept the limitations imposed by others; that you do not need to abide by senseless and shifting rules; that you have always been free – but just turned the doorknob the wrong way time after time.

Seeing, clearly, that the negative opinions of YOU presented by another are OPINION, not FACT – and that you might, despite all known flaws, be wonderful and lively and talented and sweet and endearing and deserving of love.

But, above all, you realise that you were not put on this earth to reflect a desired set of characteristics back at someone else; you were set down, dancing and spontaneous, a creature of light and shade, to be who you are just as hard and as well as you can, and to love the human you have elected to be.

Freed, your light can then attract the flickering beams of others, and you can find a love which brings out the leaping, laughing best in both of you.

Loneliness, you risk, and fear, for you cannot force love and light your way; you can only ever hope that something in you will connect with another, at some point, and that the electrical storm of your meeting will pave the way for a love worth living and a life worth loving.

Robert Browning expressed this in his poem ‘The Statue and the Bust’ with these two well-known lines:

‘And the sin I impute to each frustrate ghost
Is–the unlit lamp and the ungirt loin…’

I think these lines stand as a brilliant, and terrifying, metaphor for all the risks in life which we are too afraid to take; all the times when we opt for a situation broken beyond repair because we are too frightened to face further failure; all those loves we miss out on because society dictates that we should not be with that person (for reasons of religion, colour, age and so on); all those opportunities we avoid because they would push us to a limit we do not think we can cope with…

In the poem, the putative lovers died without allowing their love to blossom; they were immortalised, in all their beauty, as a statue and a bust – yet never, in life, did their lips touch in lust; never once did they allow their passion full sway.

The point being that no matter how beautiful and finely carved the marble of safe choices IS, the pulsing and imperfect flesh of life is danger and passion and blood and untidy love and sex and anguished feelings and bursts of wild joy and equally wild despair.

Time enough for the cold perfection of virtue and narrow living and obeying rules and crushing your natural instincts after you are dead and reduced to the words upon a tombstone, the fading photos in an album.

You cannot take risks when your body is no longer a living vessel.

Don’t wait for a Paradise you may never experience to light your lamps and gird your luscious loins!

Grab life and squeeze hard! Make mistakes! Be messy and weepy and less than perfect! But live, live, LIVE!

‘Swan Sex’ by Emmerdale Winceyette wins the Booker Prize!

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‘You’ve won.’

The unctuous voice at the other end revealed muted enthusiasm. For him, with shelves full of his published books, this was Old Hat. His mantelpieces bend under the weight of awards, Booker included. He is Famous, lauded, lionized.

I, however, am not – and this public recognition of my private moments has been precious, oh so precious.

I have been called many things in my time. Some unrepeatable. Some so funny, I shriek, wail and writhe with laughter. But the reviews of ‘Swan Sex’ have been phenomenal. Even I – wordsmith though I, undoubtedly, am – would struggle to achieve such perfection of syntax, so fine a flow of language and so rich a vocabulary.

Admittedly, some of the Tabloids managed to insert a wholly unnecessary level of sleaze into the proceedings, with such tiresome versiflage as, ‘Lucky Old Leda!’ and, even worse, ‘Leda-us to satisfaction, Zeus!‘  – but, you have to take the rough with the smooth, I say, and those assuming that I was encouraging some form of miscegenation frankly need to get out more.

‘The most sensual, poetic writer of the Teens!’ was rather more like it – though I did take issue with the use of the word ‘Teens’, as I felt it gave entirely the wrong impression of my oeuvre – and, I should imagine, caused a few dropped jaws in school libraries throughout the land. Especially pages 23-29 ( which caused one reviewer to write, ‘Can this actually be done? And, if so, can I have the young lady’s number?’), 66-113 (‘Longer than the act itself!’ as one snarky reviewer put it) and the final chapter.

The suggestion made by some – that the whole thing is an extended metaphor, or an elaborate fantasy – has been most amusing! Do you really think I could have made up the sequence with the kumquats, the bicycle seat and the small marmoset? I know I am inventive – but, really!!!

Be that as it may, I was delighted with the rather more sensitive responses – particularly that written by a well-known poet which consisted of a very fine sonnet.

The televisual experience was, quite honestly, GHASTLY. The raddled old bag, Minerva Strumpette, was quite clearly three sheets to the wind, as they say, and fell over twice as we walked onto the set, taking a rather nice hanging basket with her the second time. Her diction was all but incomprehensible and I found her habit of referring to my multi-hued heroine as ‘Titty‘ somewhat insulting. Perhaps one should be charitable and posit the suggestion that, in her state of advanced inebriation, the four syllables of ‘Titania’ were, quite simply, a linguistic bridge too far. But, I still felt that the way she hoicked up her own withered dugs and leered suggestively at the camera whenever she said the word was completely unnecessary and really jolly insulting!

I did not feel she was taking my novel seriously at all. I also took exception, in the strongest terms, to the trio of plastic swans which, tacked to the wall behind me, appeared to be doing something revolting and, in all probability, illegal, to one another.

I do hope that this somewhat toxic publicity might open the doors to more salubrious events: an invitation to appear on ‘QI’, for example, would not go amiss. Stephen Fry has always been very much a man after my own heart. Shame he bats for the other side. But, you can’t have everything in this life – and I think he and I would get on like a mansion on fire!

Variations of the same basic question have been asked ever since I heard the wonderful news: how am I going to celebrate?

Ms Strumpette actually had the effrontery to say, ‘Will you just be swanning around?

No, of course I won’t! What an asinine, impertinent suggestion!

Let me share the itinerary with you: a boat trip down the Nile (death not included, I sincerely hope!), followed by a leisurely sortie through Pyramids great and small, soaking up the vibes, the dust, the ancient bat guano and, with luck, any Pharaonic spectres which happen to be around.

From there, we travel on the Great Wall of China, and those simply scrumptious ENORMOUS warriors in their vast tomb.  I am all a-tremble just thinking about them.

I shall, of course, be drinking Champagne by the quart, and nibbling upon strawberries, caviar and finest chocolate – though not all at once, you understand; that would be silly!

I shall then dive with porpoises in South Carolina, or possibly whales in -er, wherever they happen to be at the time, my knowledge of precise geographical locations being some forty years out of date – and, if possible, ride upon the largest horse in the world, a stonking great brute some twenty-two hands high! Not quite sure, at this juncture, how I am going to get my leg over his broad withers!

Several of the seedier rags have suggested that I should have extensive plastic surgery! Would you Adam and Eve it?! Moi?

Now, I would be the first to agree that I am not as svelte as I could be, and that my facial physiognomy is ever-more reminiscent of a weather map during a hurricane, but I do not agree with the scurrilous toad who made reference to my frontal Pride and Joys as ‘Knee Ticklers’, let alone the poisonous little rat-bag who said, and I quote, ‘Emmerdale Winceyette (my non de plume) has all the sex appeal of over-cooked tripe!’

Bet SHE couldn’t write a Booker Prize winning novel!

The final part of my celebratory process involves the house. I shall come back to a Tapas Bar in the Conservatory, a quartet of llamas in the paddock outside, a haha in the front garden and a Morris Dancing team in the cellar (best place for them, many would say).

And for my sequel? Stick with a winning formula, I say – and am already toying with such gems as ‘The Amatory Albatross‘, ‘Coming with a Condor,‘ and, following the hugely popular, ‘101 things to do with a dead cat,‘ playing around with, ‘101 Ways of Avoiding a Sex-Crazed Rhea’…

Watch this space…

Creating a world: Egyptian theme

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Rectangle of paper. Yellowed and crackling through extreme age. A voice susurrating from another part of Time’s loop. I stoop. Reality is washed away, a vase tipped over the pastel points of an Impressionist painting.

Faint marks, indicative of an earlier folding, remain. But it lies upwards, open, tugging at my curiosity.

‘Pick me!’ it says. An odd Alice in Wonderland moment. The rabbit hole as distorted here as it was in Lewis Carroll’s hallucinogenic world.

Mushrooms of colour smoke and blend. Violent pinks and electric blues flicker. Objects have lost their form, have become alien.

My fingers – translucent bone-bags, trembling blood-carriers – waver over ancient papyrus.

Pyramids surge. Upwards. Growing, vast stone by vast stone. The Nile, black as darkest treacle, gurgles its way into full Inundation. Weedy crops salivate, open their greeny-gold mouths to much-needed nutrients. The slicing rash of a desert sandstorm paints scarlet dots on skin.

The Sphinx laughs. A hollow sound like air through a pillar-sized reed.

‘Read me!’ whispers the mystery.

Camels sneer and spit.

The words stutter out in blocked Hieroglyphic form. Guesswork, though intuition gives guidance.

‘Helios!’ a ray of flaying heat scalpels off the first epidermal layer.

The Pharaohs march on by, bandaged and rotting, lapis lazuli scarabs falling from folds, clonking the tufts of agitated sand.

The world, from this Dynasty, flat as a pancake. Egyptian Mysteries knew it first: Mind creates reality.

The me-who-is-not-me rolls the countries and continents up like a magic carpet, bound with oceans, bumpy with mountain ranges, vibrantly coloured in shades of turquoise, green, terra-cotta, peopled by tiny toys.

‘Fashion it!’ calls the wildly wavering paper. ‘Mould it into a sphere!’

Minuscule and warm, it is, between cupped palms, like clay manipulated for days by Sumo Wrestler.

The details merge. It smells of raw earth and the salty tongue of the sea. It catches at my throat. Tears fall.

I blow love into my hands and, slowly at first, begin to fashion it into a globe shape.

Countries smile happily, or wriggle uncertainly, as they are slipped into new slots. Kerplunk!

Oceans stretch out, luxuriate in the rounded freedom now available to them.

Tectonic Plates settle, the arthritic bones of the planetary body, creaking a little with age and pain.

The toys, a billion and more animated puppets, glow and gibber and grab the rocks, fearing a sharp fall off the edge.

I gift them with gravity and grace.

Peter Pan Speaks: Daily Prompt

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/adult-visions/

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It’s all a lie, you know, adulthood, I mean.

There is no such thing.

Take it from me.

It’s all just children getting older and older and more wizened, and not having fun anymore.

You can dream and dream – but, if something doesn’t actually exist, EVER, you will never reach it anyway, will you?

And they called my realm Neverland?

Think, children, think NOW!

Adult took my Wendy away from me. She lost her ability to sew shadows and fight pirates and see fairies and fly. Now? She’s tethered to this thing they call REAL LIFE, and her spirit shrinks while her body clings ever more weightily to the Earth.

The Lost Boys? They were FOUND.

Oh, world, isn’t that SAD?

Now, they are stockbrokers in boring grey suits, commuting to the City as if it were some kind of Paradise.

Even Tinkerbell – my friend, my enemy – grows more see-through every day, and her sharp little tongue and tinkling bells are both dulled and silenced.

She talks of settling down, of growing herbs around her toadstool, of acquiring a Changeling.

Grown ups wear chains. Willingly. They forge the link themselves, for reasons I am unable to understand.

And yet? And yet, still we are sold the lie that reaching adult status is some kind of Holy Grail, that we will reach a Golden Age of Wisdom and contentment when we pass through the Gates of Childhood and slam them behind us.

Child forever. That’s me!

You can keep your secure homes, your regular income, your low-cost funeral plans and preparations for every eventuality apart from spontaneous enjoyment of LIFE.

YOU are the deluded ones, not me.

Because YOU believe, in the face of all evidence, that material tethering equals happiness, that chronological age confers insight and that the baubles and gewgaws money can buy will keep you safe from Death.

You can keep it.

I don’t want any part of it!

Who reads my writing?

On here? Potentially, everyone!

People from countries all over the world have viewed at least one post. They may not actually have read a single world – but their clicks registered as hits.

This is my Public Persona – and, on the blog, even the most apparently anguished and spontaneous pieces are carefully crafted, censored and edited before I hit the ‘Publish’ button.

My inner self resides in the journal – and is seen by very few people. I have, over the years, sometimes allowed family members to read those entries which are closer to travel writing than true diary; this will have been because there is nothing in such pages to threaten me or the reader.

But, in addition to my blogs – and emails to friends/family – I write in my journal every day, often pages of the stuff.

Boyf and I used to read one another’s diaries – and, back in the nineties, a close friend and I swapped written angst for a while, to the benefit of both, I hasten to add.

Other than that, I have only shared a truly vulnerable piece once – and that was last Friday when I allowed two close friends to read three pages out of the journal I had written that day.

Why?

Because these are friends I love and trust, people who have opened up to me emotionally and with whom I feel it is safe, therefore, to do the same.

Because some things, for me, are still easier to convey via the written word than the spoken.

Because I knew I would cry if I actually SAID the worst of the words written so neatly in black ink.

Because, just sometimes, we have to take the risk of opening ourselves up to real human beings in this life – and NOT, as I have always done, just confide in the blank pages of a book.

To some extent, I AM my writing – and, when I share it, I am, in fact, sharing me, Ali.

It is, as far as the journal is concerned, an intimate act of complete trust.

It is, in effect, saying, ‘These are the facets of me, incidents in my life, I usually hide – out of fear, distrust, low self-esteem – but I am letting you see them…’

Did it help?

God, yes.

It felt like the huge release of a tension I had not even been aware I was experiencing.

And the friends I entrusted it to treated it, and me, with sensitivity and care.

Eros, Philia and Agape? Why some women give up on sex…

Eros, Agape and Philia. Doesn’t the love we seek contain traces of all three?

In an ideal world/relationship, that love plait would be woven with three strands of identical weight and length.

In reality, all too often, Eros pushes Agape and Philia out of the way, only aping their characteristics when it suits.

Or Philia strides the stage, pushes Eros’ hopeful fingers off with a carelessness bordering on contempt and telling the bouncers to ban Agape at all costs.

Serious imbalance can indicate a partnership heading for the rocks. It can explain why some women – and men – put up barriers to both Eros and, ultimately, Agape and Philia as well.

We all want love and companionship – and most of us want some kind of physical connection, and sexual fulfilment, within a relationship. But obstacles can occur; barriers can be put up; life’s vicissitudes can get in the way of happiness with a partner. This is the topic I wish to write about today – even though it is a bit of a lateral approach to the prompt.

The vast majority of relationships start in the realm of sheer heavenly lust! I am not saying that it is all about sex; indeed, some people choose not to actually do the deed until they are married. I am also not for a moment claiming that there is nothing else at work. If one is lucky, love is also there, and compatibility, shared interests, shared sense of humour and so forth.

But, bottom line here, attraction – or at least the animal, unthinking part of it! – happens unconsciously and is driven by pheromones and not the brain!

To put it bluntly, a man is going to struggle to get his Siege Engine of Lust aloft, let alone firing bullets over the castle walls, if the woman’s hormonal mixture does nothing for him.  And, from the female point of view, no matter how kind and nice a guy might be, if he doesn’t induce Biblical flooding in the gusset area, it ain’t gonna be an easy or comfortable ride!

Most people have experienced those heady early days in a relationship. You know the ones I mean?! The ones where you fuck like frenzied ferrets at every opportunity. The ones where the whole world is your sexual launching pad. The ones where being caught in flagrante in forest, stream or car is an incredible turn-on in itself. The ones, girls, where, every time you see HIM, you want to tear off his Boxers – with your teeth, if necessary! – and get stuck in!

So, if women have just as great a sexual urge as men (and, in many cases, I think they DO!), what the hell happens? Why is it that so many women start to make excuses, give lack lustre ‘performances’ in the great Ring Cycle of sexual desire, take up knitting?

There are, I am sure, many reasons for this. But, as a general rule, if the woman has gone cool on the sexual front, it is an indication that all is not right with the relationship in the more general sense.

Now, I do know that some women (and, indeed, some men) use sex as a bargaining tool – and withhold it in order to get what they want, be it material possessions or winning status in an argument. This is not something I have any time for, quite frankly, because I think it is manipulative – but we all know the Princesses (and Princes) who set quests for their putative boy and girlfriends, and will not allow so much as a kiss (no tongues) until the Paramour has slain a dragon, fought with the Evil Black Knight and brought back the tail feathers of the Phoenix.

There are some women, therefore, who hold out in this way because hubby/lover has failed to get out the chequebook the requisite number of times – or told her that the dress she really wanted was too damned expensive and made her look like a high-class whore anyway!

In some cases, it is very simple, if sad: the former juice and joy has fled; the woman no longer fancies the man she is with; he has all the erotic appeal of a dog turd! Where, in years gone by, her dreams and fantasies were peopled by his privy parts, the sight of them now makes her want to throw up!

In some cases, physical ailments can do it: if you are feeling seriously unwell, the urge to have sex may desert you temporarily. The menopause (which I discussed in a previous post) can also have an impact for some women – particularly if they buy into this whole idea that an infertile woman has, in some way, stopped being female and, more to the point, sexy!

But, to go back to what I said initially, sex is, for many women, an integral part of the relationship – and it can, therefore, act as a barometer. Now, don’t get me wrong here: storms can be incredibly erotic – and post-argument sex is often magnificent. But, if you are faced with constant grey skies and English drip drip drip reserve, it is much more difficult to raise the cry, the scream, the fire.

I think that the quality of the relationship as a whole has a huge bearing upon sex. If, for example, you have little in common and your communication with the other is fraught, uneasy, tense or fear-inducing, it is going to be very difficult to trust your partner sexually; if long bouts of non-communication are broken by occasional bursts of sexual need, you are going to feel increasingly like a blow-up doll or a tart.

Very often, huge differences in attitude – shown at pivotal times of your life, bereavements being a classic example – can threaten your former intimacy, making you afraid of that person maybe, or contemptuous, or indifferent.

Women sometimes stop wanting sex because they are SCARED. Some men confuse this fear with the Playing Hard to Get game.

I am not here talking about the fear of violence, rape, physical abuse – though I have very great sympathy for any human being (male or female) who lives in that kind of terrifying world.

I am thinking here of the more intangible fears – the ones which shrivel the spirit and make a cowering heap out of a former lusty Amazon.

And they, because they appear so irrational, can be the hardest ones to explain, let alone justify. Because they tend to be cumulative in nature, it is very difficult to pinpoint the moment when the fear, the distrust, began.

If the spirit between you, the invisible connection, switches off as soon as the last orgasmic gasp has died down, you may find that you begin to make subtle ‘no’s and not so subtle excuses. If you find yourself faking climax after climax just to bring the whole damn melodrama to an end, this could be a warning sign. If the only time your partner truly wants your company is between the sheets, you are in trouble. If, in a word, sex becomes the be-all-and-end-all in your relationship – and you connect at no other level – then sex in itself can become mundane and one dimensional – instead of the deeply erotic, at times transcendental, wonder that it can, and should, be.

My final point is this: I know some women genuinely have little interest in love-making; they have a low sex-drive (as do some men) and horizontal pleasures are not a high priority. But, I suspect that, for the vast majority of women, decreased desire stems from increased difficulty communicating with, and trusting, your husband/lover/boyfriend – and reflects a dangerous imbalance in the Eros, Agape and Philia blend.

My five top hits of all time…

Nowt so strange as folk, eh? Especially those who can, and do, read…

If you had asked me to guess, two years ago, which kinds of writing would prove to be the most popular, I wouldn’t have hesitated for a nano-second:

‘Bawdy, blunt or satirical humour!’ would have been my reply.

Why?

Because this is the way I  have always made people laugh – and cheering others up is very important to me.

The more private matters, my sadnesses and insecurities, I kept for the journal – and, if I am honest, it never occurred to me that the confiding, diary-type style writing would cross over to a public platform.

Initially, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go there; but, more to the point, I simply assumed that no one would want to read such things.

The Five of The Best have, to a certain extent, surprised me – though I do think they represent most of who I am, both as a writer and a person.

Talking Dirty!‘ (my piece all about the desirability of a bit of rough, below the belt, talk during sex) tops the chart by a long way. Barely a day goes by without someone wanting a bit of that particular action – and, as of today, it has had 1097 hits!

‘The Dog’s Tale’ (originally published under the name ‘Alpha Beta‘, and my alphabetical prose-poem about canine, and human, behaviour) comes in second with a respectable, though hardly earth-shattering, 493 hits.

In third place, we find the first of my pieces on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), ‘Incandescent‘ – a post which combines information about the topic with, from memory, a fairly fiery Ali rant. With 274 hits, it is never going to win any prizes – but at least it is being read.

Fourth (and I am so glad it came in the top five) is ‘Gathering the Lavender‘, one of several lyrical pieces about my little Priestess, Amgel, and Granny (who became a voice in her own right eventually). I adore these ones, and always go off into another world when I am writing them. 238 hits, this one got.

My fifth, and final, high flyer (relatively speaking!) genuinely DID surprise me. Coming in with 180 hits, ‘To My Anonymous Attacker‘ was one of a series I wrote about the 1988 sexual assault I experienced – and I did not think anyone would want to read any of them.

I confess that I AM somewhat disappointed that NONE of my really raucous and laugh-out-loud vulgar numbers have come anywhere near the top. I think this is a damn shame because, in many ways, I think I am at my best when on a sarcastic, satirical or bawdily hilarious roll.

Personally, if asked, I would have voted for ‘The Rime of the Ancient IUD‘, (which I am cheekily sneaking in here!):

http://alienorajt.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/the-rime-of-the-ancient-iud/)

Or ‘Djinn and Tonic’ (http://alienorajt.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/djinn-and-tonic/).

But, let’s be frank: I just write ‘em! Not up to me how they are received…

And one thing has become abundantly clear from all of this: I am not about to hit the Viral Big Time in the foreseeable future…

And do you know what?

I don’t give a flying fuck!

Dealing with unwanted chatty tourists!

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/middle-seat/

Dear Gasbag -

Yes, you! The one who spent the entirety of the seventeen hour flight to Outer Mongolia bending my ear with the kind of inane and tedious wittering which makes the average Tabloid newspaper article seem like MENSA material in comparison.

I evinced polite distaste from the start – if you recall, which, insensitive wazzock that you are, you probably do not! – by dint of immersing myself in my book.

This availed me not – and you carried on. And on. In the course of this part of the ‘conversation’ (not that I could get so much as a syllable in edgeways…), I learned all those absolutely riveting facts about your bloody dreary family. Not content with filling me in on your long-suffering husband (who, very sensibly, had eschewed this flight, claiming that the privations of long haul caused his haemorrhoids to play up something chronic), your eminently forgettable children and the apparently endless list of Chavvy grandchildren, you then went back – for some inexplicable reason – to the tenth century – and led me to believe that every major historical event, from Battle of Hastings through Black Death to Falklands war, had been successfully perpetrated thanks to someone named Semen (as if I wanted to know that!).

I claimed weariness, even grabbed my flight pillow and attempted to close my eyes. But you weren’t having any of that, were you? Oh no!

The droning voice maundered on regardless, your flat vowels and dropped consonants grating upon my delicate nerves.

You had, Madam, the unique ability to make the most exciting narrative beyond boring and out the other side.

I was tempted, very, to ask if I could swap seats with the elderly couple in the opposite row – but, having ascertained that he was ‘wobbly'(whatever THAT might mean),  had a weak heart, a palpitating brain and ingrowing toenails, I felt that the risks (given the complete dearth of on-board doctors, nurses and quacks) outweighed the advantages.

I had no wish to see the old codger shuffle off this mortal coil in front of me: makes such a mess of the soft furnishings and spoils one’s enjoyment of the view, I find!

If I’d thought your Family Tree was tedious, I was wrong: It was P.G.Wodehouse combined with Terry Pratchett when set against what came next – your every ailment since foetus-hood in truly eye-watering detail. The whole thing made even more grisly, frankly, by your Malapropisms, superfluous Bristol ‘l’, badly-fitting false teeth and what you would probably have called a girlish giggle. But which I, privately, referred to as the sinister cackle of a well-drilled medium sized coven.

The repulsive mental pictures conjured up by such expressions as, ‘I’m always under the doctor, me!’ ‘…an inflection in me baby-carriage…’ and, ‘…the whole lot came out, just like boiled tripe!’ had me heaving and gasping in my seat.

I’m not even convinced that there are such conditions as ‘mimsy tubes’ or ‘flootated undercrackers…’

By this stage – trapped, in a long tube, with a woman who Talked For The Known Universe – I was getting desperate, and would, quite happily, have gagged you had I been able to reach my suitcase.

Fortunately, the rather pretty Air Hostess sashayed past at this point and asked, ‘Would Sir like  anything to drink?’

Resisting the temptation to say, ‘Yes, Sir most certainly would: A quadruple whisky, hold the water – and a syringe full of Ketamine wouldn’t go amiss either!’ I asked for a red wine.

You joined me, didn’t you? Thank God, as it turned out, because your head for alcohol was as weak as your command of a decent narrative.

To my intense relief, you moved very speedily from maudlin and borderline obscene, through incoherent to unconscious and snoring like a pack of warthogs.

You troubled me no more – for the last hour of the flight, that is.

Next time?

I shall invest in some industrial strength ear-plugs and a Scold’s Bridle just in case.

Yours,

Disgruntled from Clousta Twatt

The Palm-Reader

 

Her face does not fit the crinkled walnut stereotype, nor is she clad in a Bazaar of shawls, bangles and cheesecloth. She lacks crystal balls, red velvet topped occasional tables and screaming skulls. She may have a Tarot Deck; she may, on the other hand, not. Difficult to tell on this achingly beautiful flight from Bristol to Heraklion.

It is strange the way she sidles up to me, scuttles almost. Like a watchful crab. Not shy exactly. Just on her guard. Pincers and claws ready to rend should the need arise.

There should not have been room for her. Not in any logical sense. What with my husband – fast asleep and bubbling with gentle snores – on the seat opposite, and Son, and Son’s Friend, jammed up against the maternal/In Loco Maternis side.

The Dalmatian Coast, so ruggedly colourful and gorgeous, bumps, winds and grates along miles below.

Husband, covered suddenly by an envelope of jellyish substance, becomes insubstantial – and she, shoe-horned in by magic, occupies his space.

Her hand is cool as Aloe Vera gel picked straight from the living plant. Silver hair tumbles, translucent and mysterious as water, down the inevitability of her spine. Gravity wins again.

Her eyes, the greeny-grey of stones at stream’s bottom, sing a song of grief and weariness and several harrowing lives of experience.

Her teeth don’t quite work, as if made for a smaller mouth – but her smile, sweet as freshly picked raspberries, charms and reassures.

My hand, passive as hope’s end, lies, a pink starfish, on the beach of her infinite wisdom.

‘You,’ she says, in a voice as echoingly lunar as her aura, ‘are a part of something far, far bigger. It stretches back and forth, a child’s skipping rope over Time’s Abyss. It started before this birth – and will outlive this body’s death.’

I listen. Determined to be polite, open-minded. Fear rises up. Existential dread.

‘Love you give,’ she says, ‘and truth. Though not everyone wishes to hear the latter – or open the heart’s chambers to the former. Cold and grey and brittle are some parts of your life. An echoing and barren emptiness lures you into hopelessness and despair. But! You have the power. You always have had. You just chose not to use it because you feared it would make you look bad.’

She pauses. I attempt to swallow past the sudden lump in my throat.

‘It is not for me to tell you the hours, days, months and years left for you. You have the ability to learn this for yourself. If you wish. But, I will say this: think of life ten years from now. Can you envisage the wheel of time grinding round and round in exactly the same way it has for so long? Are you nothing but a hamster, to be content – apparently – with the same sights, smells, sounds and tastes forever? If not, leap off. Now! Create your own wheel! Pave your own road! Swim your own river!’

She knows. How, I cannot imagine. But she has seen into my soul.

The plane dips and shudders, as if having a convulsion. I tense, as I always do at such times.

She laughs. Not unkindly. Not exactly.

‘You want to write. You do write. But you hold back. You wait for the perfect day. You always have. Child, there is no perfect day. There is only now. And, if you don’t make the most of now, you will never be what you want to be.’

‘You are a Seer,’ she says with sudden intensity. ‘Use it. For good. For healing. For the Light. Do not deform it trying to entice others into your net. It will not work. It never does. It rebounds. People are not puppets. You cannot make those who harm you, or limit you, or bully you, see things your way. If you could, they would lose their hold – and this they fear more than anything else. Let them go. There will be others. There are always others.’

I find I am sobbing. Quite openly. Uncharacteristically.

‘Your child,’ she carries on, ‘is not the sum of your faults, as you so often think: he is himself; you sensed that before he was born. Why doubt it now? Look at the little signs: the way he confides in you; the way he rang you this morning, asking for help, because he trusted you absolutely. He is a fine man waiting to happen. You have given your love. You have done the best you could. Rough edges are necessary. Perfection teaches nothing. It is not even on the syllabus.’

I break in, for the first time:

‘Will I – heal?’ I ask. ‘Will I reach the place I wish to reach? In all senses?’

‘There is a forge,’ she starts.

I am lost.

‘A forge of the heart, a forge on the Inner. You have used it for many things, Hephaesta. One has been to create, link by link, the enormous heavy chains you wear about your waist. Feel their weight. The weight of sorrow and waste. Use the element of fire, and its companion water, to remove those metallic impediments. Smash them to pieces. Reshape them. Rebuild them in a form pleasing to you.’

I am overwhelmed. Look out of the window through misted eyes.

images

The familiar landscape of Crete is coming closer: the browns and oranges of the ancient terraces, the dry and dusty almost greens of olive trees, the magnificence of sunset over Rethymno. We are readying ourselves to land.

‘Love awaits you,’ says my companion, her voice oddly out of breath and key, as if the imminent heat outside the aircraft were eating her up. ‘Find it in truth and honour.’

My son hands me a boiled sweet. He knows how my head swirls and panics as the plane descends. I smile reassuringly at Son’s Friend as this is his first flight. Husband stretches and yawns.

We fasten our seat belts.

The Palm Reader is gone.  She had hijacked my flight from another realm, I suspect.

We all clap and cheer at the plane sinks onto Heraklion’s runway, the sea to our right, heat rising up like oily smoke.

I have arrived.

Grimm: A modern-day fairy tale

Little_Red_Riding_Hood

Sometimes when the sharpened teeth of wolves are poised over throat and belly, when you can already see blood trails in the snow from your own screaming and agonising end, it is better to let the worst approach – and, if necessary, rend and rip you into a different shape.

We live in the expectation, largely unvoiced, that a knight on horseback will appear at the eleventh hour to rid us of wolves real and metaphorical – and that, like a fairy tale ending, we’ll all live happily ever after.

And so, we willingly take ourselves, whistling and red-cloaked, into the forests of the psyche and blithely ignore the approaches of witches, evil stepmothers, talking predatory beasts and enchanted royalty, preferring to see them through the mirror of romance as princes and princesses.

Monsters come up to us, wearing their fangs and tusks, their gory smiles, blasting their rank breath into our faces – and we make excuses for them, delude ourselves into thinking THEY are victims of trauma, abuse and bullying. We see their gorgeous luxuriant pelts, and they look so fine, so eminently strokable and huggable, that we ignore the warning click of claws unsheathing. We peer into their beautiful eyes and read depths of emotion, not seeing the blankness beneath.

And we go through life thinking that it is our fault when everything goes wrong: that these helpless, emotionally starved creatures are acted upon maliciously by the universe, and that we, by denying their needs, are making a bad situation far worse.

But monsters turn. They lose patience with the Mr or Mrs Human act, sooner rather than later usually, and revert to type.

And, when they do snap, they go straight for the kill. One way or another.

The thin lacquer of civilisation is easily cracked. They crouch, growling, as thick fur forms, as the morphological brutality bites.

It is only then that the truth hits you hard in the solar plexus – and you realise, in a desperate and dismal flash, that they were only ever pretending to play by the normal rules governing humanity. That they have, over the years, sucked exactly what THEY need from the marrow of the association, leaving you with the pitiful and desiccated carcass.

The Dark Witches really do fatten children up – and, given half a chance, shovel them into the oven and consume them. The Evil Stepmothers think nothing of offering rivals poisoned apples. The Wicked Wolf is not a sweet little doggie; it is a nasty, vicious, grandmother-murdering, little-pig-house-blowing-down psychopath.

Sometimes, we have to recognise that the sight of one of these Grimm and grim figures in our lives presages the end of the line as we know it: that shocking change, devastation and grief is the only outcome; that we cannot bargain for our lives in such encounters because the wild beast does not understand anything other than the imperative need to kill and eat – and the fairy tale nasties are soulless cardboard cut-throats.

Is there hope?

Is there light at the end of the cave’s dark tunnel?

Yes – and no.

Sometimes, we have to abandon hope and the expectation of light. We have to face the very worst, the epitome of our most terrifying nightmares. We have to do battle with the monsters under the bed – and we may well have to face psychological mutilation in the process.

When the skirmish is over, the pipes of lament have passed and the ravens eaten their fill, we can emerge – and, holding tattered armour close to our lacerated bodies, close the final page of that story.

And open a new book.

Mind Jelly

This poem attempts to describe what it feels like to doubt your own mind, something with which I am all too familiar. It stemmed from a dream I had last night: I saw myself standing in a blasted and grim Wasteland, a place of perilously cracking ice, of stunted and poisoned trees and of rivers of blood. All was shaking and shifting – and I understood, in dream’s logic, that this was a metaphor for my mind. That I could be deluded and creating my own Hell – and that my inability to hold firm in the thought process could be a covert acceptance of culpability.

I am not saying that this is so, just that I need to explore all possibilities if I am to grow.

images

I cannot hold

Firm shape of mind;

It will not set

In the mold

Of sense,

But leaks,

Melted jelly,

Coating all with fear.

 

Decisions,

Tempest- shaken,

Blow to far places

Mingling

With wails, losses,

Heavy lethal thunk

Of vast trees downed,

Curl in chaos’ hurricane.

 

Questions crack hammers

Against cranium

Hurting, wedging gaps

Between certainty’s

Tightly dovetailed finish:

What if? Bang! Crunch!

I am blackened ash within

And too stubborn to see?

 

What if, gazing into

Narcissus’ Pond,

I see myself -

And all is fantasy,

Malevolent projection

Of the utmost denial?

What if self’s centre

Excludes all else?

 

I cup head in clammy hands,

Feel the sloshing inside,

See the definite of black ice

Webbed with minute breakage

Widening to deep abyss,

Sense the bloody palette

Of mind-bruising

Where sharp shards have stabbed.

 

Spectres chase and play through

Miles of bright red jelly:

Fingers pointing,

Wordless accusation,

Showing my stubbornness,

Lack of compassion,

Mean spirit and want of love

In graphic detail.

 

‘You cannot let thoughts set,’

They scream, gibbering ghostly monkeys,

‘Because YOU are MONSTER.

So high in blaming others

That back to earth

Is a foreign country:

Attention-seeking horror

Nailing self to the Cross.’

 

This ironic flowing

Of jellied sweetness

Exposes fear’s biggest

Deepest throbbing vein.

Nothing can be held

In trust’s strong box

When key-bearing Furies

Pinch and punish.

 

What do I think? Feel?

I do not KNOW,

Cannot leap the cold canyon

Of shifting mind continents.

Am I even real?

Or just worn clothes

Upon shabby scarecrow

In the Fields of Delusion?

 

‘Let me,’ I beg, tears ready,

‘Just hold a thought in peace.

Let me rock it, babe-like,

And love it, see it strengthen

Into goodness, warmth, love.

Let me keep it full-term

And not lose it

Through miscarriage of the mind.’

 

Mind and I are at odds.

Each firing of synapse

A phantom pregnancy,

Or a stunted twisted form

Never to be born alive.

Solid bones,

Abundant flesh,

Brain vault coated in decay.

The fear of giving way to overt displays of grief

I am extremely lucky in that I have several truly lovely, kind and caring friends – and, with them, for the first time, perhaps ever, I AM beginning to gain some confidence, some degree of openness…

But, historically…

Opening up to others has always been very hard for me to do. It takes me a long while to confide, even in the closest of friends.

I will tell them the story – but allowing anyone to see the emotions written large on face, in eyes, in tremble of voice feels terribly threatening.

It is far easier for me to ‘confide’ in writing than it is is to speak my anguish.

It is a very deep fear of trusting.

It makes me feel so sorrowful.

If I fail to reach out a hand to meet someone half way, if I seem obdurate and uncaring, if it seems as if I am too haughty and righteous to compromise, it is usually an absolute terror of being betrayed or hurt which runs me.

The most frightening thing, for me, is being seen completely naked in the emotional sense – totally distraught, crying hysterically, unable to protect myself. I dread this so much that I will actually leave a human-inhabited space and drive/run away elsewhere before I let the tears fall.

Why, though?

It seems to be (as far as I can make out) a terror of being abandoned – either physically or emotionally. A fear of others being angry with me, walking out and leaving me; that’s as close as I can get before profound and debilitating anxiety clouds my mind.

I love being hugged – but I am afraid at the same time. Part of that is the fear of feeling cold and small once more when the physical contact is over, of the longing which makes my throat ache, of being so needy beneath my bawdy laugh and tom-boyish persona.

When I feel extremely vulnerable, I am too scared to ask people to hug me and comfort me – because I know that the act of being held in this way could trigger tears, and that I might never stop crying, and that the other might, in the end, pull away out of disgust or impatience.

You see, in the past, tears (from me) have been seen as a sign of manipulation. This is ironic given how rarely I cry in front of others – or, indeed, at all.

Tears have, sometimes and for all of us, been ignored; of course they have – no one can notice every single emotional current in the great rivers of life.

But sometimes, a child can be left crying for too long.

An adult too.

And sometimes it comes to seem as if your weeping is not safe, that YOU are too exposed, that you open yourself up in a harmful way by this necessary salt-water therapy.

All I can say at this point is that, just sometimes, overt displays of strong emotion bring predators flocking.

Tears can be seen as a sign of weakness.

But I think the real fear here is that of letting go, of trusting that I will be caught and held if I do.

Because, earlier in life, the arms have been held out of reach and I have been allowed to drop once too often.

The habit of self-comforting – rocking, hugging a soft toy, thumb-sucking – can become engrained in the psyche.

So those who know me, please bear with me if I jump nervously, fail to confide readily or laugh when I feel like sobbing.

I am learning trust all over again; I am learning to open myself to that terrible risk once more – but it is a long and slow process, and will not happen overnight.

Thank you for the kindness and care you show towards me, my friends.

It is ALWAYS appreciated.

Ah! To be eighteen again…

Where has she gone? That idealistic, uncynical, oh-so-hopeful eighteen year old. For her, the gates of the world had just swung open. She had this photo taken, in a photo booth in Woolworths in the centre of Oxford, some time in September 1976, just before she left home and went to university.

She did not wear glasses in those days, did not need them, had perfect vision. She was excited, though a little bit apprehensive, about that early October move to Aberystwyth.

She looks curiously untouched, doesn’t she? Innocent. Childlike. She does not look like a typical knowing, sophisticated, fashionable eighteen year old. That’s because she wasn’t.

Just think: she had never been kissed, had never had a boyfriend, had never taken her clothes off in front of anyone other than her sisters.

She had no knowledge of the love between a man and a woman, other than her romanticised notions garnered from hundreds of novels – and she certainly had no idea of the tricks played by both sexes in order to get into bed with one another.

Looking at her now, I am torn between wanting to protect her and to give her a damn good shake and a loud wake up call.

‘Child!’ I feel like yelling, ‘Open your eyes! This is the real world now, not the realm inhabited by Arthur Rackham fairies and Emily Bronte’s soaring imagination!’

She would not, of course, have listened. She thought she was so grown-up. She thought, in some strange way, that being bright and good at writing would be enough.

I can see her so clearly it almost hurts, bowed down by huge volumes of luggage, negotiating the warren of platforms at Birmingham New Street Station (having been driven up there by her mother); I can see her, later on that day, sitting in the train, crossing – though she did not know it then – the Cors Goch marshes near Borth and Ynyslas, sun beginning to set in ripe splendour over Aberdyfi, our girl (as I now see her), rapt by it all, window-watching and jotting down fragments of her experience in the journal, using red ink; I see her arrival at the station, her climbing aboard the coach – and her wonder at the magical first sight of Aberystwyth’s sea front garlanded with sunset’s magical flowers.

And, as she gets off the coach and staggers up to her room in the Hall of Residence, I want, once more, to make contact, to wag wise words her way, to tell her this: ‘Don’t be too trusting, girl. Learn to play hard to get. It’ll save you hours of heartache…’

Because, she fell in love, of course. Almost immediately, and hard. He was beautiful, a poet, a year or so older than her. She had no armour in place to deflect his extraordinary Greek God-like charm. She did not know what she was doing. Played it all wrong, of course: tried to use her intellect, her writing, to attract him – when, in all probability, a bit of seductive come-hitherishness would have worked far better. The odd glimpse of full breast, the dipped head and sideways look – the art of the coquette which our girl never really got the hang of.

Many of you reading this will simply not be able to imagine quite how unworldly this young woman was. She didn’t know how to do sex! Or love! Her body was ready, but her emotions were all over the place. Had the object of her love-lust-longing touched her, she might have screamed, she might have melted, she might have bolted. She was so terrified and turned on and tormented by the whole thing!

She wanted to be loved. But she didn’t know what love was. She had airy-fairy ideas about being made love to – in a bower, surrounded by roses probably!

But she thought she was without sex appeal.

She was abuse waiting to happen.

Nothing happened. Not in those heady late seventies days, anyway. Fortunately. She fell in love several more times – always passionately, always unrequitedly – before the long relationship with Boyf.

And now? I wish to God that she had got more experience under her belt – in both senses – whilst she was still young enough to learn the rules, the dangers and the joys of love. I wish she had had more sex, and with a variety of partners, so that she learned how to handle boys and men. And, above all, I wish she had been able to see that she was pretty, and that men would fancy and love her if she gave them half a chance.

Such confidence would, I think, have allowed her to deflect, ignore and reject the predatory men she attracted into her orbit in her twenties and thirties.

She would have learned, far earlier than was the case, that she was worth a great deal more than a one night stand.


So, would I wish to be that eighteen year old version of me again? Yes, in the sense that my potential for both delight and disaster had yet to be played out. Yes, in the sense that, for all the romantic misery, it was a wonderful and magical time.

And no. Just no. Because I could not bear the heartbreak, the loss.

I would hate to be that exposed again.

Beauty and ‘attracting’ the Beast…

I originally wrote this over a year ago, before joining WP – and am reposting it because it has particular relevance in my life now.
‘You were so beautiful at 18…and when you compare to you now, you look so beautiful now. Like a fine wine.’
I share this with you because it has touched me so much.

It was written by a dear friend of mine, ex-pupil, fellow blogger and recently published writer, Urbane Fox. We read one another’s pieces with great pleasure – and, when we met up in October 2012, spent several hours talking about writing, the world and a whole host of other things.

Fox had seen a memory-related blog, the one with the black and white photo of the eighteen year old Ali.

As I write this, I am smiling and welling up at one and the same time. I want to dance and caper and let Champagne bubbles of happiness lift me up. But I also want to cry at the sheer waste of it all: the fact that I was unable to enjoy and acknowledge my young womanhood’s beauty; the fact that I was unable to see it at all.

I am torn. On the one hand, I would have loved to have known I was seen as beautiful. On the other, if I had known, what is to say I would not have become a Narcissistic, haughty and arrogant nightmare?

If you know that you are good-looking – whether you are a man or a woman – and if you have that easy self-assurance, please pause for a moment and realise how very lucky you are. If you know that others are attracted to you, if you have that wonderful ease, enjoy it.

My son, despite the adolescent angst, knows that he is handsome. Not in a self-satisfied way. He would like to be taller, his hair bugs him – but he can see that he is a very good-looking young man. I am so pleased and relieved.

Had I possessed such confidence at sixteen, eighteen, twenty four, I would, I think, have made better choices as far as love and romance were concerned.

You see, if you think you are ugly – as I did – then you always feel that the ones you fancy are outside your league, too good for you. Anyone possessed of exceptional looks becomes both challenge and the expectation of failure.

You think, ‘Why should he/she be interested in someone like me?’

Men and women pick up such signals, even if they do not process them consciously. Such lack of confidence, especially if you actually are attractive, can bring satyrs and Narcissists your way. Those who thrive on your obvious adoration because, of course, it matches the gorgeous image they see each time they peer into the water’s mirror.

And, if they deign to go out with poor inadequate old you, you can be sure that a suitably high price will be exacted for the honour.

You will be made to feel – ever so subtly – that you are not worthy, but that you conceivably might reach worthiness if you perform certain tasks successfully. Very fairy story, the whole thing – only, instead of finding magic peacock feathers, slaying dragons or rescuing royalty from towers, you will be put on your mettle sexually or emotionally or both.

And women, in particular, still trade sexual favours for the glib promise of ‘love’…

Insecure young women still believe that, if they do X in the bedroom, they will be loved, deemed important and worthwhile.

I was one such young woman. Still am, in too many ways. Still trying to prove, to the Beasts of this world, that, if I could just get it right, and do it better (and this goes beyond sex), I would, finally, be worthy of proper love.

Unless there is genuine and equal love/desire in the relationship to start with, no amount of eager-to-please Tantric sex is going to make a blind bit of difference.

I have, as I say, been there. I know what I am talking about. The ‘tee-shirt’ was a nervous breakdown.

My advice? Do not go there…

I am heterosexual, so my experience in this field is limited to men – but I am very aware that women are just as bad, that sometimes extreme good looks can confer upon a human being the dark gift of a predatory and ruthless nature.

am good enough. I always was. I just couldn’t see it.

And an equally valid question I should, on two crucial occasions, have asked myself was, ‘Is he good enough for me?’

No matter how beautiful, charming and seductive.

Truly attractive people do not need to play games like this. Genuinely good-looking human beings will, in my opinion, shine at a level far beyond the purely physical – and, grounded in their beauty (knowing it is both divine and ephemeral ), will not need to take advantage of, or look down upon, others.

I think one of the hardest lessons we have to learn in life is that some people are incapable of loving us, no matter what we do or do not do: that we can try our hardest to love, to please, to comfort – and nothing we do is ever enough.

Because, you see, such humans want to fill themselves with you and your spirit, your essence, your sexuality and life force – but there is never going to be enough of you to fill the great yawning gap inside, and, once they have consumed you, what is left?

Nothing but fear, pain and broken trust.

Your gifts are fragile and finite.

And it is when you cannot go on giving in a particular way that the emotional blackmail starts (if it hasn’t already) and the very cleverly worded manipulation.

Thank you, dear Fox, for your gift to me.

Yes, I was beautiful. How lovely to know that.

hope I was loving, kind, sensitive, funny and thoughtful too.

Because, ultimately, such traits matter far more.

Allies and tools of fear: The Narcissist’s box of tricks.

Learning, as I did relatively recently, about NPD and Gaslighting simply gave me names for a range of techniques with which I am only too familiar. I have edited the post below and am re-publishing it. 

One of the main objectives a Narcissist has is to undermine and discredit you. Why? It confers a sense of all-important power, ensures that you remain enslaved – a nice warm bundle of supply to be sucked – and also makes sure that you continue to echo the Narc’s false self back in loud and ringing tones so that the whole world can see and hear. Part of your thinking will become, ‘Isn’t he/she wonderful to tolerate a fucked-up, ugly and difficult mess like me…’

But, when things go critical, and you dare to criticise the Narc – or, even worse, you set up counselling for the two of you (if the NP is your partner, that is) – the need to get allies will become overwhelming to your Narc, and the rummaging through that box of tricks will find ever more ingenious ways of tormenting and punishing you for daring to say that all was not perfect.

Some NPDs use their fists and feet; some kick and slap, punch, pinch and hurt physically; many, however, do not – and this, I think, confuses at least some of the people the desperate supply confides in. There IS, I believe, a feeling amongst some that, if a Narc has never laid a hand upon you in anger, all the other things you report are simply normal anger and frustration – after all, their partners say things like that sometimes, don’t they?

This is compounded by the fact that you will have been told, repeatedly and almost from day one, ‘Men/Women are like this; it’s just that you don’t have enough experience of relationships to recognise what makes us tick…’

So what do these people use – and how do they do it? I ask this question because many of the people selected as supply are above average in intelligence themselves – and may even have been pretty assertive/take no prisoners in other spheres of their lives.

Typically, at the beginning of the relationship, the NP is all loving attention – and so interested in everything you have to say. Trusting, and with no reason to suspect anything, you pour out your heart: you tell stories of your childhood – and (THIS BIT IS CRUCIAL), you confide your deepest, darkest fears.

The pattern is so cleverly done, however, that you do not catch on for months, even years, other than a sense of unease. You see, your fears will be used as controlling tools against you.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that you tell the Narc, early on, that you fear cats. You will find, gradually, that cats become a part of the experience the two of you share. Initially, it will seem like complete coincidence – and then, eventually, you will realise that, every time you are petrified by fear of a cat, your NP will gain some – often sexual – advantage: that you will be in such a state of anxiety and shock that the Narc can do exactly what he/she wants to you.

This, of course, means that the NP sees this as a weapon which works really well – and he will then use it, apparently not realising that this is what he is doing, often enough to keep you scared, but not sufficiently regularly that you can pin him down and say, ‘Stop! I know what you are up to!’

One of the main fears Narcs winkle out of you and use to their advantage are those relating to mental health problems. They will know, for example, all about your mad auntie who had to be taken into a home – and they will be fully cognizant of your terror that this condition is hereditary and that you might go the same way. They will also be aware that your mother was a nightmare when she went through the menopause – and they will quite happily attribute anything you do or say during your forties and early fifties to that time of a woman’s life.

They have no compunction about using your fears in counselling either. In fact, this becomes part of their strongest argument as to why the whole problem is, and always was, YOURS. They paint themselves as the loving, caring, supportive one, who has had to put up with, and love, this incredibly difficult, probably mentally ill, partner/parent/child. In the process of establishing the Narcissus mask, they will quite happily expose your deepest fears, with a little twist attached, in order to sow doubt in the therapist’s mind.

They will say things like, ‘Jane’s mother suffered terribly during the menopause; I do sometimes wonder if this is what Jane is going through – but I don’t like to say it because she gets so upset and angry…’

The other tactic they use, when cornered and threatened, is to produce allies. Suddenly, you will find that they have asked your children (if you have any) for their views. For example, if you have commented on the fact that your Narc can be intimidating – and many are – the NP will say to the child/children, ‘Tell me, do YOU think I am intimidating?’ – and will then report back, in a counselling session, that the children have said that, no, of course they don’t. Or the Narc will ask an ex-partner, a colleague, a sibling – anything to back up the claim that they do not possess the characteristic you have noticed.

This then allows them to claim that ONLY YOU have ever said such awful, cruel and unkind things about them. Their previous boyfriends/girlfriends saw them as ‘the good guy/girl I have always thought I was’ – and, therefore, the problem is in YOUR PERCEPTION, and not their behaviour.

It is tantamount to calling you deluded and mentally unwell.

The truly terrifying thing about this tactic – the rolling out of the allies, as I call it – is that you begin to doubt yourself. You say, in the privacy of your own mind, ‘Surely, if he/she were intimidating, ONE of his/her previous partners would have noticed and commented? So it MUST be me making it up…’

But then later you think, ‘Why on earth would ANYONE need to get testimony from others for a family therapy session?’

It is not something which would ever occur to me. For one thing, I think it would be highly unfair to the poor third party, being asked, in effect, to provide a statement in which he/she chose one person’s view of the problem over another. But the other thing is this: our characters, and reason for being in counselling, should surely stand by, and of, themselves. The therapist will be trained in spotting patterns, behaviours, traits and signs of conditions; they do not need to be prompted, or influenced, by outside views.

The bringing in of the allies has always struck me as a tool for manipulating both you and the therapist. I am sure that some Narcs go as far as getting written testimonies from bosses and other influential people.

Casting doubt is the name of the game.

And it is a sick one.

And if the counsellor catches on, and queries the need?

Aha! Said expert does not know what he/she is doing, was never any good anyway; it just proves that the Narc never needed help in the first place!

Narcs work with fear.

YOURS.

Head Pain

Today, I have experienced (and am still experiencing) my first migraine in years.

It started with visual disturbance: I could not read script on the right properly; it seemed to be disappearing – very scary.

hqdefault

Then the headache started, on the left hand side, and the feeling of intense sickness.

I have now taken some Paracetamol – and am hoping that this will ease the symptoms.

I know why it has come back at this point in my life.

The last time, in June 2003, it was so severe that I was hospitalised – and, because, initially, no one was sure what the pain was, I had both a brain scan and a lumbar puncture.

That one went on for two weeks.

What causes them?

In me, it is usually an extended period of worry, stress, tension and acute anxiety.

My head is full to bursting. I am confused and frightened, sad too.

Back in 2003, my body was desperately trying to tell me something of great importance. I ignored it. I papered over unease’s cracks.

In 2003, all the anguish went straight into my journal – and, much was ripped out and destroyed, or not penned at all, because I was so afraid of the nature of my own thoughts.

Now I am starting to confide in friends. I am  relearning trust.

Now, I leave you – because the bright white screen is making things worse.

‘Huron Beltane Dance’ : Loreena McKennitt

I was introduced to the music of Canadian folk singer/harpist, Loreena McKennitt, by my friend, Dean, back in the mid nineties. I have four or five of her albums, and, in the dying days of my teaching career, used to listen to them on the way into school.

Like me, she is a red-head – and, eleven months my senior, part of my generation.

I also suspect that she is fey, magical, attuned to the Western Mystery Tradition is some way.

This track, ‘Huron Beltane Dance‘ was my favourite almost from the start.

Great for meditation, excellent as an introductory piece for rituals, I have used it as a teaching aide and for pleasure for the past twenty years.

My recommendation? Turn up the volume, sit back and watch Loreena in action on the biggest screen you can find.  See what comes into your mind…

And write it or paint it…

February 1998 – and Capercaillie’s ‘Four Stone Walls’

Capercaillie! What a great band! This is my favourite of their songs. First heard in early 1998, and loved ever since, it has such bitter-sweet memories associated with it that I am torn between dancing and weeping.

In February 1998, when my precious baby was three months old, I had to go back to work. This was an unexpected restart – and I was devastated.

I had only just got to know my child, and was relishing our warm and milky bond. I knew, from the start, that I would need to resume my teaching career eventually – but had hoped I’d have a couple more months with the little one.

We found a lovely lady, Sandra, who lived a mile from the school and was able to take Simon on as one of her small creche of babies.

That morning remains, engraved by pain’s scalpel upon heart and mind, as a memory of dreadful separation and such aching physical loss that I did not think I would survive the day.

I was still breast-feeding, you see – and would continue to do so until October 1998 – and so had to place those awful pads over my bosoms before tenderly placing Babe in car seat and setting off on the journey to Weston-super-Mare.

I was crying, heart-broken, before I even reached the end of the road, and can still remember driving down Brockley Combe, by Bristol Airport, radio on and trees blurred by tears.

As I drove onto the main road, ‘Four Stone Walls‘ came on the radio. I had, up till that point, never heard of Capercaillie – and was immediately hooked.

I always talked to my son, even before he could smile – and sang to him too, playing him songs I liked.

‘Simmy, listen to this!’ I would say, as he lay, milk-sated, upon my left shoulder, his silky dark hair smelling so sweet.

That morning, I think he sensed the sadness of parting in the air because he, too, cried as we drove – and I had to stop, at one point, in order to take him on my lap and comfort him.

We reached Sandra’s house. I sat in the car for ages, holding him, shaking, wanting just to turn round and go back home.

Having to pass my baby over to another woman is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The only other time I have felt that primally wounded and bereft was when, in 2006, I kissed him in the anaesthetic room before he was wheeled off for an operation.

I spent that first day back in an absolute daze: Breasts leaking despite the pads, body stretched with sheer longing, I cried all through the morning break – and can remember nothing of the classes I taught.

A few weeks later, having established a routine (if not what I would call peace and happiness), I found, and bought ‘An Introduction to Capercaillie‘, the CD which had ‘Four Stone Walls’ on it – and listened to it time after time, even taking it into school as a kind of musical comfort blanket.

Today, sad for a very different reason – and with Simon separated from me for a healthy and independent reason – I have found this much-loved song on YouTube (having mislaid the CD for the moment) and, upon playing it, was plunged straight back into a clear picture of the younger Ali dancing in the English Office – and the utter relief, each end of school day, of being able to cuddle the three-month-old Simmy (my baby name for him) once more.

Today’s Weather For Facebookers

alienorajt:

This, from the incomparable LOMM, should be on the GCSE syllabus, in my opinion! Hilarious, scathing and deeply true, it is satire at its very best. Wish I’d thought of it first!

Originally posted on The League Of Mental Men:

weather man

“There’s an area of heavy irony moving in from East London babes. Wuff oo!” xoxoxoxoxo.

There will be widespread LOLs across the entire region this morning followed by intermittent ((((((HUGS))))) and a few scattered cat pictures.

In the afternoon a deep depression will settle over most parts with a number of boxes containing plagiarised words of wisdom and earnest political dogma, these may bring occasional blurred pictures of hideous looking offspring becoming widespread in some areas.

Towards evening there could be varying amounts of private messages, some of which could be quite heavy, with prolonged attachments containing small amounts of male genitalia bringing long spells of dryness in the female gusset region. Testosterone levels will be particularly low in this area.

Overnight there will be periods of light to heavy vomiting with occasional heavy bursts of incontinence as an area of lager, combined with fizzy white wine, settles over the…

View original 228 more words

Followers…

Marilyn Armstrong wrote an excellent piece on this earlier today – and I absolutely agree with her sentiments (as so often before):

http://teepee12.com/2014/07/18/where-are-my-4058-followers/

She pointed out the discrepancy between the alleged number of followers – and the actual number of hits, likes and comments.

I have 888 followers on here.

Today, thus far, I have got forty-four hits. Now, I am well aware that it is possible to read a post without it being counted as a hit – but still, that is one hell of a gap, isn’t it?

I am very happy with the interactions I have with the inner core, as you might say – people like Marilyn, and Richard and Francine.

I do not think that the followers system works, however.

In what sense are they followers if one never sees or hears from them?  If 850 (or more) of mine are voting with their feet, why don’t they just go the whole hog and unfollow me?

Would that not be a tad more honest?

LOMM (league of Mental Men) also had some pertinent and hilarious words to say about the whole matter in a piece I read, and thoroughly enjoyed, this morning:

http://leagueofmentalmen.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/menopausal-meg-hormonal-agony-aunt-from-hades/

I think we owe it to ourselves to be scrupulously honest about our reasons for following someone.

To put it bluntly: Are we doing it because we genuinely find them interesting and their writing appeals to us – or are we simply ticking ‘follow’ in the hope that the other will reciprocate? The latter approach does strike me as being rather like the child who gives every single member of the class a birthday card, in the hope (often forlorn) that he/she will get some back.

I have culled my list radically in recent days – and am now only following those with whom I have a bond, and more to the point, those whose blogs I actively look at and comment upon.

Real people, in other words.

So, who ARE these 800 odd people?

Perhaps I have attracted a high number of recluses, hermits and agoraphobics.

Perhaps I have a larger then average following from the deviant/pervert community (who, understandably, are unwilling to leave their calling cards on a public site).

Or perhaps, as Marilyn suggested, the vast majority of them are Spammers, aliens or clever manipulators.

If you have clicked ‘follow’ because you are hoping to sell me something, convert me to God or persuade me to support your cause, may I respectfully, but firmly, urge you to go forth and multiply.

If you are a Spammer, let me just remind you of a well-known saying ‘What goes round, Comes round’ – and tell you, in no uncertain terms, that I have no interest in penis enlargers, Viagra, loft insulation from Baltimore, roof felting from Tucson or any of the apparently irresistible offers of pain relievers, illegal drugs and porn with which I have been inundated of late. Go away and infest someone else!

The only theory I DO have concerns my most-popular (in a silent kind of way) post thus far. ‘Talking Dirty’, now over the thousand mark as far as hits are concerned (and with, I think, two comments!), gets hit every day. So maybe a small percentage of my 850 MIAs are feverishly poring over my sexual words of wisdom.

The rest of you?

Vestigial. To put it kindly.

But be warned by the Terrible Tale of the Human Appendix.

Neither use nor ornament, it lurks around in the abdomen, perhaps chatting to the colon from time to time, or waving to a kidney – but sometimes, the thing gets inflamed and then goes critical and has to be removed.

Point made, I feel.

Losing ground

My sense of who I am is very fragile at present, as is any true feeling that I have the power to change key situations in my life. My guilt and fear pressure points are ridiculously easily manipulated, and I am completely unable to deflect the poisoned arrows of projection.

Sometimes, for no reason that seems logical, a certain proposition, or response, or opinion just feels wrong and off-kilter, even if all the words are said right, all the accompanying emotions seem spot on.

Sometimes, gut-feeling – instinct, if you will – comes into play before the mind can process the transaction.

This is where I am now.

I am easily persuaded. It takes little to undermine my confidence in my thought process. Without going into detail, I have given way, repeatedly, under pressure – and, this afternoon, am feeling very uneasy and anxious.

Why?

Because I fear that my weakness will, ultimately, cause the cycle, which I have being trying so hard to break, to continue in its joyless and anxiety-inducing way.

There is a significant difference this time, however, to all the other occasions back down the years.

This time, I have had reassurance that I am NOT imagining it – and from a person who has no personal investment in either side of the equation. Concern has been expressed. Part of the cycle has been watched, by an impartial observer – and I cling to this in times of greatest self-doubt and self-blame.

But more to the point, I know I have support and care from other people not directly involved. Thank you so much to the friend who gave me sanctuary, and listened, yesterday, and to all of those who, by believing in, and supporting, me, have given me some measure of mind control back.

I am very used to being told that it is my perception which is at fault, not the attitude and behaviour of others. Over the years, I came to believe this implicitly. Even now, and despite the above points of security and comfort, I still fall back into this default position under certain conditions.

I know I have to stand firm.

I also know that this is going to be one of the most difficult things to do.

You see, I have already given so much territory away. My place on the ‘map’ is now tiny and getting smaller all the time.

But I don’t want to disappear altogether.

Raspberries: short story

More Seventies Nostalgia...

Tyllwyd Farm, Llanfarian, where the real raspberries grew, in luscious abandon, along the decommissioned railway track.

She called his name. Breath soft as angel wings over the planes of his cheeks. Wild raspberries, he could smell, freshly picked from the sharp-barbed and track-stunted realms of yet another abandoned railway.

Wild_raspberries_in_hand

There they had wandered, excited as children but with the new knowledge lust-heavy upon them, plucking and giggling, supping upon crimson and letting the juice slip-slide upon neck and hand, slither between the pale skin of her cleavage – creating in him a longing so absolute it tasted like zinging copper in his mouth.

The tiny tears in her long, peacock-coloured skirt, doorways to the silken promise of legs and thighs, showed her carelessness, her tom-boy nature and her wild disregard for convention. The puffy short sleeves of her cheesecloth blouse had fallen away, revealing the rounded white nub of youthful shoulders, slightly freckled from a summer drifting nude upon a local secluded beach.

‘Boy!’ she often called him, a teasing reference to her five months of seniority – and, as he knew, a distancing, through fear, for she wanted to believe in her story that they were Just Good Friends.

Giving him back his proper name, albeit in shortened form – Tim rather than Timothy – touched and tantalised him. As did the carelessly wanton cat’s tongue lick of the sweat droplets oozing sensually down her face, her sideways glance unwitting confirmation. Her lips, imperfectly outlined in a lipstick of red fruit, pouted and widened, widened and pouted.

‘Tim,’ she said again. Husky. Inviting.

She swallowed, the taut shape of her throat shifting.

Late sun plashed and plundered their bodies, painting clothes a rosy gold. Her bare feet, dirty and stained with crushed raspberry, were briefly ennobled in a final flurry of vermilion brilliance.

She took his hand. His chest swelled with pride, the drum of his heart beating in the crazy arrhythmia of love-lust.

Did she…want him? Or was she just claiming the warm hand of friendship, of childhood?

He was not sure. Could not figure her out. She seemed so knowing, in some ways. So briskly down-to-earth when talking about such things. Things he found embarrassing, she just took in her stride.

The lane, curving in at the top like a scimitar of branches, breathed its leafy fragrance, allowing trickles of pinkish-lilac afterglow to seep through. Even from here, they could see the sea, a bowl cupped between rugged hands of rock, glinting a metallic shade of turquoise.

The farmhouse, stooped and hunched in its dilapidation, the bones of its spine crumbled and cracked from age and neglect, welcomed them wearily. But the vast logs upon the open fire in the Dying Room – since ‘living’ was a misnomer too acute to be endured – gave, once ignited by frantic Firelighter, a cheery and pungent warmth.

The floury smell of potato scones, from an earlier baking session, seeped from the kitchen.

They sat, Tim and Melissa, either side of the hearth, firelight playing across their faces, an uncomfortable silence brewing between them.

And he remembered, in a kaleidoscopic welter of dizzying colours, the way their paths had collided and merged, the way they had bonded so quickly and easily. What other girl, in the whole world, would have climbed up the little bank with him, just to collect raspberries?

He recalled the young ladies he had known at his public school, and smiled a little at the thought of their probable reaction to such an adventure.

They would have settled, like pretty and fussy birds, in the nest of respectability – and cheeped out their demands in plaintively precise voices. And he would have brought them baskets of the soft fruit – gallantly and with pleasure – bowing slightly as he handed the treasure over, hearing their chirps of excitement.

Shocked, he had been at first. Melissa had been too bold, too boyish. He had wanted to protect her. She, heedless and whistling cheerfully,  had made her own bows and arrows, climbed trees and had the loudest, most raucous laugh he had ever heard.

‘I don’t want a boyfriend,’ she said time after time. ‘Just a friend. A friend like you. Someone I can play with!’

He knew that she wanted, or thought she wanted, to be a boy. He knew why too. Disappointed at the arrival of so many daughters, her father had treated her as a son.

But, she was all girl, this one. And her lack of awareness made her more beautiful, not less.

And now, their ease had vanished. Their usual river of chatter had dried up. Cracks had appeared in the dry mud of their former innocence.

He wanted her.

She did not know what she wanted.

Except that she was vexed, angered, whirling like a tornado through the draughty passages of the house, shouting, crying and wailing. Unable to settle, to be soothed.

She stood up.

‘Let me…’ he began.

‘No!’ she cried. ‘Go away! I don’t want…’

‘A boyfriend. I know…’

And, wordless, he pulled her agitation to him, and kissed her.

Smudging the juice on her lips, he gently opened her mouth and, in the zest of her response, tasted sweet raspberries.

Some things cannot be mended : Poem

All my life I have wanted to mend the broken

To put things back together again,

To find the deep wells of poison and drain them -

But, this time I am powerless:

My hands fumble, my inner light is faint.

 

For ten hours, give or take,

This Hades of a week alone,

I have opened my mending kit,

And tried, tried everything,

To suture the rent flesh before me.

 

Last night, in a symbolic act

Of anxious clumsiness,

Great bloody gouts of red wine

Streamed down my shirt,

Staining the ache that is my heart.

 

All day on here, Spam weeds

Choked the life out of communicative flowers;

All evening, vicious arrows,

Fired over the crumbling battlements of my mind,

Found their mark and ripped a new wound.

 

Most of the Spam, harmless if annoying,

Simply took up space in a glitchy day;

The weapons, too, mainly bruised old scars -

But three, delivered with chilling precision,

Hit the wine-spattered heart area.

 

Later, in the eerie silence of two in the morning,

The white shirt soaking its life away in a bowl,

I looked, once more, at my faithful mending box -

And sealed it with super-strength locks,

Amidst a heart leaking invisible blood.

 

A gashed knee I can soothe and bandage;

A weeping child or friend, I can hug and comfort;

The occasional fractures in loved one’s lives,

I can offer a splint, an ear, support;

Bodily fluids upon fabric can, usually, be erased.

 

But this edifice is too broken to be repaired;

I have sewn and glue-stuck, hammered in nails,

Even asked outside workmen to come in and try.

The hollow at the centre grows ever wider:

There is nothing worth saving inside.

 

In ERs throughout our world,

Doctors work upon ailing hearts,

Pummelling chests and shocking the slackness

Back to wavering life:

Only to find the brain giving up its spark.

 

For nine months,

In this gestational horror,

I have performed CPR, shot veins with adrenaline,

Willed, in vain, flabby vessel into strong rhythm:

Do Not Resuscitate can, at times, be kinder.

‘No worst, there is none…’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins

This poem, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, expresses perfectly the way I am feeling today.

A brilliant, visionary poet – and a tormented man, by all accounts –  Hopkins’ words have soothed, inspired and lifted me since I was seventeen. They have also given a fine and alliterative voice to emotions I cannot express.

 

NO worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief         5
Woe, world-sorrow; on an age-old anvil wince and sing—
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief’.
  O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap         10
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

 

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Mavericks: An endangered species…

I am sad today.

Yesterday, I tried to be positive: wrote two humorous pieces on here (and a third, very honest one, which I cannot, for reasons I wish I could explain, publish); I said farewell to three colleagues from my old school – between them, they had notched up eighty-seven years at the place – and I met a close friend for coffee and cake and setting the world to rights.

It was lovely to see my teaching friends, to remember so many happy and scary times. One of them (the Head of Music), started teaching on the same day as me, back in September 1981 – and we both spent our entire careers at the same school. We had always said that we would leave on the same day too – but, for reasons I cannot go into, this did not happen.

Oh, the memories he unleashed in his speech, though: the two of us in what used to be called Probationers’ Meetings, being told – by the lovely, now sadly dead, Youth Wing Tutor, Bryan, all about the level of inbreeding amongst families in a notorious Weston housing estate; the problems we both experienced initially with difficult classes and bolshie kids; the way the then Head of Lower School, Geof, used to hide in his office when a particularly nightmarish parent fetched up for a serious whinge…

Our wonderfully charismatic Drama teacher, whom I have been friends with for over twenty years, left too. Responsible for some of the very best school productions I have ever seen, she is a great person: funny, feisty, blunt, kind and supportive. I shall never forget going to see ‘West Side Story‘ – and, a year later, ‘The Pirates of Penzance‘ – at the local Playhouse and witnessing the amazing performances she brought out of  children of all ages and abilities.

Last of the Three Mavericks, as I like to call them – Larger Than Life characters, survivors of an increasingly ruthless cull of individuality nationwide – was D, whom I have known since he arrived at the school the year after me.

He and I shared the dubious distinction of being the most rebellious and ‘naughty’ members of staff: For many years, the two of us were in and out of the Head’s study, being carpeted for various infringements of the rules – and we often joked that, between us, we probably had enough letters of complaint, from irate parents, to paper most of Buckingham Palace.

To my astonishment, he started his speech by addressing a comment directly to me. It concerned a party we both went to back in the early eighties. We danced together at one point – both, I suspect, somewhat the worse for wear on a mixture of drinks – and he recalled this with great pleasure, mentioning how impressive my embonpoint was and intimating that I was a bit of all right back in the day.

Touching, very.

But this is the end of an era. There is one lone maverick left – and she will not be replaced.

Back when I left, two and a bit years ago, there were still six of us.

My Gove rant, which I wrote last night (http://alienorajt.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/goves-off-then/), was meant to be funny – but, behind the humour, there is a sense of bitterness and despair. Bitterness because of the way the teaching profession has been shafted by successive governments – and despair because I cannot now see a way out of the current mess education is in.

A lot of us yesterday (those of us in our fifties and sixties) were saying how lucky we were to start our careers before Kenneth Baker introduced the f***ing National Curriculum, and well before all this obsessive data, league table, results-based and Ofsted Excellent seeking substitute for genuine education rolled up, like an unstoppable behemoth, and flattened the profession’s spirit and autonomy.

I am bloody glad I got out when I did. Several colleagues said, ‘Ali, you would never have survived the horrors of the last three years…’

And they are right: I wouldn’t.

Why?

Because I was a fighter and a rebel right to the end – and that, in itself, is exhausting, without all the nonsense about having to plan your lessons a year in advance (of being born, you understand) and then submit them to a Leadership person (presumably just in case you cheated and copied some other bugger’s!).

My idea of a lesson plan was to know which class I was teaching, when and, in the days before I got my own room, where!

And I actually said, on several occasions, ‘How the hell can I plan a detailed three part lesson for 11Z, when I don’t know what mood they’re going to be in, which phase the Moon is in, how high the wind is or whether it’s pissing down with rain?’

I mean, all right, fair enough, of course you have to have SOME idea of what you are going to teach the little darlings – but all this complete bollocks involving assessment criteria, exact timings, lists of the Special Needs kids in each group and how you were going to differentiate during each frigging activity, expected outcomes, value added, progression, emotional resilience and all the other hip edu-speak – which means bugger-all, but makes those who invent it feel powerful and intelligent – has more in common with anal retention than education in my view.

God, the number of times I was told, ‘You CAN’T say that!’ when I pointed out that much of what we were being forced to do actually got in the way of teaching children – well, you’d think I’d just dug up Ted Hughes for unnatural purposes!

My feeling then, as now, was that, instead of turning on colleagues who told the truth, we, as a profession, should have stood up to the government and said a loud and assertive, ‘NO! FUCK OFF!’

National Curriculum?

No, thanks, Mr Baker, I’ve already got one!

Academies?

Oh, come on, Gove, at least have the decency to admit that you are introducing educational dictatorships!

CATS, SATS, RATS, BATS? Records of Achievement? (Remember those? What a waste of time they were!)

Incomprehensible sub-categories in reports home – which no parent understands and no kid takes seriously – and predicted GCSE grades made when the child is about three, and based, as far as I can tell, on potty-training, hand-eye-coordination, birth sign, size of head and socio-economic status:

‘Not predicting YOU any A* grades: You live in a council estate, your parents claim benenfits, your sister’s on the game – and you are called Wensdee (because your ghastly parents couldn’t spell the days of the week?)…’

I can make others laugh; sometimes, I can even make myself laugh too.

But, underneath it all, there is a deep layer of sadness, for an educational system which has gone so wrong, for teachers who have to put up with so much crap – and, on the personal level, because my current situation seems, at times, such an uphill battle that I am tempted just to huddle in a heap and give way to the overwhelming sorrow of it all.

Woman looking for Man (humorous advert)

Having long been irritated by the sameness and ridiculous claims made on these sites, I thought I’d ‘pen’ an alternative one!

Woman in her prime (and, given her size, several other women’s prime as well!) seeks that manly bundle of lurve who will oil all her valves, will have his big toolbox at the ready twenty-four seven and who will know how to use a screwdriver when bedding in those hard nails.

Described variously as ‘Rubenesque’, ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ – and, bowing to the vernacular, ‘The Third Fat Slag’! – this is a lady who is All Woman, and provides plenty to grab hold of (as the Light Infantry would attest to, had they not disappeared under mysterious circumstances three months ago).

Catholic in her tastes, Pagan in her beliefs, this dame is not for the weak of heart, slack of muscle or timorous of nature.

Her laugh alone (think aircraft revving up for take-off; thinking mating call of moose) has been known to reduce sensitive males to tears.

This is not a gal who understands the word ‘diet‘ or the phrase, ‘hold back‘; nor,indeed, will you ever hear her say, ‘No, thank-you, it’s fattening…’

Either about a cake or your more intimate needs!

If you are looking for a reed-slim bint who lunches on lettuce, counts every calorie (twice) and considers a slice of cake to be the Eighth Deadly Sin; if getting your hands to meet round a girl’s waist (as opposed to needing a fortnight, a long rope, a well-trained Sherpa and a pack of huskies to traverse the equatorial region of flesh) is your bag, then give this one a miss!

If, on the other hand, your idea of bliss is a bit of slap and tickle which does NOT involve breaking your knuckles (and worse) against her protruding rib cage and hip bones, this comely wench could be the lady of your dreams.

Of course, she has her expectations too. Nationality, colour – not important, as long as you are hung like a stallion (though the iron-shod hooves are optional).

Must have a secret (or overt) hankering for sex al fresco – and an adventurous mind when it comes to the pleasures (abundant, in her case)of the flesh.

Must have his own teeth (and not those, for example, of his long-deceased mother/dog) and hair.

No toupees, merkins or other artificial hair; if it ain’t yours by birth, this lady doesn’t want to know!

GSOH essential.

If hung up on past wives, still tied to mother’s apron strings, devious or deviant, Narcissistic or nasty, do not apply!

Gelding can offend!

Joseph_Wright_of_Derby_-_Vesuvius_from_Portici

Toxic Heat

Based on a real incident, this piece is an attempt to show the poison of mind games. The final four lines did NOT happen (more’ s the pity). I wish they had.  Thank you for recent lovely comments. Apologies for lack of response.

Joseph_Wright_of_Derby_-_Vesuvius_from_Portici

Thanks to Google Images for this picture of Vesuvius erupting.

Hot under the collar, anger rising Vesuvially, I fumed out my rage in lava-like spurts: red, grey, red, grey, the inchoate fury gathered lethal pace.

He stood there. Arms folded. Magisterial, superior, an iceberg of specious reason and skimming dragonflies of thought.

He’d threatened, bullied, used his habitual control. To make a point, about nothing important, to back me into this elemental corner of volcanic destruction.

Why? Because I went to a shop he did not approve of.

He knew how to shift my Tectonic Plates. He was an adept at causing Continental Drift in my hurting soul.

He loved it.

The flame-coloured flowing, the blackened ash, the twisted Pompeian forms – desolate grey mannekins caught in life’s travesty -turned him on. Gave him the horn. Made him lunge for the breast within bodice and bra.

My screaming, inarticulate sobbing was a warped given.

He, like a natural disaster, always had the last word.

Fists he did not need. Rhetoric was far more effective. That cold dissection of motives I could not, in the lumpy gutteral sickness of the flow, even see.

My tears burned like Chemotherapy through the blood.

‘I think,’ he said, with perfectly placed words dipped in sarcasm, ‘ that you are over-reacting…’

‘As usual…’ hung, a sky during Nuclear Winter, over us both.

Brute pause. Pummelling of will. Expectation a greed in the poisoned air.

‘And I think…’

Spine straightening, cloak of strength drawn close, I stood up…

Cleared clogging embers from my throat.

‘And I think you are off the scale of the Toxic Relationship Geiger Counter! Go and irradiate some other poor victim!’

Ali’s Full Moon Journal

The Supermoon rises over houses in Olvera

It is late at night, nearly midnight – and, although I can feel the strong pull of tonight’s Full Moon, a dreariness of light rain has prevented me from seeing it.

I am unable to sleep – and the loss of the moon makes me feel sad : A spontaneous adventure – driving up to Burrington Combe, and striding up to the high places, where the wild ponies roam, seeing the magnificence of Moon, would have inspired and, in an odd way, soothed me.

Outside, all is familiar – and yet repainted in the jagged colours of my current mood. It has been a topsy-turvy day, a day of crying, of huddling into myself, seated on the grass, watching little children dancing round a Maypole, of keeping my head down lest I met the eyes of the smiling unknowns, the ones who breeze in, strewing words like herbs into a cauldron, some clumping over-richly in a bubbling corner, others missing altogether and clinging to the sides – and I, all but speechless, putting up fluttering hands to ward off the heady richness amidst my own thin emotional gruel.

And yet, through all of this, parts of the self I used to be, many Super and ordinary Moons ago, returned as if they had never been banished – forgiving me, instantly, for the long years of neglect.

Instead of the habitual tense time-watch of a Saturday, of an any-day, I, unshackled from that heavy restraint, extended the return journey from morning orchestra – and took my son for a spontaneous drive, the two of us belting along local roads, various Rolling Stones’ numbers thumping out through open windows…

This evening, adventuring through Gordano underneath a sulky grey sky spitting its intermittent venom from fangs on high, he and I found our way to a Subway (a chain the Lad patronises regularly) and, having bought, as he put it, ‘A spicy six-incher!’ we drove meanderingly back to the concert venue.

He, clad in his black garb, trumpet case in hand, went in for a final rehearsal, whilst I sat in the car and caught up with my hand-written journal, the bulk of which I shall leave in its neat black form.

Inside the hall, I did something I have not done in ages: Made straight for the highest point in the back row – it commanded the best view of the stage, and it felt so good to be in that position, alone on my bench apart from one man; it felt so wonderful to be able to clap and cheer and be enthusiastic as an audience member, to enjoy the sight of Si playing his trumpet in the Swing Band.

I feel as if I have been reborn – but prematurely, so that my skin is thin and fragile, and my organs are not quite up to full working order yet, and the lightest touch hurts and makes me jump and cry. And, in my plastic incubator, I might not survive.

This Moon is having a powerful effect upon me, even more so than usual. I hear its lilting, magical voice; I feel the cold twinkling of the rays arching down to earth, paving the woodland tracks with white and silver and touches of gold; I smell its sadness, which echoes my own.

Sleep has become a distant thing, a memory of better, more relaxed, times. When I lie in bed, I hover on the very edge, balanced precariously between tense fear and the abrupt thunk of physical shock; I turn the corner of the duvet down, folding it the way one would a handkerchief in a top jacket pocket, and try to rest my wakeful, fretful body; I hear the heavy breathing of the bed’s other occupant and feel the resistance of duvet gathered, pinioned, beneath solid limbs; I seek cool spots on pillow and under-sheet, and find only hot wrinkled linen and, in an ironic counterpoint to my own agitated insomnia, the habitual deep and unbroken slumber of one of the lucky people, one of those to whom a good night’s sleep is normality.

My mind fizzes; my body itches; I rake fingernails along exposed lengths of skin, punishing myself with pain – though I am not quite sure why.

I think – of yesterday, of today, of individuals who, for various reasons, matter to me, are precious flowers in the garden of my soul, and I feel a measure lost and very uncertain. Fearing, I suppose, that the steel-capped shoes of the soul-destroyers, spirit-deniers will trample my beautiful flowers into the ground, and leave me with nothing. Fearing that vicious hands will uproot all that I have carefully, and lovingly, sown or sprinkle the seeds of malice upon the dark soil and wait for them to grow into life-strangling weeds.

I want to pack myself into the safety of the warm earth, and be hidden and nurtured, so that I can grow straight and colourful, opening my petals to the glories of dew and sun, rain and Moonlight.

I am lost.