December 31, 2009
New Year Cometh
In opposition to the prevailing social trend across the globe this evening, I'm having an early night.
The plan is to be in bed before midnight, so that tomorrow I can take a long New Year's Day walk in Hyde Park, complete with clear head, bright eyes, and undisturbed digestive system. 'Sad', as the youth-speak goes, or smug? What Ever!
I shall reflect on the year that's been and I shall think that - as years go- this one has been kind to me. And as years go, it went.. too fast, again.
As Tess said below, bad things happen to the best of people. It's a simple ontological observation. Whatever our moral,religious or philosophical views on the subject, shit happens. As such, it might happen to me. 'Why not me?' is what I hope I'd ask in the event, rather than the usual angry 'Why me?'. But that's easy to say from the safety of one's sofa.
On a lighter note and minor point, call me a pedant (I've been called worst things), but am I alone in thinking that 2010 is not a beginning of a new decade as the media would have us believe? It's simply the last year of a current decade. Just as year 1BC was followed by year 1AD, with no Year Zero as a starting point.
New Years Eve
Trying to catch up with the blog, like any who must have read it, I was moved by Annas post before Christmas about her friends who lost their baby. All heightened no doubt, in the season of babies. In the last 3 months, 5 people I know have had babies. 2 are beloved firstborns hatched without a hitch, 1 was a miraculous accident born to my friends in their late 40s, also safe and sound and incredibly so, another was born with Downs, and another was stillborn. This is a prayer I wrote for the parents of the stillborn baby, mindful too, of Annas friends.
May the God of all consolation hold you
In gentle mercy at this time.
I give thanks for N, who is and will always be
Child of your flesh
Bone of your bone.
May you not be comfortless in the dark emptiness of night
But let your troubled spirits rest
In the quiet waters of sorrow
Where memory is healed,
dreams are restored,
And the reflection of N is never lost
But shines on your lives as you journey on
Until yours are joined eternally with hers/his
In the deep peace of God which keeps us always.
Thinking about all this reminded me of saying goodbye to someone at work who was leaving the week before Christmas. He had had a shitty year and we had been sharing it as it happened. I was foolishly trying to make sense of some of it in retrospect and he said what I actually believe: It just is. In my paid work in the hospital, every day is full of the shitty end of random. People naturally ask me to make sense of what happens and I say there is no sense. It just is. I myself try to make sense of shit that happens in my own life even though I always conclude that it just is. The urge to make sense of it is so strong. People tell me I am faithless for saying it just is, that my view of life is too chaotic. It is a less frightening option for me than one where it is part of a plan that babies die. But random is also very frightening and I find myself trying to guard against it by making sense where there is none.
On New Years Eve, like others, I will bring to mind my hopes and fears, especially my hopes but the truth is, who knows? Who knows what any of us stand on the threshold of? Who would have thunk 2009? I have just ordered a book by Carol Ann Duffy called The Lost Happy Endings. It is a brilliant title – havent read the book. I admit Im a sucker for happy endings – see prayer above, but Im more and more convinced as each year goes by, that the happy ending is how we wove in the shit – how we handled those threads and made them part of everything. Even though weve got no idea why they had to be there at all.
December 30, 2009
Know Thyself, know thy colours
The ancient Greek aphorism 'Know Thyself' inscribed on the wall in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi has been attributed to at least five different Greek sages; most notably among them, Socrates.
In the spirit of the pursuit od self-knowledge, you understand, a while ago I decided to HAVE MY COLOURS DONE. As in 'The House of Colour colour consultation 'colours done'; surely you must have heard of it if not actually 'had it done' (yet!) yourself.
Here is the deal: Your skin is either yellow-based or blue-based and stays the same throughout your life, i.e. tan, aging etc may change skin tone , but not skin base. Hence some colours will suit you, that is will make you look healthier, younger, more radiant, and others will have the opposite effect. Sounds simple enough, though in practice it's much more complex, subtle and need to be fine-tuned to individual - hence the need to see a trained consultant.
If your immediate reaction to this is one of the following: how silly; vain, egotistic; vacuous; based on pseudo-science; frivolous; lacking common sense; it's for people with more money than sense; for the gullible; I know what I like already; I know what suits me; unhealthy obsession with image etc etc, you would like to know that mine too was all of the obove and more.
And yet, hand on heart, purely and simply to honour Socrates and his wisdom, and with no other motive in mind (again, hand on heart!), I went and had it done. More to get a confirmation of what I already 'knew' , than to find out.
To cut a long story short - I was wrong. It turns out that I'm Summer (cool, muted colours) after all, and not warm Autumn. I was surprised, doubtful, incredulous, resistant, even cross and argumentative at first, then slowly it grew on me, and I became accepting, pleased, and finally delighted. I could see with my own eyes that these were the right colours for me. And what's more, I learnt to love them!
Here I could tell you what a great 'investment' it is, how it makes life (at leat the shopping side of it) easier and simpler, how you never need buy another mistake, i.e a garment you love in the shop but for inexplicable reason end up never wearing etc, etc, and all of it would be true. But since this is not a 'Lifestyle, Beauty, Fashion' feature, I won't tell you any of this. Okay, I may have just done it!
But more to the point, we are rather fixed in our views, preferences, convictions, opinions etc. And it's good sometimes to forget all we know, or think we know, about ourselves, and dare to learn and be open to surprises.
I have a friend who refuses even to consider such colour adventure (I offered to buy it as a birthday treat, so it's not about money) for fear that she might be told to change her colour habits (as if the newly discovered knowledge was going to be implemented by force).
We are attached to our illusions and cling to them for dear life and comfort. We wear the protective shell of personality like the false, mistaken colours of our make-up, hair and clothes, and it does us no favours.
Then again, if only finding the courage to let our true essense and radiance shine through were as fun and easy as getting your colours done..
King George finally does it
In December, 1939, King George VI did something he'd never done before; he gave a 'King's Speech' over the radio.
His father George V had started the tradition in 1932. But on suceeding him, his son George felt it was too much his father's thing for him to attempt to replicate it. And so for three years, it was dropped; there was no King's speech.
But in 1939, with war looming, and uncertainty in the air, King George VI felt the moment was right to revive it. To do so, he had to overcome a stammer he'd had from childhood. But determined, he sat down in a studio in Sandringham, and spoke to the nation.
The speech is perhaps now best remembered for the words with which he closed. They were wriiten in 1908 by Minnie Lousie Haskins as an introduction to her war poem, 'The Desert'.
These were the words:
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.'
December 28, 2009
Over the holiday I read "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy.
With last but one page, I put the book aside and burst into tears. ( Last time that happened it must have been Dickens, many years ago). Only later I finished the remaining paragraph.
Without giving too much away (for the movie is coming to your local multiplex cinema shortly), it's a shattering, bleak, spare, terrible, beautiful, poetic, shocking account of the postapocalyptic world coming to an end. And it's full of wonders. Like all best art it makes you feel more connected to life (the opposite of 'escapism') than you might have felt before.
"No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.."
December 26, 2009
I have missed the deadline.
My long-postponed (and long-awaited, so I fancied) carp story was meant for Christmas Eve, and now it's too late. Now it's time to dump the Christmas tree and reverse to normality. After all, the Oxford Street wonder sale is on, for Christ sake!
It was never much of a story, really, the carp tale - I just wanted to keep you on the hook, so to speak..
But here it is, anyway.
Vigilia (the Vigil Supper) is the main event of Polish Christmas. With the first star appearing on the sky we sit down at white-linen covered table and break bread, exchange good wishes, forgive and ask for forgiveness. There should be an extra cover for an unexpected guest. The thinking must have been that the homeless wanderer who knocks on your door could turn out to be Jesus, but nowdays it's just a very beautiful tradition signifying the belief that nobody should be alone on such night.
Twelve courses are supposed to be served ( I have yet to see it in practice!), there is no meat for technically it's still Advent, and so the main dish is carp.
Carp is considered by some a "dirty' fish; it's interesting what is dirty in different cultures - pork, mackerel, letting the dog lick you face? It can be prepared in myriad different ways, but it needs to be sexed-up rather than plain fried to be an exciting dish.
So far so good, and hardly controversial.
The darker truth was that the fish, in order to be fresh for the table, needed to be purchased in advance, alive and kicking, and - being a freshwater fish - kept in a bathtub until execution day, the Christmas Eve.
This drama was enacted in every home, up and down the country. A carp in the bathroom, children giving it a name, forming attachments, treating it as a pet. Until the day came when the father's (it was always the father - ask any Pole) job was to kill the carp. Stunning it with a hammer being the prefered method, first you had to seize the slimy creature with your hands and trying to keep the crying kids away from the scene, do the deed with manly sense of purpose.
What traumatic effect this ritualised annual slaughter had on our young psyches, I dare not speculate.
Nowdays, of course, it's all sanitised and easy. Carp is bought gutted, sliced and shrink-wrapped in a supermarket, like everything else.
But I feel nostalgic for the Christmases of my childhood..
There is nowhere to go to
There is nowhere to run from
There is only this moment
December 25, 2009
And so this is Christmas
December 25th, 2009
A moment in time,
and yet eternity held,
instant and stretching,
and a single gong, echoing through flesh,
through spirit and flesh,
down long long ages, and brief forevers.
Today, like a wanderer,
old and bent from travel,
I pause at the fire,
feel the warmth;
old muscles happily remembered.
Feeling the fire,
and the echo passing through,
all sadness and joy,
of times past and a future remembered.
This is now.
Christmas greetings, my friends.
December 22, 2009
Advent thoughts, part 2
I've just read Simon's Christmas piece for the Daily Mail - how lucky they are to have him writing for them! (Not quite sure if they quite deserve that but that's quite a separate issue best left in parenthesis here..)
Advent is exhausting. All those parties throughout December. The more of them you're invited to, the more popular, desired and successful as a human being you are; obviously! By the time you actually get to Christmas, the event is often one huge anticlimax, and the sight of discarded trees on Boxing Day dispiriting.
In a Catholic culture, where I was born and grew up, Advent is a time of moderate fasting and restricted entertainment (definitely no dancing!). Traditionally it is a time of penitence, a season akin to Lent.
Christmas starts on Christmas Eve with decorating the tree and the Vigil Supper (where our friend Carp - fish, not Augustus- makes a guest appearance, and about which next time). It's the beginning of the season of parties (Carnival) that lasts till the beginning of Lent, although Christmas itself ends with the Epiphany Day, after which the tree gets chucked out.
It makes more sense in every sense to me, but then of course ( being a Catholic, culturally speaking), I might be biased.
Having said all that, I went to a fabulous Christmas party on Sunday.
My friend Luke who plays a mean piano, and his mates on drums, bass and saxophone, form Cheesy Christmas Classics band every year. Mulled wine is in abundance, children are welcome, dress code cardigans and slippers, and a roomful of people of all ages and singing abilities are invited to sing together jazzed-up versions of White Christmas, Santa Claus is coming to town etc.etc.
It's always a very happy occasion and so it was this year. I could feel endorphins (feel-good chemicals) singing in my bloodstream for hours afterwords.
Or perhaps it was the mulled wine..
Waiting for the baby
I lit a candle today. A candle of remembrance not of anticipation. The advent, the waiting is past for my friends. The long expected baby came on cue, she rushed into the world, too quickly it seems. The rush of air too much for her small lungs. The transition from womb to world a shock that she could not bear. Despite all the love and care that greeted her she did not make it past 2 days and now rests in peace. She leaves behind, despair and desperate tears. A little girl wondering where her baby sister is. Parents with empty arms, an empty cot, an empty heart.
The churches will be full of people celebrating the birth of a child this Christmas. Advent is not about waiting for a baby to be born. It is about waiting for God to become Emmanuel, present with us. And in the pain and in the dark, we light a candle to remind us of the light and of love.
December 19, 2009
Augustus Carp, Esquire
I'm longing to tell my unfinished Advent and Polish Christmas thoughts, but keep getting distracted.
On a Portobello market stall today, an old book with intriguing title caught my eye.
"Augustus Carp Esquire, by Himself; being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man" was in my possession in a matter of minutes.
It's an account of one man's ascent to the hights of mediocrity and self-importance told by a humourless, religious oaf, keen to expose the sins of others while ignoring his own.
This being a spoof autobiography, it's also quite funny.
But it made me wonder about our need to disapprove.
When couple of days ago, I said in jest that Christmas won't be complete until I can find some really nice ornamental bankers to hang on my Christmas tree, a friend of mine didn't try to hide how truly appalled she was.
I was genuinly surprised that the idea hasn't crossed anybody else's mind, for if it had, they would've turned it into a business opportunity pronto - they always have in the past. But not this time. There are simply no ornamental bankers with which to decorate your tree.
So who was more of an Augustus Carp type of figure? I, for being appaled at how nice, generous and forgiving we all are towards the Masters of the Universe? Or my friend, for disapproving of my bad taste and of my being 'judgemental'.
Sense of humour failure might be a sin of omission; still a sin though..
And since I have the last word here: sin of which I heartily disapprove!
December 18, 2009
Snow on the ground, deep and crisp and even.
Well, not deep at all, more like a light dusting.
A journey into Covent Garden,
not arduous like the journey of the Magi,
finding something unexpected on arrival:
a performer delighting and amusing the small crowd
with his wit and well-rehearsed act.
A gift on a morning when I felt weary and witless,
but with enough time to stop and stare,
and be given to by a wise man.
December 17, 2009
Splendour amid Squalor
As I stepped outside at 8am this morning, I noticed something quite different in the air and light - a lovely quality of cold but dry and crisp stillness not often associated with the usual grey and damp of the Big Smoke.
Amazingly, the sky was partly blue, and low sunbeams were making a beautiful play of salmon-pinkish light on tops of buildings and church tower. I looked up and felt elated. What a gratifying vision!
And just as I was starting to feel rather smugly pleased with my awareness of the beauty and glory of what I was watching, and was even inwardly congratulating myself on noticing such blessings in the 'everyday', I stepped, dear Reader, into a dog excrement.
Shit happens, they say. How right they are!
Needless to say I was annoyed. But also amused, in a wry sort of way.
What a priceless if unsubtle lesson in ego-deflation, just as I was beginning to fancy myself as something/someone special. On higher ground, more 'spiritually' evolved perhaps, than others..
We are human beings on a spiritual journey. Or maybe it's the other way round - spiritual beings on a human journey.
Whatever.. Who cares which one it is as long as we watch where we're going..
December 16, 2009
Choc or not?
Keeping topical - Us bloggers are getting a bit good at that lately,
must be one of those Christmas miracles!
I had just about managed to rescue my advent candle from the little exploring hands of my one year old grandaughter, when my six year old grandson said to me " Nana, what's that?" so I showed him the numbers and duely explained that I burn down one number each day and when all the numbers are burnt down, then I know that it is Christmas day.
He looked quite thoughtful for a moment and then declared " Well Nana, thats pretty useless!"
Each to their own and he's a boy who prefers to count down in chocolate!
December 15, 2009
Advent thoughts, part 1
I've been thinking about this whole advent candle burning dilemma - how many days in a candle, how long is a candleday and whether or not to do other things while the flame is on and so on.
Perhaps this tradition is a bit of a relic of a bygone era (aren't most traditions?), when people actually sat to meals together as a family, at a table, and a candle would be lit; remember that? As such, a custom not very relevant to our present-day habit of eating out of cardboard boxes on our knees, each to his own (and on his own) , at different times but always in front of a TV screen.
At least I hear that's how it's done in modern Britain, but - having acquired neither a family of my own nor a TV set - I have no way of finding out nor a desire to pass judgement.
But I digress. And before I swiftly move on to my main subject - the meaning of Advent in Catholic culture (yes, Catholicism is a kind of culture, like Judaism, that goes beyond mere religion), this is a time to remind myself how I laughed, and laughed, and then laughed some more when some Conservative MP was praising X-Factor for promoting family values (Family Values!) and bringing communities together. Phleeeese!
The Advent, the virgin birth, the carp -it's all coming next (spotted the pun?).
For now, these two thoughts:
1. Since fire is focus in Latin, this should give us a clue as to whether it's better to stay with the candle or make a shopping list, wash the dishes etc. while waiting..
2. Dostoyevsky believed that if Jesus Christ were ever to make a Second Coming and return to Earth, we would crucify him all over again.
How terribly sad but probably true...
December 14, 2009
Like a candle in the wind
I'm sorry to break in on the 'deathfest' currently being enjoyed on this site, but my mail bag forces me to enter the 'Advent candle' debate, and address in particular the question: 'How long does a day last for?'
My sister believes its twelve minutes, which may be right; though I suppose it depends a little on how fat your candle is and whether there's a draft in the room.
My sense is that its a little longer than twelve; but this could just be typical male exaggeration. (Do let me know via the website if you have any special knowledge in this matter, and I'll pass it on, now we can no longer host comments.)
Because the other pressing matter is what you do while its burning. I have heard of terrible stories of people lighting the candle, going off and doing something, and returning to find a week of wax has passed; tragic unrecoverable time.
Some have even got to Christmas two weeks early, which is no fun at all.
This makes me think that when we light it, we stay with it, and don't do other things. Otherwise, it can become a bit of a chore, in a list of chores, like putting the cat out, or cleaning the oven, which I don't think is the idea. 'Oh, no - I've forgotten to light the damn candle! Its just one thing after another! Ye Gods!'
Light. Stay. Wonder.
For around twelve minutes or until done.
December 12, 2009
Marcus Aurelius, you cool dude!
Dying, coffins, funerals (real and cinematographic) make lively and universal subject, at least on our blog this month (see Departures and Gary's funeral), so let's keep the ball rolling.
On my bedside table I have Marcus Aurelius Meditations (in brilliant easy-reading translation by Gregory Hays) and Seneca's On the shortness of Life (Penguin £4.99- what price timeless wisdom!).
Whenever I start to feel grim around the edges, which is often enough whenever the season of goodwill to all men is upon us, one or the other never fails to cheer me up.
Here's Aurelius On Death (his chapters On Living and the Good Life are even better):
"Human lives are brief and trivial. Yesterday a blob of semen; tomorrow embalming fluid, ash.
To pass through this brief life as nature demands. To give it up without complaint.
Like an olive that ripens and falls.
Praising its mother, thanking the tree it grew on."
"Suppose that a god announced that you were going to die tomorrow "or the day after".
Unless you were a complete coward you would't kick up a fuss about which day it was - what difference could it make? Now recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small. [...] The longest lived and those who will die soonest loose the same thing. The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you don't have, you cannot loose.'
What cool dudes those Stoics were!
December 11, 2009
Gary's funeral, you couldn't make it up!
Yesterday I attended the funeral of Gary, Gary knew that he was dying for quite a while and decided to take control of his own funeral arrangements.
I actually do not know Gary very well, I know his wife better as his children attended the nursery where I work. His Mum also works at the nursery and we have worked together for nearly 20 years. I am told on good authority that Gary liked to joke and always liked to do things his way.
Gary died from a disease which runs in his family and fifteen months ago when his brother died I attended the traditional Catholic mass.
However Gary decided he wanted to do things a little differently.
His coffin was painted with a sunrise scene above a beach and there were dolphins jumping out of the waves, his coffin was taken to the service strapped on the sidecar of a motor bike. The family cars which followed were white, he didn't want his funeral to be dour.
Gary was well liked and I would estimate that there was almost 300 people at the service, Iris catholics from his side of the family, Greek orthodox from his wife's side of the family and and a united nations of peoples from who knows where who had come together to say their goodbyes.
Gary had asked a African pastor who he had met in the hospice, to take his service, and we all quickly got used to filling in the space for the Amen!
I had never been to a funeral sevice where there was a semon before and I was bewildered by the Pastor's ideas of what happens after death and frankly astonished at his certainty of them.
I will tell you the much shortened version without the many and I do truly mean many biblical quotes.
Apparently when you die you don't go to heaven or hell, you just go to sleep in your coffin, so I must rememeber to make sure mines comfy, warm and cosy! Then at some time in the future (things became a little sketchy at this point) Jesus comes and wakes you up and tells you your final destination. However the big catch is that you have to have made friends with Jesus before you go to sleep in your coffin, because once you are sleeping you've missed out, there's no chance to negociate friendship with Jesus when he wakes you up, which personally I thought was a bit unkind and not very thoughtful.
The pastor then went on to tell us that Gary had made friends with Jesus so if we wanted to be with Gary in Heaven when the time was right we too needed to make friends with Jesus.
And that's the long and the short of it!
But on the up side I have never heard a solo of the Lords prayer sang so wonderfully.
Then after what felt like forever, and I do mean forever, we processed out to the the song 'Don't worry, be happy'
You couldn't make it up!
It was all quite bizarre and I like to think that Gary was somewhere wide awake watching and laughing at what he had arranged for his friends and relatives, but then again what do I know.
December 10, 2009
I went to see the Japanese film 'Departures' yesterday.
A story of a young cellist who looses his job with the orchestra, then responds to an ad placed by what he imagines to be a travel agency 'Departures' but is in fact a funeral firm offering services of professional 'encoffiners', hardly promised to be a barrell of laughs or even a proper subject for a movie.
No matter. Being a sucker for foreign "arthouse' movies, I had no choice - had to see it.
The film is not perfect, but it is very beautiful and wise, and there are laughs in it too, or at least some gentle humour. Which comes as a surprise, given the 'improper' subject matter and the number of dead bodies being prepared for coffins, that we get to watch in the course of it.
A heart warming and life affirming, feel-good movie about death? Shockingly, yes.
Something to do with our Western, death denying culture, being astonished by that? Perhaps.
We came out, my friend and I, into the starry night and feeling very much alive (good art does that), headed straight for the nearest pub in need of a stiff drink (appalling pun that, I know; mine was a double vodka, by the way).
We talked about the film and our lives, about the worst jobs we ever had to do, how we get judged by what we do for living, and how often we judge others and ourselves this way ( I was 'just' a waitress for many years, all bankers are loathsome creeps etc..), and how unjust such judgements are.
Then I told him about the importance od carp in Polish Christmas celebrations.
About which, another time..
Sunday morning revisited
I was sitting in the pub on Tuesday night, watching the football.
I was sat next to an old man, who kept saying the same thing throughout the match: 'It's like fuckin' Sunday morning!' he said.
He said this when something bad or incompetent or disappointing happened. So a player makes a poor pass:
'It's like fuckin' Sunday morning!'
Or the referee makes a really terrible decision:
'It's like fuckin' Sunday morning!'
Or the pitch becomes like a quagmire, definitely below standard, and difficult to play on:
'It's like fuckin' Sunday morning!'
Whatever the cock-up, absurdity or disaster, the same response. And I'm assuming he's referring to the Sunday morning football leagues around the country; as opposed to his experiences of church.
Though really, who knows?
December 07, 2009
Nothing to Fear
I went to meet a friend at Hamstead Heath yesterday and whist waiting for her to arrive I saw a woman sauntering along swinging a dog lead, her long legged puppy bounced along in front of her.
The puppy was excitingly investigating everything and everyone and eagerly approached a young girl walking along with her mother, the girl scared, quickly retreated behind her mum, who called out to the woman "My daughter is afraid of the dog" The woman didn't even look their way, she walked on and just said in a singsong voice "She shouldn't be"
As both parties walked away from me in opposite directions, I was left in thought, the girls fear was real and needed to be held and yet the woman had stated the truth, the puppy wasn't going to harm her, she didn't know it but she was perfectly safe.
And for me the helpful part of this story was that I was able to put my arms around the frightened little girl who lives inside me and whom has been struggling lately and say " There is nothing to fear"
Under the skin of London
Another London run in the early hours of yesterday, and the itinery
similar to the last. Camden, Oxford St, Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, Thames, Parliament, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, etc.
But of course I see differerent things; because you can't walk into the same river twice. Identical journey; entirely different experience.
So this time I see the lights in the narrow boat at Camden lock; early morning tea on the dark water;
By the Serpentine, in Hyde Park, I meet some ducks inspecting a colleague who has been executed; the head neatly chopped from the body, which sits feathered and fine, but lifeless on the concrete shore;
Past Battersea Power station, shorn of its power; standing, but also on its knees; and the M15 building where the spooks play 'secret sqirrel', all day, every day, till kingdom come.
Leaving the Law Courts behind, I meet the pale ghosts of Fleet Street; spectres looking for the old days, when print was king, they broke the news, and adrenalin flowed with dead line and significance. These people never wanted to go home; and they're still trying; must get home, must get home...
In Upper Street, the Goths gather outside Starbucks, after a night of clubbing. Dressed in black, ripped stockings and make-up - and its pretty much the same for the girls;
And of course the rain, torrential and drenching, like a water fall falling, endlessly wet for the two and a half hours.
It would have been drier to run naked along the ocean bed.
December 06, 2009
Bookoholism and beyond
So many books, so little time!
Still, I'm glad it is not the other way round - no books left, plenty of time scenario doesn't appeal that much.
They say: one book leads to another. If only that were true! Then we could proceed, orderly and calmly, in a linear fashion from one book to next. And even sometimes refrain from reading.
Which - so I'm told - can be good for the soul..
But as every compulsive reader knows only too well, the pile of books on our bedside table grows like heads of Hydra, for every one that's just been read at least two more appear; it is definitely a Malthusian growth; and it is getting out of hand.
In the bookshop, I can spot the afflicted straight away - the way they move; the way their hungry hawk-like eyes lit up with joy at flights of serendipity; excitement; guilt; exasperation; spending more time and money than intended; hiding purchases from spouses.. In short, not a pretty sight.
So today, for sanity's sake and to see what it feels like, I decided to have a Book-free Sunday.
Before you sneer, o Reader, be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle!
I read a paper (that doesn't count as 'reading' in my book), went for a walk in sunny Hyde Park, saw an exhibition, sat on bench by the Serpentine, marvelled at trees and birds and children, met a friend for lunch at the Polish caff, bought a purple (colour asociated with Advent!) cashmere jumper at the market, listened to music (listened properly, that is, not as a background sound), sorted old photos (so many memories, all vaguely painful, especially the good ones, why should it be so?) ....
And in short, I was content.
That said, tomorrow is another day and I'll be going to bed tonight with these words from Rubayyat:
"A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread - and Thou.."
ringing in my ears.
For in my book, a life completely free of books is not a life worth living..
December 02, 2009
A lucky mortal
On my kitchen wall, I have a picture of the great writer Vladimir Nabokov.
It's a badly framed, cheap reproduction of a photograph, and hence of no material value, but it is the image that matters.
As well as a giant of the 20th century literature, Nabokov was an entomologist, or strictly speaking, a lepidopterist. In the picture, a net in hand, he's appears seemingly oblivious to the rest of the world in chasing the object of lifetime's fascination, a butterfly.
Today, in the bookshop, I quite randomly opened Nabokov's wonderful "Speak, Memory" - his memoir of growing up in Russia. And there it was, on page I had unwittingly 'chosen', this passage:
"I confess I do not believe in time. [...] And the highest enjoyment of timelessness - in a landscape selected at random - is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern - to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humouring a lucky mortal."
A lucky mortal indeed. And I am one too - simply for having read those sublime words.
Perhaps I shall put them up as a caption to my picture, just above the kitchen sink.