Death of a father : Speakeasy # 165


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


Blacksmith: Daily Prompt

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.



Teen Idol: Daily Prompt

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.


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!


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.



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


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…




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:


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?


Junk Food Junkie: Daily Prompt


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!



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!



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!



Fibre tastes like Hell on Earth

We gotta chew a burger or two!



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


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.






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





‘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.




April Moon 14:Day One – Courage: The Land of the Exiles

AM14 200P1210319



Responding to the Blood Moon, and the word ‘courage’, I travelled the symbolic journey through last weekend’s life-changing Silent Eye ‘The Land of the Exiles’ landscape. Narrative account it is not, nor, indeed, can it be. The mythology, the symbolism, the aching and joyous emotions do not lend themselves to a conventional narrative.

I am withdrawing from the hurly burly of the community until the end of May. Two reasons: I have a huge number of lines to learn for the village play, and I need to rest my spirit after the past few months. I shall continue to post, and to ‘talk’ to friends when I can, but may not be as responsive as normal.


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.


Alienora and make-up: an acrimonious divorce…


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!



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.


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!


First Bite at the Cherry: Weekly Writing Challenge 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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    14. Mice | Kate Murray
    15. DPchallenge – Fifty (March 22) | Spiritual Biscuits
    16. Fifty | Mindful Digressions
    17. alternative | A beetle with earrings
    18. Weekly Writing Challenge – 50 | jwdwrites
    19. In Spring, She Had Proof! | a contract
    20. Heart | Schneider’s Lines
    21. Dreams Come True
    22. turn the page | eastelmhurst.a.go.go
    23. Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty: Jubilee | Angela McCauley
    24. Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty | Lost in Oz- Dorothy Kent
    25. Fifty…Just Fifty Words… | Blundering through life…
    26. The Time Machine | Eclecticfemale’s Blog
    27. Into the endless blue skies above… | thoughtsofrkh
    28. Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty | imagination
    29. Fiona the Fairy | Kelly’s Wandering Mind
    30. Cosmic Orange Balls | Sangatak
    31. Five Dishes, No Soul | Vanessa Elliott
    32. My First Fifty | Love.Books.Coffee.
    33. Judgment Day | until the inkwell dries
    34. Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty (Neutral Milk Hotel Edition) – Compass & Quill
    35. Stories from aside
    36. First Fifty | thinkerscap
    37. There’s a DJ in my Joints | Triumphant Wings
    38. My standard apology….in 50 words, no more, no less. | Getting DCK for Dummies
    39. Dare to Imagine | A mom’s blog
    40. Fifty | Not famous for anything
    41. The Sanctum | The Arctic Tern
    42. Fifty Challenge: She Breathe Her last breath | rayonmd
    43. DP Challenge: Fifty | The Expressible Café
    44. Weekly writing challenge; Fifty words. ‘In memoriam’ | The hypest blog
    45. Our Mabel | Thin spiral notebook
    46. Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty | Just Be V
    47. Yep! Spring is Here! | My YARDVILLE
    48. Snow | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
    49. The Severity of Time | cateritforward
    50. I Dreamed I Lived in Paradise | Between Madness & Euphoria
    51. Dough is Better than “D’oh!” (Weekly Writing Challenge) | Anecdotal Tales
    52. The Fifty | scott j kaniewski
    53. Monday Morning Traffic | Wine goes best with a good book
    54. Weekly Writing Challenge: FIFTY | MAGGIE’S BLOG
    55. Love You Later… | Lead us from the Unreal to the Real
    56. In Fifty: A Bedtime Story | A Navy Wife’s Life
    57. The Worst Kind of Customer | Life in Poetry
    58. Fifty | Wendy Karasin – Musings of a Boomer
    59. Shades of red | Daily Prompt: Fifty | the Green and White pages
    60. Weekly Writing Challenge – Fifty | A Playful Venture
    61. Companion | ReFreshing Life
    62. And she waited. | Phoenix Rising
    63. Only 50 Words | Jody Lynne
    64. Skinny stories and cleanse dark days | The year I fu*cked off Facebook
    65. The Perfect Ring | Snowbird of Paradise
    66. Fifty | B.Kaotic
    67. Among the Whispers
    68. My Fifty (Motherhood) | The Shady Tree
    69. One too many | Erhyme’s Original Blog
    70. a to z: f is for fifty smiles | meraki geek
    71. blathering | Musings of a Random Mind
    72. Ryan Padraig Kelly | Ryan Padraig Kelly
    73. For Infinite Fame, Thank You… | Steve Says…
    74. Love Puppies | Mary J Melange
    75. In the beginning | writemybrainsout
    76. The Pillow Fight | Between B and C
    77. Fifty! | My Life
    78. A love story in fifty words | Geeky Book Snob
    79. DPChallenge Fifty – | xzxJennaxzx
    80. Suicide no. 39: The Glass Girl | derekalanwilkinson
    81. Fifty. | bloodyinkblots
    82. Divorce: A Love Story | My Own Champion
    83. Odyssey: A Fifty Word Challenge | My Own Champion
    84. Next time | When I Grow Up…
    85. Home | A Boy and Life
    86. Fifth-word story | SpringtideCulture.
    87. Fifty Shades of Dismay | Once Upon Your Prime. . .
    88. Seasons of Canada | Stories by Dresii
    89. Windows (Fiction) | Toss the Typewriter
    90. A [short] proposal story | Life of A Fallen Angel
    91. The Night Terrors Without Him | The Shotgun Girls
    92. A Love Story | Between Madness & Euphoria
    93. Department of Motor Vehicles | A lot from Lydia
    94. Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty | Destination Unknown
    95. don’t forget this! | you intuitively
    96. Bus rider | wuthering bites
    97. The Everlasting Image | Abstractions of Life
    98. Miscarriage | Caitlyn McConnell
    99. She Brought Him Home | Words From Wellie
    100. The Saga Continues… | Love, Support, Educate, Advocate, Accept…

Thanks to Google Images for the picture.


‘Spring and Fall’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Goldengrove Unleaving


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...

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...



Darkness and Light: awards, prizes and sadness…

A happy start to my Saturday!



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 ( 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


Joanne Best

Noah Weiss


Anne-Marie Hurley


Maggie Wilson

Marilyn Armstrong

Sue Vincent

Running Elk



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.


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


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.


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. 


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.


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.


My Soul Mate: Daily Prompt


I write for me

And I write for you,

Beloved YOU -

But ‘you’ have changed

Over the decades,

As Time’s thin sand

Pours, ever faster,

Through curlicued

And sinuous glass,

The goddess curves rigid,

As mine are not.

I wrote

To give sadness a voice;

I wrote

To ease anger’s

Storming twister;

I wrote

The thoughts,

Fears, joys, tears;

I wrote


There was no space

For tongue to rev up

And judder

Down narrative’s

Crowded highway.

And then,

In a watery liminal,

A Moon moment,

You appeared,

My Muse -

My dimly sensed other,

Priest to my Priestess,

Lover and friend,

Closer than embryos

Sharing amniotic paradise;

You come to me in dreams;

You sing to me in visions;

Your hand’s pressure

On small of back

Warms, comforts, arouses -

Your body is known,

Familiar – each salty dip

And bony crest;

We have made love,

Countless times,

In the Garden of Delight:

You have showered me

With rose petals;

Twined honeysuckle

In my long, long hair;

I have sat, naked,

Upon you in clear streams,

And cried out your name

In deep forest pools…

You are my harp,

And I pluck your strings

For the harmony of words;

You are my certainty

In a wobbly world;

You were there

From the beginning -

Yet I meet you anew.

You are the mystery,

Solar God

To my Lunar Goddess;

Yet you slide

Between worlds -

Real and not.

You are there -

In Malkuth’s Realm -

And I sense you

In an ancient odour,

Spice from so long ago;

I search for you -

And you elude me,

In part or all,

For you, my dearest Muse,

Cannot stay

For more than

The silver twinkle

Of inspiration’s stars

Shimmering, briefly,

Through heart, soul, fingers.

You have long towered

Above my words,

Colossus of the imagination:

You ARE creation’s rite.




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Peter Pan Speaks: Daily Prompt


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.


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.


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!):

Or ‘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!

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.


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.


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


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.


I cannot hold

Firm shape of mind;

It will not set

In the mold

Of sense,

But leaks,

Melted jelly,

Coating all with fear.



Tempest- shaken,

Blow to far places


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.


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.


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


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


Marilyn Armstrong wrote an excellent piece on this earlier today – and I absolutely agree with her sentiments (as so often before):

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:

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.


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.


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.



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 (, 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.


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!


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!


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.


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.


I cry today -
The rough sweetness of Irish music,
Entering the heart’s fragile and filligreed cage
Through pain-filled ears:
Tears just fall
Warm against my shivering skin
And I cannot stop them
Though I wipe hand’s back against
Cheeks, eyes, mouth
And gulp and squeeze
Ugly sound from narrowed throat.

I weep, for me, for my fractured family
For the wounding still going on,
For the hardened hearts
And rigid minds -
The black, white and red
Of the Wasteland:
Oh, whom does the Grail serve?
Grail Maiden, come to me
With your calm eyes and light-filled chalice,
For I want the healing sip, the liquid of comfort:
But, I look around…

And the tears, sprayed out to all corners,
By grief-shaken locks of tangled and faded orange,
Reach beyond the personal:
To little children, lost and abducted,
Terror’s claws gripping families
Only too easily imagined;
To dear ones suffering from and for
Another child, ‘lost’ in the forest of the mind,
Mostly unreachable, feral and wild,
Hissing, cat-like, at intruding words, arms and hearts,
Claws out, puffed up, in enraged fear.

And out further – to the dispossessed
The desperate, the dying, the mind-dulled.
Oh, Lady of the Lake, I long – sometimes -
To be uncaring, indifferent, to pass by,
Eyes averted, upon the other side of the track:
But I cannot.
I am trained, you see, Priestess trained,
An initiate of an ancient tradition,
Surrounded, thanks gods, by others
Who will, I know, reach out hands and minds
To enfold and protect us in their light.

In the dark corners of our world,
Where sadness huddles
And pain flourishes,
The light sweeps – a brisk broom -
A layer of hate-dust,
Into the sunny courtyard,
Where it blows, harmlessly,
Into brighter times and climes.
Come out into the warmth,
Small sad-angry people, and big ones too:
Receive love from the Cauldron of Blessing.

Enough’s enough.


The face is how I feel; the poem, an attempt to break through…

I don’t have to be nice.
Or kind
Or polite:
I don’t have to listen
And sympathise
And weep tears for others’ grief;
I don’t have to cower in terror
Because the car is tonning
Down the motorway: I can scream instead.
And tell the driver,
‘Stop scaring me!’
I don’t have to keep to myself,
Pain in check,
Tears banked for a better time,
Or smiles caught in mirror,
Laugh frozen -
A twisted icicle

I can be bad if I want;
I can be thoughtless
And mean
And selfish
And rude:
I can talk all the time
Drowning out
Others’ voices and needs.
And I can pick up the phone,
Get in the car and drive;
Trust friends to let me in
Make me welcome
Not turf me out,
Along with the rubbish
And the cat!
I can talk to people
And share smiles
And great healing laughs -

I can defend myself:
Close my heart,
Still my face,
Lock them all out
Every one
No matter how loved;
I can churn within
And ache without;
I can build a wall
And hunker down-
Or, I can…
Kick arse, kick brick
Kick barriers down:
Relent, release,
Rejoice, Rejoin
Thesodding awful
Bloody wondrous

Learned and Innate behaviour

One of the great mysteries of the human psyche is the way we become who we are. People claim they know the answer – but I don’t think anyone has actually pinned it down to the satisfaction of everyone.

In every theory, there are those people who, quite simply, do not fit the identikit. We often label them – perhaps so that we feel safer about abilities which are out of the ordinary. Savants we call them, or people on the Autistic Spectrum, or prodigies, geniuses or madmen.

In the layers of my own personality, for example, there are clear examples of learned behaviour – which I shall come back to in a minute – and things much harder to understand in any known logical framework.

My anxiety is clearly learned. It is a distressing and debilitating habit, stretching right back to the mists of early childhood, I suspect, for I was a nervous baby, and, as a little girl, prone to nightmares (one, involving feathers, which I can still recall 52 years on) and stress-related conditions.

The hypochondria which so dogs my days is also easily traced back: I was born during a serious family health crisis, and witnessed the results of this throughout my childhood.

Low self-esteem is also relatively simple to understand in terms of behaviour learned at the parental knee. The signals given out with regard to such things as beauty, talent and sexual attractiveness were ambiguous, to say the least – and the covert messages I received were much stronger than the overt ones. Though, also, there was a belief, in my immediate family, that too much praise engendered arrogance and big-headedness.

But, where does my ability to play by ear come from? It is a weird one, to me anyway, the way I am able to pluck tunes from my head and play them almost perfectly, twiddles and all – and yet am completely flummoxed by sheet music.

Nobody taught me to listen to music in this intense way – though, in a household full of records of music from all over the world, I was able to indulge my love of sound from an early age.

The other real mystery, to me, is what I would call my psychic – or possibly high empathy – abilities. And, again, there is no rational explanation for these that I can come up with. People have suggested that I have an excellent memory – and it is all down to this.

Yes, when people are known to me, there may be some truth in this – but when they are not?

To be specific, I am referring to my strange habit of knowing people’s birth signs – and, in a more general sense, of knowing certain people in a way that defies everyday reason.

I do not think you can teach anyone how to be on the same wavelength as another human being. To me, it is not learned behaviour – though, if it comes from being over-empathic, that aspect of it may well be!

Perhaps I am just very observant, and pick up clues some others miss. That is certainly a possibility. But, I do not think it answers all the questions.

I have a degree in English Literature, and am trained in analysis of language, linguistic effects and rhetorical devices. I have also trained myself in the interpretation of symbols – both in writing and in life – over the years.

So far, so rational. So far, absolutely learned behaviour!

But, there is a deeper level which may not be so easily explained by my education – and that is my ability to ‘read’ the person through the subtle nuances, atmosphere and hidden clues with which all art is littered. As I am a writer, this is easiest for me to do with other writers – but I can ‘read’ painters and musicians too.

Maybe everyone is able to do this – and I am making something out of nothing; I do not know!

What’s really interesting to me is this, though: many people create; far fewer leave an imprint of themselves on that which they have created – other than the surface impression, that is. I have read many beautifully written pieces – and have come away none the wiser as far as the writer’s essential spirit is concerned. Some writers hide themselves even when writing the most apparently intimate details of their own lives. You read the facts – and they do not come alive. They do not laugh or cry or wince. They are coldly magnificent, as if sculpted out of finest marble, but they do not live.

Other people dance and sing and trip and hurt in their words, their canvases, their compositions. Their art LIVES and breathes.

And, of course, what is true of art is also true of life itself. Some people defend themselves so well that they are almost impossible to ‘read’ – and this despite the fact that they may spend hours telling you the stories of their lives. With such people, the stories, the facts, are like Candy Floss, sticky and all-enveloping, spun out to a far bigger product than they actually are! And they hide the reality that is those grains of sugar…

How, though, can you ‘know’ someone even before that person has started telling you the story?

Nothing in learned behaviour covers that!

And yet, on a handful of occasions in my life, this is precisely what has happened!

Perhaps we put too much emphasis on factual knowledge of one another – and ignore, or ridicule, the concept of another person’s essential self.

Perhaps it is our imperfections which give us that creative life force? Perhaps too much perfection is, ultimately, sterile?

The Return of the Native…

The Wean has been ambling a capella in Austria for the past week – and, boy, have I missed the blighter!

He is a member of his school’s very successful Gospel Choir, Youthful Spirit – and, last Friday, they set off, by coach, for their annual tour.

Si was one of only two year eleven boys on the trip – so, greatly to his delight, he and the other lad got to go on the sixth form coach, rather than the year eleven and younger one.

Very early this morning – two-ish! – and under a most beautiful stippled and dappled sky, the gold  of the nearly-full Moon stitched into several long shawls amidst the navy of a July night – we parents waited in the school car park until, suddenly, there they were: The two coaches carrying our precious children!

It was so lovely to see the boy once more – and to receive a great big hug.

Delightful to hear, this morning – as he lay across my bed – all about his adventures, and to be given a packet of delicious biscuits.

He has obviously had a terrific time, and bonded with some of the older boys (with whom he shared a room) brilliantly.

He looks very well – tanned and relaxed.

Whilst he was in Italy, he bought himself some new clothes. That’s my beloved peacock! Very handsome he looks in them, too!

Two years ago, I would have been terrified to let him out of my sight on such a long journey – but now, I am genuinely thrilled that he is so independent and resourceful, sensible and funny.

He has his moments. Don’t they all? He and I are more than capable of falling out with one another.

But I am proud of the young man he has become – and very relieved that he is fledging without pain and anxiety.

Fear cripples…

Yes, it does. I can tell you this from personal experience.

But I have learned something new, and, to me, astonishing, in recent months.

You can take on other people’s fears, without realising, and make them your own.

This has happened to me over the years.

I am not terrified and silent and anxious with everyone – and that tells me something which, for decades, I have not wanted to face.

Some people are unable, or unwilling, to admit to any kind of fear – and yet it is clear, to others, that unspoken fears (often of life itself) drive them.

They are the most dangerous people to be around. Why? Because, unable to take responsibility for the deep-seated terrors which influence their every action, they project endlessly, giving their nearest and dearest the dubious gift of anxiety, of doubt, whilst sneering at, and dismissing, those very same poisoned ‘presents’.

I know what it is to feel the most profound terror, to be so afraid that my digestive processes stop/slow down and dreadful pain rises up from that fermenting mess of Fight and Flight inspired stoppage.

I know what it is to feel so powerless and scared that my whole body locks and I cannot even speak – and I know what it is t have the nerve of my anxiety prodded deliberately.

But, fellow bloggers, I also know the delight and freedom of being in EXACTLY THE SAME SITUATION, but with a different person, and experiencing NO FEAR AT ALL.

And this, in turn, has led me to a sobering truth about the nature of fear.

Firstly, it can be provoked in another human being as part of a more widespread regime of manipulation and control. To put it bluntly, some people enjoy frightening others, perhaps because it makes them feel brave and powerful in comparison, perhaps because it allows them to avoid their own feelings, perhaps because it gives them a sexual charge.

Secondly – and, for me, crucially – the fear response depends, in some cases, more upon WHO I am with than the actual external stimulus.

I have written before about my fear of driving/being driven – but, it is not universal. In fact, it is very specific.

If you are someone who has ever driven with me, and are reading this, you will KNOW which category you belong in.


Easy. If I am relaxed, laughing and chatting; if my body language is loose and laid-back; if I let you drive me and am concentrating upon the conversation rather than what you are doing, you can be assured that I trust you, feel safe with you and experience little or no fear.

If, on the other hand, I am tense, quiet, shaky of voice when I DO speak, squirting Rescue Remedy under my tongue, then you can be sure that something about your presence, or your way of driving, is scaring me.

The car and journeys reflect my life and levels of fear in the wider sense.

To give you another example:

When we came back from Crete, the plane landed with a frightening crunch. The man on my right (lovely guy, not known to me prior to the flight), an experienced air traveller, was as scared as I was – and said so. This I found reassuring because his words were an acknowledgement that our landing had been slightly more frightening than usual, that I wasn’t imagining it, in other words.

Another person on the plane, by contrast, implied, very strongly, that I was making it up, that there was NOTHING to be alarmed about and, in fact, that this individual had experienced far far worse.

‘You don’t need to be scared,’ can be a kind and caring response.

But it can also be an impatient and insensitive one, a wish to shut you up, a desire to show you how pathetic you are.

I have a reputation for being easily scared – and it has suited some people in my life for this to remain the case.

And yet, I am, by nature, adventurous, curious, spontaneous and wild.

There is a discrepancy there, don’t you think?

I think that  humans have a natural desire to lord it over those they see as inferior, sub-standard, weak and pusillanimous. Other people’s fears can make us feel that we are, in some odd way, superior because we don’t experience them ourselves – and, if we are, at heart, not very sure of ourselves either (but don’t want to admit to this), it is perilously easy for this slight sense of one-up-man-ship to slide into a dismissive and heartless frame of mind.

I think we are a naturally competitive species – and we are driven to prove ourselves in the arena of fear every bit as doggedly as in the more conventional arenas of sport and academic excellence.

Too often, ‘I’m not scared,’ translates as, ‘You are a wimp!’

But, as I said in a previous post, fear exists for a purpose – and, sad to relate, there are people who ignore its promptings at their own, and other people’s, peril.

There are times when individuals’ refusal to acknowledge fear’s life-saving role has dire consequences.

There are times when an attitude of, ‘I’m not going to be told what to do just because my actions are frightening you…’ causes damage, even death.

And sometimes, the very people who are the most disparaging about YOUR fears are, actually, the most terrified inside.

They would just rather not go there.

If there is someone with whom you often/always experience fear, you might want to ask yourself what is in it for him/her; in other words, is the other getting a buzz, or the Denial Dance, out of your terror?

So, for me, a fear-free environment (in so far as such a thing would actually be desirable) would be one in which certain individuals were absent irrespective of the outside influences which might, or might not, trigger the fear response.

Dulcet Tones versus Abundant Flesh? No contest!

Which is more dreadful: hearing your own recorded voice, or seeing yourself on video?

Video, without any shadow of a doubt!

Now, there are some people in this world who have that magic affinity with a camera/screen. The process brings a spring to their step, a sparkle to the eye – and, most crucially for my argument, shaves inches off the waist-and-hip-line whilst adding a brace of cup sizes to the embonpoint/enticing bulges to the cod piece.

Not to me, it doesn’t!

From my earliest years, I have, with a ghastly inevitability, either been caught in mid-gurn, or leering so revoltingly that I look like an apprentice pervert on the loose – and that’s just still photographs.

Video has the added disadvantage of adding considerably to my already pretty abundant flesh. At the first whirring of the camera, my chins give up pretending and start to breed like weasels in a barrel; my eyes develop a truly disturbing exophthalmic bulge which makes me more reminiscent of a rabbit with myxomatosis than anything human – and the outlying areas become indistinguishable from Greenland in terms of size.

In short (which this ain’t), I fill the screen, in both directions, and, looking like some frightful surgical accident between Hattie Jacques and Margaret Rutherford, carry all before me!

To put it another way, I look just like a cruise liner wearing a dress. If I stand still for more than a few seconds, passing Royals are wont to hit large bottles of Champagne against my hull and rename me ‘The SS Great…F*** me, what the HELL is that?’

Slope-shouldered, with apparently no backbone to speak of and all the elegance of a large boar, I have been known to bring parts of the scenery down in my wake – and have, on several occasions, stamped on rug-rats standing in the Wings waiting to come on.

When I open my gob to commence the old emoting and so forth, ‘bad’ immediately cuts through ‘worse’ and settles for ‘worst’. Think Clarissa Dickson-Wright (bless her); think any English broad with cut-glass vowels and an arse like two rhinos in a sack – and, whichever way you cut it, you can readily understand why I am made for comedy!

Romeo and Juliet’? Don’t make me laugh! I’d have that balcony down before Romeo got so much as a leg over. As for playing dead in the final scene – no chance: Struggling, as I do, to hold my breath, it’d be more like watching the expiration process of a beached manatee than the authentic dead body of a sylph-like Italian teenager.

I’ve certainly got stage presence, and can easily make the audience laugh – but, if you’re looking to cast romantic heroine, beautiful victim or ingenue, count me out!

When I was a kid, the school photographers used to say the usual, ‘Smile!’ – and then, looking at the results, immediately say, ‘On second thoughts, DON’T!’

My final words on this subject: On home videos, I’ll be the one falling off the boat, tripping over the cat, inadvertently letting a boob out when lying on the beach – and pulling an entire tablecloth, and its drinks, off during a Cretan Festival before landing hard upon my bum.


Men and balls!

Despite my generally poor showing in most sports, I have, in my adulthood, developed a passion for Rugby. Not playing it, you understand – though, in my younger years, I might well have been pretty good on the sheer brute force front! – so much as watching it.

This has come as a great surprise to me, actually. Last thing I expected.

As  a teen, I always watched Wimbledon – and was thoroughly in young lust with Ilie Nastase! Enjoyable, very, and for a while I could talk the Tennis talk with the best of ‘em.

Then, when he was seven, the Wean joined a local Rugby Club. Initially, they just played Tag Rugby – and, Sunday after Sunday, I used to sit with the other parents and gaze fondly upon my small boy, but with complete lack of understanding of the game itself.

By the following March, they had progressed to some of the proper Rugby moves, and we all went off on Tour to Devon. Pirate-themed, it was, and we all sported parrots and scimitars and Piratical garments and eyepatches. Great fun!

Boy remained a part of the squad until he was ten – and we went on Tour three times altogether.

The best one, and my Damascene Conversion, came about in summer 2008, when Lad was ten. We went to Twickenham. Oh My God! I have walked upon the great pitch; I have stood in the stands and viewed the Directors’ Room up above – but, most exciting, we were taken into the changing rooms and then walked along that famous tunnel and out onto the pitch that way. Wow!

Si was the Hooker for his team, and getting good too; in fact, he won Man of the Tour that final year. What a proud moment that was!

He left soon afterwards – but, the following February, I sat down and watched The Six Nations, and became hooked very speedily!

Partly, I confess, it is the men and balls thing (irresistible, in my book!); partly, the primal and passionate nature of the game; but, also, as my understanding increased, I was entranced by the actual game itself: The exciting last-minute tries; the edgy silence before an attempted Conversion; the scary(at times) tackling; the sheer power and, at times, violence, of the clashes – and the wonderful, to me, ritual at the start.

Every time I watch a match, I get tearful when the two teams line up in the tunnel ready to come on. Each game has me gripped when the teams link up for the National Anthems, and when the Captain of the Home side introduces the Famous Person to each of the players.

Initially, the teams were an amorphous sea of faces and colours – but now, I know who’s who (more or less!); I even know (and this won’t surprise my close friends!) many of their birthdays!

Over the five years I have been watching the game, things have changed.  The rules concerning the Scrum are seen, by many, as stupid – and, in some matches, far too much time is taken up by the players collapsing Scrums, being sin-binned and so forth.

My favourite team? Probably Ireland or Wales. Though I always enjoy watching The Big Scotsmen – Kelly Brown, Ritchie Gray, Dave Denton and Al Kellock – play. Shame they don’t do better as a team because there are some superb individual players.

The French are completely unpredictable – but, although I personally would pay serious money to AVOID a charging Bastareaud, there is no disputing the effectiveness of a man of that tonnage and poundage; it must be like trying to stop a mammoth!

I love the Irish players! There are so many characters on that team: Dear BOD (Brian O’ Driscoll – he’ll be sorely missed), Paul O’Connell,  Donncha O’ Callaghan, Jonathan Sexton et al – and I really enjoy their spirit and skill.

The Welsh boys I also like, especially the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, Alun Wyn-Jones and, before he retired, Stephen Jones.

But my all-time favourite has got to be the incomparable, the wild,  the lupine Sebastien Chabal (France’s Weapon of Mass destruction!).

Rugby is the poorer for his loss, in my opinion. He’s still playing, but has retired from the Six Nations.

Seeing him lurking on the Bench (because the French often brought him on fairly late as a warning!), flexing his enormous hands, wild eyes glaring out through the forests of beard and hair, scared the shit out of me - and I didn’t even have to face the bugger in the flesh!

When he stood up and ran on to the pitch, to a mass indrawn breath (composed in equal parts of terror and lust!), it always reminded me of the infamous scene in Monty Python’s ‘The Meaning of Life’ when the tank full of fish, scenting trouble, stammer out, ‘Oh shit, it’s Mr Creosote!’

I suspect that the response from the opposing team was probably almost identical!

He wasn’t so much a player as a natural force!

Having said that, he was brilliant, charismatic and, in his heyday, virtually unstoppable. I think that, as Psychological Warfare, he was hugely effective – and, in my opinion, he should be on loan to all teams suffering from a touch of wilt. All they’d need to do would be to park him prominently on the Bench, letting the cameras play upon his visage, and then, every now and then, get him up and exercising as if about to hurl himself into the Scrum.

Rugby players tend to be big men (and I like a big one, me!) – and very powerful too. The speed, the power, the clashes, the leaps all appeal to me enormously – and watching, for example, a Halfpenny Conversion or a BOD try, makes me roar with unrestrained excitement!

Roll on, Six Nations 2015: I can’t wait!

Chabal in action:


Whilst Mauro Bergamasco (by the looks of it), of the Italian Squad, tries to gnaw off Chabal’s knee, the Great Man himself, totally unfazed, combines powerful rugby with the inner secrets of the Dojo – and propels the entire Italian Front Row into the middle of next week! Go, Chabal!


British Troops Mass Outside Maracana In Bid To Seize World Cup


Having watched Netherlands versus Argentina last night, having looked upon the twinkling left foot and scary visage of the former’s Robben and seen the latter’s Messi come good in the Penalty Shoot-out, I am ALL for a bit of pertinent satire.

Originally posted on The League Of Mental Men:


“Don’t panic! Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring sir. We’ll bring it back to blighty for you sir”

A build up of British troops and heavy armour was last night reported to be taking place outside the Maracana football stadium in Rio De Janeiro in what is believed to be an audacious bid to seize the World Cup from under the noses of the Germans and the Argentinians, who are due to contest Sunday’s final tie, by military force.

The head of The British Armed Forces, General Rupert Thompson, said last night. “It should be an absolute doddle seizing the World Cup from these foreign johnnies and taking it back to Blighty. After all, we’ve already given the Krauts a damn good thrashing in two world wars, and as for the Argies, it only took us a couple of hours to kick the blighters out of The Falklands. The only slight problem…

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Running into tears

This has happened before, though not in recent months.

Music, as I have said before, triggers deep emotions in me – and often dredges up the tears nothing else can reach.

I had dropped a close friend at the local railway station, and decided to run along the footpath which adjoins the track.

Unfortunately, there was no room to park at my preferred starting point, so I drove a little further, turning right into a residential street which, eventually, meets the path.

As I drove up this street, a piece of music I associate with my childhood came on the radio – and I just started crying, unstoppably.

I had to brake, pull into the side of the road and stop the engine.

Why, though?

My mother always sang. She had a beautiful singing voice and, although she learned no instruments, was a natural musician. She used to wander round the house, humming and singing little snatches of song. Some I could give you the names of; others, like the one today, I cannot.

But the one which made me sob was the one she sang the most, and, in my mind/heart, it IS Mummy the way she was before the Alzheimer’s Disease stole memory and coordination and voice.

I could sing it for you – actually, I probably couldn’t right now because the memory of this morning, and the sound of the tune in my head, is bringing the tears back.

Normally, I would sing it for you – and hope that someone would recognise it and tell me its name/composer.

Back to this morning: I really wanted to do my run – so, once I’d calmed down a bit, I set off down the track.

The music boomed in my head, mixed in with my mother’s distinctive voice – and I wondered if she’d be proud of me now, if my running and blogging would meet with her approval.

I shall never know because she is too far gone to ask.

She does still respond to music – or did, when last I heard – but I know I shall never again hear her sing that tune or any other, except in my memory, except in my head.


I have now made a short video of me playing the piece on the treble recorder; unfortunately, I have no idea how to embed it on here.


Lust works both ways, you know!


Control yourselves, girls! This is Pin Up of The Month for July 2014. Doesn’t he just get your cloaca all a’tremble?

I have just read a great post written by Adelie (of Artfully Aspiring) - It has really made me think about lust, about men and women – and about two of the great fallacies at work in our society today.

Fallacy (or should that be ‘phallusy’?) number one: Women do not get aroused by the sight of a sexy man. What a complete trough full of dogs’ bollocks that one is!

We have been conditioned to think that we shouldn’t, I’ll grant you that; we have been told that nice girls don’t; we have been indoctrinated in all the passive bullshit that so spoils sexuality for a large number of women – and we have been drip-fed the curds and whey sop of women needing to be stroked, for about five years, like domestic pets in order to get the old Lower Nile Inundation under way.

Yes, a stroke in the bush is worth two in the hand – but a toned bod can get us going too!

At the same time, and neatly segueing into Fallacy number two: We get told, from our earliest moments, that men cannot control themselves sexually – and therefore WE have to watch what we wear, say and do just in case we inadvertently cause a touch of verticality in the underpants department.

I can be outspoken, but I am damned sure I am not alone in my response to men.

To put it bluntly, when I see a sexy guy, I get turned on.  Sometimes, this is a very mild sensation – little more than a quick reddening of the cheeks and a passing frisson in the gusset area; at other times, it is the full works!

Of course I do! I’d be bugger-all use in the sack, hayloft or back seat of car if I didn’t!

And, yes, the sight of a scantily-clad male is bloody erotic – especially is said hunk is slightly dishevelled and sweaty!

But – and this is where I am going to tie the whole thing in with men! – I do not immediately lose all self-control. I do not grab hold of the gorgeous Adonis before me and perpetrate unspeakable (wonderful!) acts upon his hapless person. I do not march up to him and say, ‘Whooar! You’re a bit of allright, squire! Get your Wedding Tackle out!’ I have not (as yet) grabbed the lunchbox of a perfectly innocent fellow train-traveller and given it a hopeful squeeze to see what’s in the offing!

I could, I suppose, and at times it has been very tempting to do just that – but I would probably be arrested, knowing my luck, or attract the Black Belt attentions of a martial (as opposed to marital) arts specialist and have my spine extruded through the top of my head.

We women spend far too much of our time covering up, lowering eyes, watching our conversation in order that we do not get the men going.

I am not sure that men obsess to the same extent about the effect they have upon us!

It is as if women’s job is to be sexually alluring – and men’s to pluck (and fuck!) that ripe fruit.

Women who dress in short skirts, tit-revealing tops, stockings and suspenders are seen as fair game (and probably on the game as well!).

But we don’t seem to have the same attitude to men who go around topless  and wear very brief shorts, do we?

We don’t immediately assume that their morals are as low as the waist band of their trousers, or that they are c***-teasers for dressing so provocatively.

A lot of this hangs on the beliefs that women do not feel lust – or, if they do, it is so diluted and weak that it barely counts. A lot of this also stems from the belief that women do not respond to visual stimuli the way men do – and we women perpetuate these myths: Because none of us want to put the men off and be seen as unfeminine, we are often most reluctant to come out of our ladylike corners and admit to fancying men on sight (and on site, but let’s not go there!), being turned-on by nude male centrefolds in mildly pornographic magazines, using sex toys and so forth.

Perhaps we would be much better served (in all senses!) if we were to be honest about our reactions to men.  If, instead of using sex as a bartering tool (and far too many women still DO), we were to come out of the linguistic and sensual closet and SAY, without shame or guile, ‘Hey! You’re sexy! I’d like to…’ (ellipsis used not for censoring purposes, but to allow the free flow of the imagination!)

Men, do you know what a turn-on YOU can be? Do you understand that the sexual power does not just reside between our legs and upon the softness of our breasts? That we want YOU every bit as much as you want us? That the fantasies you have about US are matched, in many cases, by equally vivid ones about you?

Yes, we are a part of the Goddess – and proud to be so – but you, you lovely, sexy, bloody infuriating men, are part of the God too.

My feeling is that too much of the interaction between men and women (and, I suspect, between gay partners too) has become a very stale game: A game which should have been quietly put out of its misery decades ago.

Cutting out the tedious and mannered Middle-Man, the bottom line is, very often, simply some variation of, ‘I want you – and you want me: Let’s get it on, Man!’

All the rest is window dressing!

Men CAN control themselves – and women CAN wear sexy clothes without feeling obliged to fellate every single guy who wolf-whistles as they pass.

We parents are the ones who teach our children all about sexuality – and it is a huge responsibility.

And I think we need to ask ourselves, ‘Are we perpetuating the out-dated and dangerous thinking which has caused to much misery in the world? Are we teaching our sons that men cannot control themselves? Are we teaching our daughters to be ashamed of their bodies, yet to use their genitals as bargaining tools? Are we teaching equality – or continuing the ‘Women are passive, men active…’ line? Are we inculcating a life-long shame, and illicit thrill, about “naughty” clothes, “dirty” acts? Or are we telling our precious children that their bodies are gifts to be used responsibly; that pleasure is part of life’s richness – but love and commitment and respect for one another need to come into the equation too? Are we brave enough to share the fact that lust feels fabulous, that sexual arousal is natural?’

There are perverts and abusers in both sexes. There are people whose sex drive is stunted or warped, twisted and unhealthy. I have chosen not to deal with that section of society in this piece because I do not consider their needs to be normal lust; I see them as an unconscious Faustian Pact.

In my next incarnation, I shall be far more proactive with the opposite sex, whether I come back as a man, a woman, a duck-billed platypus or an ant!

If I see another platypus I like the look of, I shall make that abundantly clear – probably by saying the platypoid equivalent of, ‘Hey, Big Boy, that a fish under your leg or are you just pleased to see me?’

And I shall wear what I damn well like!

When my life runs out…

…I do not wish to look back down the years and decades, and bemoan the things I wanted to do and shivered out of through fear.

I do not wish to spend my last few bubbling, rattling moments labouring the rancid breath of ‘If only…’

I do not wish to have the claw of Narcissus rasping at my softly-weathered palm, nor hear the hissing of self-justification from Dorian Gray’s filthy revealed lips.

Before my back becomes stooped with the spine’s ancient bowing; before my senses fray at the edges and lose their lustre; before my hands curl into fragile leaves of touch and motion, I want to leap the abyss, flail against the feathery warmth of familiar fear – and free myself from the chains of Co-dependency.

I do not wish to regret the loves I could have experienced, the fine friends I could have luxuriated in; I do not wish to look upon the map and mourn the countries never visited, the customs and traditions as mysterious as the Moon, and more so – for the Moon and I are old and intimate friends; I do not choose to go out in the long freight train of misery at the hands of controlling others…

I do not know what timelessness of turgid pain and tumbling delight lies between me and the grave.

But, I DO know that I have had my fill of vain regret, of chains and invisible whips,of emotional blackmail and mind games.

I wish now to settle butterfly light upon relationships; to suck the nectar from flowers and pollinate in return; I wish for there to be dripping combs of delectable honey between me and loved ones, so that we lick one another’s fingers in an ecstasy of taste and sensual pleasure…

When I lie upon my bed of death, I wish to smile in recollection of wild sex, of delectable food, of love fully shared, of children nurtured and delighted in, of bonds deeper than the deepest ocean enjoyed fully; I wish to know that I have lived, loved, hated, screamed, cried, laughed and fucked with total honesty and abandon.

I wish to know that the world was my oyster – and I its pearl.

Seven Stars


Reblogging because it captured something essential, and beautiful, to me – and some of you may not have read it because I wrote it soon after arriving on WordPress.

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

Dearly Beloved -

You know who you are, for you come to me in dreams and hold my hand; you are the sweetness in my soul at times of torment – and the anchor to the turbulent sea-going vessel of anxiety. You are met upon the magic steed of the sevens, through the colours of the spectrum, the notes of the scale, the seven sisters, the words of love and Light…

We brush, with softest hands, the friable earth from those seven trembling words; we cup them in our palms and look upon their wonder, mystery and fragility. A word can be damaged so easily by the winds of selfish change, the devastating bush fires of jargon, the deep cold of political expediency and the treacherous grease of lies.

Words hardly dare show their faces these days: have to be dug, coaxed from cold earth like late-blooming potatoes, and…

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Cultural Spacecraft Debate, eh?! Some swear words!


Reblogging this because it is a damn good rant!

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

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

Thrusts on Super-Charge! Zooooooooom!

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

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

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


Why? What is the bloody point?

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

As long as we think, in…

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It may be small, but we call it home! Daily Prompt


Totleigh Towers, Stow-on-the-Wold, Glos…

Damn fine, eh? Mind you, it was in one hell of a state when we first clapped eyes upon it. Sagging like a bra-free nonagenarian, what? Dashed wearing on the eyes. Bricks and mortar all over the shop, and lavatorial facilities more reminiscent of Flanders, circa 1915, than anything dreamed up by Thos Crapper and his Merry Men. Why, you risked dysentery just opening the door!

But as I said to the wife at the time, ‘Dahlia, what’s the point in filthy lucre in the Bank if we don’t use it for the good of the family, eh?’

Besides, the old homestead in Wopplington-on-Mud was fast running out of space for my ever-increasing silver collection – and, what with Pop Bassett slinking around all the reputable Silver Dealers in London trying to snatch the choicest morsels from under my grasping hands, I had little room for manoeuvre.

Dahlia – a formidable old boot at the best of times – was, initially, chagrined by my suggestion that we up sticks and remove to the peaceful purlieus of Gloucestershire, but a hefty contribution towards her ghastly rag, Milady’s Boudoir, soon softened the ancient marital helpmeet up.

‘Tom!’ she bellowed, in those dulcet tones which made her so beloved of the Quorn and Pytchley hunt, ‘you’re a rogue and a bounder! Glos it is. Pass the Port!’

Got some chappies in – and, after a bit of jiggery-pokery, the Post-Apocalyptic rubble was transformed into Totleigh Towers – or, as Bertie (that fat-headed young ass, as Dahlia is wont to call him fondly) had it, ‘I say, Uncle Tom, jolly clever bit of – er – two times the same letter, what?’

Still, what he lacks in the chin and brain department, he more than makes up for in Jeeves.

No sooner had we moved in, however, than hordes of execrable distant relatives flocked, by conveyance large and small, to stay. Did my digestion no good, I can tell you: Had to be stomach-pumped twice, once after a dodgy oyster, the other following a most ill-advised Lobster Thermidor (with cucumber).

Just after the sinister affair of the silver Cow Creamer, that egregious old brigand, Bassett, and his licensed thug, Roderick Spode, fetched up here one late summer afternoon. Turned out that Bertie, in a moment of  crass stupidity (even by his standards), had proposed marriage to Madeleine, Pop B’s frightful daughter.

Fortunately for all concerned, Spode, having threatened to explore Bertie’s internal organs with his bare hands, managed to shatter Love’s Young Dream once and for all – and, within twenty-four hours, we were Bassett and Spode free.

I would show you around – but Anatole (that peerless producer of piquant provender) has just trickled in to consult me about tonight’s menu, Dahlia being out to hounds at present.

Jeeves will show you out!

And, if ever apprised of silverware on the market courtesy of Bassett, leave well alone: He’ll probably have half-inched it from me!

Updated letter to my body

Dear Physical Self -

I wrote to you in considerable despair, did I not? A year ago, almost to the day – for I just checked – my thoughts were tending towards the Dignitas Clinic and an early exit from this life.

I did not see then that which is clear to me now. I wanted to blame you, my poor benighted body, for all the ills under the sun. I refused to face the interaction between you and my mind; refused even more adamantly to make the link between outside forces and internal pain and chaos.

But, far more to the point, I was in such profound despair that I saw no point in helping myself.

I was going to edit and send the original letter I wrote to you, Body – but things have moved on, and I wish to celebrate THAT rather than reiterating the suicidal thoughts of a year ago.

The major stressor in my life has, if anything, got worse. But I am now very clear that I have given it as much energy, grief, fear and angst as it deserves – more, probably – and that, in fact, my puny efforts have fed its insatiable nature.

Clean sharp action is necessary – and only I can do this.

Friendships and social activities during the past year have given me hope and laughter. The Band, Ghost Weed, has allowed me to play my beloved fiddle once more, and to strengthen the muscles in my arms and neck. Dancing has given me back my wildness, my bodily abandon – and a burgeoning knowledge that I am not as decrepit as I once thought. Friends have allowed me to see that I DO matter, that I am not the nothing I have so often assumed myself to be.

Yes, Body, I have given way on the Mirtazapine front. It was an essential part of getting me through the dark days of last winter and this spring. I remain on it, taking the lowest possible dose in order to combat anxiety and physical symptoms.

June 1st was a crucial day for us, wasn’t it, Body of mine? Yes, indeed!

On that day, and with great self-doubt, I walked us to the Yellow Brick Road – and, terrified, broke into a very halting and uncertain jog. To my surprise (though not, I suspect, yours), I did not immediately keel over, break an ankle or stop after two yards.

After that first go, we ran every day until the day before our flight to Crete, didn’t we? And the desire to compete in next year’s Village Fun Run was born.

Yes, I took a break from exercise in Crete – and, yes, I most certainly enjoyed the red wine, Retsina and Raki on offer, and quaffed with joyous abandon.

Back here, it took me a few days to settle back in to a routine – but, I went out and bought proper running gear for you, my wakening body: pink running shoes, sweatpants, little sporty socks and LA GEAR shirts.

Every day, for the past week, I have donned some combination of the above sartorial magnificence – and, key in my pocket, set off for a run.

We don’t go far yet; I do not wish to over-do it at an early stage and risk pulling major muscles, putting us off this oh so positive change in our life.  The furthest we have run so far is about half of the Fun Run distance – but that does not matter.

What matters is the benefits to me, to us, both physically and psychologically. You see, Body, I am beginning to believe in you again – and am starting to see that there never was anything seriously wrong with you; if there had been, we would not be able to do these daily outings, would we?

The heart seems to be pumping well; the lungs are coping with the increased breathing – and no asthma inhaler has, as yet, been necessary; the bones and muscles (which I privately feared were going to give way to Osteoporosis) are stronger than I had realised – and, although I DO get aches and pains post-exercise, I suspect they will fade as I get fitter.

You see, Dear Body, I finally realised that you and I DO deserve to live, to find joy, to have great friends and happy days. I finally realised that your upkeep and health is up to me.

And something else has hit me: Yes, I need to lose weight – approximately three stone, to be frank! – but, once I have done this (and I WILL; just watch me, Body!), YOU will be what you always have been (only I was too lacking in self-confidence to see this): beautiful, sexy and fit for purpose.

We have a lot to give the world, Body, and I am going to make damn sure we continue to give it for as long as possible.

Love and hugs,




* Signing with my childhood nickname because the Body Hatred began when I was Bambi, not Ali.

Christianity? Love your neighbour? Shame on you!


I happened upon this article, on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph, this morning – and was appalled.

Shocked and disgusted, frankly, that, in a world so rife with genuine, life-threatening/limiting problems, other people’s sexuality and choice of partner is STILL being held against them. That discrimination of this kind still rules the hate-waves, and sends out this kind of distorting message to children who are learning about LOVE.

What I find particularly repulsive about this story is the fact that, YET AGAIN, a religious group (in this case hard-line Christians) is using its religious dogma manual (oops, don’t I mean The Bible?) to justify rampant homophobia.

Claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, some of these people, in my opinion, would not recognise, or welcome, Him if he DID turn up for the long-anticipated Second Coming.

Why? Ye gods: the poor man would be far too tolerant, loving and Left Wing for some of these fanatical proto-Nazis of other people’s life style choices.

I am quite sure that Jesus did not discriminate in this way. I am quite sure that he did not ask searching questions about gender orientation, marital status, number of sexual partners when delivering the healing hand. I am equally sure that, during, for example, the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, he did not stop part way through and say, ‘Right! Any gays here? Coloured people? Transgender? Loonies? Political Lefties? Bugger off, the lot of you: this miracle is ONLY for the righteous…’

Jesus’ message was predominantly one of love and forgiveness, wasn’t it?

When, I ask – in a certain amount of despair – is this fragile and wounded world of ours going to learn that LOVE is what matters, not which body part is in operation during the sex act, or which gender attracts individuals.

In a world in which divorce, cheating and domestic violence are on the increase, should we not – bakers, clerics and political leaders alike – be celebrating marital commitment and joy no matter what form it takes?

And should we not be using our OWN brains, hearts and spirits to sort out what is right and what is wrong? Rather than diving straight into a book written thousands of years ago by MAN, not GOD.

I have no quarrel with individual believers of any faith. There are truly wonderful exponents of all the major religions. But I DO have a very real problem with anyone who seeks to justify prejudice by turning to a religious book.

And, even if this appears blasphemous, I am sure that Jesus Christ would take a pretty dim view of such an attitude too.

Validation: Something to wear against the heart

Two years ago, just after I started my Blogger blog, an unknown person left the following at the bottom of one of my posts:

‘Your edgy and joyful bawdiness is like a bit of heaven here on earth.’

I am aware that I have posted about this lovely comment before. The repetition reflects a very real need, however.

Through recent failures, and the unmoving family situation, I have clung to the many kind and loving comments made by friends – and to this sparkling acknowledgement of me as a writer.

The quote in bold above describes me, and my approach to writing, perfectly.

Sad to relate, there have always been people (relatives, in some cases) who have sought to crush my edgy and joyful bawdiness: Who find it embarrassing, OTT, nasty, boring; who would rather I were quiet, subdued, submissive;  who would be happier if I did not sing, play music, dance crazily, drink too much on occasions, get excited, make humorously suggestive comments, act feisty and spirited.

That IS my nature, though. It defines the heart, breasts and loins of my writing self. I love life and joyfully embrace the senses and all the wonderful things they can do for us.

Plucking ripe raspberries from the bushes at the bottom of the garden, and cramming them into my mouth – unable to wait for bowl and spoon and water to clean; taking a giant bite of chocolate, Lindt for preference, and feeling that luscious milky-cocoa melt smoothing the roughness of tongue; gulping a fresh glass of a good red wine, and feeling the bubbles freeing my inhibitions; picking up a warm, salt-smelling rock from a Cretan beach and feeling its history in the palm of my hand; playing ‘The Irish Washerwoman’, fast fast fast, upon my descant recorder – not perfect, but lively; laughing loudly at a Clouseau clip on YouTube.

Life is for LIVING to the hilt – and it is for sharing.

If I knew you in ‘real’ life, I would give you half of my raspberries, squares of my chocolate, a glass or three of red wine; I would send you clips of the music I love, and listen to those you sent me; I would give you some of my stones – and would tell you tales of the things which make me happy and sad – and I would listen to your stories too, with love, empathy, laughter and a true ear for what you are not saying.

I am NOT perfect. Nor have I ever pretended to be – on here or out in the community. But I am 100% Ali – only muted by those who put conditions upon my aliveness.

I am foundering at present, struggling mightily to stay afloat in the bitter sea of repeated failure.

But, as long as I am alive, I shall hold to that edgy and joyful bawdiness.

In Alter Ego, I can cope…

As I lie, sleepless, at two, three, four am,

My left hip and lower back screaming

For the tongue which cannot, will not,

I think back over the grey vale

Of a weekend divided and mute

And want to weep the waste of weeks.


With chick, semi-stranded o’er nest and sky,

Sunning in distant gardens,

Singing, deep-voiced, with other warblings,

Ready to fledge and fly,

The polite emptiness becomes horror,

Sadness, failure, loss and fear.


No harsh words – this time;

No hours of interrogating persuasion,

Just the marching of souls who do not touch

Through broken dreams and silent meals;

Just knowing, as aching body pounds pavements,

That this is all that is left.


Only Alter Egos allow me to cope:

I can lose myself in Djinns and fairy-tale princesses,

In dogs, guinea pigs and ferocious monsters.

Dreams and Grimms tales, however scary,

Protect me, allow me to wander

Through the landscape of the inner realms.

Alpha Beta: A dog’s true nature!


This was my first ever Daily Prompt entry, nearly a year ago. We had to write a poem, or a story, with each consecutive line/sentence being a letter of the alphabet – in alphabetical order. I was proud of it then, and it still makes me smile. I am sharing it again because most of you did not know me back in July 2013, and may well not have seen it.

A dog barks. Breaking the pre-Dawn silence. Calling, he is, to others of his kind, Deciding what the smells, so early and so ripe, tell this fresh new day.

Easy noise to quash, a canine’s yelp. For they are subservient people pleasers. Geared up to lick and fawn, to roll over and show the tummy.

Hearing our cars from streets away, they wait behind doors and whine in anticipation. If we shout, or whack with rolled-up newspaper, they forgive. Just fix us with their melting eyes and show their hurt. Kind creatures, by and large, if showered with early love and firm boundaries.

Licking the furry bits underneath gives them security. Maybe it is their version of human thumb-sucking and blanket-stroking. Not pleasant to watch, for the squeamish, but necessary for the tangled wires in a dog’s brain.

Oh! how we love them! Play with them, often furtively, when no one is looking, enjoying the silliness of the game.

Quarrelling amongst these animals is a hierarchical matter, to see who is Top Dog. Really, we, with our Royalty and aristocracy, Heads of this and Presidents of that, should understand such behaviour!

So, back to the early line of light, poured into the day’s mould, and our solitary barker, saluting the world. Tethered and tamed he may be, but his instincts, sharp as puppy teeth, get to the bone’s marrow.

Ululating forlornly, he slinks back to his bed, owners clattering crossly overhead.

Valiantly, he ignores the bush telegraph coming to whining, growling life through bird twitter and badgers’ lumbering run.

We pat him, with careless and unthinking ease, his olfactory world a mystery we do not choose to plumb.

Xanthous hued smells flutter nasal membranes!

Yes, we love these protective and complex mammals – and think we are their masters!

Zealously they guard us from outsiders – and from the truth!

Feeling no fear


The Amygdala, the part of the brain associated with Fight or Flight, feelings of fear…

During my life, I have met a small number of people who claim they feel no fear – and who are very proud of this dubious attribute.

Feeling no fear is a disorder.  Some children with Williams Syndrome, and/or with damage to the Amygdala, for example, experience little fear.

Like the inability to feel pain, it is, potentially, very dangerous.

Fear has a purpose, as does pain.

Those who feel neither do not just put themselves at risk; they can also endanger the lives, and sanity, of those who come across them.

I find it very strange the way courage has become linked, in some people’s minds, with lack of fear. I find it extraordinary, thinking  of the Pain Spectrum,  that, in some weird way, you are deemed braver if you do not react to a nasty wound, or an injection which misses the vein and has to be redone (sometimes several times) than if you cry or wince or yell.

Some people are simply unable to empathise with the feelings of others. Feeling little or no fear themselves, they are not able to step in the shoes of more fearful others.

Very often a lack of fear is allied to risk taking and adrenaline addiction. Such individuals start off very low on the natural stimulus scale, and it takes ever-more extreme and brutal stimulation (emotionally, sexually and in terms of entertainment) to get them going at all.

Fast and borderline-dangerous driving, for example, Sado-Masochistic sex, very violent and graphic televisual choices; all of these can mark out a personality who suffers from a very low baseline in terms of sensual response.

It is common for these people to brag about horrendous injuries which they laughed their way through, hardly feeling a thing; to take a real pride in having fillings done, or even teeth pulled, without injection.

‘You’re so brave!’ others say, admiringly.

No. They are NOT.

If you do not feel much (or any) pain/fear, reacting to painful/frightening situations in a calm way is not, in my view, a sign of courage.

Courage is defined as follows:

. the ability to do something that frightens one…

. strength in the face of pain or grief…

In both of the above, the ability to feel fear and pain is crucial.

Jumping into the lion enclosure at the zoo, because you have no fear of animals, is not brave; it is bloody stupid and suicidal. Driving up close to another car, at high speed, and then jamming your brakes on at the last minute – because you have no fear of driving/cars –  does not make you a heroic character; it makes you a dangerous tosser, in my eyes!

Sometimes the very bravest people are those who feel the most profound fear – but get out and do things anyway.

And sometimes there is a very thin line between a high pain threshold and insensitivity, between experiencing very little pain oneself and sneering at anyone else who DOES.

Party Cougar Woman!

I am a party animal. I roar and claw, eat and drink too much – and am LOUD! And yet, behind all that, the ghost of the shy little girl I once was lingers – and it is she who gets so anxious before a social event; it is she who overcompensates on the wine front, and it is she who insists upon tidying the house within an inch of its life…before the party even begins!

Parties I could give you until I am blue in the face. Instead, I shall expose the intimate details of my pre-party tidy up from eighteen months ago…

And so, with party imminent, I thought I’d better clean the house! Sounds a doddle, eh?! No, not a bit of it. Gave the old Augean Stables a run for their mythological money, let me tell you. ‘Crap everywhere!’ sums it up very neatly.

I am not, as previously intimated in these annals, Mrs Mop – and my attitude towards most things domestic is considerably more miss than hit. In fact, the only ‘hit’ that comes into the equation tends to be that of my head against the nearest rough surface in sheer frustration.

But, needs must when the Demon of Partying drives. I started with the easy bit: Hoovering. I drove that little red Henry up stairs and downstairs, narrowly missing the proverbial lady’s chamber, my sore back twingeing away nastily the whole time.

The Conservatory, let me tell you, was particularly noisome and disgusting, and I felt pretty overwhelmed when I looked at the dirt-streaked walls, the festerous windows, the revolting patina upon the formerly pale green floor and the general repulsiveness of the blinds.

The blinds, as an aside, were a bridge too far, and will have to go! Into the bath probably – or hidden in a handy nook (or cranny) so that what our guests’ eyes can’t see their hearts won’t weep over. Or, to put it with my customary vulgarity, get the buggers out of the room lest the sight of them causes a guest to throw up all over the newly scrubbed floor!

Out came the bucket, filled with an enticing mixture of hot water and Ginseng and Black Pepper Shower Gel for Men (along the lines that, if it’s good enough for the male body, it’s certainly more than adequate for our floors!); in, from the cold, came the raggy moppy thing – and then the fun began.

I love playing with, and in, water, don’t you? And this, I confess, was too tempting a proposition for me to resist!

I did try to be tidy and contained for, ooh!, about ten seconds: Wiped the first bit of the window ‘seat’ with an attention to detail that verged on the anal, and then thought, ‘Fuck this for a game of soldiers!’ and sloshed great cascades of the stuff all over windows, walls, floor, myself, and then sploshed and splashed, skidded and scraped, sang and slipped until I was more drowned rat than human being – and the room looked pretty damn good too!

It isn’t perfect: The top windows I was unable to reach, so they do let the side down a tad – but, hell, at that time of night, and with the red wine flowing like an incontinent stallion, who is going to notice, let alone care?

I have also – pause for admiring gasp here! – mopped both bathrooms and the porch! Over-reached myself on the last of those and, with a certain predictability, went arse over tit within seconds: Ended up spread-eagled most inelegantly on the floor, with my head in a pile of assorted footwear and my nethers jammed up against the doormat.

I have drawn the line – a good, thick black one! – at dusting and polishing, though I did Hoover some dust out of the kitchen radiator. Or tried to, at any rate: Bloody stuff bred like a colony of sex-crazed mongoose, and I was a-dry with the accursed grey flufflets within seconds.

My last task was to look at the dog’s bed, and the sorry-looking scraps of variegated material which comprise his doggy duvet. Well, suffice it to say that the whole boiling looked as if it had been through a really ill tiger’s digestive system; it smelt pretty rank, too. Don’t ask. There are some things it is better not to know. Take it from me.

It all went into the washing machine – and, by one of those miracles of modern technology, came out fresh and clean an hour or so later, leaving behind it enough black hair to make a couple of wigs and to stuff a large mattress.

I shall now leave you with the rare image of a spanking clean and pristine Alienora house!

And, a knackered, sopping wet, grubby Alienora!

Retreat to a Magic Garden

I am not especially well-travelled abroad for a woman of my advanced years: Poitiers, in 1969; four visits to Crete – and four days of ritual in the Netherlands back in 2012.

The Lodge I work with decided to join forces with one of the Dutch ones – and we had a fantastic few days. Here is the piece I wrote at the time, but did not actually publish on my blog.


Thanks to Debora and Michiel for this image of their Temple (found on Google Images)

Retreat to a Magic Garden

Battle-weary, the warriors retreat – torn and bloodied, those still alive; they leave behind them the mournful skirling of the war-pipes, the ravens circling and dipping and the tragic heaps of human flesh.

And so, in a more metaphorical sense, we all, at some point, feel the need to beat a strategic retreat from the battlefields of our own lives: from the harsh ‘music’ of warring voices that causes us to weep; from the symbolic Birds of Death awaiting their chance to tear out the soft organs; from the annihilation of our hopes and dreams, relationships and work placements; from spiritual uncertainty or psychological crisis.

And this moves – so softly and poetically – onto the second meaning of the word ‘retreat’: withdrawing into privacy or security; (place of) shelter or seclusion; (Eccl) temporary retirement for religious exercises.

In this sense, retreats have been used by many of the major religions throughout the ages – and they continue to be used, often, these days, by less Patriarchal groups of truth-seekers, Ritual Magicians, Pagans and Multi-Faith organisations and, of course, lone hermits.

From the moment, back in August 2012, we drove down the long, wide gracious Zeist street, we sensed that we were entering a special and rarefied world: a world where the need for a drawing in from the hectic, materialistic and frantic was gently acknowledged and peacefully catered for.

As the car glided along the lines of tall trees – that elegance and majesty so different to British grey neatness – we felt exalted.

And then we turned, up a verdant and secretive drive, and saw the Magic Garden for the first time. Tears came to my eyes. Dappled with sun, it was, a garden of many parts: wild, yet loved, encouraged, tended, organic in the true sense of the word.

The garden’s owners and protectors, Debora and Michiel, showed us around: the vegetable patch, abundant and fertile; chickens, rabbits, goldfish lazing contentedly amidst green algae in the swimming pond – a pool used regularly by hosts and visitors alike.

The vast willow, so tall, a canopy of magic! How lovely to pitch tent and curl up, underneath its living parasol of branches, to sleep and dream!

The wooden Temple in the corner by the chickens, such a wonderful space: Arianrhod’s stars above; lodge banners, united for the journey, hanging like frozen magic, for the opening times; Full Moon, whilst we were there, trancing through leaves as we processed for the Opening ceremony – white robes, coloured cords, rings flickering in candle-flame.

Fellowship: The Table Round in mystical Logres, we the Knights of Spiritual Chivalry, the mysteries behind Camelot, the Celtic creatures, blended, harmonious, knit by love.

We were there to work, and play, a meeting of minds and spirits and SOL lodges. But we entered a retreat too, though perhaps we did not fully know it at the time. We entered a plane of existence held apart from the frenetic, the goal-oriented, money-driven round.

For four magical days, in this hidden Eden, we found tears and laughter, anger and solace, friendship and music, ritual and good food – and all of this in a setting of quiet magnificence, of deep greens interwoven with pinks and purples, bright oranges and sun-flare yellows settling flame-like upon house and Temple, stones and plants.

Since those balmy and spiritually bracing days, Debora and Michiel have decided to open their corner of Paradise as a retreat. I fully intend to return, as soon as I can. If you get the opportunity to withdraw for a few days, to visit De Magische Bongerd, make sure you take it. You will emerge, as I did, a different person.


Sport and me

‘A troubled relationship‘ would be the shortened version.

I used to joke, in my late teens and early twenties, ‘The only exercise I enjoy and am any good at is sex!’

There was an element of truth to this jape: I cannot, of course, attest to my own proficiency in matters horizontal and erotic, but I certainly CAN say, with utter confidence, that I gave every appearance of being completely SINIDEXTROUS when I was at school.

‘Sinidextrous‘, as a word, may very well not exist (though it jolly well ought to) – but its meaning of, ‘Totally useless with both hands’ could have been coined for Yours Truly.

From my earliest years, I showed the kind of coordination skills so beloved of physical comedy. I would have been a riot during the Silent Movie era. If I could trip over my own feet, I would; if a ball was thrown my way, I would, with a grim inevitability, miss it; if asked to run, I would succumb to asthma and collapse in a wheezing heap.

With light-weakened eyes (I was one of those kids who squinted horribly even on dull days), allergy-impaired lungs and nose, I sneezed, wept and coughed my way through most Games lessons at Primary School.

Unsurprisingly, my class mates took a pretty dim view of my complete lack of sporting prowess – and would fight NOT to have me in the team.

The little boy who used to wet himself through nerves, and the perfectly spherical little girl who could have been USED as the ball were both grabbed with open hands by both Team Captains, whilst I shivered on the side and tried to pretend I didn’t care that I was last AGAIN.

The weird thing was this: There was, actually, nothing wrong with my sporting ability per se – and I was good at Athletics and loved Gym work (apart from that bloody rope, which I never learned to climb!) and swimming – but, with no self-confidence to speak of even then, and constant barrages of ‘You’re useless’ from all sides, I was certain, by the age of eight, that I was the worst sportswoman ever.

I think now that a lot of it was due to my poorly controlled asthma and hayfever. In those days, back in the sixties, we did not have access to the range of inhalers available today. I was allowed to take a drug called Franol (which made me feel very stoned!) when really bad – but, other than that, I struggled as best I could. This meant I was permanently short of breath, panicky and terrified of making things worse by running.

Things got even worse at secondary school, though I must admit that some of this was entirely my own fault. Overwhelmed by the number of new subjects, scary new children and my own crippling shyness, I switched off in lessons (both sport and other) and dreamed my way through most of my first two years.

My end of first year report was appalling. Virtually all my teachers wrote variations upon the ‘Alienora does not listen in class’ theme.

We learned tennis, hockey, netball, rounders that first excruciating year – and I can still remember standing on the edge of the playing area, during the dreaded hockey lessons, looking up at the sky and making up stories in my head. None of this was helped by my physical timidity – and the ghastly sight of Clare Segal getting her nose broken by a rogue hockey stick.

To this day – and to my great shame – I have no ideas what the hockey positions are, and, if you were to ask me to play in one of them, I would wander around for hours trying to look busy and delaying the moment.

Netball was slightly better in the sense that I DID learn (though have subsequently forgotten) the positions, but I was a liability in any team game because, no matter how hard I tried, I could not catch the ball. Embarrassing, it was, and upsetting. Very.

Oddly enough, given my general uselessness, I was a demon on the Badminton Court and had no problem whacking that shuttlecock far and, in some cases, wide!

I was strong, you see, and possessed of a fiery temper (then as now) – and could get quite wild during lessons.

Part of the problem also was my ambivalent handedness. Although I write with my right hand, I have always had a strong leaning towards left-handedness in everything else – and, once I started to hold the racket in my left hand, my playing improved greatly.

But I remain very lacking in physical confidence – and it takes little to frighten me off the field, track or gym.

Recently, I took up running again – after thirty years – and have allowed the thoughtless comments of certain others to put me off twice now.

All it took was a comment about the likelihood of my collapsing, turning an ankle or falling over – and I almost didn’t even start my new running career – and, the day after Rik Mayall died (post run), the same source intimated the link between my age, jogging and imminent cardiac arrest.

Physically, I CAN do it; I have proved that – but now I am running scared (literally) and this has spoiled the innocent enjoyment of it.

As I said at the beginning, my relationship with physical activity has always been a tad fraught. Inconsistent too. I was, as a child, a completely fearless, and pretty impressive, tree-climber – and would hang upside down from branches, somersault off them and so forth. I adored swimming – and diving – and, again, was without fear. During my extended Tomboy phase, I would happily make, and fire, bows and arrows, and would walk for miles pretending I was a Native American Scout or similar.

Perhaps it was just the competitive element that threw me, the huge fear of failing, of being clumsy, of being laughed at and despised; I wish I knew.

I think it was, actually, distressingly simple: I did not believe I could do it – and my want of belief became reality. I say this because the same was true of Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Geography, French.

How very sad.

Musical instruments and me: Daily Prompt

I cannot now recall how old I was when I taught myself to play the descant recorder. Eight? Nine?


I was not able to read music, and played by ear. At the time, this did not strike me as being in any way strange; in fact, I envied those who were able to decode the mysteries of musical notation – and, if anything, thought myself inferior to them.

Then, when I was about eleven, my then five year old sister started to learn the violin – and this started a vast longing in my heart. She was very good, and ended up getting Grade 8 – and being the leader in the Oxford City Orchestra she played for.

I used to watch her play, and my fingers would be itching to replicate those fluent moves – but I did not think I would ever actually play myself.

In my early teens, my mother found a recorder teacher who lived near Headington. Margaret Donington-Powell was her name, and she was a fascinating and formidable lady. Her main instrument was the viola da gamba, and she had played with the Dolmetsch family in the Haslemere Festival for years.

She must have been in her sixties when I met her, and was as sharp as the proverbial tack.  She realised that I had a pretty good ear for music – but that I was, in a sense, using this to avoid actually learning to read the notes!

She tried her best, bless her! I started to learn the treble recorder – which is in a different key to descant and tenor – and I think the hope was that this difference would force me into looking at the music.


Trouble was I learned tunes very quickly – and, once I’d got the sound sorted out in my head, the printed music became redundant.

We did talk about the possibility of my taking grades (as, in later years, did my piano teacher) – but, I was far too uneven a player for a pass to be on the cards.

When I was fifteen, we received a piano from my grandparents. Oh, that was SO exciting!

My parents found me a lovely teacher at Milham. She was extremely gentle and kind, and realised fairly quickly that I was eager to soak up the tunes I heard in my head – and that, if she taught me pieces I loved a bit at a time, I would play them with great love and emotion.

I had heard my friend, Cath, playing Paradies’ Toccata, for example – and asked my teacher to show me how to play it. I had the sheet music as a back up – but, in all honesty, I could not read it even then!

I started lessons in September 1973, in my O’level year and around the time my little brother was born – and the following summer I played the Paradies piece in a concert at school – on the spinet. I did not realise until three years ago that this much-loved piece of music was a grade 7 piece.


I can play it to this day – most of it anyway! – but, if you were to put the sheet music in front of me, I would be completely stumped and would probably burst into tears.

My twenties passed in a flash. I still played recorders – sopranino, descant, treble and tenor – and piano, but my love affair with the violin remained unconsummated.

And then, and then – Oh, how this makes me tremble STILL all these years later! – I found a violin teacher, in Weston-super-Mare, where I was living at the time.

violin pictures  4

The date was early September 1987, and I was twenty-nine years old.

My teacher, Tim Richards, was four months older than I – and we got on brilliantly from the start.

I can still feel the thrill of holding a violin under my chin for the first time, of seeing MY fingers stretching upon the strings, of holding the bow in my right hand – and the exquisite moment when bow made first contact with strings.

I wanted to cry.

Tim thought I had a great deal of natural talent – but he could see that I was crippled by two things: self-doubt and lack of formal musical training, particularly where reading music was concerned.

A few weeks after I started learning, my parents very kindly gave me the family violin (the one my sister had played all those years ago) – and I practised for hours and hours.

I turned thirty the following January – and all was going brilliantly. I loved my lessons; Tim and I were kindred spirits in many respects – and, although my technique was shaky, I was making very good progress.

Then, a year after I started my lessons, I was attacked. Much light and joy drained out of my life.  The spark and spirit I had had before left my playing. I felt so sad.

Did I tell Tim? Yes, I think I did – because I became very anxious and temperamental, I suppose, and felt it only fair to explain why this was.

Then, in early 1989, he, his wife and their little girl left the area.

He did suggest other teachers for me – but, heartbroken and fearful, I’m afraid I didn’t take him up on any of his suggestions.

Now, I have to be scrupulously honest here: Technically, I am not good. I have never progressed beyond First Position on the violin, and my left little finger is weak.  I doubt I would pass grade 1.

It is frustrating because I can hear very complex pieces in my head – parts of Bach’s Solo Violin Partitas, for example – but I cannot do them justice technically. Love can only go so far.

I know what the strings are called on the fiddle – and, if I think about it, I can work out individual notes. But such things do not come automatically, the way listening and reproducing do.

I learn most tunes by playing along to CDs.

But, for all my technical problems, I still get such a visceral thrill when I take my fiddle out of its case, rosin the bow, tune the strings and start to play.

The Band, Ghost Weed, has been enormous fun – and, initially, was fabulous for my confidence. Unfortunately, a person not involved in the band was extremely cruel at a time when I was feeling vulnerable anyway – and, although my fellow musicians have tried their hardest to boost my flagging morale, my detractor’s words have bitten deep.

But, now, all these years later, I am experimenting with vibrato – and am trying to improve my playing, so that my fiddle supports my lovely friends!