Death of a father : Speakeasy # 165

alienorajt:

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

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

Speakeasy # 165

He had become fragile, unstable.

The comas were accelerating.

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

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

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

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

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Rik Mayall RIP

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Rik Mayall. Two months younger than me. Dead. So dreadful. Such a shock. My heart goes out to his family, his friends…

He was such an important part of my younger adult years.

I first saw him, way back when, in ‘The Young Ones‘ – and, fresh from the anarchy and mess of student life myself, the series spoke to my depths. So funny, so completely barking mad – so true in many ways, though exaggerated, of course (if only slightly).

Vyvyan was, I confess, my favourite – as a Punk enthusiast, this was, perhaps, natural – but something about Rick/Rik’s manic energy enthralled me from the start.

These guys WERE my generation.

They were people I could identify with completely.

We had all been students for real at the same time – though not at the same universities.

Rik and Ade were part of the late-fifties baby cache.

I followed Rik over the years. Heart in mouth, I read of his terrible accident, back in the late nineties – and followed the news slavishly, and daily, until it became clear that he was, if not all right, at least still this side of the grave.

I loved his creative lunacy in ‘Blackadder’ – and, though I didn’t watch everything he was in,  I found him a compelling stage and screen presence.

Those eyes! That crazed grin! The waves of electricity he always seemed to fire from his essence!

I never met him.

There is no guarantee that we would have liked one another if we HAD met.

But, as one 1958 hatchling to another, I shall miss him.

He defined a mood, enacted a restless uncertainty, showed a questing rebelliousness and a wanton desire to shock – all of which seemed an integral part of our age’s egregore.

And though we survivors now face the climb towards sixty, none of that spirit has truly deserted us.

Rik: You will be missed, and mourned. Hugely.

But you will be remembered.

And the fire you helped to ignite in a small group of mid-twenties has now spread out to encompass much of the world.

Hail – and farewell!

 

Please read Jenni’s excellent tribute too:

http://jenniferann1970.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/weekend-challenge-rik-mayall-tribute/

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Morgan le Fay: Daily Prompt

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I love you, hate you, little brother now King. Your birth caused me such anguish, I can feel it still.

That dark winter’s night, the whole world a howling ball of storming snow, the wind so crazy-wild that it whipped great waves up over the cliffs and over the battlements of Tintagel Castle, you chose to tear my mother to pieces as you forced your bullish body into the world.

I hear her screams still, see the great lakes of blood which, to my childish mind, seemed to seep and spread out under doors.

Our beautiful mother, Igraine, lay sick and damaged for long weeks and months – not that you knew, or cared, hustled away, as you were, by Merlin’s sleight of hand, his sinister sourcery.

For what?

Was the premature crippling of a lovely woman, the loneliness of her life in that remote castle, worth it?

Was my status as drudging and unwanted daughter, a pest in Gorlois’ eyes, grist to your greedy mill, Brother?

Did you, in your safe forest enclave, ever think of the torn lives you left behind? The devastation caused just so that you could grow to manhood, wrench that sword from the stone, betray us all in the name of a God who disparages and slaughters the goddess, the feminine principle, the natural laws of magic?

Were you so important in the vast checker-board of life?

Ah! I had my revenge, did I not? Remember?

You, freshly-bloodied from your first battle, a knight brought up in the hard and bluff masculine world of Sir Ector, and your fosterling- brother, Cei; you, a young man deprived of all womanhood other than the matronly and nurturing foster-mother.

Trusting, you were, and naive – or stupid. Not sure which.

No match for me, that’s for certain.

How could you be? I was older, experienced, skilled in the dark arts of vengeful seduction.

You believed in light and love.

How very sad. How very satisfying!

I knew full well that I was fruitful that night – planned it with care the moment I saw your imminent arrival in the scrying bowl.

A wild night, was it not? Remember? You with youth’s ability to rise to the occasion twice, or thrice; me with all the erotic skills at my finger-tips. How we loved and laughed and loved again, as the rain drummed against the taut skin of our tent! How we delighted in the swollen belly of the Full Moon as we sipped sweet wine from a shared goblet! How I loved your fairness set against my dark hair and olive skin! Yin and yang, we were.

And, best of all, as night’s mad horses galloped off, letting the rosy-gold softness of a new day steal in, was your face when I let it be known – dear hated blood-kin – who I was, and the tainted nature of the act between us.

Your howl of grief remains with me to this day.

Our child?

Oh, yes, Arthur, there was, indeed, a child – and he has been, shall we say, brought up in a very special way. Morgause saw to that.

Hate her as I do, you cannot fault her malignity, the poisonous seeds she sprinkled upon Mordred’s every moment.

Ha! You’ll meet him soon, brother dear, King Arthur.

Will you be proud of this creature you have brought, all unwary, into being?

I doubt it.

He is, after all, your Nemesis.

You shall see me once more only, flesh of my flesh – for the hatred I bear you is balanced only by the love.

And it is for me to stand guard over your catafalque – to sweep oars into a marsh-lined stretch of water as the dread barque of Death travels to the Inner Realms of Logres.

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Wolves, dolls and erections!

Nightmares etch a pattern in the panes of the mind, don’t they?

Lovely dreams – particularly those of an erotic nature – slip and slide like fingers fumbling through a freight of oil: some fragments you grab; others are lost forever.

Three dreams have marked me more than all the others. Two happened when I was under eighteen; the other has recurred, in various forms, for much of my adult life.

Joy first; terror later!

1) Erection!

In the sexy dream, I am always naked and swimming, or floating, or just lolling, in a large body of water. Sometimes it is the sea, but more often it is a lake with very clear water and many big stones dotted about on the bottom. I feel free, languorous, desirable and aroused. The sun beats down and my body drinks in its rays greedily.

Sometimes the man sitting on one of the rocks is known to me; sometimes he is actually my boyfriend and we have arrived at this lake together. Other times he is a stranger.

We look at one another from time to time, smile little secretive half smiles, catch one another’s eyes meaningfully. There is a wordless rope of lust connecting us – and we both know how this lake excursion will end – but we are delaying the moment, getting increasingly turned on the longer the little game of covert seduction goes on.

Eventually, I drift, almost casually, over and see, through the water’s bright clarity, his waving limbs, his body hair, his erection – and I lower myself down upon him, my back against his chest, his hands cupping my breasts.

It always ends just before the real fun starts – somewhat frustratingly!  Maybe one day, I’ll see it through to the end!

2) Wolves

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The wolves nightmare was one I had time after time when I was very little – under five, I think. We (my parents, my sister and I) were living in a broken-down wooden cabin on a vast snowy plain. The slats of the hut were rotten, especially at the bottom, and great gaps yawned, through which we could see the endless expanses of freezing white nothingness.

The whole world was cold, desolate and terrifying.

My father, armed with a rifle, raced from gap to gap, shooting wildly at the ravening wolves which slithered part-way into the room. Snarling and bright red of tongue, with horrific teeth, they kept coming; there seemed to be a never-ending stream of them – and, as fast as my father shot one, another five would appear.

I felt completely unsafe – and can still remember the profound terror and helplessness fifty odd years later.

3) Doll

Thanks to http://www.scaryforkids.com for this image:

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The doll was, perhaps, the worst nightmare I ever experienced. Eighteen, I must have been, for I had just done my A’ Levels. In the dark dreamscape, my sister and I were drawn to a decrepit and sinister house down one of the roads very near St Andrew’s Primary School in Headington.

We knew there was something nasty waiting for us – but something forced us to go in and look around.

The house was dusty, dirty; broken furniture was piled in each room – and a blackness emanated from the main bedroom.

I went in first; after all, I was the older child, and meant to protect the younger ones.

The doll – one of those creepy Victorian China ones with real-looking hair and glassy fixed smiles – was crammed into the back of a cupboard. She seemed to be alive yet dead, and was rocking very slowly back and forth as if trying to rise from the ungainly heap she had ended up in.

Her head came up in a sharp arc – and she smiled. I have never seen anything so ghastly in a dream as that fixed rictus. She had pointy little teeth and blood trickling from her porcelain mouth.

Then she opened her ruined mouth wide and screeched. On and on and on, this noise went, like one of those car alarms that goes off mysteriously at midnight somewhere nearby.

Her right hand was clenching and unclenching – and she filled me with such dread and fear that I turned and ran, shaking and hyperventilating, from the room, the house, the street, dragging my sister with me.

 

I am not a dream symbolism specialist – and am, therefore, turning these over to my readers. Anyone out there got any ideas about these three dreams of mine? They all clearly held significance and power because they have remained intact where other dreams have slipped away out of conscious sight.

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World Runners and Jogging!

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A photo of me, taken in 1984/5, during my World Runners days!

I used to jog every day when I was in my mid twenties. Shorts and World Runners shirt on, running shoes securely tied, I’d set off along the Toll Road – in Weston-super-Mare where I was living at the time – down to Kewstoke and back again.

For a while, I was very much involved in the est Training seminars – and in World Runners, which was an affiliated organisation whose aim was to end World Hunger by 2000.

Various friends and I used to meet on Clifton Downs every Sunday morning – and, prior to the run itself, would be taken through our paces by a terrifying guy named Helge. He was probably about the age I am now, wiry, super-fit and extremely strict! Just what I needed, to be honest, since physical exercise and I have always had a somewhat uneasy relationship – and, given half a chance, I will always opt for the ‘Loll around on posterior all day’ rather than the more sensible ‘Up and at ‘em!’ one…

I was very worried at first because, as a life-long asthma sufferer, I was not sure I’d be able to run without needing several inhalers and a canister or two of oxygen – but, to my surprise and delight, the exercise actually improved my lung capacity and breathing, and I found I needed my inhalers LESS.

I was never Gold Medal material, or particularly fast, but I DID persevere – and even, at around that time, ran in both the Bath Half Marathon and one in Hyde Park.

I grew to love those jogs down the beautiful Toll Road. Wooded on the right, and with Sand Bay and the sea to my left, it was always a soothing and scenic run. Once I had got into my rhythm, I could switch off my brain and just go with the slap of trainers on asphalt, the sweat running down my body, the smooth movement of legs.

It all came to an end, though I cannot now remember why – and my exercise regime ever since has been more miss than hit. I did go swimming most days for a while and dabbled briefly with sessions in the local gym – but neither really appealed because I am a girl of nature and like it best when I am out in the countryside. I do not like being confined within a building for exercise; it seems, in every sense, unnatural!

A couple of weeks ago, my son joined the local Fun Run – and, upon his return some two hours later, said to me, ‘Mum, you should do the Fun Run next year!’

My initial thought was, ‘No way!’

All the negatives piled up in my mind: I am several stone overweight; I haven’t run in thirty years; I would probably keel over with a heart attack/snap both ankles/pull muscles I wasn’t even aware existed…

Yesterday evening, at band rehearsal, two of my friends started talking about their jogging around the locality experiences – and  my ears perked up! Although both of these guys are much fitter than I, and in better physical shape, they are more or less my age.

Later, at home, I mulled it all over in my mind – and thought, ‘I need to set myself some clear goals for the next year: why not aim for the Fun Run next May?’

The advantages, to me, outweigh the disadvantages: It would help me to lose weight; I would become a lot fitter (not difficult!); it would help my anxiety; it would get me away from the laptop – and it would give me something really positive to focus on.

This morning, at tennish, I got into leggings, a shirt, trainers – and set off up the road towards a place we call The Yellow Brick Road. I walked to this road because I didn’t want to peak too early, and I wanted to give my body a little warm up before I set hoof to path in a more energetic sense!

I did walk fast, though – and felt a real blend of excitement and anxiety as I powered past bright June flowers and fields.

Once on the largely vehicle-free path, once up the first mild slope, I settled into a very gentle jog. Okay, fit pensioners would have overtaken me with ease; even mothers pushing babes in strollers would have zoomed past – but I was out, I was in the air and I was running, albeit very slowly, for the first time in three decades.

And it felt GOOD!

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You just CANNOT get the staff, Pharaoh! Rameses speaks!

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When I were nowt but a lass, I wanted to be – wait for it, wait for it! – an Egyptian Mummy! There’s always one, isn’t there? When all the other kids were dreaming of super-stardom courtesy of sporting prowess, looks or talent, Yours Truly was thinking Natron, embalming and Pyramid of choice!

In this humorous piece, I get my wish…

Don’t talk to me about Canopic Jars!

I may not be stuffed with glands and all those touchy-feely bits any longer, but a Pharaoh has his sensitive side – and, these Dynasties, even the word, ‘can’ brings me out in hives!

‘Rameses, old boy,’ I said to myself only the other Inundation, ‘you weren’t asking for MUCH: just a little bit of Post Mortem consideration, that’s all…’

But, embalmers these days don’t know their arse from their elbow: use of singular deliberate; it does sometimes seem as if they meld or blend into the one, and certainly give every appearance of having just the one body part between them!

They clearly know sod-all, if I may dip into the vernacular briefly, about Regal Anatomy.

The seventy days of Natron stuffing was bad enough, let me tell you.

Dead, yes. Lacking empathy with my former self, no!

The withering and blenching and general mayhem upon what used to be, though I say it myself, a damn fine figure of a man, made my buttocks clench – though that might have been the effect of the salt upon demised muscles.

But, it was the bit before that still makes me shudder cyclonically in my sarcophagus: the moments with the hook…

Not to mention the extrusion, via sharp implement, of me lights.

Hideous to behold. Too animal for words!

I, Rameses 11 – Pharaoh of the Upper Nile, Ra’s representative in the Great Delta – and all-round Good Egg – should not have had inwards identical to those of a common or garden jackal.

I shall be having a stern word with Him Up Above about all of this. I feel cheated!

Back to the knife, the hook, the grinning Embalming Apprentice – a lout with hands like camels’ hoofs and a decidedly sadistic approach to his ‘art’! – who made such a meal of the whole thing. If you’ll excuse the somewhat unfortunate terminology.

The hook up the delicately sculpted septum and into the brain was, really, quite uncalled for – and that ghastly slurping, scraping noise nearly had me falling into a spectral swoon.

I won’t tell you what the misbegotten son of a diseased whore said about my liver because some things are too painful to repeat. Suffice it to say that, if he joins me in the Afterlife, I shall exact my revenge by repeated mention of his erectile dysfunction.

I suppose you are all thinking, ‘At least they left the heart!’

Hmmm.

Never had much use for it in life; buggered if I know what to do with the accursed thing now! Can’t play with it. Doesn’t beat anymore, otherwise It’d make a charmingly eccentric clock*; can’t eat it – that’d be too too offal…

Where was I?

Takes it out of you, being embalmed!

I blame education myself. Literacy is not what it was in my day – and, let us be very frank here, the Youth of Today are not being taught the three Rs.

The Creature entrusted with my Inner Man quite obviously had his thumb in his bum and his mind (ha!) in neutral when he was pairing body part with jar.

Perhaps it was the extended pause he took whilst dealing with a truly festerous-looking boil – really, the standard of hygiene is appalling; I could have caught something very nasty! – that diverted what passed for his mind onto another path.

Who knows?

But…

I, yes I, Rameses, am the only Pharaoh who has had the embarrassment, the sheer bloody indignity, of going through Eternity knowing that my brain is in the Canopic Jar meant for the Lowly Old Liver.

By Horus, you just cannot get the staff…

*This may seem a tad anachronistic to you – but a corpse must move with the times, eh what?!

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The wedding, Garsington, the corpse…

I have now edited the whole of section one (narrated by Leonard Woolf) – and am going to share this one final bit with you before knuckling down to the Virginia and Vanessa parts of the novel.

It took three weeks for Virginia Woolf’s body to be found in the River Ouse. 

In this section, which includes the discovery of the corpse, Leonard’s mind travels back in time to Garsington (Ottoline and Philip Morrell’s home near Oxford) and to his marriage to VW. I know only the barest facts; much of this, therefore, comes from my imagination.

Past and present weave in and out like a Maypole ribbon-plaiting dance.

I intend to have the novel ready some time in the early Autumn for those of you who would like the read the whole thing. Its draft title is ‘Rushing at the gates of sixty’ – because VW’s mind was like a runaway race horse, and she died when she was fifty-nine.

 

‘Find her…’

The two words echo in my brain dully. Once it was all I wanted; now it is the centre of my dread.

The year I asked her to marry me – 1912 it was – I knew; knew I was involved in something bigger and more powerful than me, knew also how it could end.

I had returned from years in Ceylon. It was a soft spring day and I had been invited to Garsington for the weekend by Ottoline and Philip Morrell. I was very nervous and shy. I had been away from England for many years and felt sure I would disappear without a trace back here amongst the familiar unfamiliarity of my old life.

Ottoline ushered me into the garden as soon as I arrived, chattering the whole time about the marvellous old acquaintances simply dying to meet me again.Then she left me. I stood by the stone sundial; I was hidden from view by an arch of branches and twigs. I peered round, unable to move forward. And there she was, head on one side, smiling archly at Lytton beneath a vast straw hat.

My whole being stopped still. There were several people, sitting on the old benches; she was the centre of it and the only woman. She was thin, lithe, gesturing with her whole body as she talked, fluidly, quickly, a breathless patter of brilliance breaking upon the listeners; she swayed back and forth in time with her words, dipping in and out of the shadow cast by the sun. She wore a soft and flowing shawl draped over her shoulders and her long, thin fingers were carelessly waving a cigarette holder about – white ivory it was, I remember it well.

She looked up suddenly, prompted by I know not what internal force, and she saw me. Her eyes widened in shocked surprise just briefly and then she rose, as if impelled by some strong inner current, and moved towards me. She was tall, five foot ten or so, and very graceful in an unthinking, unaware way; the sight of her silver-sunned throat rising statuesquely from thin shoulders entranced me.

She stood there, two feet before me, and simply stared into my face with her mocking ironic eyes; a long strand of the looped-up hair had escaped and it hung over her face. At that moment I kaleidoscoped and settled again, aware of total change, of a pressure like tears behind my eyes and nose – aware that this dwarfed all my other loves.

The moment ended. She laughed and turned to the group once more. I followed and sat in a hard chair opposite her, very quiet, at a loss. Ottoline drifted out in a fantastic emerald creation, bringing tea and biscuits. Julian chattered by her side, asking question about the ornate silver samovar making the tea: Ottoline ignored her.

The little girl  sat down at Virginia’s feet; children usually did, as if by instinct. They loved her, loved the world she shared with them. Virginia created a strange, cold, Russian world for Julian – a landscape of terror and icicles and tsars fighting for this mystical samovar which held the power of the universe in its slender spout.

Sharp voices, labourers wending homewards, cut through the still air; squares of sun shifted off Ottoline’s red hair and beaked visage. Lytton’s high-pitched snigger broke again and again into the low murmurs of talk.

I fell asleep.

 

Barking. Near me. On my left is one world, very clear – Oxford, early spring; on the right, another – indistinct, unwelcome, compounded of a battery of dogs and a darker shadow somewhere to my left. The samovar fades. Crisp reality is in my hands. Ottoline? She’s been dead for three years, Lytton even longer. My world is peopled by ghosts. Garsington is no more; it has been abandoned. Oxford is no longer special; it is simply the other university – the rival. And all those pretty nearby villages whose names delighted me then – Wheatley, Horspath, Headington – are dreams whose sharpness fades daily.

I am cold and my feet drag behind me as if weighted by clods of sticky clay. Leanda is uneasy by my side; of all my dogs, she knows me best, is most perfectly attuned to my needs and moods. It seems an intrusion. I consider having her put down; she reminds me of too much.

They are silent on the way home. I imagine them slinking around me in typical border-collie fashion. I hit out at Bonnie when she comes too close with her wet tongue. She yelps in fear and hides under the seat. I am aware of her shivering form behind my back as I drive. I feel no pity, just anger for these dependent creatures. Only Sweep makes no demands.

I count the days as I drive. It confuses me. Sometimes two days merge into one so that I am not sure of the actual total; and, even as I think, a persistent image of wildness and cold beauty strikes at my senses. I crash my foot down on the accelerator to block it out and the car rattles along the uneven track at a furious pace – my fury, the car’s pace: unfair division of misery.

 

Beethoven. She loves Beethoven. I promised to take her to the special concert in town in July of this year. It is to be a treat…was to have been a treat…I no longer know what the truth is or where lies my reality. I have tickets, purchased in advance against disappointment, rectangles of cream cardboard giving sparse details of when and where; I have a factual ordering of related letters in my diary to that effect; in her journal, read to me how many days months years ago, she expressed anticipatory pleasure at the idea of that carefully organised date. The event will be unchanged in the sequence of time and yet it could be minus two, the two I hold precariously in my leather wallet.

Two. The two I hold against all reason and sense; those two small pieces of cardboard defy her absence. I could retain the duality, take another; all through these years, at the drastic centres of her madness and withdrawal from me, I could have taken another. I did not. She was complete to me, however she appeared to others.

Outside the tall wooden gate, I rest my arms on the silenced steering wheel of my car. I know without doubt that it is eighteen days now. The moment I let go my attempts to tabulate logically, the answer detached itself. It is a long time, and no time at all. A dread weight becomes clear in my solar plexus. It has been there all the time, I realise, while I floated unthinkingly through an increasingly unconscious routine.

I see my life with Virginia as a series of moments of knowing, anticipating, smoothing out the path of her continued existence. She fell headlong this time and I was not there to remove the stone projections for her. A blast of horror and pain freezes my hands white to the car…

…our life together consisted of parallel paths and waved greetings along the way. She did not need to elude me thus; I’d have accepted a meeting place at a greater distance.

 

I trudge those eighteen days into the house, , the dogs trailing nervously behind me There is a fire lit in our Sitting Room; a tray containing tea and milk awaits my arrival. I draw up one of the deepest armchairs and sink into its body. I reach into my jacket pocket and take out the pipe, my tin of tobacco and matches.

This time and this place was one of our recognised meeting places. In the space between tea and supper, she would come from outside, from whatever words she was writing, and would join me to talk or to be silent. She was curiously reticent about her writing, would furnish me with only the most basic outlines. Her intense self-distrust permeated most days of our shared life; only on the  completion of a book would she unbind the fear sufficiently to tell me, show me; and, however much her power was established in the world, she still waited each time like a frightened child for my verdict. She had no consistent sense of her own brilliance and mastery of words; they alternately terrified and delighted her.

If I close my eyes, which I do a great deal now, she floats immediately into the room on one of many such evenings: she was restless, wouldn’t sit down or relax. Instead she strode up and down, up and down smoking furiously, and talking with tense and incredible speed. She became high-flown and eventually non-sensical, spinning out words which had no connection one with the other that I could see; it was beautiful and very sad.

I could not touch her since she often erupted into violence if reminded of the reality of another. I knew there was nothing I could do but wait. This particular time wound up to its climax and then she pressed both hands tightly to the sides of her head and sank onto the floor, whimpering like a child. I was then able to ring the doctor.

She was ill all that summer. Most times I could predict the onset of these spells; most times I was there to offset the worst of the violence.

 

The telephone rings. I cannot move. The chair and I have become one being, soldered with living fire together. Spirals of smoke dance above me in the red glow of the lamp; I am quieted. I hear Louie’s shoes tapping along the hall and the ringing ceases. I know what she is going  to say before her hand is even on the door latch.

She bursts in:

‘They’ve found her, Mr Woolf; they’ve just found her this evening,’ and then she begins to cry chokingly while I lie back and stare at her out of lids too tired for weeping.

I take over the telephone conversation from Louie. It is a male voice – calm, placid and comforting.

No need for you to come tonight, Sir,’ I hear him say, ‘ Tomorrow will do if you are tired.’

‘What do you mean, man?’ I rasp out, my sense of anguish freed. ‘How do you think I can sleep through another night while…’

I cannot say it, the unspeakable, though the lack clearly dams up the possibilities of this conversation. He swallows at the other end; he’s probably seen her.

‘ As you wish,’ he sighs. ‘I’ll make arrangements for my deputy to meet you at the morgue.’

Yes! ‘

It is almost a shout. Does he think me an imbecile?

I put down the receiver with exaggerated care and shuffle into my thick overcoat, folding the white muffler around my neck for extra warmth. Each of the dogs has a special whistle; I activate only Sweep. The others are anxious; they feel excluded. Sweep walks obediently inches from my left ankle, looking up at me for any further signs of communication.

 

It is dark outside, cold and clammy in the car. I put Sweep on the seat next to me. He looks out of the windscreen, sees something, pricks up his ears; he thinks it is a walk.

Lie down!’ I say. Then I tell him where we are going. His lack of response is a relief.

Lewes main street is pitch black. There is a war on; all places of civilised living need to be shaded for the night.

The place is dingy, made of old grey stone. I stop the car and have to take several deep breaths to calm myself; even so, it takes me an age of shaking frustration to open the car door and get out. Waves of fear are rippling through my whole body. My mouth is dry; I wonder how I will manage to form the necessary words of greeting and affirmation — I know the words for denial will not be needed.

A man stands in the doorway; I almost bang into him. He is young, impersonal, polite He takes my arm, which I resent. I see myself in his eyes: old, bowed, possibly half crazed. I want to dispossess him of these nakedly transmitted notions but nothing escapes the grill in my throat.

The corridor is dimly lighted and seems to wind on for miles; I wonder fleetingly if this is an elaborate hoax. He is talking to me as we walk; the meaning behind his words is obviously vital. I smile and nod and nothing seems to gain entry. He is preparing me for some sacrifice, warning me how it will be, how it is. His whole being is switched off at the door.

She will rise from her wicker chair in the writing room and will move to the window; she will lie on her bed and smile; she…my hand has turned the knob, brass and cold; all doors down through the years become this one door.

I slip into the room. It is cold, clean, smelling faintly unpleasant though not, as I had expected, of raw death. Grave, courteous, they move towards me; I allow myself to be taken to the table on which lies a sheet-covered hump. They move back the sheet carefully, with respect; I am grateful for this small attention.

No warning can suffice. This is my wife; this is the primrose coloured creature I married centuries ago – and it is not as well. I fix and fix my eyes in vain on this creature, Virginia, translated by three weeks of water into something almost devoid of human identity. Her wedding ring remains on a pulpy, bulbous finger; there is no more to be seen. I turn away with a mumbled, ‘Yes’.

I make  arrangements in my most frosty, factual voice. They are visibly awed by my control; they would know better what to do if I wept and screamed. I do neither; it is not in my nature to make a scene. I refuse any assistance with a curt head movement. They have done what they set out to do; I have seen and made suitable gestures, gestures befitting a dignified elderly member of society; Virginia? – I am not so sure about her role in all this. I can only believe that she set out to reduce herself to this mess, perhaps when she stopped even hearing us tell her she was beautiful and loved.

I drive home, knowing  I will never know.

Note:  Ottoline and Philip had twins: Hugh (who died in infancy) and a daughter, Julian.

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Virginia Woolf, aged fifty-seven, in 1939.

 

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Ferrets and Sexual Frustration!

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‘Oi, Humphrey, you in the mood? Only I’m dying for a shag!’

Thanks to http://www.rspca.org.uk for this image.

Yes, seriously!

Now then, chaps, we all get frustrated for lack of the old Rumpy Pumpy from time to time. You know how it is: things have gone stale on the home front and you find your once-gorgeous partner about as appealing as a dog turd – but you still have the urges surging through your nooks and crannies; you can still produce fine music from your Tubular Bells…

Or, you’re young, sowing your wild oats – and have hit, for no reason you can discern, a fallow field.

Being human, and having opposable thumbs and all that, we can at least take matters into our own hands.

Animals are denied this!

Licking your balls doesn’t quite cut the mustard in my book!

But, hell, we may pine and pout and, if we are men, go through the ‘…and some fell on stony ground…’ phase/have plums so blue that they resemble the engorged Violet Beauregard in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, but the hiatus in Hunt the Sausage does not, under normal circumstances, lead straight to the casket of your relatives’ choice.

Not so in ferrets. Or, to be scrupulously exact, ferretesses! What DO you call them? Hens? Queens? Bitches?

As I am reliably informed by my loo-side ‘1227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off‘ (a tome with which one should never be without!):

‘A female ferret will die if she doesn’t have sex for a year…’

Did you know that?

I didn’t! I have gone through fifty-six years, four months and eleven days – without ever being aware of the tragic sex-deprived mortality of the common-or-garden Mrs. Ferret.

God love her!

Awwww: makes ‘Romeo and Juliet’ look like light-weight romantic comedy, does it not?

And there was me, all these years and decades, assuming, when I saw the crumpled ferretesque form fermenting by the side of a road, that the poor creature had been hit by a car, mangled by a Combine Harvester or partially consumed by That Damn Great Cat Down The Road.

No. Not a bit of it. The poor dear, pining for penis, had pulled up sticks and gone to the great Burrow in the Sky.

Honestly, it’s enough to make strong men weep!

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The Rime of The Ancient IUD…

…though no poetry was massacred in the creation of THIS piece!

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Six months after hatching Number One Sprog, having resumed a sex life (after my Birth Canal narrowed back down to a mere Birth Rhyne), the question of contraception reared its ugly head.

Pill-popping I had tried. Yes, it appeared to stop the putative bairns from putting in an appearance – but, since it gave me the girth, and sex appeal, of a Blobfish, I put vanity before practicality.

Condoms? No: it was the tearing asunder, and subsequent pregnancy scare, occasioned by one of those little blighters that had caused me to hot-foot it down to the doctor’s in the first place.

I had asked for a woman. I got a six foot four inch tall Antipodean gal whose bawdiness and joir de vivre could be heard in Bristol, and whose approach to sex and bodies was reassuringly down-to-earth, brisk and humorous. I am quite sure that, under different circumstances, she and I could have gone out for a few beers together and then, when in our cups, removed bottle tops with our vaginal muscles!

Having intimated that, with my diminishing egg supply, the Pill was overkill, I brought up the Dutch Cap (don’t remember eating that!). To my considerable relief, she fell about laughing and, between gasps of mirth, opined the following classic of its kind:

‘You don’t wanna be buggering about with one of them. Time-consuming, messy and puts you both off your stroke!’

My Soul Mate!

I knew exactly whereof she spoke, having tried the Cap for a few months. Now, I am sure it works a treat for some – and, no doubt, the balletic and Limbo Dancing sorority amongst us are able to pop the damn things up there in a jiffy.

Me? Nope! Not unless the word ‘jiffy’ included one leg up on toilet seat, swearing like a navvy, Rubber Contrivance From Hell squirming, slithering, falling down the pan, being retrieved, washed, re-lubricated, reinserted, playing a few mixed doubles against the wall, going home to roost in the lampshade before finally landing on my head like some kind of grotesque hat – by which time my amour would either have gone off, gone limp or gone to the next world.

After the border-collie-before-this-one attempted to ‘kill’ one of my Caps (God only know what he imagined it was) after ( in a move I cannot to this day work out ) it landed in his basket, I lost all enthusiasm for this devilish practice.

Back to the doctor. Just imagine a kind of gynaecological Kathy Lette – and you’re bang on the wallaby.

Her suggestion was an IUD – or Intra Uterine Device, to give it its full name.  The Coil.

When she explained the Intra Uterine bit, I have to confess I blanched a bit: didn’t like the sound of that at all, especially when she said, airily, ‘You’ll probably pass out when I touch your uterus…’

Nice. Reassuring.

‘Tact’ clearly wasn’t in her vocabulary because she went on to say, ‘Given your age, this little beaut will last you the rest of your reproductive life…’

CHOICE!

Persuaded, or should that be ‘terrorised’, I hopped up on the table, divesting myself of my lower slope coverings as I went.

‘Spread ‘em, dear,’ she said next. ‘Hahahah: sure you get that from Hubby often enough!’

She then showed me the thing she was going to shove up my vadge.

I nearly threw up with terror.

It wasn’t the thing’s journey through the Love Tunnel that concerned me, however: hell, I’d only recently given birth and the IUD was nothing like the size of a baby’s head. No, it was the thought of all that cervix secret passage and up into the womb vault that, if you’ll excuse the expression, put the willies up me.

‘Brace yourself!’ she bellowed.

I grabbed on to the sides of the gurney and closed my eyes.

WHY THE HELL DO WE DO THAT, EH?

I may not have been able to see what this Amazonian broad was up to, but I sure as fuck could feel it.

Deuced unpleasant!

She kept up a stream of light-hearted banter and coarse remarks the whole time. I didn’t dare laugh lest Exhibit A rejoined us and the whole grisly procedure had to be repeated.

She then cautioned me to keep an eye (I assumed she meant metaphorically, not being a big fan of the mirror up the fundament approach to life) on the thing’s strings, and also to watch that it didn’t fall out.

Fall out? FALL OUT? Given the pain and difficulty of getting the accursed implement up there in the first place, I couldn’t see how anything short of dynamite would ever persuade it to leave.

Humbled, humiliated, hunched over, I hobbled out.

Fast forward a few years: well, the IUD did its job – and is now, as you might say, redundant!

It’s still lurking in my womb – no doubt humming a jaunty little song, and letting its wires hang out in a relaxed manner. After all, it is now retired and can idle its life away.

But, but, but…here is the quandary:

Given that it is about as much use as a glove puppet to an armless leper, should I not be thinking about removing it?

Should I, that is to say, be making another appointment with Dr Breezy and asking, nay imploring, her to part me from my contraceptive parasite?

And what if it has grown attached?

I mean that literally!

It could become like one of those magic tricks, where the magician pulls out a hanky – and then, lo and behold, out comes a whole string of them.

What if she were to pull on my strings – and unleash the entire bag of giblets?

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The Great Toolbox of Life: Double Entendre and me!

I adore Double Entendre – and play with it regularly, taking those tools out of the box and running my hands over their hard surfaces!

See what I mean?

Even the words we use – in English, anyway; I am less than conversant in any other lingo – seem to go straight to the groin without passing ‘Go,’ or collecting the obligatory £200.

I delight in such expressions as, A long hard screw is exactly what I need right now!’ or, ‘You can bang your biggest hammer against my wainscotting whenever you want! ‘ or, ‘Make sure you have a plunger which can reach right round the  U-bend!’ or, ‘I do like a man with a box full of assorted screws!‘ or, ‘I’ve got a crevice/hole over here which needs filling!’

Hilarious!

When you think about it, so much of our language relating to the craft of the Handyman goes back, one way or another, to sex.

On the job,’ ‘I’m putty in your hands,’ ‘banging her against the wall,’ ‘screws/screwing/screwed,’  ‘nuts‘ – and even the shape of the tools themselves! They tend, let us say, toward the phallic – and are usually used to bang Sharp/Hard Thing A into Soft Thing B!

Size usually comes into the equation too – and this never fails to make me laugh, and laugh loud.

‘What size screwdriver do you want?’

‘Is your hammer long/tough/thick enough for the job?’

After all, girls, we don’t want one which snaps in the process, ricochets off God only knows where, bends the nail (ooh er, Missus!) – or penetrates the wall to such a depth that it is never seen again/needs sixteen builders and a crane to remove.

Similarly, the ability to knock one in on the first attempt is much-prized. Fannying about and saying, with increasing desperation, ‘I can’t find the hole/get it in straight!’ is liable to lead to the sack – or, in the case of the Great Plumber of Lust, the front door!

Having to explain, or defend, your Double Entendre is bloody irritating and a real downer.

Comments such as, ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’, ‘That’s just STUPID/childish/crass/rude/crude…’ or, ‘But that’s sexist. It’s not funny at all,’ have me itching to get up close and homicidal with the Number Five Spanner.

See, I firmly believe that women are just as sexually-and-genitally-aware/obsessed as men. Men eye up our bosomly abundance (or lack thereof) and cop a feel of our peachy posteriors if they can. But, ladies, be honest here: do you not wonder what that hunk over there’s Hydraulic Tool looks like, and whether it’s – er – up to the task? Would you not, given half a chance,  have his nuts in your hand before you could say, ‘Suction Excavator!’

The best feeling is the little glow you get when you fire one off (see what I mean? Can’t resist, can I?) and the person you are with immediately responds with something every bit as daft, sex-based and funny.

Why, on a good day, you and your friend can keep it up for hours! (evil and bawdy cackle! )

A male colleague in the English Department and I did it for thirty years, man and boy, and many an askance look and snide retort came our way during those fun-filled, verbally-dexterous years!

Now, here’s the rub (!): such banter is not just fun and laughter-inspiring, it is also – if you think about it – a bit of a turn-on. Not necessarily, I hasten to add, in the active sense. The colleague I alluded to above, for example, was a friend for thirty years – but never once, in all that time, did his screw-gun come anywhere near my small lighting trough!

No. The whole thing is more a reminder that sex is hilarious (often!) and that laughter is sexy!

Anyone who has ever listened to Radio 4’s magnificent ‘I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue‘ – and heard the gusset-splittingly funny Double Entendres uttered by the priceless Samantha will know exactly what I mean! Here’s a clip showing the incomparable Humphrey Lyttleton and mentioning Samantha in dispatches:

Thanks to http://www.slu.edu for this picture found on Google Images:

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The Punch: Speakeasy #161

The clouds shifted, casting an ominous shadow on the ground. Rain bristled, an angry sky-goose ready to peck the skin with harsh drops. Darkness pooled, arterial spray from sunset’s livid murder of the day.

She walked, hands in pockets,  Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ spreading its lilt and hints of fire and broken crockery sword-dancing through the white screen of her mind.

Houses leaned together like gossips twitching out malice behind net curtains.

Publicans wiped down tables, yeasty smells soaking into greyish cloths, a jaunt of drunkenness adding clumsy obsession to the task.

The girl, isolated in the deadly habitat of the human tiger, drifted on, a dandelion clock blowing spoors of safety away with each heedless step.

Did she assume that the singer would protect her? That the pumping thrum of music would make the world celluloid and the video reality?

Did she…think?

She saw him, a taut pipe-cleaner figure, shards of ancient rage scattered in the tomb of his personality.

Swaying, he wove the world into a blackened tapestry.

He loomed, an iceberg intent upon sinking the great liner of her complacence.

His fist caught her jaw with such malevolent force that the left ear bud, ripped viciously out, brought skeins of blood with it.

Scream stilled in panicked throat, she fell backwards, tumbling like a string-cut marionette to the craze of uneven pavement. The luscious jungle of his intent formed around them, an enclave of rough bark, deepest greens and the frantic fight of doomed prey.

Her ear, ringing a carillon of pain, caught only muffled thunks of sound.

Hand splayed, a triumphal arch of sadism, he squeezed her white throat just this side of unconsciousness and death – then stopped, a little hyena of laughter thrilling to the spoil before him.

She bucked, muscles undulating in that most primeval of all dances, as he tore the flimsy layers from her body, as he stroked a knife in a teasing parody of tenderness over her breast, down her stomach and towards her vulva, as the ghastly rasp of a zip and the punch of unwanted flesh through the delicate membrane and into her body brought the lunar moths of whimpering into the dulled lamp of her terror.

Adele’s voice, a screeching of sharp tin through her punctured ear drum, grated on.

Love, she had imagined, in all its fairy tale wonder, as childhood gave way to adolescence; the songs she listened to had given her the adult world of longing and lust  – or so she had imagined, in the moments of dreaming hours and years before the cold thump of reality caught up with her.

Teachers, at her private girls’ boarding school, had preached the maiden gospel of nuptial beds, old Roman rituals, orange flowers caught, by torchlight, in young girls’ hair; they had advised against indiscriminate coupling – and had linked love and sex in a bracelet so tightly forged that she wore it still.

As the forked tail of her devil plunged and plundered, as gathering rain stippled her skin,  Blake’s poetry flashed and sparkled in the skies above:

‘Tyger Tyger, burning bright

In the forests of the night…’

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Beautiful, had that tyger been in her mind’s eye. With all the brightness of her tender dreams and illusions, its vibrant colours and fiery perfection had opened a sacred cavern in her soul.

Roaring in the bitter triumph of orgasm stolen at knife’s behest, the man grabbed great hunks of her flowing orange hair. One weapon stilled, the other flickered silver in neon light as it snick-snacked through soft strands and left a sad nest of curls in the road.

Shorn and shamed, she shuddered and wept.

Crouched above her hunched and rocking form, he spat.

Bitch,’ he whispered. ‘That’s what happens to sluts.’

The knife touched her breast, slipped, through skillful hand, slitting a tiny eye.

Branding her. Damaged goods.

Tiger padded off.

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Love in the snow

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Image created by vfrance.deviantart.com – and found on Google Images.

Snow was falling – lightly, it is true, but still trying to keep its word for Christmas. The ground was thickly spread, palest butter on a vast slab of crinkly toast. The houses, with their jaunty white caps, stood at odd angles, as if subsiding into the Snow Queen’s pallor.

The festive energy had been fizzing for days, random blue sparks of electricity surging in sudden brilliance.

I had bright red gloves, the colour of blood, and a scarf of gold, crimson and blue – the latter the Aberystwyth scarf I wore with such pride.

I was restless, full of the sap’s odd Winter rising. I usually get like this when the Sun enters my birth-sign in late December. These days, I think this has a connection with the return of the Sun after the Solstice, the lengthening of the days and the sense of renewed hope and light; at the time, I just knew I felt sexy at Christmas!

‘Let’s go for a walk!’ my then partner suggested.

His gloves, bigger and rougher, reached out for mine, and we clasped hands, and giggled like naughty children, then ran-skid down the silent road, beneath the pale gold, etched with paler rose, of a December sky.

The trees, bent by burden towards us, seemed to be listening in and clucking, a line of tutting gossips.

His cheeks, the end of his nose, his throat, were all mottled with turkey shades of purplish-pink; his bobble hat was frosted and his breath clouded, like a halo, with each exhalation, each icy word spoken.

We came to the forest, followed the much-loved, bouncy, tree-tonsured path round the thinly-patterned glassy surface of the lake.

In Summer, the thick gorse was full of dragonflies – green, turquoise and brightest red – and the grass squeaked, as if laughing at our clumsy humanity.

In Spring, the pine aroma began to rise, filling the darkly wooded avenues, the Forestry Commission’s Fire Breaks, leaving sticky and aromatic patches upon our clothes.

Now, the frozen water gained depth from the mirror image of white-etched trees.

We took our usual route, stopping briefly to admire our strange reflections in the lake’s cold webbing: Distorted we were, like creatures glimpsed in the funfair Hall of Mirrors.

We walked on, our path two feet above the water, our laughter echoing strangely, arms around one another’s waists.

The wooden bridge lay to one side, slippery and lethal. My man stretched out his hand, clasped mine and helped me to leap across the mini gorge.

Then we plunged down the bank, deeper and deeper, snow flying up in our faces, released pine rich and Christmassy in our noses, glistening logs to our right.

And the deeper we went, the greener the scene until, at the heart of the forest, we found a little enclave, a gift of trees, low and knotted together, a piny cave away from the snow and cold.

We crawled in. It was just big enough for the two of us, like a little nest for two large squawking birds!

The gloves came off, and the hats, and we reached for one another with speedily warming hands…

I shall allow the camera of memory to withdraw from the scene at this point – and leave those two young things wrapped in one another’s arms. Suffice it to say that the combination of intense cold and entwined bodies was powerfully erotic.

But later, and gloves back on, I danced and twirled by the side of the lake, and laughed in delight at such crazy wildness!

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Electrical Storm

I wrote this nine months ago, the day before I first came onto WordPress as a blogger. The bruises were a result of over-enthusiastic dancing in badly-fitting undergarments!

Many thanks to M19.com for the image below:

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Shocked into intense and fizzling whiteness, the room reverberated around my bed. The terrified barking of the dog, alone in storm’s checker-board kitchen land, twitched me from sleep to bolt upright in seconds. Black, white, black, white, went the elements outside the waving window. Lights flickered and failed; clocks all over the house bled briefly in scarlet pulsing light haemorrhage, and then died. Car alarms, a ruin of raging ravens cawing the apparent end of the world, shrieked and gave gutteral tongue amidst the flapping silver foil of the lightning and the Apocalyptic bodhran of the thunder.

Nothing was. And everything wasn’t. The Horsemen were, it seemed, directly overhead, their steeds’ gigantic hoofs pawing at roof slates, gouging great chunks from road surfaces, dismantling trees with a toss of forest-sized manes.

And yet, the Moon earlier, born, a jagged nibbled peach, from a pelvis of dark cloud, had given no hint of this midnight and malevolent maelstrom. Though bruised and birth-deformed, the Lunar Being, gold as both hope and false promise, had ascended regally into the higher levels, clouds bowing and fawning, retreating in mannerly ranks like courtiers from Ancient China.

The dog, trembling and panting in terror, raced up the stairs and huddled, distressed beyond measure, at the end of the bed.

The WeirdMoon of Wildness, now hidden but hurling her elemental heart-and-groin-beat out into the cosy ordered world we think we know, screamed and wailed – borrowing, briefly, the brutish guise of the Morrigan, riding the DoomMares, the Psychopomps of the subconscious, over the Styx and into the deep caves and tunnels of Hades.

Agitated, stroking the dog’s soft fur for the reassurance of both, I floated in a lurching boat of Death’s making along the red streams and ghostly silver rivers of the Underworld; passing icy waterfalls and vast black carrion crows; hearing the sickening rhythmic clicking of skeletal slaves scythe-cutting the blackened cords of souls gone horribly wrong.

Foetid smoky winds and insistent rain called me back. The sky’s ears, drained by violence, lay flat and fearful against the skull of the Universe.

The bruises on my breasts, large and lurid as mouldy blood-oranges, ached from the tight swaddling of abject fear.

The world crouched.

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Birthday surprise for my beau…

http://viewsplash.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/birthday-prompt/

(This is fiction/fantasy – and bears little resemblance to my real life! It came about when the word ‘negligee’ came into conversation – and I had to admit that I had no idea what one looked like. But I had a vague feeling that they were in the lingerie rather than the common-or-garden clothing ‘box’. Intrigued, I went on line. OMG, what an eye-opener! I tell you, my ghast was utterly flabbered – and I was particularly taken with the example below. Not, you understand, that I’d have a cat in Hell’s chance of getting into one – not without a Trebuchet anyway! – but, emboldened by the fantasy, and inspired by a prompt provided by another blogger just at the right moment, I set to! This is me as I’d love to be – and the beau doesn’t exist, in this sense, at all!)

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Hmmm, well, my little ol’ birthday surprise for my handsome beau would be – ME!

Let me take you into my boudoir:

I’d tell him to present himself, at the appointed hour – and there I’d be, lying seductively across the satin-sheeted bed, wearing the sexyemerald-green piece shown above and a come-hitherish smile.

I’d tease him and taunt him – just enough to have him panting putty in my skilful hands – and then, with a new position for each year of his age, I would bring that Kama Sutra to life just for him!

I’d be Tantric and utterly wanton all mixed up in one green-clad, red-headed body. I’d take him through the mirrors of noisy, acrobatic, balletic, sacred and totally down-to-earth love-making until, hours  – Or is it minutes? And who cares anyway? – later, we’d reach the peak of ecstasy never before experienced. Loudly, and with such fiery passion and screaming life that the very walls would rattle to our animal cries, we would subside in juddering tandem!

I’d toast his advancing years in finest Champagne and feed him oysters and asparagus and strawberries and crystalised ginger and all manner of other finger-foods of an aphrodisiac nature and gorgeous taste.

After all, he’d need to be ready for the second course later on in the evening…

 

Image courtesy of twenga.com, with many thanks…

 

 

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Llwyd Llwynog – What does the fox say?

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Cader Idris

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Cunning, is it, Cariad? Trickster, yes? Oh, that old grey fox curled up so silky-smooth, moulded from the Earth’s energies, troubling image, isn’t it? He could be Hemp, the big working collie on your Taid’s farm – until you study that triangle of a mask, that is, and peer into shifting amber eyes.

John James Audubon – the painter, Gwawr, very important personage! – captured the dual spirit of the Llwyd Llwynog: oh yes, indeed, he did. For he’s ready, see, always alert. For prey, to trip up the big old egos of the puffed-up and pompous – and to guide.

Did you know that, my lovely? Many don’t. Stories, right back to the earliest times, tell of the Psychopomp*. Sacred role, bach. Anubis is one. Jackal-headed. Not that big a leap when imagination is wide as the world. Dogs too – and foxes, both red and grey.

They lead, bach, they take the souls of the dead to the Underworld.

I saw him, just the once, girl, the leader of the Llwyd Llwynog

Padding through purple, gorse-gate to Cader’s Peak, dun smoky line of sea and horizon crimped in early light far below, the fox, look-out in the liminal lands, pointed, the way dogs do.

What was there to see? Why, nothing! Other than the ruched russet folds of Cader Idris, and the great gulp in the earth filled, now, with froths of choppy lake water.

And I, scrambling up the side, basket of food banging against bruised side, flattened, with an instinct older than time itself, against the rawness of rock, letting its shadow hide me.

He was big, love, big as a German Shepherd, and black, none of the tawny-grey for this Majesty. He wasn’t a half-way point between the red of blood and the grey of death; oh, no; this one was sent straight out of the mountains for one purpose only: to liberate, and lead, the lost one – and, if skeins of silvery cord still snag the soul, to sever with a sharp snap.

I’d felt – I think we all had – the dull thunk of bells, felted for deference’s sake, tolling down the steep slopes of the valley. The early hours, it was, when the Morrigan rides most lustyful and luring through our dreams, and the life force hovers between this world and the next; one. maybe, or two, when Prydderch Davies, tended these long, flesh-stealing, pain-flaying months, so lovingly by his wife, shuddered out his last breath – and, in crimson torrent of blood from decayed lungs, lay, red-cloaked and still, in the bells’ hallow.

Those of us with the Sight had seen. Fourteen, I was, a maid still – and innocent in the ways of the world – but Prydderch’s passing was painted in colours almost too bright for my eyes.

But, Gwawr, we cannot choose, Cariad: we Wise Women, witness to the worst and the best, can only watch and weep as agonised bodies are eased.

Remember, though, I was young, and the sap was rising in my body: despite the grim sights of the night, my restless limbs ached for release.

Prydderch. Before me.

Was he still caped in his own lost life-fluid, this toiling figure winding his way up the hill?

No. No, he wasn’t. And for that I am, selfishly, thankful – both for him and for me. Bad enough seeing it the once.

He was – ‘insubstantial’, is the English word I come up with, out of the cosy cawl of Cymraeg. Greyish-silver in colour, he let the colours of the hillside show through his bright bones: tiny snatches of orange and brown and softest purple, and the woolly white of Dai Evans’ sheep, released from wintery pens, grass-cropping and calling, calling to their spindly lambs.

And his face? Oh, yes, he passed close by my hidey-hole – and I saw, in that moment, the other side of Death – for the man who wended his way past jagged rocks and out into the growing glory of May sun, was youth personified, as brilliant with broken life-into-death as ever he had been when ready for a maiden at the Beltane Fires.

There was a song in his steps.

Stretching behind him, gelatinously grey and gloomy, though, was his life-line.

Leaping of Llwyd Llwynog, light as true-love, shivered the air.

Teeth curled and curved into cord’s crevices. Crunch!

It fluttered for a moment, magnificent in its struggle, then wilted and lay still.

Grey Fox led the way.

 

* a being who leads souls to the afterlife

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Blacksmith: Daily Prompt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it takes time, and courage.

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

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April Moon 2014, Day 11: Reflections

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

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Teen Idol: Daily Prompt

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

Ooh, now you’re asking!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irresistible to a coarse wench like me!

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

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

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

 

 

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Sacred humour: April Moon 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ghosts

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

Ghosts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I call, ‘Mummy!’ but no one comes.

I have been abandoned. Forgotten.

 

 

 

 

Winding down this blog

Difficult decisions have to made in this life sometimes, don’t they?

I am well aware that I have been dithering on this one for three weeks or more now: Posting the same pieces on both, unable to make up what passes for my own mind, and so on…

There is much to be said for both WordPress and Blogger – and, in their very different ways, both have been great experiences and have taught me a huge amount.

ALIEN AURA: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND looks fabulous, and has some posts which I am very proud of.

But, it is not going anywhere. It has become stuck in a rut, for reasons which I would rather not go in to.

The support from friendly faces on here has been terrific; the comments have been lovely. Thank you very much.

But I am going to make Blogger my main site, and gradually move content from here to there.

I have set it up so that I am following some of you from the new site, and will, no doubt, be adding a couple more.

I can be found at:

ALIEN AURA: STORIES FROM THE MOTHER-SHIP! (http://alienorabrowning.blogspot.co.uk/

According to my stats, 1003 people follow me on here – but I am well aware that not all of them are real!

If one or two of you want to come on over to the new site, I’ll be happy to see you. But I DON’T expect it – and will not be offended if 1000 choose not to!

Straightening Priorities!

Oscar-Wilde

It doesn’t matter whether fellow writers LIKE me or not.

Their approval or disapproval of my point of view is, in the final analysis, irrelevant.

Their views on my character are opinions only. They may be accurate; they may not be – but they are not germane to the issue.

The important thing, on here, is the quality of my writing.

In common with most of humanity, my personality can be summed up courtesy of this old nursery rhyme:

There was a little girl

Who had a little curl

Right in the middle of her forehead;

When she was good, she was very very good -

And when she was bad, she was horrid!

But – and here’s the rub! – people can be on the verge of Sainthood and completely unable to string a sentence together! Conversely, there are those who are repellant characters and yet write (or paint, or compose) like a dream.

Talent and excellence of character do NOT go hand-in-hand, no matter how much we feel they should.

Many of the writers whose works I read, and love, were, by all accounts, absolute shits in real life. Interesting philosophical question there: Do we ONLY read/listen to/watch the output of people we personally approve of/like? Or do we judge the art separately from the artist? My own inclination tends towards the latter.

I am not always a nice person (in fact, I can be a hag of the first order) – but I am a good writer.

And, if that seems big-headed, so be it!

I’m not looking for a halo!

Speakeasy: Pieces I am proud of…

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

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

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

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

Only it never did, did it?

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

I feel as if I have lost my way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Criticism, Part Two…

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As I stated in my first post on this subject, I believe it is possible to turn that which we are criticised for around – and to dig gold out of the most unpromising raw materials.

I think we do tend, almost by default, toward the negative in this world. It is far easier to blame than to praise, to attack than to live and let live, to believe that every other human being SHOULD conform to OUR standards.

It is damagingly easy to see the splinter in another’s eye whilst the blood from the plank in our own flows unstoppably.

And, for some odd reason, brutal honesty is admired far more than the gentler and kinder variety.

But then we are a brutal, war-mongering race, aren’t we? Diplomatic solutions are often overturned very speedily as battle-lust fills our minds and hearts.

‘That country needs to learn its lesson!’ we say sanctimoniously.

What a self-righteous bunch of posturing apes we can be!

Yes, lessons in life, and the successful learning of them, are essential. Yes, pain and suffering come into that equation at some point.

But when, I ask you, did killing, maiming and threatening ever work as a permanent solution for the ills of our world? Has the vast array of military ‘criticism’ levelled in just one small conflict EVER stopped war in its tracks forever?

I have no solution to the violence, the need to overthrow, the invasions and licensed murders of other people.

But, bringing this back into line, I do hold strongly to a belief that constructive criticism does NOT need to be destructive, violent, delivered at the end of sword, knife or spear; I feel passionately that the aim of any criticism should be to allow another to learn, to grow – and not to be crippled, even destroyed.

Very often, too, the flaws pointed out to us can be reversed and emerge as great strengths – though sometimes we have to unchain our fettered wings and let them unfurl fully first.

Sad to relate, there are people who are so busy looking for our forked tails, horns and other signs of the demonic that they are completely unable to see the wings.

I am going to deal with just a few of my many many negative traits – and see if I can bring good out of bad.

Over reactive: I cannot, will not, deny that which is so obviously true! I have a very great tendency to over-reaction. I leap speedily onto the out-of-control steed of anxiety.

But, the positive is that my instantaneous response works for others when they need assistance. Very often, I react immediately when friends call for help – and, because I have this overdeveloped instinct for catastrophe, I am often able to feel disaster brewing for loved ones and intervene in a proactive manner.

Think too much: I’m afraid I do, always have – worry far too much as well.  Ties me in mental knots and inhibits carefree acceptance of life’s vicissitudes. Not good.

There are more positive sides to this, however. One is that I am pretty self-aware, and am by no means blind to my dark side. The other is that I think a great deal about others as well – and, if I can apply my thought processes to their lives and difficulties, I will.

Attention-seeking: Yes, though it embarrasses me to admit it, I am. Very much so. My blogging is a form of it, as is my loud persona and orange hair. I want to appear larger than life and be loved because, inside, I feel very small and insignificant. Not alone here, I know; many people feel the same way.

Positives: My persona made me a damn good teacher without a doubt, and the Drama Queen part of me, when channelled healthily, has given me some great roles in local Drama Club productions. But the other thing is this: seeking attention is so very human, isn’t it? It might not always be the best thing in the world to do, but we all do it at some time or another. We all want to be noticed and praised, liked and loved and lauded.

Foul Temper: Red Mist Rage is rare these days – but has caused structural damage in rented accommodation in the past. But I remain volatile, and easily set on fire.

Positives: I am a feisty and fiery individual, and I WILL use my Sekhmet side to protect and fight for those I love. I become incensed by injustice and wilful blindness and am more than capable of using my temper to support friends. The fire also powers my writing. Fury often opens the door to a lightning strike of sparks and images.

During the Silent Eye weekend back in April, my character, Sekhmet, finally found her inner rage and roared, then slapped Setaxa round the face. When I was told I was going to do this, I privately feared that I would fail – because hurting another is anathema to me. But, on the day itself, all I can say is that I gathered my own banked anger and directed it. Did I strike Setaxa? You bet I did! And that unbottled ability WILL return (though maybe not expressed physically) when the time is right in order that I may strike off the final restraints.

Manipulative: Absolutely. Controlling too at times. I do not always like the person I see in the mirror, believe you me. Sometimes I look at her and say, ‘God, you’re a bitch!’

And this one I am opening up to my readers. Can YOU find any positives in being manipulative? Damned if I can at present!

The point of all this is to suggest that, rather than stamping on our flaws, we should try and turn them into something good, something of value both to ourselves and the rest of society.

‘Stop being so angry!’ does not work long-term.

‘Channel your anger and make it creative!’ DOES.

Constructive criticism alerts and guides; it does not condemn out of hand.

Few people are utterly evil – and criticism which allows anyone to believe that they ARE has no place in an advanced society, in my view.

But I think the bottom line lies in a person’s motivation in criticising another.

If it done from a position of love, because you want to help the other to progress along life’s path, brilliant.

But if you are acting out of a need to project that which you are unwilling to face in yourself, beware.

Neither one of you is likely to learn anything of value from the exchange of hostilities.

The former is judicious and caring, no matter how strongly-worded.

The latter is malicious and ultimately selfish; it is deflection and defence – and is more about the critic throwing up a smoke screen than any true attempt to plane the rough edges of your soul.

 

Criticism and me

This is the first part of a very long piece about criticism. In the second part, I shall be looking at ways of shining light onto the darkness of my own flaws.

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I find criticism very hard to handle, always have done.

Why?

I’ll tell you.

It is not that I disagree, think it unfounded, think the other unfair.

It is not that I consider myself perfect and incapable of wrong-doing.

It is, in fact, much simpler, and sadder, than that:

I BELIEVE the contents of the criticism ‘letter’ absolutely and implicitly.

My immediate thought is not, ‘How dare you?’

But, ‘You are right: I am all those things.’

Yet, ironically, if you were to heap me with praise, I wouldn’t believe a word of it.

Yes, I am attention-seeking, self-pitying, always going on about my miserable life; yes, I am a Drama Queen, and irrational, manipulative, cowardly and passive-aggressive; yes, I do make things more difficult for myself – and, yes, I do, indeed, struggle to make friends. Unsurprisingly.

When someone criticises me, I am incapable of flaring up in my own defence and saying, ‘I’m not like that!’ because I know myself very well, and am only too aware of my character flaws: They are legion, after all.

Feeling sorry for myself? Yes, in spades.

Self-centred? Guilty as charged.

Difficult to manage? Yes, I’m afraid I am.

Awful temper? Can’t deny that one either.

Bottled-up emotionally, and inclined to lash out unreasonably? True.

Neurotic and anxious, and unwilling (at some level) to break through the barriers to freedom? Yes, of course I am.

Staying in situations which are past their sell-by date out of fear? Regrettably, yes.

Controlling and cold? Frequently.

Emotionally unreliable? Yes.

Stubborn and slow to ask for/accept help? Sadly, yes.

Inclined to give up easily? Often.

But what I would say is that awareness is the start of the battle to overturn the negative and mould it into something positive.

Friends who know me, and those who simply read me, be aware that I LIVE with these critical thoughts day in day out. Be aware also that I take on board every piece of criticism that comes my way – and add it to the bulging sack of low-self-esteem which lies at the centre of my personality.

Those who fire arrows of critical fire:

You are RIGHT.

YOU are right.

You ARE right.

And you are also wrong.

So very very wrong.

Not because I am not these things.

I AM.

But because you have bought into…

The popular notion…

That harsh words are a form of kindness…

You have lapped up

The curdled milk

Of BLUNTNESS -

Unpleasant ‘honesty’

Masquerading as care.

You have believed,

Implicitly,

That truth’s freighted weight

Cannot be delivered

With kindness and tact;

You see the letter bomb,

Which blows off the hands

Of imperfect beings,

As the only option.

If critical words, however well meant, cripple the one to whom they are sent; if that barrage of honesty causes the other to withdraw and then  try desperately to please YOU; if the whole package – good and bad – becomes muted and afraid, and dare not show its head above the parapet,  in what way have you improved matters? What you will have done is to drive the habits and traits you pointed out underground, where they will fester and grown inordinately large in the mind and soul of the criticised.

I CAN turn this round – and I WILL.

Of course we should be guided out of our more negative behaviours and attitudes; of course we need a helping hand and a friend who will tell us the truth – and of course criticism is both vital and healthy as a tool in our interpersonal relationships.

Complacency does not allow for growth. Inability to recognise our own inner darkness causes us to become stuck – and creates untold problems for others. Thinking that we are above criticism, that it does not apply to us, is a form of dangerous self-delusion which comes perilously close to Borderline Personality Disorder.

However, to give you a teaching-related analogy, shouting at a naughty child, and using humiliation to discipline it, does not always work; in fact, it works very rarely and tends to reflect the teacher’s insecurity and need to control rather than the depth of the child’s ‘crime’.

Telling a child you teach that it is untalented, wrong-headed, bad, nasty and a hopeless case MAY make you feel a hell of a lot better, and may have some element of truth behind it. What it is NOT going to do is to make that child a better person; in fact, it is very likely to have the opposite effect, with the child saying, ‘Oh, well, if you believe THAT about me, I’m not going to bother any longer…’

Far better, in my view, to accentuate the positive whenever possible – and gently lead the child by the hand and show him/her the areas which need a bit of work: To say, for example, ‘Wow! Love your lively writing and original ideas; now, let’s just see if I can help you with their/there/they’re…’

As opposed to, ‘Why can’t you learn to spell? Are you totally THICK or something? Don’t you EVER listen during lessons?’

In the former example, the teacher is appreciating fully what the child actually IS (creative, quirky, imaginative) rather than condemning it for what it cannot do naturally.

Children raised (both at home and in the classroom) in the former manner WILL blossom; those in the latter, will tie themselves in endless self-critical knots trying desperately to please their angry adult ‘keepers’.

I do NOT believe that you inevitably have to be cruel to be kind.

I think we are all sufficiently advanced/evolved to make the hardest critical point in a way which avoids bloodshed and pain.

The most effective way of giving a little child a pill is to coat it with jam or sugar.

The best way of handing out criticism is to coat it with praise.

Both are then swallowed and the ‘pill’ of needful words can begin its magic journey of healing without making the ‘child’ choke.

MISANTHROPY

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Anne Robinson in full ‘Weakest Link’ flow…

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

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

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

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

They are still revolting – in every sense!

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

Not just a pretty face, is she?

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

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

I jest – of course...

Or do I?

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

Wining and Dining: The Way to Ali’s Heart?

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For an Ali? NO.

It is the WHO of the date that really matters, not the what, the where or the money spent.

I don’t need to be wined and dined, or taken to see famous plays in posh theatres; I don’t need to dress up in my finest gear, apply make-up with an expert hand or visit the hairdresser before going out with a beau.

Hang the expense! For me, top status does not imply happiness or a partnership that actually works – and what society deems to be the best (be it in restaurants, clothing, food or entertainment) interests me not a jot.

I am, in this respect (if in no other) Low Maintenance.

I do not want costly jewellery or frocks costing a month’s salary; I am not to be wooed with Champagne, Caviar, fur coats or a hundred red roses.

I am not saying that these things are worthless or horrible – many of them are lovely! – simply that I do not desire them in order to have a good time with my date.

Early examples of the dating game have, I think, set the pattern for life: Meetings in The Cabin (a tea and coffee shop in Aberystwyth), sitting for hours over cups of Rose or Orange tea, or frothing mugs of coffee, talking and laughing and setting the world to rights, whilst the rain teemed down outside, students on their way to the Old College bent against the wind and the windows steamed up with a combination of breath and drink-related heat – Ah! Such fun! Such merry laughter! Finest wine and a gourmet repast could not have improved the atmosphere, the bond, in any way.

Yes, we went to the cinema, and the theatre, but always in an anarchic frame of mind : Determined to pose rather than to go for traditional swanky garb, I found (and wore to death – its, not mine!) a floor length white dress in the dressing-up box, and wore it with a blue sash; my partner in sartorial crime sported white trousers, a pink cravat and a black jacket!

Long walks, and hysterical laughter, were another feature – and, when he passed his driving test, even longer drives out into the countryside, a box of Fruit Pastilles, or Wine Gums, on the dashboard and an endless stream of conversation and hilarity in the two front seats as we bowled our way down roads narrow and even narrower.

I suppose the truth of the matter, for me, was very simple: This young man (friend first, lover long afterwards) enjoyed my company, wanted to be with me (and I with him) – and the companionship was far more important than the venue itself. Half the time we set out with no idea where we’d end up anyway – and that was utterly joyous!

He did take me out in the more formal sense occasionally: Once we had a very fine meal in a hotel near Eglwys Fach, and spent the night (though not much of it asleep, as I recall!) in a sumptuous four-poster in one of the bedrooms!

Often, I have found in the years since, minutely-planned outings can become both stressful and counter-productive – and a date which is totally time-and-appearance-dominated can be far less pleasurable than a scruffy and spontaneous ‘leap on the train/in the car and just go!‘ type scenario.

I believe that love and friendship and mutual valuing do not need props in order to prove their worth, their genuine nature – and I derive just as much pleasure from a raucous and laughter-filled pizza trip as I do from visiting(having booked weeks in advance) any well-known eatery featured in The Guardian. More probably – because in the former I can be myself; in the latter, I am far more restrained.

But it is the person you are with who makes all the difference.

And, frankly, I would far rather roll down a hill spontaneously, get gloriously lost in the country and then have a picnic in a field with a kindred spirit than have to totter precariously in high-heels, clad in a silken over-draft, to a meal which turns to ashes in my mouth because my partner, though GORGEOUS to look at,  wants the FACT of my presence rather than my company itself. Where laughter is frowned upon because it is too loud and makes HIM look bad; where conversation is stiff and uncomfortable – and the chequebook, or banker’s card, lies like a silent reproach between us.

I do not, by and large, covet material possessions – and I certainly do not equate the number on the chequebook stub with any kind of proof of love.

Love’s evidence lies in love itself, and can be traced through the spirit, the eyes, the smile, the small brush of a hand over the back; it does not need to spend a fortune to be noticed or believed or appreciated.

You can lay velvet gowns upon my bed, and shower me with diamonds; you can present me with the most beautiful flowers and chocolates costing a King’s Ransom- but I will place no higher value on these than I would upon a funny story, a CD track chosen because you know I’ll like it, a bar of Lindt chocolate and buttercups twisted into my hair in a moment of sun-filled light-heartedness.

The way to my heart is to BE with me, through choice, and to love who I AM, to want to do things with me, to laugh and suffer with me and to be my friend.

Anything else is a bonus.

‘I’d like to be little again…’

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So said my son last night. So we ALL feel at times, I am sure, when the wearisome weight of adulthood seems overwhelming. Si still has me give him reassurance, a gentle pat on the back, an arm round tense shoulders -and I shall carry on until he no longer needs that physical bond.

Today, with him now gone to school – perked up, I think – I’d like to be a little child again myself.

I’d love to curl up in a deep chair, wrapped in a comforting rug, which smells of childhood and safety and mothering, and just be hugged and soothed and told that it will be all right: That there is a mother out there, for me, searching under the bed for monsters and then slaying them, taking my worries on the MotherBoard and reducing them to manageable size, patching up my grazed knees and sore heart – and telling me that I am loved, and special and a good child.

Tears rise. Blur my sight. Leak from corners of eyes.

There is child sadness in my soul today, the cries of the small girl I once was, the need for comfort and Tigger and feeling safe.

There is a wail of, ‘I don’t want to be a grown-up any more. It is too scary, too hard, too painful…’

There is the baby world-sized need to be picked up in strong parental arms and rocked, and fed and held.

Oh, son, once tiny son, I know what you mean – and, in amongst my longing, I can still feel you draped in milky contentment over my left shoulder whilst I sang sweet songs to you and loved you more than the very universe itself.

Sleep and healing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I feel as if my sleeve is unravelling fast.

Chew Valley Beer Festival!

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

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

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

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

Well, someone’s got to do it, eh?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ha!

 

Self-Confidence

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Me during my most confident years (thus far)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gift of Myself: Adult Content!

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Asked, last Samhain, ‘What would you give as a present?‘ I responded thusly:

I cannot give money, or model good looks; I cannot save the world single-handedly or promise a cure for all known nasties.

What I CAN give is myself – in all my warty imperfection, all my raucous, thin-skinned, humorous, terrified, big-hearted, word-loving variety.

And, specifically, I can make people laugh or cry or think or feel sexy/serious/silly.

My gift for today is a sexy-funny. We have all been there!

So, whether Hallowe’ening, leaping over the Samhain fire or watching Gwyn ap Nydd and the hounds in the sky, enjoy the earthy along with the higher!

How you ever been caught on the job? Interrupted, watched or glared at mid-bonk?

Heinous, isn’t it?!

The whole thing about having an intimate moment (and, for some, that’s as long as it lasts! Ha!) is that, unless you are into group sex, it is meant to be private, a deux, just the two of you staring soulfully into one another’s eyes whilst pounding away like a pair of road drills on full throttle.

Now, obviously, if your bag (or scrotal sack, as the case may be) tends toward the ‘safety in numbers’ erotic luggage, and you go for threesomes, foursomes and moresomes, this may all be very old-hat and tediously redundant for you.

So, I shall start by making a distinction – maybe a subtle one – between the juicy frisson of the, ‘Maybe someone’ll spot us…’ and the outright embarrassment of actually being walked in on as one wraps one’s leg around one’s partner’s neck and prepares for a session of deep-sea diving!

Many years ago (says she, going straight into Crone Mode), when the limbs were limber, the spine was unkinked and the sap was not so much rising as erupting, boyf and I were – as already stated in these annals – wont to disport ourselves over hill and down dale. The world was our water bed.

Nature is sexy. The earth breathes and breeds. Creatures mate without shame. Plants grow in luxuriant splendour. To lie upon the pulsating slopes, the wooded dells and the watery wonders of our planet is a form of connection which, for me, transcends the stiff convention of the bed every time!

I have immortalised in prose the true story of the spontaneous skinny-dipping which turned into an incredibly sensual rite by forest pool and hanging branch! I can still remember the feeling of the rough wood on the backs of my knees as I hung, like a bat, from the aforesaid branch, before plunging, like a plumply naked mermaid, into the green depths…

I will not reprise the details – other than the ending! Suddenly, from nowhere, we had been joined by an inquisitive black labrador. Questing about on the bank, the damn thing was, making snorting noises (so were we, but that’s another story!) and panting (ditto!).

Some dogs love water; others loathe it. This thing looked as if it swam for a mile each morning and was clearly girding up its loins for a joyful leap.

As if this canine water sports enthusiast were not enough, we then, to our horror, heard a rustling in the bushes and voices coming our way. Imagine it!

There was nowhere to hide. We were both skyclad anyway, our clothes spread all over the surrounding trees, bushes and ground.

I looked up. Boyf dove down.

Two heads appeared. An elderly couple, wearing matching hats, proud owners of the now-whining dog. Looking back, they probably were no older than I am now, and may well have been mere youths in their forties, but they seemed ancient to us!

They called their pet. He dug his paws in and refused to move. Not a good moment, that! Would boyf drown before the bloody thing shifted? Would the couple call the police? Would we be arrested for indecent exposure? Was sex out of doors actually legal? All these thoughts washed through my panic-stricken mind in those few seconds.

The man shouted and, to my relief, the hound, clearly recognising the voice of authority, slunk off, its tail between its legs.

Did they see us? To this day I am not sure. I’d like to think that they did and that it brought back memories of their own courting days. I hope so because I think the roll in the hay part of early sexual exploits is to be treasured and covertly encouraged.

Occasionally, of course, boyf and I came indoors! Take that as you will! The most truly excruciating memory of those adventurous days happened when we were sharing one of Aberystwyth’s prime slums (er, I mean, examples of fine student accommodation) with a host of other bods.

In those days, we shared a room, and the other rooms in the house were similarly stashed with couples, with the odd singleton just to make up the rent.

On the afternoon in question, we had given way to the more primal urges upon, of all things, an armchair. This chair was egregious in the extreme: its depth was quite at variance with its level of comfort, the latter being in negative numbers. Springs it had aplenty, but they were no longer protected by anything more than a few itchy bits of hessian and a frayed cover which stank of cat pee.

Not realising the pitfalls, we got stuck in – and got stuck! Legs everywhere!

Adopting our usual, ‘Waste not, want not!’ philosophy, we carried on regardless, along the lines that we could worry about actually getting out of the chair later. Even if it meant being wedged until one, or both, of us shuffled off this mortal coil!

The door opened. In came our friends, whom I shall call James and Sarah. In the heat of passion, we had completely forgotten that we had invited these two in for tea…

It was a jolly awkward meeting, to say the least. They didn’t know where to look, and we didn’t know how to attain verticality once more. A bit of an impasse really!

‘Shall we – er- come back later?’ James asked.

‘No, no,’ said boyf, ever the gentleman, ‘but, um, could you pull me out of the chair? I seem to be stuck!’

Well, it was like something out of A.A Milne, I tell you, with all rabbit’s friends and relations forming a chain to pull the hapless Pooh out of his tight spot.

Out we popped in the end, slightly perforated and red of face, and, get this, carried on with the Tea Ceremony as if nothing had happened.

Ah, feckless, fit and spontaneous youth! How I miss thee!

If I tried the old Armchair Ploy these days, I’d probably be in traction for a year…

Blogspot and WordPress: Why I have two sites

Let me try and explain in such a way that is clear, in the general sense, without being gratuitously personal in the more specific.

A couple of weeks ago, an unpleasant situation brewed up on here – and, despite trying to pretend that I am thick-skinned, I actually found it incredibly upsetting, anxiety-inducing and intimidating.

The whole thing had the effect of bursting my little bubble of writing naivety and joy.

For a few days, I actually felt so nervous that just checking my posts and comments brought on a panic attack.

It was during this time that I set up the new Blogspot site – because I was not sure I would ever regain the confidence necessary to write with complete freedom on here. For the moment, my most vulnerable posts will go on there, or in the journal.

All I can say is that this has been a body-blow from which I am struggling to recover.

On WP, from the first day, I have been myself – and that’s a very risky stance to take.

Yes, I am real – and I know that many people value this (which touches me greatly) – but that word ‘real‘ implies the dark and the light, the sad and the happy, the angry and the joyful.

Beware, I say, those who claim, or imply, that they have arrived, reached Nirvana, that they are sorted, that they have GOT IT - because the dark side of this belief is that no one else has, and that there is a desired end-point to which we should all aspire!

Beware, I say, those who say, or imply, ‘I used to be like you until I grew up…’ because the chances are high that they never actually have matured; they have simply settled ever-more rigidly into a black-and-white mindset!

Beware, I say, those who believe that an inflexible mind is a sign of strength. It isn’t.

We are ALL works in progress. The only final sorting and arrival is death. There is no ONE light – but many spread out along our life’s journey, some of which we will see with ease, others which we may miss altogether.

My own view is that we learn from both darkness and light – and, furthermore, that we do not truly grow as human beings if we attempt to avoid one and simply concentrate on the other.

Let me finish with a quotation from Caitlin and John Matthews’ ‘Hallowquest’ book:

‘Some people mistakenly believe that any work on themselves is wasted or selfish. Let them beware of poor self-nurture!’

I absolutely agree!

Grail Quest and Blogspot blog…

I am very behind on here at present. This is triggering the usual, ‘I must try harder,’ anxiety. To put it bluntly, giving is easy for me, receiving much more problematic and fraught with the ghost of unworthiness – so, as the days go by and I have not read or responded to others, I feel more and more selfish and mean and unfair.

This is probably both silly and unnecessary – but that’s the way my mind works.

In just over a week, on the Equinox, I shall start the Grail path of the Hallowquest. This is going to be very intensive, and will involve a great deal of thinking, private writing, meditating and answering questions. I may, therefore, share some of it on here – rather than creating anew each time; my reaction time is likely to get even slower in the next few weeks – and for this I can only apologise in advance.

I am still trying to figure out a way of exporting my posts over to Blogspot – because I like the flexibility of having two very different blogging platforms, and am proud of most of the pieces I have written on here.

The problem, basically, is that there is an incompatibility between the two sites – and, although it can be overcome with the use of a handy little app, this will only work for text under one MB; before I culled my material, it was weighing in at a vast 26MB – and, even now, would, I suspect, be well over the limit.

So, my luggage ain’t going in the hold of the aeroplane bound for Blogspot-in-the-Sun any day soon!

It is, in fact, marooned upon the tarmac of Airport WordPress until I can either find a bigger plane, or leave a few more inessential pieces of literary baggage at home!

I am, as it were, transporting the contents of my writing suitcase one pair of knickers at a time – and, at this rate, will be about three hundred by the time I complete the Herculean Task!

Bloody infuriating!

Aggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!

‘The Keeper’ aka ‘Among the leaves so greeno’

I love traditional music: English, Irish, Scottish – and that of any other nationality you can think of.

When I was nine, I was part of a small country dancing troupe. We wore colourful long skirts, white shirts, brown waistcoats and carried flower-bedecked wire arches above our heads as we danced.

The event took part in a large garden in Old Headington – and was, as I recall, part of Open Gardens Week.

‘The Keeper’ was one of the pieces I remember from that lovely day. It was one I sang at primary school – and used to sing to my son when I drove him to nursery every morning.

I like this version; it’s got spirit, a touch of eccentricity and captures something of the feeling of my childhood.

Alive!

Full_moon_night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compatibility in relationships

Isis

(Of two people) able to have a harmonious relationship; well suited.

late Middle English: from French, from medieval Latin compatibilis, from compati ‘suffer with’.

I have never looked for wealth in a man, nor have I sought high-status; even my choices in the looks department have been, more often than not, unconventional. True, I have fallen for tall and handsome in my time – but dark? No, not always; in fact, fair or red hair have been equally attractive to me in the past – and I have also had a yen for small and curly-haired!

For me, the key word is compatibility.

I freely confess that this was not always been the case; that, if I am honest, this is a truth which has dawned on me in my middle, rather than my youthful, years.

For decades, I bought into the whole ‘Incompatible is exciting and sexy because it gives that edge of danger and uncertainty, because it gets the chemicals surging…’ thing.

To put it bluntly, I was looking for Heathcliff; I yearned for a man who was wild and primal, who treated me badly but adored me really – not realising, in my teenage (and the rest!) naivety, that the two are mutually exclusive, and that someone who abuses you does NOT, in fact, secretly adore you – that such a person, deep down, actually despises you for putting up with the bad behaviour.

For too many years, I assumed that ‘harmonious‘ meant Darby and Joan, tedious middle-aged togetherness, a boring lifestyle which lacked spark and passion and initiative.

So, let’s look at ‘well-suited‘ – and start with what it does NOT mean. I don’t, for one moment, think it implies that you have to like exactly the same things in life; in fact, I would maintain, most vociferously, that keeping your own interests and hobbies, and friends, is both healthy and essential. You may, for example, be a dud at Science, yet live very happily with a Scientist.

What I DO think, however, is that there will be harmony in terms of attitudes, sense of humour, ways of seeing the world and the frequency to which you are both tuned.

You may not always agree, get on, like one another – but there will be an inner harmony at work, a shared philosophy. Although you may have widely divergent interests, there will, I think, be a place where you meet as pure kindred spirits, where none of the day-to-day differences actually matters a jot!

You will, almost certainly, have a fair amount in common. It might be that you are both keen record-collectors, that you enjoy Real Ale, that you loved the same bands when you were in the first flush of youth. It is likely that you will feel as if you have known one another far longer than has actually been the case; you will probably discover that you slip into a deep communication almost without thinking. There is likely to be an ease between you – and you may well find that you are able to be more completely yourself with a compatible person than you are with most other people.

I think compatibility spreads right across the full spectrum of relationship: Parent/child, sibling/sibling, friend/friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife – and so on.

But, looking at the origin of the word itself has been a real eye-opener: ‘suffer with‘ -wow!

I think this points, with firm finger, at the importance of empathy in a relationship which works.

I do think that like-minded souls, whatever the status of their relationship, are more able to ‘suffer with‘ one another; they find it easier to empathise with another’s grief, pain or anger because they understand that, to quote Gerard Manley Hopkins, ‘Sorrow’s Springs are the same.‘ In other words, such people are able to feel the source of your sadness even if they have not personally experienced whatever it was that hurt you.

Well-suited‘ does not, to my mind, imply dullness or lack of fire and feist. Being instinctively in tune with another does not mean that a sexual relationship (if you are in this kind of relationship) is a cosy and childlike cuddly sort of thing; au contraire, the deep trust conferred by your kindred link is very likely to blow fuses and plunge entire counties into post-orgasmic darkness!

As indicated earlier, not all compatible relationships are destined to become physical ones – obviously!

But I think they have enormous value whatever the level of bodily intimacy.

With compatible people, there are certain physical signs which, sexual desire aside, are totally recognisable: When we are with these people, our whole bodies settle, relaxed and content, into their true shapes; we let out a breath, often literal, of sheer relief; we often find ourselves carrying on a conversation started days, even weeks, ago – and we let go, free to be ourselves.

Though our love for them may not be conventional, romantic or text book, it is likely to be deep and enduring.

Truly compatible, harmonious others are lights in our lives. They bring out the best in us, and we in them.

 

Note: I am hard at work preparing for the onset of the Grail part of the Hallowquest, and may well, therefore, be much slower than usual in terms of comment and response.

Who’ll read my work? Daily Prompt

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/voice-work/

Who would I choose to read my writings for the audio version?

Ooh, easy peasy lemon squeezy; it would have to be the redoubtable – and, sadly, now Alternatively Alive – Kenneth Williams.

That uniquely lisping, campsite of a voice, with its syllables stretched out like India rubber and its mocking glottal vowels, its consonants a veritable quiver full of spit missiles and its priceless way of drawing a whole character in one long-drawn-out sarcastic voicing of the name – what, I ask you, is not to like?

To hear him telling, nay reciting, ‘The Land of Green Ginger’ was to be transported into a new and bladder-leakingly hilarious new world. What he did to the already funny nomenclature of Tintac Ping Foo and Rubdub Ben Thud was nobody’s business – and his recitative each time he so much as mentioned Sulkpot Ben Nagnag caused domestic strife to stop mid-belly-laugh…

He would, without a shadow of a doubt, make my humorous pieces positively rib-splitting, and would inject farce and fiery fandangos of futile fubsiness into the darkest of my despairing arts.

His ability to find a double – if not treble – entendre outstripped even my own impressive ability on this front, and his lightsome touch with the humble innuendo, legendary in his lifetime, remains pretty impressive post mortem!

I’d love to get his distinctive tones wrapped round some of my more graphic and sexual pieces! Can you imagine?!

Here he is, all sniggering suggestiveness, as he gets to grips, in the musical sense, with a marrow:

September 11th: A poem

Upon my knee,

three year old child,

As images from Hell

Raged across the screen:

An impossible bloom

Of plane arrowed

Sharp and lethal

Into now penetrable

Concrete, sending

Glass cascades

And hurtling flesh

Of death in waiting

Onto streets below -

Eerie wailing of siren,

Plumes of dust

Macabre feathering

On once-fine

City’s fragile head.

Minutes it took, before,

Sorting out celluloid

image from

Post-Apocalyptic truth,

My brain clanged,

‘This is REAL…’

The babe, tiny and wise,

Knew straight-away,

Burrowed and cried -

An apt response

To such horror.

 

Out at sea, shining

In days, weeks to come,

Dolphins, leading

Sad souls of lives

Punched out

By terrorist glove,

Dived and sang,

In mournful beauty,

Under September’s

Finest sunsets:

Psychopomps

Summoned

By dreadful need -

To soothe

Sudden carnage

Through calming

Watery echoes.

 

Thirteen years:

Thousands dead,

Maimed, walking

In endless loops

Of memory’s

Darkest hour -

For what?

Hungarians: The Recipe!

IMG_0444

Though I say it myself, yesterday’s biscuits were more-ish little numbers! In fact, Son and Heir, having been apprised of their existence, immediately went into Squirrel Mode and ‘hid’ five of the delectable ‘nuts’ somewhere is his boudoir whilst he showered. He emerged, minutes later, expressing a combination of admiration and incipient nausea, having wolfed the whole lot down in one fell swoop…

Ghost Weed went at ‘em with pleasure too.

So, now I shall give you the recipe.

Be warned: My approach to cooking (like most things) is primal – and I tend to operate on the general philosophy of ‘Bung it in and see what happens!’

You will need:

Five ounces of self-raising flour; three ounces of butter; three ounces of caster sugar; one dessert  spoon of cocoa and one small egg – though, for yesterday’s bake-in, I doubled the ingredients.

Oven: Gas Mark 4 – and bake the biscuits in the centre for around fifteen minutes.

1) Sieve the flour and cocoa together.

2) Lob the butter and sugar into a bowl and cream thoroughly. Remember, it’s all in the wrist action (great metaphor for life really!)…

3) Break the egg into a cup, sniff to make sure it hasn’t gone off and then beat vigorously into the sugar/butter glop.

4) Fold the dry ingredients into the wet – and taste!

5) Sprinkle flour on your shape-creating surface, and have tin cutters on stand-by – and a rolling-pin if you so desire!

6) Transfer mixture from bowl to table and roll, using hands dusted with flour, into a long sausage-shape. Then subdivide into four equal chipolatas (as it were).

7) Here, you have a choice. Either divide each quarter into five parts and roll them into balls – or, using more flour and the rolling-pin, roll the section out and, using the cutters, cut out the shapes you desire and put each one on a greased baking tray. If doing the former, here’s a handy little tip: When your balls are all on the tray, get a fork and a cup of cold water. Then, dipping fork into H2O, flatten each ball gently; that way you get a nice ridged pattern on the top!

8) Bung the trays into the oven, put on the timer and wait!

9) The biscuits should be crispy, but not burned.

When they are cooked,  put them on a wire tray to cool – then make the icing:

Put butter and icing sugar in a bowl (can’t tell you how much; I make this bit up as I go along!) and agitate them into creamy submission, then use the delicious mixture to sandwich the cooled biscuits together in twos.

EAT!

SHARE!

ENJOY!

Unfollowing and Unfriending!

I can remember, as a child, hearing the archetypal playground chant/threat – ‘If you don’t do X, I’m not going to be your friend anymore!’ –  on many an occasion – and, as far as my frenemy (friend one minute, enemy the next) Sandra was concerned, usually directed at me.

We often hold friendship, approval and support over other people’s heads like a combination Holy Grail and Sword of Damocles, don’t we? Some people believe that their approval is of such enormous value that whole quests should be built round it, and others should, metaphorically, fight dragons, slay monsters and rescue princesses in order to deserve it – with always the sharp and terminal point of that sword a grim reminder of what will happen if we step out of line.

As a little girl, I did not question this state of affairs. I did not, for example, think, let alone say, ‘Friends do not need to threaten in this way – and, since you are NOT a true friend, your threat is an empty gesture!’

Sandra had a hold over me which lasted until we left primary school and went to different secondary schools.

But what, I ask myself now, was I so afraid of losing?

She wasn’t a good, caring friend; she was a bully who used intimidation and emotional blackmail to keep me in line.

For a while, I was active on Facebook – and saw, to my dismay, exactly the same playground techniques being enacted on there. I saw blatant bullying of others; I saw threats to unfriend if others did not toe the line.

I put huge amounts of effort into keeping Sandra sweet, in order that she did not carry out her threat.

Why?

No one who uses coercion in this way is worth one second of my time.

No true friend would dream of using manipulative techniques in order to exert control, and anyone who claims that they are behaving in this way for your own good is either playing mind games or in complete denial!

Had I stood up to Sandra, she would have unfriended me on the spot – and I would have been saved from years of abusive, violent behaviour.  Because, you see, she wasn’t worth it.

Over the years, I have kept several toxic people in my life because I was too afraid to let them go.  It is a lesson I have been lamentably slow to learn: That, if a ‘friend’ shows signs of abuse, it is no good waiting around for more of the same; the only thing to do is to call that person’s bluff and move on.

I am well aware that my new and tougher stance (on here and on the ground) WILL lose me some support; that there WILL, inevitably, be those who decide to unfollow me.

But we are no longer in the playground. Most of us have not been in that environment (other than as teachers maybe) for decades. We are no longer obliged to play by the rules we followed as small children.

There are people I instinctively like and respond to on here – but, let us be honest: We are, at best, in a relationship of friendly acquaintance with most* other writers. It is possible that one or two COULD become friends were we to meet. But I do not know this for sure. How can I?

* I am very lucky in that a handful of writers on here are also personal friends.

Blog sites provide an intense, but ultimately artificial, environment. It is very easy to take what others write personally; it is very easy to take offence, and to forget that other bloggers are not directing their words at YOU, but are exploring inner states or attempting to exorcise the demons we all come across from time to time. It is terribly easy to become impatient with those who keep writing about the same things. It is frighteningly easy to feel superior, more sorted, more grown-up, than those whose blogs we read – to think, ‘I wouldn’t have been that stupid!’, to adopt an attitude of, ‘Why doesn’t he/she just get over him/herself?

It is distressingly simple to assume that everyone should be as strong as we are; that all other writers should be handling life exactly the way we do – and to hold it against them if they don’t.

In the hothouse that these social blogging sites are, it is easy to judge another writer, hard to step back and think, ‘There, but for the grace of the Creator, go I…’

I suppose the bottom line here is that we DO NOT KNOW ONE ANOTHER; we just assume knowledge from what we read.  We take a lot on trust, if you think about it – because any one of our number could be lying, could be attempting to use the system for personal gain, could be some form of psychopath or criminal, could be a paedophile ‘grooming’ young female writers.

We are NOT a true creative community in the way that Bloomsbury was.  The social side muddies the waters in a sense because it becomes about you, the individual, rather than you, the writer. And, although my friends tell me that my writing and speaking voices are pretty much identical, I know that this is not the case for everyone who writes.

I have never asked anyone to follow me – and I will not plead with anyone to remain in my stable either.

Follow your own heart on this one!

I am no longer afraid of this particular variant on the loss theme!

Running away

The map of my life is dotted with the red pins of flight. This is a great shame because, most of the time, running away did not improve the situation; in fact, it made things worse – and helped to deepen this pattern’s groove in my mind.

Because, of course, when we take to our heels in terror, we take that fear with us! We may delude ourselves that, in some magical way, the pumping action of legs and lungs forces the little adrenaline sprite into an undignified retreat – but we are wrong: The thing which scared us in the first place lies a’lurking, in a dark recess of the brain, ready to leap out the next time that button is pushed, that urge is triggered.

And, over the course of days and months and years, the Fear Monster we have buried in that cupboard under the psyche’s stairs grows ever bigger and more threatening; its body soon fills the whole of the space, and the walls begin to creak ominously, cracks appearing in the plaster.

What I have come to realise - FINALLY! – is that there IS nowhere to hide because, although the stimulus may be external, the fear always lives within the body and soul, and only the person possessed by it has any true chance of a successful and lasting exorcism!

Turning my back, and heading for hills both real and metaphorical, allows the spectre of the creature following me to become magnified, to gain on me, to come so close that its rank breath is whistling past my ear.

I know full well the main areas of this kind of irrational fear in my life’s landscape – and I have not helped my own healing process one iota by failing to turn round and face whatever the looming danger is.

Unfortunately, I got into the habit, very early, of responding in a passive way to bullying. I believed that I only had the right to be a prey animal in the great relationship jungles. If you truly see yourself as a rabbit, you WILL attract the raptors and foxes who scavenge. If you assume that you are born to be attacked and killed, I believe you give off the strong scent of fear and submission and defeat. If you feel powerless in the eye of threat’s storm, you are enacting a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you live your life, as I have done for so long, under the assumption that most others are stronger than you are, and that you cannot fight back, this becomes reality.

I allowed others to encircle me, tease and taunt me, even beat me up because I did not think that anything I did would make a blind bit of difference; I did not believe that I possessed the tools to vanquish any oppressor.

I would cry and tremble, or maintain a stony silence; I would seethe inside and practise all the fine phrases I SHOULD have used in the silence of my own head – after the event. I would dream of fighting back – physically and with devastating verbal counter-attacks – but, faced with the real bully, I would ALWAYS either freeze or run.

But I have had a bit of a conversion this week. You see, all my life, I have believed that another person’s criticism of me was based on concrete reality, in other words that unpleasant words are always RIGHT – and I am wrong! This is another reason why I have always allowed others to lecture me, be verbally abusive towards me and hurl insults in my face. My assumption has long been that they can see the true, nasty Ali – and, therefore, are doing me a favour by pointing my flaws out to me.

NO. I now utterly dismiss this thought from my head-space. Another person’s criticism is only EVER an opinion, and is no more an absolute than anything I might do or say. Anger creates irrational behaviour by its very nature – and, therefore, the words we scatter (sometimes viciously) when in a rage are more akin to missiles fired at another country during a war: They are aimed to hurt, to cause damage; they are not truly used to help the person grow or change or see themselves in a new and better light.

I have run away every time because I did not think I have the basic human right to stand up, face the other and say, ‘No. This is unacceptable. You have crossed the line.’

In real life, and on here, I have dodged the metaphorical bullets – rather than firing back, holding firm, staring the other in the eye and showing no fear.

But, this week, faced with an unknown blogger who made what I considered to be an unfair comment, I disagreed, very firmly (though not nastily) on the post – and have heard nothing since.

Says a great deal, doesn’t it? About my assumptions that I am powerless; about my natural ability to give as good as I get; about the overturning of a lifetime of pointless trembling in the face of other people’s fury!

Sometimes, we have to show that we have predatory tendencies too, that we are composed of teeth and claws as well as running ability; that, if it comes to the chase, we can give as good as we get, and sink our fangs into another’s hide if we have to.

Sometimes, when being chased, the best thing to do is to stop running, turn round slowly and fix the other with a basilisk stare until that person backs down and slinks off.

Being told that you are a weak character does not necessarily mean that you are; it could equally mean that someone else has a vested interest in keeping you that way. But other people’s descriptions of us, whether good or bad, are painted with subjective colours and derive from all manner of emotional chaos within. We do not have to define ourselves through the opinions, prejudices and projections of others.

As a teacher, I had to learn to conquer my own fear; I had to learn to don a mask in order to maintain discipline; I had to adopt a scary demeanour (which did not, initially, come naturally to me) so that I could actually impart knowledge without facing a riot.

What a pity that I have never successfully transferred those skills to my life outside the classroom.

What a shame that I have wasted so much time and effort running away when I could, so easily, have simply stood up for myself and vanquished not only the foe but, perhaps more importantly, my own fear.

I am unchaining the Lioness – and banishing the scared little rabbit!

Facing up to Fear

Thank you, Sue, Mike and Richard for words which have galvanised me – and allowed me to recognise a pattern of behaviour which has been repeated throughout my life: Running away when frightened – the Flight part of that dread duo in other words.

Faced with a battle of any kind, I have always chosen to slink away and hide, to hold up the white flag before the fighting even commences, to give miles and miles of ground rather than bloody my sword or dent my shield.

Rather than defending my right to write what the hell I wanted, I crawled away like a little coward.

No wonder I attract bullies from time to time; they can, no doubt, smell my terrified spore from miles away!

‘Push to the limit,’ Mike said – and both of the other two gave similarly heartening advice.

Bugger it, says I: I shall commandeer as many different fields of literary endeavour as I want. I shall NOT limit myself any longer!

Remember: Writing is a necessity and a passion; following is a choice.

If I am not to your taste, leave me on the edge of the metaphorical plate.

World out there – you can think what you like about me and my way of expressing myself; I no longer give a monkey’s left testicle.

I shall carry on regardless! I ain’t leaving!

Onwards and upwards,  friends, onwards and bloody well upwards!

Sword in hand, shield held in front, I mount my horse and canter down to the battlefield.

I will NOT be shot for desertion, nor hide in craven terror, ever again!

 

My Posts on here

Yesterday morning, when I started the move to Blogger, I had over nine hundred and fifty posts on here. That’s quite an achievement – especially when you think that I have, at various times during my two years as a blogger, deleted tens, if not hundreds, of pieces.

During yesterday’s clearing out of the literary attic, I made the difficult decision to remove nearly half of my published output – so what is left represents, with a few exceptions, the lighter, more humorous and joyous side of my character; I have left the lyrical and erotic pieces too – because I am proud of them, and they are closest to my fiction style.

The ones I have deleted were true, and painful to write, accounts of unhappiness, panic and pain. I have not exaggerated or made things up. In misery, as in happiness, I have spoken from my heart – but the need to keep things anonymous, the sensitive nature of some of what I wrote about has finally made me realise that I cannot continue.

I should, in theory, be able to write about anything I want – and in whatever manner I choose. But the reality – and the hard lesson I have had to learn – is that I can’t do this. Not on here anyway.

But on the other hand, I cannot be half a person; I cannot be sweetness and light, the jesting clown, the reassuringly funny presence I so often am all the time – and, to be honest, I was finding, increasingly, that I was nervous when writing sad and angry posts; that I was, in the metaphorical sense, looking over my shoulder the whole time.

I am going to have to transfer each old post over to the new site manually – until I find out how to do them all at once. This could take me some time.

You are, meanwhile, most welcome to browse through the edited highlights (most of the lowlights having disappeared!) of Ali’s writing between June 2012 and early September 2014.

I have continued to follow some of you – and those people’s posts will continue to appear on my new site.

I don’t want to leave on a negative note – because, as I said before, there has been so much that is positive on here.

But, writing IS me – and, if I cannot be fully myself, my writing will, eventually, become dulled and polite, cautious and insincere; I know this because, at various times, and for various reasons, my journal has descended into meaningless artifice over the years.

If you want to carry on following me on here, that’s fine – thank you.

There are five hundred and fifty posts to read – so I don’t think you’ll finish the whole lot in one day!

Update

It having proved impossible to export my posts to Blogger, I shall, for the moment, keep this site open and people who wish to can browse through old stuff – which, by the time I have finished visiting the metaphorical tip, should be down to a mere seven hundred posts!

I shall, however, be moving my spirit and energy over to ALIEN AURA: STORIES FROM THE MOTHER-SHIP! – and all new creations will go straight on to alienorabrowning.blogspot.com.

There have been many, many positives on here – and, certainly until I can figure out a way to export posts, I shall still be around from time to time.

But I no longer feel that I can write freely and safely on here.

Perhaps I never could, and was deluding myself from the first day.

Most of the posts I am deleting, therefore, are those of a sensitive, very personal or morose nature.

 

Blogspot

Thank you very much for all the support, kind comments and friendship over the past year, everyone.

I can be located, from today, on Blogspot (ALIEN AURA: TALES FROM THE MOTHER-SHIP! – alienorabrowning.blogspot.com)- and will, once I have completed this post, be uploading all my posts onto the new site and deleting this one.

I love writing, and that passion remains undimmed – but I need to growl and smile and laugh hysterically and let my spirit fly free.

Unchained is not the same as reckless, selfish or irresponsible.

Tethered is very different from egregiously self-pitying.

I have never pretended to be perfect, have never written as anyone other than me – flaws, warts, unpleasant moods and all.

And I never promised any of you a Rose Garden.

Farewell.

May your spirits shine and your days be filled with creative pleasure and personal harmony.

May the dark times be equally balanced by light and love!

Ali

 

Different blogsites : A farewell

I have now tried three: Blogspot, Glipho and WordPress – and, in many ways, the one which suited me the best was the first of the three.

Why?

Because I was actually concentrating upon the QUALITY of the writing rather than worrying about offending others.  In addition to this, I spend way too much time on here metaphorically gossiping with others, trying desperately to please, keep up, encourage, support and avoid giving pain.

The WRITING, which is what I left teaching to pursue, is taking second place to the more social aspect of things. Now that, in itself, would be fine if I were an assertive person, with clear boundaries; but I am not – and I allow just as much ‘persuasion’ on here as I do in real life.

It is getting to the stage where I am pandering, if you like, to the egos of others – either by writing deliberately inflammatory pieces to cater to the love we all have for high drama and the shock element, or being too scared to say certain things lest I get shouted at or unfollowed by some of my readers.

I am wasting far too much time worrying about what others might think, and not enough time enjoying the words, the thoughts, the ideas.

This site is not a vast cafe full of university students discussing life, philosophy and art, and the social aspect is very much a two-edged sword. It can be great – but it can also breed manipulation, resentment, tit-for-tat-ism and the kind of popularity contest-ism which seems to have taken the place of genuine talent in our celebrity-obsessed world.

It seems to be a case of the number of followers you have got, or how many people you follow, rather than your ability to craft language in interesting and original ways.

Then there is the covert, though wholly understandable, competitive element. Of course there is: We wouldn’t be on public sites like this if we didn’t want to be read, noticed, singled out, published and awarded; we would simply do what I did for so many years – and jot it all down in a series of diaries.

The support tends to be directed at content, as often as not – have you noticed that? We soothe and comfort one another emotionally – or rage and make things worse! – but, I have certainly noticed that the actual use of language is often ignored altogether, and that any attempt to share free downloads of published work tends to sink like a stone.

Let me look at some of the motivation here. We are fragile, vulnerable, insecure. We want to be lauded and lionised, to be the best – and to see some other bugger getting published, doing what we secretly long to do, presses our inner jealousy button. And, whilst not actively wishing the other writer ill, we hope that they will just bloody well stop bragging and bugger off out of it, so that we can mull over our cold plate of  failure’s gruel in peace!

If we DO celebrate another writer’s success, it will, almost inevitably, be in the fond hope that said writer will reciprocate – or that the gold dust of his/her success will rub off on us.

And then, faced with this kind of writing, we get angry; we puff up and shout and shriek and accuse the other pen-wielder (me usually!) of being unfair, a cow, an ungrateful witch, not worthy to sup at the Table of Delusion, not a proper writer at all!

But reality’s cold hand strokes even the most sun-tanned and holiday-relaxed face. Look squarely at the dynamic on here, folks. Look at what happens – other than with one’s group of trusted friends – when one writes a strongly-worded post; look at what happens when one does not have the time or emotional energy to endlessly read, support, follow and like; look at what happens when one refuses to play the Popularity Game…

One is sent to the literary equivalent of Coventry; one is threatened with the withdrawal of likes; one is told one is a pariah, paranoid, petty and probably purulent too.

I have spent thirty years socialising in a Staff Room, thirty years reading other people’s writing and commenting upon it at length.

It is now MY turn to WRITE – and, in all honesty, creative ability and endeavour has no logical link to affability, sociability, kindness or support.

I may well be a kind, loving and caring person – amongst many other, perhaps less desirable, traits. But this has bog-all to do with Ali, the aspiring writer. I have to be a measure ruthless, self-absorbed and detached in order to create.

And I think the true drawback of sites such as this one and Glipho is that we are combining two very different urges – creativity and sociability – and then, all too often, punishing those who, in their desire to pursue the former with heart and soul, neglect, or are indifferent to, or scared of, the latter.

THEY ARE NOT CONNECTED.

I am a loving support system to my friends – but I write alone.

I have met some lovely people on here –  but I am not progressing as a writer. My vision has become stalled by the endless Cycle of Sociability. I am, increasingly, writing to order, writing in a formulaic way, writing for an audience; I am acting a part much of the time, even when my posts seem at their most raw.

Ironically, instead of pursuing the fiction writing which, I think, represents me at my best, I have reproduced the journal on here.

Why?

Simple.

More people read it than my more literary pieces.

And that is a trap I am now overwhelmingly keen to avoid.

Even if it means I get no followers, am despised as a nasty human being and get hate mail on here by the score.

I have GOT to write.

I do not HAVE to be liked, approved of or looked up to. I do not have to be kind, patient, sweet-natured; I do not have to spend all day every day ‘marking‘ endless books.

Been there. Done that. Got the nervous and physical scars.

Thank you all for being supportive and kind – but for you, too, the most important thing, on a writing site, should be your writing.

I am moving on because my need to write has to take precedence; because I am wasting too much of my time on here expecting to be reviled, taken to task and told off for things I say; because, however caring I might seem as a person, I have to write from The Place of No Pity.

I need to practice and perfect my art; I need to get back to writing novels, and editing those I have already written – and I need to be able to do this without fearing some kind of verbal attack because one of my posts has triggered someone else’s rage.

Perhaps I was naive – but, when I first started blogging, I assumed that any criticism (and I always expected to get some) would concentrate upon my failings as a writer (because that way I could learn and grow and improve); instead, a minority of people have chosen to criticise me, Ali, for my feelings, perceptions and way of seeing the world.

What the HELL has that got to do with the art of writing?

The biggest lie we are sold is this one: That starting a blog will be a gateway to success.

It may be that this has been the case in a very small number of cases. But success in what sense? Being the blogger with the greatest number of hits ever? Going viral with one insipid and poorly-written piece? Being Fresh Pressed eight times?

Truth time.

Blogging introduces us to endless streams of other people who are in exactly the same position we are in – and writers do NOT go onto these sites in order to promote other writers, in order to put aside their own dreams to support the stardom of another. Support will be given – as long as it does not interfere with a writer’s individual path and dreams and hopes.

I have not come on here in order to discover the next literary genius, and then to do everything I can to get that person recognised, feted, read and rich as Croesus.

Have YOU?

No. I suspect most of us, if we are really honest, would love to BE that new discovery – or at least to make a decent living from our words.

And I am increasingly aware that, If I want to write, I am going to need to harness and ride my inner Lioness!

The word-passion and the roaring of the great beast come from the same source.

A wild place, empty of human concern; a realm of extraordinary purity, where the emotive capacity of mankind has been boiled down to its raw form – and creativity flows like lava.

You have every right, as fellow writers, to pick holes in, and criticise, my actual writing.

But vitriol poured upon ME, because I have dared to tell MY truth?

I did not give you that right.

I have spent all my life being rewarded for being ‘nice’, and punished for being ‘nasty’.

I cannot write with fire and earth and wind and water under such restrictions.

WRITERS ARE NOT ALWAYS NICE PEOPLE!

NICE PEOPLE ARE NOT ALWAYS WRITERS!

And sometimes, in order to create freely, we have to place our empathy and compassion into a strongbox for the duration – otherwise we get distracted.

The Write to Rule; the right rules to write!

FRIENDS: THIS ONE IS NOT AIMED AT YOU! 

My thirteen months on here have toughened me up in a way thirty years of teaching some pretty rough customers completely failed to do. In my opinion, this is a good thing.

This morning, at about 9.10, I reached one of the many Don Juan stopping points along the way: The Place of No Pity.

Why? A completely uncalled for comment on one of my posts. Usually when faced with this sort of thing, I ignore it or try and calm the other writer down.

This time? I went for the jugular!

By Gods and Goddesses, it felt GOOD.

As a blogger, and as a person, I have been operating on the somewhat liberal – vague and woolly, in other words! – lines that everyone has a right to his/her opinion, and can, therefore, say whatever he/she likes to me. With the self-punishing rider that, if I am upset or angered, this is my problem, and that any coercive comments thinly disguised as justifiable criticism are, in some odd way, deserved.

True or false?

Yes, you are entitled to your own opinion; but you are NOT entitled to make abusive, unpleasant, demeaning and hurtful comments on MY bloody blogsite.

I do not write these posts for you – be you friend, vague acquaintance or outright foe; I write them for ME. Frustrations I express will be about the SYSTEM in one way or another.

Now, if one is a raw kind of writer, one is, inevitably, going to trigger emotions in others – but, frankly, that is your problem, not mine.

I write very bluntly.  But I do NOT leap upon another blogger’s site and leave unsolicited threatening and nasty comments.

Why? Because I recognise that we all have our moments when we feel intensely vulnerable, angry, sorrowful and frightened – and that,  AS WRITERS, we tend to express these feelings via the written word. I recognise that there is a huge difference between the need to get a dark mood off one’s chest, and a deliberately planned piece of sheer character assassination, or rhetoric pointed squarely at one unnamed individual.

If a reader reacts negatively to something I have written, I feel that the individual needs to look within, and find out why that particular phrase, or paragraph, or post, has ruffled feathers to such an extent.

Don’t punish ME for your own unhealed psychic cuts and grazes.

Usually, it is because the verbal punch has torn the scab off a wound the reader does not wish to face, let alone heal.

As I have said before, I do not sit down at the laptop and think, ‘Ooh, who can I piss off today? I know, I’ll write about X: that’ll get Person Y going…’

Writing IS my way of facing up to, and healing, my inner hurts. It is personal to me. It is an integral part of my life’s quest.

Constructive criticism is one thing – and I am fine with that – but gratuitous and punitive comments made because my words have pushed your buttons is quite another.

I have passed beyond my former lake of passive acceptance and wimpish apology – and am now, crouching in the craggy foothills of assertiveness’ towering mountains, more than willing to say, ‘No!’ or even, ‘This is unacceptable!‘ loudly and clearly.

Talk to me. Disagree with me. Tell me your views. But do NOT seek to play mind games with me, or bully, threaten and control me – because I ain’t swallowing that any longer!

From now on, if I dislike a comment (because it is mean-spirited or egregious in any other way!), or find it offensive, I WILL be challenging it – out loud and proud. To ignore such things simply allows the other to see me as one who will accept the unacceptable, who will allow covert bullying.

I have moved from a state of, ‘Oooh, say what you like to me – beat me some more; I love it really!’ to an uncompromising stance of, ‘ This is the line. Cross it at your peril because I WILL answer back.’

I have been far too accommodating – and, if I am frank, cowardly – in the past, both on here and in my day-to-day life. I have ignored nasty comments, just as I have ignored bullying – hoping, I suppose, that by being ‘nice’, and flying the white flag of surrender, the other would back off.

It doesn’t work like that, unfortunately. People learn very quickly those they can insult with impunity, and those who will rear up, like enraged cobras, and give them what for!

The former group, of which I have been a member since 1958, get bullied on a regular basis – no surprise there; the latter, having warned others off, tend to attract a healthy respect – and those with axes to grind tend to keep a safe distance from sharp fangs and claws.

The overwhelming majority of those I know are just brilliant – but, with unknowns leaping upon my posts every day, I want to send out this strong word of warning.

As I said at the beginning, The Place of No Pity.

Yes, I have a huge capacity for love – but a new toughness has crept into the equation.

This is MY blogsite – and I get to set the rules!

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

_65875588_macaroonheart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The music becomes slow and sexy; so do we!

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

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

What will be, will be.

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

Does he exist?

Who knows!

Maybe he does, somewhere in the world.

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

It does not matter.

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

And it was the perfect meal!

Attributes_of_Music

 

Gifts of love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

130px-Pandora-1879

Words of love from a child

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

MY MUM

Mum you are as yellow as the sunshine

You taste as delicious as sweet chocolate

You smell of sweet-smelling perfume

You look like a snuggly teddy bear

You sound like a singing bird

You feel like a big bundle of hugs in the air

Granny: A rock warm in the sun…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Often-times, that is.

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

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

We think we know.

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

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

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

Do not be lulled by sunbeams and seductive smiles.

Lift. Look. Learn.

Granny: Post-natal depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Granny: Seer – and blind too…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maiden I have been – and blossomed in the white.

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

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

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

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

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

It is the gut.

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

Granny Spins a Yarn: Childbirth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The reality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sex? Forget it!

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

Breast feeding?

Looks a doddle, doesn’t it?

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

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

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

And I still think there something erotic about it!

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

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

Written and Performed by Stu Mcloughlin  and Howard Coggins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Ruth to Belladonna: My Amateur Dramatic Experiences

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

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

But I did not dare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To my delight, they did Edinburgh last summer.

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

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

*not, you understand, that I ever allow a drop of intoxicating liquor to pass my lips. A cauldron, yes, or a drip plus canula, definitely, but not a drop…

 

Farewell for now. I shall be back in a few days.

Give me healing and peace, Grail…

chwllid

Oh, Grail, come to me -

I am hurting and sad;

Let me ask that question -

And be answered

By the cooling flow

Of chaliced water,

Upheld by mystic maiden,

Trickled into aching body.

 

Please, dear Lady,

Protect me,

For I am in need.

Give me your warm arms

And comforting voice;

Let me feel less alone

And fearful

In this thorny wilderness…

 

I cannot rock

Upon that wooden horse,

Any faster or longer;

I cannot take on

The ghosts of

Ancient parental sobs,

Their screaming

Fear of scarcity.

 

I cannot

Be abandoned

To deal with

Thrashing aftermath

Of my mother’s denial

Of deepest terror;

I am a child, eight;

I need looking after too.

 

I cannot lie awake,

Muscles agony-knotted,

Night after night,

To ward off

Bogeymen

And illness’ spectres;

I am too little

To drag my family to safety.

 

Let me cup hands

Around the warming draught,

Oh Goddess;

Let trembling lips

Receive love and care;

Let hyper-alertness’

Sore and scary damage

Be healed now.

 

Alienorajt – of the inadequate todger fame!

Ye gods, this I MUST share!

The more smutty Spammers have clearly decided that Alienorajt is a bloke’s name – though God alone knows how they came to THAT conclusion!  – and I have been overwhelmed by kind and thoughtful offers to increase that which nature clearly held back on.

Well it would, wouldn’t it? What with me being a girl and all that, and thus destined, from birth onwards, to be a tad lacking on the penile front.

For some days/weeks now, I have been lured in – NOT! – by the promise of Penis Enlargement, one assumes via pills, potions and unpleasant suction devices, all of which, no doubt, plunge the Member for Bedfordshire into the torment and embarrassment of acute Priapism and a testing trip down to A&E.

I have been consistently underwhelmed by this genital generosity – and have, in fact, put all such communications through the cyber shredder as quickly as I could – though, in the more absurd cases, with a wry laugh or twenty.

To put it crudely (and when do I NOT?) these buggers are going to have one hell of a job trying to get ME a girthsome choad!

The funniest one arrived just before this post. Having failed on the salesman techniques, these egregious sons and daughters of leprous camels went for the ‘ Appeal to his Vanity‘ approach – by stating that I would give immense pleasure to countless women, presumably if I took their parlous preparations and ended up with a dick the size of a Giant Redwood tree.

Put it this way, if I end up with a Sequoia in MY National Park, it will not be my own – if you catch my drift…

Panic and the Sun God

Another one transcribed from the journal, originally written in June. Sorry for old one, and sparse response: Real life needs my attention at present.

BLACKMOOR-Reserve-ponda

Oh, I had such plans for today’s post! Some of the phrases had arrived, sparkling at my finger-tips, ready to use. Saturday was so lovely, you see. But yesterday – having, I suspect, had too much Sun – I was torpid, listless, pain-trembling and panicky. I even took to my bed for several hours because I did not want to face the world.

So, perhaps, last night’s dream sequence should not have come as a surprise. One was violent and scary, the other erotic but very disturbing. I won’t bore you with the details because there’s nothing particularly note-worthy in the imagery. What is sad is the residue in my mind. Basically, both dreams left me with a deep feeling of failure and dread.

It is hot again today, drainingly so. But, I did not want to spend another day cowering and frightened, so, grabbing a couple of bananas to eat, I drove, with Jumble, up to Blackmoor Reserve.

Everything looked very beautiful, if dry and slightly hazed from the heat; the road was empty, for it was only 8.30; I could hear the harsh scream of a peacock somewhere, and imagined its strutting magnificence, its vulnerable arrogance and its feathered perfection. My favourite colours, always, since a child, turquoise and gold and green.

As I drove down the little hill to the rough parking area, yesterday’s pain (probably a pulled muscle, but attaining life-threatening proportions in my stupid mind) struck again. I was miles from home and out of mobile phone signal range. Pressing terrified fingers to the delicate skin on my inner wrist, I could feel, at first, no pulse, just a wild fluttering as if hordes of tiny butterflies were beating their wings in unison.

Then, getting out of the car, I thought, ‘If I die here, someone will find me eventually – and I have identification both in my wallet and on my phone…’ and off I set.

My legs were wobbly and each bite of the banana was a struggle. And I felt so sad because this is one of my favourite places, a healing and lovely walk, and yet I was allowing panic to tarnish its soft and gentle glow.

I had to keep saying to myself, ‘If I were having a heart attack, I would not be able to breathe, let alone walk,’ – and, when that failed to quell the rising terror, I started putting numbers up to ten at the end of each breath, the way I have been taught in my Mindfulness tape.

Jumble pottered about, loving the smells and the long scratchy grass against his hot fur; his tail was wag-wag-wagging with pleasure.

‘Please, lovely dragonflies, be by the little lake…’ I was saying to myself. Like a Mantra, I suppose. Getting to those delightful iridescent creatures seemed like sanctuary, a place where I would be safe.

As anyone who has ever had a panic attack will be aware, trying to get to a safe spot becomes overwhelmingly important. I used to crawl into very small spaces to feel safe.

I walked to the water’s edge, craning my neck, eyes alert. But there were no dragonflies. The lake’s surface was still, though birds dipped and hovered close on the far bank. Jumble leapt and dove and worried a patch of the highest grass; perhaps he had found, or imagined, a kill.

As he jumped into the water, I became aware of the butterflies, tawny coloured, several of them, skimming low across the grass, lighting upon bright flowers.

I lay, once more, upon the stone slab. Knees up. Left arm shading my eyes. I was tense, very. Afraid.

But, through the imperfections of the body, I sensed him: this time, a humanoid form, a tall glowing golden haired man, naked, both in his prime and curiously ageless. He rode upon a magnificent white stallion; its hooves were shod with pure gold and it made no noise.

The vibration in my knees became intense, and my legs fell apart like two halves of a peach. The golden creature flowed, the essence of sun, from his steed.

‘I am Mabon,’ he said – and then I had the sensation of giant warm loving arms encircling me, of  a stream of buttery yellow – which, in an odd way, was both a male being and a constant solar ripple of sun rays – loving me.

It was both deeply erotic and far beyond the level of human sexuality.

I felt as if I lay there for a few seconds only – but it must have been longer than that because the walk, which normally takes twenty five minutes, took nearly an hour.

Mabon was gone – and I felt such a longing, an inner coldness and loss; it is very difficult to tell this bit because I went from ecstatic warmth to the pits of fear in a twinge of the right breast.

That, in my world, is all it takes.

As I rose, a breast nerve screamed. Before I could even think, the toxic chemicals were already flooding my body, doing their dirty damnedest to provoke fighting or fleeing.

I all but ran into the woods, trying to outpace the pain, trying to moderate my breathing to a less jerky sound.

Numbers, started in frantic haste, began to soothe slowly – and, as I turned towards the bench area (where I met the lovely Lake Children a while back), I slipped into what I can only describe as a form of trance. It felt as if I were walking very tall, as if I were more than myself, an ancient being.

And, in that altered state, I felt the deep need to connect with the earth through the medium of a tree to my left. I put my arms around its trunk and hugged it. Solid, it felt, and reassuring, and loving. Affectionate rather than sexual. I wanted to cry.

I cannot remember walking along the widest path, though I suppose I must have done so; but, suddenly, I was surrounded, on both sides, by the wonderful, and deeply moving, scent of honeysuckle. Its lovely pink, white and golden flowers have sprung up in profusion since last I walked these paths. I inhaled greedily, would have sucked the honey if I could have found its secret entrance.

Oh! I had such music at my soul’s edge for today! Such a tale to tell of Pan and an angel or two!

One day, I so hope that I will crack this thick-shelled egg of panic which encloses me, and break out – a small and fragile chick, but free to fly.

Gwalchmai: Hawk of May

Originally written, in the journal, in May…

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It is the month of the Gwalchmai: the Hawk of May…

And, this morning, one came a-calling, a-swooping and a-menacing. Like an omen, it dropped out of the sky onto our bird table – where, at the time, a throng of guileless young sparrows were at work upon the seeds and worms, fat balls and other titbits we leave out for them.

I knew nothing until I heard a terrible high-pitched screaming; it went on and on, unstoppably. Something similar happened two years ago and, that time, when I went out to look, I found a baby badger which had obviously expired in dreadful agony, having, we think, been poisoned.

I feared for the guinea pigs, though I did not think anything could find its way into their cage.

I rushed to the Conservatory, and looked out at the Patio.

At first, I thought two big birds were fighting, that it was some kind of territorial or mating battle; all I could see, initially, were huge wings and a flurry of movement which, contained, at its centre, the awful agonising noise.

But the set of the beak, the mad tawny eye of the thing, the sideways predatory glance told its own tale of raptor need and raptor precision.

It was a hawk. I knew that. A May Hawk.

And, between its vicious, efficient talons was a sparrow, still screaming.

Puffs of grey feather flew as the great bird rose low over the slabs of Patio and thundered down the garden, fetching up to the right of our raspberry canes.

It dispatched the little bird quickly – and I could see its head, twitching round like a mechanical toy, making sure it was undisturbed.

Then it dug in, scattering feathers in a wide semi-circle.

It crouched warily in its chosen spot for ages, trimming and tenderising its feast, a feast, I assume, for its hungry young ones.

A roofer, working on a house nearby, called out to me as I stood there.

‘What’d that sparrowhawk take?’

And that is how I knew it was a sparrowhawk.

I hope its babies like their treat – and I reflect that at least one nest of fragile young won’t go hungry today.

But, it made me cry, the suffering of the little sparrow.

Afterwards, the bird table was empty and all the small birds were crying out in fear and trauma. I could hear them, scared and hungry.

I hope they come back soon: I miss their merry chatter, their clumsiness and their crazy hope.

Lateral Action

Sometimes, you have to leap out of that box and think in Full Moon mode, think laterally, act in ways you never thought possible, in order to move the heavy stone doors of rutted thought into the realms of miracle…

Sometimes, the only way is to forget rational thought, and all the myriad reasons why not, and go with the Light shower of the instinct…

And, just sometimes, travelling that way can bring you to a magical kingdom you never knew existed.

Or were too afraid to approach.

Be bold! Let your wings lead, or your heart, or spirit!

Do not let the dodgy exhaust of the brain lead the way every time.

It does not ALWAYS know what it is doing!

Learning from pain…

I think it is often true that our most painful, difficult and stressful times teach us the most necessary and valuable lessons – and that, in fact, the placement of such problems is no coincidence: That the classes we have truanted from the most, as it were, are the ones we get the most rigorous detentions for.

We find we have to re-evaluate our lives, our friends, our families – and our responses.

I have had to face several unpleasant, and hurtful, truths since the end of July.

One is that family relationships, and precious people, cannot be left on hold indefinitely, or for a more propitious moment; that lives are chancy, and can be cut off without any warning – and that, therefore, making the most of those we hold dear matters far more than our pride, our notions of distance, or convenience or a notional tomorrow which may never come.

We waste so much of our lives stuck in positions from which we will not budge – even when we sense that such stances are destructive and alienating. As a species, we often choose to be right rather than have an important relationship work. We dig our heels in, whilst condemning mules for that very practice, and refuse to move, even when we can SEE, quite clearly, that our stubbornness is hurting others – and then, unable to face what we are and what we do, we BLAME the wounded others for being too sensitive, or unable to take criticism.

I KNOW whereof I speak: I have a tough streak of sheer immovability in my own character – and do not always back down at times when it would be far better if I did so.

Another thing I have learned – the hard way – is that I have GOT to protect myself first; that I cannot hope to help others if I am vulnerable and hurt and open to every single sling and arrow of outrageous fortune.

Last night, I did exactly as I said I would: invoked the Higher Powers and armed myself, in the psychic sense, against assault of any kind. Having done that, I asked for remote-control protection for others.

I had a huge sense of darkness lifting and light beginning to seep in through the misty, cob-webby, damaged rooms of the soul – and of the real places I was ‘targeting’.

But I have also had to face the fact that I place ridiculously high demands upon myself – and this can be very dangerous. The ‘I must try harder’ part of me is very hard to silence, to soothe, to reassure. Even when I remind myself of the tragic death of little Paul in D.H.Lawrence’s short story ‘The Rocking-Horse Winner‘,  I still leap upon that metaphorical wooden steed and ride desperately to a finishing post only I can see.

I matter. I am deserving of loveliness and relaxation and kindness and consideration and warmth. I do not, in the symbolic sense, have to take responsibility for the financial situation of my parents; that is for them to sort out. As a child, I need protection and support and care too.

I was ready, from an early age, to rescue others: Had it all mapped out in my mind, all the exit points from the house, the frying pan under bed, so that I could defend my parents and younger siblings against attack, illness, fire, even death.

I did not expect anyone to save me – mainly because I would be the one riding in on a white charger and picking everyone else up.

It makes me want to cry when I think of that smaller me – lying awake, night after night, listening out for danger, ready, at the slightest sign, to go in and drag all the others out through my bedroom window onto the roof which sloped down towards the back garden.

Where did I get such a ridiculous sense of responsibility for others?

I am not Super Woman now – and most certainly was not Super Bambi back then; in fact, I was a timid, shy, asthmatic little girl, not at all the super-hero type.

I know what it was, or think I do: My mother was, understandably, frightened of facing my father’s low blood sugar, shading into hypo times of the day – basically every meal time – and she often chose (consciously or not) to be away, or late back, at such times. This left me, as oldest child, in charge from a very early age – of a big man whose moods, when driven by lack of sugar, were unpredictable and very scary, and who exhibited terrifying physical symptoms when we did not get food into him in time.

I grew up, therefore, with the unconscious notion that, if I did not act immediately, my father would go into a coma and die – and this, of course, became extended to the rest of the world, and is still with me.

If I do not respond quickly, someone else will suffer and die – and it will all be my fault.

I am sure that this is where the hyper-anxiety started. Because, you see, as an eight year old girl, I was unprotected, and unsafe – and this feeling has never really left me; I feel it now, in my tummy, writing this post.

People have always tried to calm me down by insisting that I relax, by telling me that it will be all right and that the other will be fine if I do not immediately spring into action.

But I learned, from my first memories, that people you love are NOT always fine – and that no amount of verbal reassurance can stop a diabetic from crashing to the floor in a coma.

It is the most painfully difficult habit for me to break, this one – this obsessive need to save others is so ingrained in my psyche that I respond first and ask questions later.

Because, you see, every call for help, in my mind, could, potentially, lead to death, or at least serious injury/illness.

What I need to take on board is that I CANNOT save the world.

Ultimately, as I have said before, none of this hyper-alertness, on any of our parts, had the power to save my father – and nothing can bring him back.

I can love and support those who matter to me – but I cannot save them.

Perhaps once I truly take that wisdom on board, my shoulders will fall, my back with stop aching all the time and some of my huge anxiety will begin to ease.

I have to face the painful reality that, no matter how much I love people, some of them ARE going to become seriously ill, or have injuries, or die before I do.

And there may not be anything I can do to prevent this.

 

 

 

 

I need to LAUGH

Life since the end of July has been, almost without exception, incredibly stressful – and I have been left reeling, blinking back tears (of both grief and tension) and wondering how I can summons up the next bit of strength in order to deal with yet another traumatic event flung in my direction.

Even my lovely nude-bathing was tampered with – not, I hasten to add, by the delightful friends I was staying with, but by other forces.

This grey and sombre-looking afternoon, I desperately need Cretan heat on my aching back and shoulders; I need to be cradled and soothed and comforted and held up; I need intercession by the Light because I am not sure I can cope alone with all these different weather systems coming at me from all four quarters.

But above all, I NEED to laugh, to let the incredible, bone-aching hunched posture go for a few moments.

There has been precious little laughter in my life since that late July day – and I am longing for it just as much as I am yearning for the restorative action of the sun.

Sometimes, I just want to stand up and scream at the universe, ‘Oh, come ON: Give me a break, can’t you?’

I sometimes want to ask, ‘What the hell is the lesson I am meant to be learning from this incessant painful testing?’

But I know the answer, or at least part of it, already: Light Workers are being targeted all round the world. Things are accelerating globally, spiritually, and that which has been left unfinished is being forced into the limelight.

And it makes sense, I suppose: If fibres of light are being shot out into the world, they are going to attract the eyes of the dark forces – and sabotage is going to be set in motion.

Things are coming up so monstrously, so dramatically and unstoppably, because they have to come to a head and be cleared in order for the higher vibrations to come through.

At the priestess level, I know and accept this flaying of the soul.

But, the human being, the Ali, is crying out in pain and desperate for ease, for it to stop or at least to calm down a bit.

I KNOW I am not alone here. I know that many people are struggling to cope as a malign barrage of darkness is thrown at them. I know, for I see it every day, that situations are going critical for all too many, and that many are weeping, screaming, flailing mightily to keep heads above churning water.

This evening, I am going to invoke assistance from the higher beings because there are some things which cannot be handled by human power alone.

I should, perhaps, have done this sooner – but, at the time, I was busy creating a heartstone line on the inner for/with a relative in great need.

Now, it is my turn.

Now, it is time to turn these disparate situations over to the Goddess.

Letter to self, August 2015…

This, the second part of my response to #August Moon 14, represents a breakthrough…

In it, I had to write a letter, as if I were now living in August 2015, back to the summer 2014 self. It was very hard to do – but I got there in the end!

Ah! Dearest self -

We broke through in the end, didn’t we?

And now we lie upon the hot, and beautiful, beach of relaxation. We are naked, free of pain; we know that we are loved and wanted, admired and respected. We know that we can choose to go on quests, or ignore them altogether – and we will STILL be valued.

We have kept the Medea head, and the protective aura in place for nearly a year, and are all the better for its soft and reassuring presence.

It has not, as we so feared, made us seen as selfish or nasty, self-centred or uncaring; in fact, it has given others a true sense of our needful boundaries and has allowed THEM to step around us with loving care. It has improved our health, hugely, and our relationships with others significantly. People know how far they can go now – because WE are able to set limits on our own behaviour and attitude.

It is so liberating and lovely that we smile just writing the words.

The darkest centre of our previous universe has been neutralised. We have allowed it to seep out of our life. Not with any kind of hatred or revenge, or ill-feeling; on the contrary, we wish it well, we wish it to be happy, we wish it health and well-being. We just had to recognise that it was not right for us; that the chemistry and biology, the damaged intent, the lack of any desire to change, was running counter to our deepest needs. We have let it go with intention and love.

Our writing has gone from strength to strength. In fact, we are starting to get wider, and more serious, recognition, and are trembling on the edge of physical, printed publication of our words. We are seen, increasingly, as very talented – slightly to our surprise, but much to our relief. For, you see, as our self-esteem has grown, the blindfold of doubt has melted away – and we are able to see, clearly, that we are not just a writer, but an exceptional one!

Our son, now able to drive and still going out with his beloved young lady, is a delight, as he mostly has been; he has taken up fencing once more, as was his wish – and, following on from his brilliant GCSE results a year ago, is now thoroughly enjoying his A’level courses. He is loyal and loving to his parents, and his dry sense of humour is much appreciated by those who come into contact with him.

We have slimmed down considerably, haven’t we? Partly the running – which we still do, but not quite as guiltily! – and partly the vastly increased level of happiness. Our hair, now very long and still orange, is a statement in its own right, isn’t it? It is a statement that, despite everything, we refused to be cowed, to have our spirit trampled all over – that, ultimately, we did not care if others found us embarrassing, or felt ashamed at our outer expression of inner Light.

Ghost Weed, the band started two years ago, has given enormous pleasure and fellowship: We have performed at several different venues now, and are getting quite a name for ourselves as a truly original, quirky and eclectic bunch of like-minded souls. We have also been to many places just to watch other bands, and this has been wonderful.

Friendships have deepened – and, in some cases, taken off in entirely unexpected directions. Our ability to reach out has increased hugely – and in ways that we would never have thought possible a year ago.

But perhaps the most significant step has been in the area of others’ control. We are no longer willing to be bullied or emotionally blackmailed – and the act of making this clear, once and for all, has improved things so much that we can hardly believe we are the same person! We laugh so much more readily. We do not cower and quiver, panic and hyperventilate. We no longer feel we have to ask, ‘How high?’ when asked to jump – and the awful fear of not being good enough, never doing the right thing, has all but disappeared.

We know, finally, that it was NOT any kind of lack in us, but a genuine disorder in the other – a disorder which could only be worked upon with the willing participation of the other, and, since that co-operation was withheld, we knew, in the end, that there was nothing else we could do but sever the ropes and allow our little ship to sail away from that particular ravaged shore.

The other remains a part of our world, but it is under a very different, more remote, footing – and that is as it should be.

We have mended many fences with our beloved siblings – and all pulled together to support those in greatest need. It has not been easy, or pain free, and there are still areas of uncertainty, but our love for one another has never been stronger or more certain.

We have stopped trying so hard.

We have respected our own boundaries and needs far more than ever before.

We have thrilled to the excitement, peace and love of knowing that others actively seek, and delight in, our company; that they want to go on adventures with us just because of WHO we are! This has been such a revelation!

Intimate relationships with closest friends have blossomed, have become far more than we ever expected, have transformed us – and them!

We have, finally, finished our work on ‘Your Unseen Power’ and are just coming to the end of the Spear Realm of the Hallowquest, our Light work also having bloomed and increased in depth this year.

Our love for, and visits to, Crete have continued, though in significantly different mode – and we know that there are other lovely places just waiting for us to discover and visit!

We have, at last, faced, and hurdled, our fear of motorway driving – and now can run the gamut of the UK’s highways and byways without fear. How great is that?!

Last of all, we can see that we ARE endearing, and sweet, and kind, and generous and loving – and irritating at times, of course! – and we are attracting into our orbit those who bring light and warmth and love into our lives.

So happy and healthily tanned and relaxed and loved and free!

Ali

xxx

My favourite photo

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We were on Triopetra beach, in Crete, mid June this year – and Dill said she wanted to take a photo of the bright red hair.

It was very hot, and I adored that beach; there was something both soothing and inspiring about it. Had I been a bit bolder, I would have stripped off and posed naked.

I sat, cross-legged, on the sand, took my glasses off and smiled.

I love this photo because it is such a natural look. I do not look forced, tense or frightened (as is so often the case); I just look like ME!

I actually call myself orange-haired, partly because I really like the slightly anarchic idea of having orange hair, but mostly because the phrase is part of a longer name given to me by one of my close friends!

When I actually did go naked, on that beach in Devon, one of my friends took a couple of photos – and, do you know what? I  really LIKE them! Again, it is the sense of just being myself, not being embarrassed or trying to look more beautiful than I actually am, of being at ease with my body and not in a stiff self-conscious pose.

I was sitting upon an air bed at the time, and the image captures me from the lap up (though the lap is tastefully shot, so as not to shock the natives!). My head is thrown back and I am laughing in delight. My embonpoint is on proud display, as you might say – and, as I peeked through half-closed eyes at first glance, I thought, ‘Yup! Still got a damned fine pair, though I say it myself!’

Next time I go to Crete, I shall slather myself up all over, whip any clothes off and run naked into the warm sea – as long as I am on a designated nudist beach, you understand!

If the rest of the group disown me, frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn!

Go, Ali!

#August Moon, 14, Day 15: Do it now!

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What if what you are doing right now was actually your destination? What would that mean for your journey?

I think Kat and I are in synch on this phase of the journey: how lovely!

All my life I have waited to be perfectly formed – as Kat put it so brilliantly in her introduction; I suspect many of us do, don’t we?

On the physical side, when I realised that I had large breasts, I was embarrassed and ashamed, wanted them to be small and neat and pert like those of other, to my mind, more attractive girls. When I woke to the fact that my hair was curly, I wanted the straight, long hair of my sisters. You get the idea, I am sure; other specific examples are not necessary!

But, eventually, I realised that my body sense sprung, at least in part, from my mother’s view of what constituted beauty – and her resentment of my father’s side of the family.

Her side went in for petite, small-breasted, neatly-formed, slim girls; all three of my sisters took more genes from this look.

The women on my father’s side tended much more to the large, the loud and the full of figure – and I can remember my mother telling me, with a somewhat disparaging tone, ‘You don’t get that from MY side of the family…’

I think, from something she let slip years later, that she was envious of me and worried that I DID have sex appeal and WOULD be desired by men. She was, and still is, a complex and damaged woman – and struggled, I can see now, to balance love for us with the weight of her largely unacknowledged hang-ups.

It has taken me an awfully long time to see that the parts of my character, and looks, which she condemned did not constitute an absolute; in other words, that the whole thing was her opinion, her fear and jealousy and did not represent a universal truth, which everyone could agree to, about her ungainly, overly-shy eldest child.

It has taken me most of my life to see clearly that I, Alienora, am NOT my mother’s fearful description, and that her standards – of physical perfection, qualities, moral values and religious dogma – were not hair shirts I had to wear under my own garments, unless, of course, I chose to do so.

Silly me. Sad Mummy.

I do not need to wait until I am slimmer to be acceptable. I do not need to straighten my hair, or apply make-up, or squeeze myself into ultra-sexy clothes to be deemed attractive.  And I do not need to be anyone other than me to be loved.

I think we are all in a state of glorious imperfection, if truth be known – and so it should be, otherwise there would be no rough edge upon the path and our shoes would slip and we would fall constantly; otherwise, we would be mired in the syrup of complacency and self-denial, with no motivation to journey beyond the cosy nest of our own comfort zones; otherwise, looking in the mirror, we would see such exquisite loveliness that our life’s struggle would be fending off the hordes of admirers who flocked to our Narcissistic pool.

There is no ultimate arrival. I say this partly because there is no such thing as time, outside the rational need of mankind to invent such a concept – and, as beings of light, the space we create around us is infinite and thus outside our control.

We like to think that we have mapped the world, understood distance, controlled the elements. But it is our corporate consciousness which keeps the metaphorical balloon floating in the air, which describes its shape as balloon-like in the first place.

We shape this world from the tiniest fraction of our vast creative capacity – and our journeys, both inner and outer, tend to reflect this.

I have recently dipped back in to the Carlos Castaneda books. I am aware that he has been vilified by many, and that there may be some truth in some of the accusations – but Don Juan and don Genaro’s teachings have much that is instantly recognisable to those of us who study the Western Mystery Tradition and are ritual magicians.

I think, in particular, of Don Juan’s lessons on the Tonal and the Nagual – and Carlos’ attempts to describe the workings of the latter through the everyday reality and verbal restrictions of the former.

We tend to travel, as we do everything, in the realm of the Tonal – and, often, are scared, sometimes literally to death, by the sudden interjection of the Nagual in our lives. We do anything to tame it, to deny it, to call it something else, to sneer at it or put it down to something we ate, drank or smoked.

I have witnessed it on several occasions – and each time it was both terrifying and exhilarating because words and concepts failed me, and because it lifted me out of my predictable mode of travel and onto a radically different one.

Back in 1977, I was very taken with the sorcerer’s description of man as a luminous being, a creature made up of light fibres – and this idea is very much a part of the reality I now embrace, and fits in perfectly with such things as the aura.

We assume that we are simply flesh, that our bodies are weighted and earth-bound – and so we limit ourselves in terms of where we go and what we do.

I know, from tales of Damanhur, amongst many other sources, that we are far more than we realise – and that what we call magic is perfectly possible, that our journeys by car and plane are but a fraction of what is possible to us as light sources.

Let us, dear friends, travel with truly open minds and unfixed bodies; let us keep the astral paths clear and well-tended too!

Gift of Freesias

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Thanks to enfloria.ro for this lovely image of freesias.

I am so grateful to you ALL for your patience and loyalty during the past two very difficult, and painful, weeks.

Thank you for sticking by me despite my silence and non-response; thank you for continuing to read, and make such lovely comments upon, my posts; this has touched me greatly – and bolstered me too.

I want to give particular thanks to the people mentioned below. They are regular visitors, comment so generously – and, in several cases, have become friends:

Sue, Noah, Francine, Kat, Ranu, Cindi, Frankie, Z, Richard, Bob, Trent, Inchcock, Mike, Maggie, Anne-Marie, Monica, Mihrank, Deborah, Eilis, Andy, Carol, Jennifer, Daniel – and Marilyn, who also wrote so many great comments.

My favourite flowers are freesias – so the above bouquet is for all of you, in the virtual sense. But, as you look at it, do imagine the gorgeous scent of these delicate and lovely flowers and know that this comes from the heart.

I hope to be easing gently back into normal next week.

#August Moon, 14, Day 14: Gently Go

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How will you start the journey?

All too often in life, we feel we cannot start any journey unless the conditions are set fair: The weather is perfect, the motorways are relatively free of traffic and the outlook is favourable.

The same goes for inner and spiritual journeys: We are reluctant to start until all is perfect – we are happy, relaxed, secure and pain or disease free.

But, my friends, life isn’t that careful of us, is it? And, while we are waiting for those optimum conditions to arise, the impulse for adventure is draining away.

This morning, I was at a very low point – and I thought, ‘I cannot begin my journey like THIS.’

Yes, I CAN – and so can we all. If we start on the road EXACTLY how we are, without judging or rejecting, we are being true to the moment and allowing the full gamut of emotions free reign within our complex personalities.

The piece below is the initial walk down that path made by someone rendered almost wordless, in the logical sense, by a combination of factors. It is NOT how I always am, but I chose to plod off down the road anyway.

HOW WILL I START THE JOURNEY?

One tiny tearful step at a time, I suppose.

I am falling, tumbling through trembling lips and sad thoughts; I cannot seem to slip easily through the sun spots of life the way many do, seem mired in deep dark pools and the grip and grind of despair.

The why statements are just so much will o’ the wisp fractured light cracking bones over marshes and luring the unwary traveller into a world of flesh-sucking destruction.

The albatross of things I cannot say grows ever- more waterlogged, heavy and putrid round my neck; yet I cannot dislodge it, allow it to fall into the sloughing sigh of relief bestowed by decomposition, for it represents the action of my carefully-aimed crossbow; it is a mute and terrible symbol of my guilt  and grief.

I am hiding in whimsy and fancy’s flights because truth and reality are too painful today; I shudder and clutch parts of my spirit together at the very thought, hoping by this tattered tearing at rotten garments to keep myself safe and unwounded.

I have flayed myself raw over the past day, the flail of self-blame applied again and again to bleeding skin; my throat has become so honeycombed with useless tears that, at times, I have barely been able to articulate a single syllable – and yet, the colourful stole of external reassurance drapes itself over hunched and hurting shoulders whether I will or no: I have to keep the mask on for a little bit longer; I have to be that strong not-me, to tuck others into the warmth and safety of my pouch; I cannot give way yet – there is no room at that particular inn; it is already full to bloat with the genuine, the needy, the articulate, the sobbing multitude…

I wait in a queue which never gets any shorter. My heart is weary, and my legs sore. Muscles, stretched taut over the bodhran of tension, sound the womb-beat notes of anguish.

I graze the topmost grass of sleep, getting no restful nutriments from it, producing the thin acid of poisoned creative ‘milk'; blood wells from flimsy nasal passages and, swallowed back down, a fury in itself, produces clots of fear.

Childlike, I curl into myself, stroke the soft skin of tummy for comfort, stare, wide-eyed, into the long maw of dawn, wishing the colours would wrap me tight, transport me to peace.

The razor wire of the mind catches ravens, their dreadful cry bleeding out over the muddy battlefield of thoughts’ global conflict. Words, caught and transmuted by the ghastly passion of death, lie stunned and redundant in the stinking mire. The cannon of shocking realisation boom, blowing holes in hope, tearing bloody chunks from self-deception and smearing the face with the gore of fear.

I must try harder…

As a teacher, I was obsessively dutiful – and very anxious about getting tasks done immediately. Marking, for example. If a class of kids gave me homework, I would stay up until late at night in order to get it graded and given back to them the next day. I  worried constantly about failing, about letting people down, about being late, about being told off.

I have come to recognise that, far from leaving all that behind me, I am adopting exactly the same attitude to blogging as I did to teaching.

It is destructive and counter-productive; it is making me feel stressed, as if I am forever chasing my own tail.

I feel guilty if I do not read other people’s posts. I feel mean and ungrateful if I am late responding to a comment. I am frightened that such behaviour will lose me support, will show me up for the selfish person I have always secretly suspected that I am, will alienate others.

Because of life events in real time, I have made the difficult (for me) decision not to read anything this week – but, it is so confronting, so hard to keep to.

I feel enormous surges of anxiety when I deliberately turn my back on others – either by ignoring their written words or by delaying a response to them in any way.

I have a vast sense of responsibility in this way.

I do not want my writing life to be the way my teaching career was. I do not want time-fears, task-deadlines and the terror of letting the system down to prey on, and nearly destroy, me.

I know that this kind of blog post will offend, even anger, some – and I try to be prepared for that.

But, I have learned that those who are driven to fury by my need to assert myself are not, in any sense I care to recognise, true friends – and that those who are able to give me space to go through current tunnels of difficulty are the people I actively wish to associate with.

But, to put it bluntly, I only come through this way as me, Alienora, once – and I do not choose to waste any more of my life being duty-rich and pleasure/relaxation-poor.

I am choosing to luxuriate in a degree of selfishness.

Scary.

Liberating.

Necessary.