Come in, it's lovely to see you. Pull up a cushion and stay as long as you like.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Stuff about reading and then one thing leads to another and I'm off down another road.

Recently I read James Herbert's latest offering Ash, followed by the new Carlos Ruiz Zafon book The Prisoner of Heaven, third in his Cemetery of Forgotten Books series (they are a delight). Then I read a short story by Stephen King called The Doctor's Case, a Sherlock Holmes story where Doctor Watson solves the mystery (found in his third short story collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes).

Currently I am engrossed in the unputdownable The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, a wonderfully touching story of simple humanity.

Why am I bothering you with this information I hear you cry (or was it bugger off Jonathan I'm busy and not the slightest bit interested in what you are reading).

Well, two reasons actually.

Firstly I love reading and, just as much (maybe even more) I love to talk about books I have read and to hear from others about their reading adventures. I used to be in a reading group, many years ago, and loved it. And I miss it.

Secondly, all the books I mentioned above are borrowed from my local library, and I love libraries as much as I love reading. I worked in the library service for eleven years. And that's exactly what it is. A public service. There for the public. To serve them.

I visited Chelmsford prison library once, because I had the opportunity and was interested. Something very interesting came from that visit and it was the statistic that, amongst the prison population the general literacy level can be low, compared to society in general and, alongside that, the reoffending rate (those who get out of prison and then commit more crimes and go back in) is high (around the 80% region if I recall).

Quick summary 1: Low literacy levels = high offending and reoffending rate.

Now then, before we get all panicky and upset let me ensure you I am not saying that this explains the whole history of crime and offers a simple solution. And I am not saying either that all those who commit crimes are thick or can't read. I am making an observation that there are proven links between low literacy levels (the ability to read and write) and crime. Especially amongst the young and the poor. As well as not doing very well in life, underachieving, etc.

Books, access to books, and the sheer pleasure of reading have benefits beyond just the sheer pleasure of reading. They inform, educate, challenge, stimulate discussion and provide jobs and subjects for study at school, university or when home alone.  Also I recall an interview with Michael Caine (Sir Michael?) with him saying how important libraries were to him as a means of learning about the world when schooling hadn't provided it (Sean Connery said the same).

Quick summary 2: Books and libraries (a means of accessing books) can open doorways to higher literacy levels, improve confidence and help people to achieve, in life. And maybe steer people away from crime? Not all crime of course, not serious, planned crime (It's alarming actually how intelligent some criminals are, super intelligent even, but maybe that's another issue).

Libraries also provide access to the internet, another public service. Everything is going online now. Try booking something, or finding a job. More and more public services are going online. Not everyone has access to the interweb at home.

And what do we have going on currently, amongst other things? Funding cuts and library closures. So we have a situation where, in response to criminal negligence and mishandling of (other peoples) money by governments and financial institutions we are in a financial crises. To alleviate this we bring in 'austerity' measures, cut funding to public services which leads to job losses then, get this, start publicly abusing those who have lost their jobs and call them scroungers and workshy. And punish them by removing benefits etc when they can't find a job. Even though there are less jobs to find.

To find a job you need internet access (did I say that already?). If you have lost your job and can't afford internet access you can get internet access free from libraries. So let's close libraries then, they only provide stuffy old books and no one reads books anymore everything is online and downloadable.

Ah right. Ok. And the madness goes on. And on. I wonder sometimes if our current (unelected) coalition 'government' really wants people to have jobs and needs a certain amount of unemployed and poor to create fear and to make themselves feel wealthy and superior. No. Surely not. Just me being cynical and grumpy.

Makes me want to go to the library (while it is still there) and reach for the next book. Maybe even write one!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Dinosaurs Still Walk The Earth

Big sigh.....here we go again.

The good old general synod of our good old church of england (I refuse to use capital letters when referring to them any more) have stayed true to misogynistic form (can't fault them for that at least) and voted against the introduction of women bishops. Even though a majority of those who voted, across the board, voted in favour. Democracy eh? Can't beat it.

Anyone surprised? Well yes, I was to be honest. I thought that they would have at least tried to make a move into the 20th century and only stayed the usual hundred years or so behind the times. But no. Silly me. What was I thinking?

And what was the reason for this, what was behind this adherence to 'traditional values'. I'll give a couple of quotes and let you make your own minds up.

  1. Opponents' key concerns were over provisions for traditionalist parishes opposed to women bishops to request supervision by a stand-in male bishop.
  2. Opponents could not simply tolerate women bishops, as they do women priests, but might have to obey them as their superiors
And, alarmingly, women voted against this (the ordination of women as bishops). Seems that after twenty years of having women as priests the church is as deeply divided as ever. At the moment they have the 'get out of women in authority' card by being able to go to a male priest if they are 'traditionalists' (how thoroughly offensive is that?) and were concerned that they might not get this option if women were allowed to become bishops. And not only that they might even have to take these women seriously.

Good heavens, imagine that, having to take women seriously!

In any other organisation this move would have been illegal. And imagine if the church traditionalists had used their tired, boring 'Jesus chose male disciples so we can't ordain women' excuse and re-framed it. Say, for instance, they said 'Well, Jesus (god bless him) only chose white disciples so we can't ordain anyone who isn't white'. Would that be tolerated as well? Would they be allowed to actively promote racism? Of course not. But sexism is ok.

Where is the love in that? And what of Jesus himself? The man who started this all those years ago. The son of God who the church claims to be following. Jesus would be turning in his grave. Well, he would if he had stayed in it.

(Moving swiftly on)....

Rather than get deeper into the argument I asked myself a question. And here it is.

Question I asked myself: Why am I so angry about this?

Here is my answer.

I am angry about this because the church of england is exactly that. It is the church of England. Established as such. The officially state recognised 'authority' on religious matters. It holds a very privileged position and a lot of concessions and exemptions come with that. For instance it has been exempt from the Sex Discrimination Act since it was introduced, in 1975. Yet, perversely, has a woman as it's official head. The same head that appears on our stamps. (I'm sorry, I'll try harder). So it is 'our' church. The church of (and for) England (and the people who live in it).

I am English as well.

There is the term 'guilt by association'.

I DO NOT want to be associated with this ABHORRENT OUTDATED DINOSAUR, even if only by a fault of birth.

Also, whilst my own children are grown up, they may have children of their own one day. (Imagine that, me a Grandad! Heavens above.) Their friends have children. These children will go to school. In school they will encounter the 'c of e' and it's views. And what will they learn. Well, they will learn that people come into their school and preach love and good will and tolerance etc towards 'all men'. Therein lies the problem.
And they (the c of e) will encourage those children to go out into the world and do well, to 'fight the good fight' and all that.
Unless, of course, you happen to be a woman. They will show by their own behaviour that women are considered inferior and have their place in society.

And they will continue to do this with the blessing of the state.

That should not be allowed anymore. They will not change. They have had long enough to try. I no longer recognise them as established. They do not deserve it. The time has come for them to stand on their own two left feet and make their own way in the world. The time has come for the church of england to lose it's exemption from the sex discrimination act and from establishment.

Or, to put that another way. The church of england should, MUST be DISESTABLISHED. It is the right and just thing to do. And I'm not content to just write it, to make a point. I believe it and am going to actively get involved with the growing movement to bring this about.
It needs people to make it happen, not just talk about it. To take action. Positive, lawful action, but action nonetheless. Well I am now one of those people. This is intolerable. It has to change.
Then the church of england can be held accountable to the law, just like the rest of us, and the only dinosaurs we will have to watch will be the ones on Jurassic Park.....

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Trial By Media and Silly Stunts

Well I can't quite believe it myself but what has shocked me out of my current writing dearth and is causing me to put fingers to keyboard is finding myself in agreement with our prime minister!!! Well sort of anyway. A little bit.

Surely not I hear you cry? Or, judging by the recent complete lack of interest and comment on my blog all I can hear is the sound of the light switch going out and the door closing behind you. But, never mind, I will persist. Even if only to try to get clearer myself and regain my confidence in myself and my writing that went for a walk and is still walking.

This isn't a political agreement, (with our glorious leader, please keep up), how could anyone agree politically, in this 'alleged' democracy of ours, with an unelected prime minister of an unelected coalition government persuing a manifesto that hasn't gone before the country. Putting all that aside, what I am in agreement with is his response to Philip Schofield's so called 'silly stunt' on breakfast TV, that of passing to above mentioned Mr Cameron a list of names he had found on the interweb of alleged paedophiles, and asking him if he will be speaking to them. And of course the 'misjudging' of the camera angle which meant that the names went out on live TV. (I couldn't help be reminded of recent 'wardrobe malfunctions' and how completely ridiculous the term is).

So silly in fact that Jonathan Dimbleby commented 'How cretinous can you get-giving a list of online names to the PM as though they were evidence'. Well said indeed.

And what did Philip Schofield think (if any thought went into this at all) that the PM would really do. Imagine the outcry if any prime minister, of any political persuasion, was to say 'I've been handed a list of alleged paedophiles from the internet and I am going to take it on myself to personally interview those on the list and come to a decision as to their guilt or innocence...'. Cue public outcry and questions in parliament and reminders we have the police for that kind of thing.

What I do agree with was the PM's comment that if we are not careful this could lead to a witch hunt. Not the bit about it being against against people who are gay. There is no evidence at all as far as I am aware that the gay community are any more likely to be paedophiles than those of any other sexual persuasion. Unless he meant that some people just assume that paedophiles are homosexual and that homosexuality is as vile as paedophilia and automatically link the two? I personally don't think that at all.

Of course there is already a witch hunt, on the back of the current JS (I don't want to write his name on my blog but you know who I mean) revelations and investigations which has been hijacked by the media and used to criticise and undermine the BBC. In fact the political right are falling over themselves to get in on some BBC bashing. Bless them.

All part of the current media frenzy and hysteria around anything or anyone even remotely connected with new or ongoing paedophile investigations, never mind facts or actual evidence. And now the debate is about legitimate journalism, what is it, what is really in the public interest, is it just to repeat rumours and trial by twitter etc etc. And assume that everything is a cover up, no one can be trusted. Whatever happened to that fundamental underlying principle 'Innocent until proven guilty'? All well and good to ignore it until you are the one standing accused.

And the really sad thing is it detracts from the ability to get to the real truth and take the appropriate action and bring to justice those that have committed these hideous crimes.

Every day we see in the papers something or other to do with the JS scandal alongside pictures of him in those awful shorts and shell suits in some pose or another, with no real new information or actual news. And why? Purely to sell papers and spread puerile irrelevant gossip that does nothing to get to the actual truth. Do they ever stop, even for a minute, to think of the effect this has on the victims, to daily be reminded and see his sneering perverted face staring at them? For goodness sake there can't be anyone in the country who doesn't know what he looks like by now! And while the BBC stands on trial an innocent man has had his name dragged into the gutter without a criminal charge or investigation having been made against him, and a genuine victim of abuse has been embarrassed publicly, adding to the suffering he has lived with since the initial abuse took place. Where is the justice in that?

And today, remembrance day, overshadowed by resignations, calls for more resignations, for more enquiries and enquiries into enquiries. How many more enquiries do we need? Are we any nearer the truth in any of this?

We have gone from no one being believed to anything anyone thinks or says being treated as the truth, from a state of indifference to hysteria. And I find this current hysteria, this media frenzy, as vile as the act of paedophilia itself, perhaps even more so. After all, we all love a sex scandal, but who does it serve? Only to add to fear and paranoia. And sell 'newspapers'. Did I say that already? And the truth gets pushed further into the background. It's no more than mob rule, and the mob are never right.

And what of those who weren't abused by someone famous or with power, the great majority of sufferers of abuse of all kinds that takes place either within the family or by a close relative, where is their voice? Doesn't really sell papers does it or attract much interest or comment.

We need, in my opinion, to take a breath and stop. Stop all this reporting and discussing and twittering, and take some time, objectively, if it is at all possible to be objective when it comes to paedophilia. To think about those who have been subjected to this awful crime, and other crimes of abuse, and find a way forward, a way that will get to the truth, bring those to justice that need to be, and, most of all to protect our children now, without resorting to knee jerk over compensatory reactions and accusations and suspicions and fear. To find a decent, dignified response to an indecent and undignified act. To all be on our guard but to remember our own and common dignity, when others have been stripped of theirs. Might be worth bearing this little maxim in mind, it's served me well over the years. 'Never be judge and jury until you are in possession of ALL the facts'.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Just more writing really

Written at Write Night, 15 Queen Street, Colchester on Monday  8 September 2012. A writing exercise in three parts. Unedited and copied as written on the night. Well maybe the teeniest bit of editing so it is readable!

Where:  The lake
Who:      Two people
When:    Summer time, early evening

Fifteen minutes on each task.....

Task 1. First person narrator 

In that summer - that long hot summer of 1976- at the tail end of my childhood and the beginning of my young adulthood I had taken to walking down to the lake on my way home from school as home was a place I didn't want to go - both of my parents having taken to working longer hours so that the lack of communication between them seemed to have the basis of a legitimate excuse - although why they could never do the thing they always insisted I should do-that is actually tell the truth and admit they were not talking-was always a source of irritation and upset to me - anyways to get on with the story and not prolong the agony of my parents difficulties-it was a Friday I remember that much as it was the end of the school week and I was feeling even more depressed than usual at the thought of a whole weekend at home with non - talking parents and an ever thickening atmosphere. 

I had been at the lake lost in my own thoughts for what felt like a few hours when I first caught sight of the couple - how long they had been there I can't say - seated on the wooden bench further down the lake - the bench I would never sit on as it was close to the edge of the woods and - in my young imagination - I always feared 'something' coming up to me from behind out of the woods - so I preferred to sit on the side of the lake close to the park where children often played and whose parents would sit and watch them as I always felt safer with others around...

Task 2: Third person limited narrator

(NB: Will told me that I got this and next task mixed up but this is  how I wrote them from my understanding of the tasks at the time)

The couple had been sitting for a while - not really talking but not not-talking either - they seemed comfortable in each other's presence - at ease - not needing the verbal noise that so many felt they had to resort to in the company of others - before the boy looked up from his own thoughts and became aware of them ..

He seemed troubled - not at all at ease - unrelaxed as if he was there escaping from something rather than enjoying the scenery - and on noticing the couple across the lake he seemed relieved - as if they could be a focus of his attention for a while - something to occupy his mind - a distraction from the disturbed state he was in - so as young people can do he seemed to stare right at them rather than be discreet almost as if he was becoming hypnotized - the expression on his face one of intense concentration - and maybe it was the intensity of his stare or the length of time but soon the couple - with not a word or a look passing between them - lifted their heads as if they were one and returned his stare - almost as if an invisible current of electricity was passing between them...

Task 3: Third person omniscient narrator

(it had seemed to him mere seconds - the briefest of glances - and yet in that moment he knew everything about them)

From where she was crouched behind the trees she could see the boy across the lake - the boy she had been watching all summer - the quiet, withdrawn, sad boy - the boy she had taken to following and observing - always from a distance - to his home and to his school - the boy soon to be a man.

She could see him staring intently at the couple on the bench that she used to follow and she wanted to warn him - don't look at them, don't attract their attention - they were harmless until you attracted their attention - she knew this - she had seen what they did when they felt they were discovered and she liked this boy - the quiet sad boy - he reminded her of herself all those years - ago when she inhabited clay as he did - when her body had solid form on this earth - and she wanted him to keep his - to live - to have a life - to......


Thursday, 13 September 2012

A Letter To Philip Larkin

Written at Write Night, 15 Queen Street, Colchester on Monday 10 September 2012. A writing exercise, taking a newspaper article as the inspiration. Details of the article are in the text. Mostly unedited but I have corrected it in places to at least make it readable (I hope!).....

Dear Mr Larkin

In 1992 I was given as a present your collected poems by a friend, for a particular event the nature of which I will not bore you with the details of. Suffice to say I still have said copy and often dip in. In fact, to 'big myself up a bit' (a phrase that I am sure would have caused much consternation from yourself, jolly chap that we all know and love you for), I read out to a live audience recently your wonderful poem 'Ignorance'.  It's a particular favourite of mine as it captures something quite meaningful, and it suited the moment as it is fairly short.

Anyway, to get to the point of this letter, I was interested to read recently (Saturday Guardian, 08.09.12, Travel Section, Poet's Corner by David Mark) that in your hometown of Hull, a city once described as 'On its arse' by the author of said piece, there is now a Larkin Trail, a walk around 25 locations marked by wall plaques, in the footsteps of your good self.

I was also interested to read that locally (in Hull) you are known as, and I quote, a 'grumpy bugger who looked like Eric Morecambe'.

I've never read Andrew Motions biography of you, far too long for me and full of information I have no wish to know, but on reading your poetry I have to agree with the above comment, even though I have never met you. I must say though that, in case the above comment on the comment about you being a grumpy bugger causes any offence, that I like that about you. It means you felt free to say what you meant and not pander to social niceties or, as we have today, political correctness. Hitler may have lost the war but I feel certain that controlling (or attempting to control) what people say and write would have been high on his to do list on attaining world domination and would probably have provided food for some words of your own.

Even though, as I have said already, I admire and even love some of your poems, I cannot think of anything more pretentious than spending time and money walking around Hull staring at wall plaques marking locations where you either lived or worked or wrote or even, as you wrote about quite a lot, fucked, although that would probably interest me more than anything else, if I am honest.

There is even a bronze statue of you at Paragon Station which the locals say looks like Eric Morecambe. And it's true that you do. And I would imagine that more people know who Eric Morecambe is than have heard of you which is a shame because, even though I loved Eric Morecambe and grew up watching him and little Ern the big difference was, and to me still is, that you wrote all of your own words and they were, and still are, in all the right places.

But best of all, for me, is that engraved on the plinth of your statue, the one at Paragon Station that looks like Eric Morecambe, are the words 'That Whitsun, I was late getting away', the opening line to, in my opinion, your best poem of all, The Whitsun Weddings.

I have carried it with me many times and read it if I ever have the pleasure of going on a train journey myself. It helps create a sense of atmosphere and, this is the best bit, I just really like it and any excuse (not that one is needed) to read it is fine by me.

So to start to bring my pathetic attempt at admiration to an end I would like to say that, ever since I was introduced to This Be The Verse many years ago now I have been, and still am (and I'm sure you would turn in your grave to hear this) a fan. And at times a grumpy bugger as well. Of course I agree with the opening line of the above named poem. I was indeed fucked up by my Mum and Dad. They never meant to but they did. And by then (my introduction to the poem) it was too late for me to take the advice you gave in the closing line as I already had my own two children, much to your chagrin but for which I make absolutely no apologies, as I love them very much and they me, even though I am sure I have done some fucking up of my own.

So finally dear Philip, I hope you don't mind me calling you Philip although I suspect you would prefer Mr Larkin, I want to end by saying that even though I am a fan I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of coming to Hull and walking the Larkin Trail but I will continue to read, with much pleasure, my copy of your collected poems and also writing the odd (sometimes very odd) one or two myself.

Yours etc





Thursday, 30 August 2012

Walking Thoughts

Had to double check I spelt that title correctly, don't want to attract the 'wrong' crowd to my blog! Ha ha ha ha I do make myself laugh.
Right, moving swiftly on.
I was out walking today and found myself really taking in some of the houses I walk past all of the time as if I had never seen them before, even noticed a few tucked away as if they have been hiding, waiting for the right moment to reveal themselves. Why today?  Strange how we notice things in a certain way at one time and completely differently at others. Some were huge and built with lovely brickwork and woodwork and some, like the newly built one's, a bit plain and modern looking.
I then turned down a footpath that runs alongside a field and behind these houses, (I've often seen it but never walked down it) , out of curiosity and for a change of scene.
And whilst walking I had a couple of thoughts that, amongst all the usual wierd stuff that pings about inside the head, really struck me. And I thought, well, being the decent chap I am, that I would share them with you.

First interesting thought...... That there must be hundreds, if not thousands (any advance on thousands?) of untold stories out there just waiting to be written and shared.

Second interesting thought.....That instead of looking for 'something' outside of me to give my life meaning and validation etc, to look for 'something' inside of me that I can access and draw on. Maybe a quality or energy or drive or whatever. But just the thought that trying to make sense of life or find meaning outside of me has not worked for the first 51 years of my life, so why not try inside, look to my own wisdom.

So, there you have it. Brief and to the point. Two walking thoughts shared with you, just because I can. Why not share your thoughts about my thoughts with me and all those other lovely people out there in blogland? Go on, you know you want to.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


I could write a list of all the things I don’t want - or like
I have a lot to say on this matter
It would be a long list
A very long list
A very very long list
Long long long long long list

But I don’t like lists
Lists are nerdy, geeky

Someone asked me once what DO I want- or like?
Smart arse
Ha ha ha very funny – and suchlike
There’s always one in the class, or the office
Probably a list writer themselves

I bet their pockets are full of lists
Lists on bits of paper
Coloured paper
All neatly written
I bet they keep a diary
I bet they know what they want

I bet there’s a society of listers
Even a qualification, a degree even
‘Hey, I’ve got a first in lists’
I bet they compare lists
And get all excited and flap their hands about
‘Ooh, that’s a lovely list’
‘Look at his list’
Dribble dribble drool

Who cares?
Who knows what they want, anyway?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Carry On Infighting

So the General Synod of our good old Church of England, or C of E to their mates, have delayed a vote on the  consecration of women bishops until November. Seems that a proposed amendment (the notorious Clause 5)  which would allow 'traditionalists' ( both men and women!!) who objected to a woman bishop access to a male bishop. What a pickle. All sounds very carry on to me. Except it ain't funny missus, is it.
Not when you step back from the issue and look at what is going on in the world right now, outside the dusty old rooms of said C of E and it's inability to see past it's ancient outdated views and ways.
From my perspective (ok, what do I know?) this is where religions and spiritual organisations lose their way. They get stuck on an issue, claim it's all to do with doctrine and interpretation of said doctrine, then start fighting amongst themselves. One section 'wins'.  The losers either leave and start their own new religion or just stay, very unhappy, and are then unable to contribute effectively.
And why? The basic message hasn't changed, has it? In fact now more than ever, it seems to me, is sorely needed.
And what is that message, what did Jesus (remember him?) really teach? Wasn't it something about love, and helping others, especially the poor and oppressed (or did I just imagine that) and wasn't that how he lived his life? Did he ever say 'Now then sheep, I am a man and my disciples are men, therefore it's only a man that can become consecrated as a bishop and'.....do you know what I can't even be arsed to finish typing that sentence. Most right minded folk know the answer anyway.
And the more they study said teachings and become more 'educated' about them, the more entrenched in their rightness they become, and invest more energy and time into telling us how right THEY are and how wrong WE are, and what we shouldn't do, or eat, and how sinful we really are, who we shouldn't have sex with, etcetera etcetera ( as Yul Brynner used to say).
Why can't the church really unite as human beings and work together to bring about change. For the common good.
 Let's give a few examples of 'real issues worth speaking out about that most right minded individuals would support and respect them for'. 
  • Rape (of both men and women) and the sexual abuse of children
  • Poverty
  • The alarming rise of unemployment and it's effects on families and individuals
  • Crime committed by individuals and corporations and governments and, erm, religions
  • How to unite under the umbrella of shared humanity, put our (mostly petty) differences aside and work to correct injustice and to grow and contribute and live more meaningful lives 
Or am I just being stupid, or childish, or both? Or do I need to just grow up and get a life? I wonder how important the issue of the consecration of women bishops really is to, let's say, the families of those murdered or bereaved in some way, or those about to lose their homes and who might turn to the church for guidance and support. Do I need to go on? Is it any wonder that we are sadly lacking in genuine spiritual guidance and example when all we get is this petty and demeaning bickering and stance taking.
I wonder what Jesus would make, today, of the church that was founded in his name. I wonder, if he was to attend the meeting in November, would he congratulate them for all the time they have spent and the bad feeling that has been caused and tell them that this is, indeed, the most significant issue for the church at this time. That maybe they should spend a bit more time on their anti gay message.

Or would he say nothing and just his very presence would radiate love and compassion, the very love and compassion that seems so sadly lacking both in the church and in society nowadays, and the truth of his real message and of his time on this earth would shine through.


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Flash Poem # 4

I chose the cup with the flower on.

It's the same shape as all the other cups
after all
a cups a cups a cup.

and for whatever reason,

I chose the cup with the flower on..

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Flash Poem # 3

tree branches sway wildly
in the strong wind.
Teeth bared and head high
an excited horse runs
displaying his giant cock.

pictures hang on white walls
wellington boots stand guard
by the door.
A snail has made itself at home
on the leg of your rocking chair.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Father Dear Father

To Dad.

You are a stranger to me as I am to you, would you even recognise me now after all these years? I have some memories that I cling to but they bring me no comfort. Why don't I just let them go, like I did you that time? One too many humiliations and I was never good enough. Maybe you weren't good enough either.
Are you happy with your life now, have you arrived at your destination?
I often wonder what went wrong, if wrong is the right approach? All I did was to be born as your son, but felt like an unwanted parcel and always seemed a disappointment. You were a disappointment too.
Just a few kind words would have made all the difference.
These words are not long enough and do neither of us justice. Today I will try to put this all behind me and remember a good time or two. For myself I have been a father so long now I forgot I was a son.
Dad, say my name from time to time, just to humour me, and when your life flashes before you and you draw your last breath, know that I love you still.

Your son.

Friday, 8 June 2012

To Write or...............

I haven't blogged for a while or written very much at all, the reason being I have slipped into the old habit of waiting 'till I feel inspired' or 'in the right frame of mind' or 'feeling like I have something to say'. So of course, as is the way of things, no writing gets done.
An obstacle has been put in the way.
Also, in my defence your honour, I've had a visit from a very old aquaintance, my good friend anxiety. And the thing with anxiety is it tends to paralyze, roots you (me) to the spot afraid to move for whatever reason, such as 'not feeling like it'. Actually I am always anxious lately, in fact I have been most of my life.
Also anxiety (fear) is a very powerful attractive force and leads to hypervigilance, black and white thinking, catastrophe thinking, more and more and deeper and deeper anxious worried thoughts and it is, on top of all that, extremely tiring.
And this has affected my confidence which, at the best of times, isn't great. I think of a topic, like it, think about what I might say (in my head), think and think about it (analyse it), feel it's a load of crap then decide not to write it.
So, I haven't written (or done very much at all lately if I am honest) because of:
  • Anxiety
  • Waiting until I feel like it
  • Waiting for inspiration
  • Tired
  • A lack of confidence in my ability as a writer
  • Analysis paralysis
There are probably more reason's I can find if I really try. And I wouldn't have to try very hard either. But the truth is I don't want to, I'm tired and fed up. I want to write, honest. And what occurs to me is that, although I could use any one of the above as a reason why I haven't written and sort of be ok with that, not give myself a hard time, the truth is that not writing is actually harder than doing the writing, it takes more energy not to write, to stay anxious etc.
What all of the above are, rather than reasons, are excuses. And pitiful ones at that. Pathetic attempts at justifying my own laziness and lack of confidence. They don't ring true and the reason I say that is because I know they don't.
Reading, as I have done, many writers tips etc for writing they all say pretty much the same thing, and that is to write, every day, and to read widely, and never give up.
Here I offer you the latest, recieved by email today  ray-bradbury-writing-advice

Now they don't say write every day 'if/when you feel like it' or 'when you feel inspired' or 'only write if you're not feeling anxious' etc, it's just write, without any conditions attached to it.
The more you (I/me) write the better you (I/me) get at writing.
Even writing this now I know it's not hugely entertaining, or maybe even interesting, it's certainly not thought through or worked on. It's just me writing about what is going on for me right now and my attempt to work at, by taking action, my writing, one word at a time.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Making Sense Of The Senseless

So this morning, sick and tired of the same old same old, of my failure to find work and make my life and relationships work, of all my 'stuff' and of the endless stream of bad news and the lack of nourishment from the media I decided to embrace the NLP maxim 'If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got' and decided to do something different. The sunny weather helped as I woke and I got up early and went to the Sunday morning meditation at my local Buddhist centre.
I'm so glad I did. Made contact with a couple of old friends and met some new people. Seven of us in total in a beautiful shrine room. Chanting before the meditation (in either Pali or Sanskrit I never know which)  these 'strange' sounds made more sense to me and had more energy behind them than any of the words I have used recently in my native tongue. I felt my throat chakra was really opening.
And settling into the meditation itself I decided that, rather than do my usual visualising I would just sit, listen deeply and be as present as I could without forcing. And what a difference it made. I really felt my heart opening and my body responding and my mind quietening and a connection being made with the other people around me. I needed it and it was nourishing and it made such a difference.
Walking round town afterwards I felt much more alive and well and engaged and whole and all the little niggles didn't seem to impinge quite so much on me, the self service machine trying to sell me special offers, being cut up by a large four by four changing lanes as I drove out of town.
I just felt, and still do, that a place in me that nothing else seems able to reach was reached. It was and still is a timely reminder that amongst all the stuff of life, the dehumanising, humiliating, pathetic nonsense that we are bombarded with day in and out that there is something, dare I say, better, higher, more real and worth getting out of bed for.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Fings Ain't What They Used To Be

Came across  THIS today, it's from the coming remastered re-release of Ram, Paul McCartney's second solo album since the Beatles and before he formed Wings, originally released in 1971. This song, "Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey" reached No 1 in America at the time.
It's quirky, typical of McCartney and the Beatles influence still heard. Has it ever gone? Anyway, like it or not it got me thinking, or rather remembering, actually a bit of both.
Do you, like me find that much of what passes for music, or entertainment generally today, leaves me wondering oh, is that it?
Now, without wanting to sound overly sentimental, although of course unable to avoid it completely, I can't help but recall a time when popular music was, well, better, or more fun, or broader in it's appeal. When it wasn't so concerned just with celebrity and making money, and presentation and professionalism or slickness, but there was an element of the everyday about it. When actors and comedians and children and just normal everyday people could make records, and they could get to number one. I always remember that Divorce by Billy Connoly knocked Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen off the No 1 spot after nine weeks! You just don't get that now do you?
I'm not saying they were all great, or even good if I'm honest, and I'm resisting the temptation to list all the one's I remember, but I miss that. I'm the first to admit I've never been particularly 'serious' about music, I just like what I like. But I remember as a child on my bike cycling up and down my garden singing Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris. I also knew all the words to All Kinds Of Everything by Dana, it won the Eurovision. Also on a Saturday morning on the radio listening to the 'Cup of Tea' song  (Right Said Fred) by Bernard Cribbins, My Bruvva by Terry Scott and many others. Just fun songs about the everyday or the absurd that people seemed able to just embrace and enjoy for what they were.
I'm not saying either that there isn't any good music being written and performed today, of course there is. But is there any fun music, where is the slightly eccentric, or even the bonkers? Could a class of children at school release a record nowadays and it would be so widely embraced and enjoyed as it once was. Maybe it was painful to watch at times, but I miss it. For all of those out there who recoil in horror at such memories and like to argue about who was the best band or what was the best single or album or who was the best or worse Beatle or whether Paul mcCartney is any good without John Lennon, or any variation of the above I leave you with this, on a wet Saturday morning. Pour yourself a cup of tea, eat an Eccles cake and enjoy. It say's it all.....


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Trouble Is

The trouble is I can't see what the trouble is
with a troubled mind everything seems troubled

Trying to control the chaos
is causing more chaos

I look and I can't see
I ask for guidance and none comes
I listen and no voice speaks
all I can hear is the confusion of my own mind
and the beating of my heart as each moment passes
and more of me fades into the background of what was once a life

I want
and the more I want the less I have
I think of one thing and ten conflicting thoughts arise
Indecision rules

I have given a voice to my sadness
and my joy is nowhere to be seen

Every day is the same day
every night I call out from the confines of my mind
to the eternal darkness
and the silence overwhelms me

I hurt and I have caused hurt
and the hurt that I have caused hurts the most
and caused the deepest wounds to my soul

In the depths of my being a silent fury grows
one day it will explode like a volcano

Is there meaning in the meaninglessness
truth in the doubt
or sense amongst all the confusion

This is not a poem
this is not a story
this is what it is and I offer it to you as such
this is just me
uncensored and unedited

Make of it what you will

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Happy Eggster

So it's Easter Sunday, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and many of you will be celebrating, as I am now, with some lovely chocolate. A gift that I am enjoying as much as I can, thoughts of my weight and health and teeth and sugar levels notwithstanding.
For those of you that are interested in these things, and I know you are, I am also listening to my cd of Karl Jenkins The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace. Seemed a fitting subject for the theme of the day, but also just lovely music whenever.
Whilst I am on the subject, and to completely debunk the myth of men's inability to multitask, I am also loading onto my ipod two Neil Diamond cd's; 12 Songs and Home Before Dark, from 2005 and 2008 and produced by the magnificantly bearded Rick Rubin (who also produced the American Recordings series with Johnny Cash).
Gone are the days when we would all be found at the local church this morning, although of course mass worship is still taking place. Take a drive down to the not quite so local supermarket and witness whole families wandering around, involved in their joint worship of the great god shopping, spending money they can't afford on things they don't need, or even really want, shouting at the children and barging fellow worshippers out of the way.
Witness also the recent mass panic through fear of deprivation of another of the great modern gods, the car, and the fuel needed to power it.
Strange isn't it the power we willingly give away when we listen to bad advice from people whose motives are suspect and selfish at best and just downright malicious at worst, without question, and then blame them for our own inability to stop and think. The blaming of others for our own failings yet another public ritual we all seem happy to engage in, yet totally unwilling to acknowledge the weakening of ourselves in the process.
The church itself, in it's own panic at the perceived attack on it, completely ignoring the harm it has itself caused in it's own selfish attempts to cling to power, and ignoring changes of attitudes in society, has to resort to publicly begging it's followers to wear a cross to prove their faith.
And the saddest thing to come from all of this is an unwillingness to even listen anymore, to engage with teachings and truths that could, if only we would let them, benefit us all.
Instead of this mass apathy and denial and hostility, why don't we turn inward and just start believing in ourselves a bit more, having a bit more confidence and faith in our own innate sense of what is right or wrong, our own truth, and start to honour and live it a bit more. To feel that we can, and do, have some of the answers we seek.
And of course by doing this, by listening to our own wisdom and acting on it, we become less dependent on the approval of others and therefore less of a burden on them, and more whole and more fulfilled within ourselves.
And then if a church or a group or a symbol such as the cross, genuinly represents what we feel to be true within ourselves then we are freer to engage with it in a healthy way, a more human way, for our own sake, and less needing to argue or attack or criticise.
What if, and here's a thought, we got up in the mornings and washed and dressed in the clothes we want to wear, just because it feels good to do so, not to look a certain way or conform to a current fashion or craze or to please a spouse or an employer. What if we started doing the things we want to do a bit more, just because we like doing them.
What if, and I'm really going crazy now, but what if we started doing things for others just because it benefitted them with nothing in it for ourselves, no publicity or photo opportunity, without having to tweet it or facebook it. What if we just did something for someone else as willingly and happily as we would do something for ourself? Just because it feels good and is good to do. What if we started to celebrate and appreciate diversity and learn from it, rather than demonise and fear it.
What if, instead of blindly following any religion or spirituality or way of life we gave ourselves the freedom to question and challenge and, in the meantime, just tried to be more real ourselves, more genuinly human, more giving and loving and understanding, more willing to work on ourselves and less willing to find fault with others.
What if we just recognise the great gift of life we have been given and live it, and let others do the same. What if we started to do this today, right now. Happy Easter..............

Thursday, 29 March 2012

An Apology

There was a fault on the line.
We're sorry for the delay
and for any inconvenience caused
or any offence.
None was meant

We're sorry for that war
50 - 60 years ago
it wasn't our fault but we're sorry anyway
and for any offence or inconvenience.
None was meant

On behalf of anyone who ever did anything
that caused offense or inconvenience,
we are so very sorry

That day it rained when the sun was supposed to shine
and for that spelling mistake,
that wrong turn and that spilt beer
all over your new shirt,
we are all so very sorry
for any offense that was caused or any inconvenience.
None was meant

For that blunt remark and lack of sympathy thereof,
my ignorance of the full facts of the situation notwithstanding,
I would like to apologise for any offense that was caused
and for any inconvenience.
None was meant

For that tramp that spoilt your view
of the nice shop window,
and the surly shop assistant
who just didn't seem to care.
That funny smell on the bus that time
(oh the day was going so well wasn't it),
and for that pothole
and all that bad news on the telly

On behalf of us all
please take care when leaving the train/bus/plane
and on that ladder,
and may we take this opportunity to wish you well
on your journey through life
and once again
to apologise
for any inconvenience that has been caused
and for any offense.

None was meant

Sunday, 25 March 2012

In Me

I wrote this in 1996 but could easily have written it today, although my writing style has changed, grown even. Strange how things change so much yet, fundamantally, can  remain the same.

In me a poet sleeps
In me an artist lies
My soul for inspiration weeps
My heart for true love cries

In me a lover waits
In me a spirit tries
Calmly to find a gate
A way to reach the skies

In me a flower blooms
In me a bird flies free
In me my roots go deep
Like the tallest, strongest tree

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A Mother's Day Letter

Hi Mum

It's mother's day today, thought I would write to you and let you know I am thinking of you. Well, I think of you everyday but today especially.
I wish I was with you so we could have a chat, catch up. You could come and see my flat and have a cuppa, I could take you out but would much rather cook you a meal here and go for a walk later. And read you some of my writing.
I wonder what the 90 year old you would make of the world today, and of your son at 51. A very different world from the one you grew up in, as it is for me too. So much change in such a small timescale. I imagine it would be like visiting another planet. It's all so commercial isn't it, the values and attitudes so different than the one's you knew. Or is it all so different really. On the outside yes for sure.
I wonder what you would make of the internet, of Facebook and Google, and mobile phones? And of a word that is becoming so small and impersonal, where we waste so much, have so much that we don't even notice or appreciate, yet still half the world goes without, where mother's in some countries are so hungry that they tie ropes around their waists to ward off starvation pains so their children can eat? But then you lived through the war so maybe nothing has changed.
You gave a lot too didn't you? Yes, you had more than enough to cope with, but you laughed so much.
I am seeing my children today and their mother (she is a good mother too just like you), for a meal and some laughs, a lot of them at my expense. I don't mind really. They would love you to be there and join in the fun. They could tell you all about their lives and their friends and all the things that make up their world. And of all the silly things I did and still do! I know you would love to hear it all.
I wonder what you would say to them? And to your other grandchildren, we could go and visit them as well. There would just be so much to do.
I used to love making you laugh, and I made you cry a few times as well didn't I? Never on purpose though. I remember the time I was annoying you while you were washing up and you hit me on the arm with your rubber washing up gloves on. That hurt! And the time we sat and watched Abba win the Eurovision with Waterloo. I went into town the next day and bought you the record, it went to number one. Englebert Humperdink is doing it this year, you liked him didn't you?
And also the time I pulled out in front of a car on my moped and it had to do an emergency stop, and you were at the bus stop and saw it. And you were there waiting when I got home. I shan't repeat what you said to me. And the time I brought the shopping home from town and had eaten the whole packet of chocolate biscuits, so the next time you told me to buy two packets, one for me on the way home so at least one packet would make it.
I also remember all those times you packed me up some sandwiches and I would go off and play for the day, outside, in the fields. It's so sad that children don't play outside anymore. I know you would notice that.
Well look at the time. I have to get on and get ready. The sun is out. Your son has to be off out too. There is so much more to say to you, but I can't seem to find the right words. Another time then.You might not be here in person but in spirit, well, you never left at all did you. Have a great day Mum and spare a thought for all of us, thinking of you. Take care and I will write again soon. I miss you.

With lots of love

Jonathan x

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Flash Poem # 2

An old red door
stands against a white wall
unhinged and unused
Chipped paint and rain warped
Neither an entrance nor an exit
and poses a question.

Can an old red door
leant against a white wall
Warped by the rain and with chipped paint
even be called a door anymore?

Or is it just a piece of old wood
Standing against a white wall
that once had a purpose
And now..................?

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Flash Poem #1

On closer inspection
I could see the flaws.
Nothing too serious of course,
a few lines gone over here and there
and some inconsistencies in the shading.

They reminded me of the time
we wandered around that gallery
oh, where was it now?

And you said 'Look - look
a child could do better that this
it's all squiggles and scribbles!'

'I don't think it's quite as simple as that'
I remembered saying,
partly under my breath and surprising myself.

Cue disapproving look.
Your Paddington hard stare I called it,
never to your face though...

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Journey's End

For Clive...........

So this is how it goes.
Things don't always work out the way we want them to.
Those we want to leave stay
and those we want to stay leave.
It is how it is

Each breath leads us to the last
and on the way our journey takes us where it takes us.

Well, my friend,
your journey has come to it's end,
at least this part of it.

Much too short, of course,
if time is how it's measured.
And who knows where it has taken you.

The circle is now complete.
The instrument has played his last note,
for now at least.
Your work here is done.

And those that you have left behind
will continue with their own journey,
all the richer for having been a part of yours,
their lights that bit brighter.

A few of us with hearts opened
to those we had thought lost forever.
What greater gift to give,
and to receive.

So, it is goodbye my friend,
You will be missed.

Another time another place then.

Oh, and one more thing.
Thank you 
Thank you 
Thank you

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Onward Christian Soldiers

You've got to laugh haven't you, another good old Daily Mail headline.  Christianity Under Attack
Can't beat it for entertainment. Lets not get bogged down with the facts when we can propagate a knee jerk reaction and stir up some hysteria in the process. And my how they have succeeded, see the comments after the article.
Makes a change from Christianity doing the attacking though. Now it is 'under attack' itself. Oh no!
My how they doth protest when they can't get their own way.
The case in question, brought by atheist former Bideford town councillor Clive Bone, has resulted in the High Court ruling that local councils cannot put prayers on the formal agenda at the start of meetings, so councillors cannot be summoned to attend.
Leaving them free to have a proper council meeting, not a bible study group (stop it Jonna).
Lord Carey, former Archbish of Canterbury, has joined the scaremongering, sorry debate, in warning of the 'gradual marginalisation' of the Christian faith.
And government minister Eric Pickles has also got involved, saying the ruling is 'very illiberal' (not just illiberal mind, but 'very illiberal'. OMG that's like really really illiberal, innit?) and that the government are going to push through legislation, the Localism Act, to enable local councils to say prayers at the beginning of meetings 'as early as next Friday'.
Strange isn't it that they can do nothing to get terrorists deported, can't push through any legislation to make that happen?
Notice the language in the papers. Christianity UNDER ATACK. Prayers BANNED. OUTLAWED. And the emphasis heightened by the use of capitals. And of course this is going to lead, ultimately, (see article) to 'the end of hospital and forces chaplains and the abolition of the coronation oath' !!
Followed, one must assume, by the complete and utter moral breakdown of society (or has that happened already? I get confused).
Good god no. Not on Eric Pickles watch!
Seems also they are still smarting from a court judgement (and recent loss of the appeal) against a christian bed and breakfast owning couple who discriminated against a homosexual couple and wouldn't rent them a room for the night. And having to pay them compensation as a result.
Lord Carey (god bless him) goes on to say, as does Mr Pickles (god bless him too, I'm feeling generous) that these councillors can get round this ban by praying together anyway before the meeting starts (ner ner yah boo sucks to that nasty high court).
Well that's EXACTLY (note my own use of capitals here for dramatic effect, or is it affect? I'm never quite sure) what former councillor Clive Bone wants. He wasn't after, and neither did the court rule, on anyone being banned from praying, or from being a christian. Just from being forced to take part as part and parcel of his council duties.
Get together and pray, (or smoke or meditate) if the mood takes you, before the meeting is officially called to order.
I would have thought that the church, preaching as it does (allegedly) tolerance and understanding and compassion and love etc etc, would see this as an excellent compromise. Pray as much as you like but don't expect, or need, laws in place to force that belief and practise on others.
How weak faith really is when it needs the law to enforce it. How hollow those prayers really are when we have to force others to pray too. How narrow minded to think we can make anyone believe anything they can't or don't want to.
I guess what is really under threat here, and what needs banning, is intolerance and bigotry, of having Christianity, or any other religion or faith or belief, forced on us, rammed down our throats at every available opportunity.
Now that is something I will happily pray for.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Books and Imagination

Just finished reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. What with all the stuff of life going on around me, and not particularly keen on most of it, finding a book to get lost in is such a delight.
And what a book it is.
It has all the ingredients I need and love.  A magician.  An illusionist.  A sorcerer.  An enchanter.  A fortune teller.  A love story.  A dark story.  A fin-de-siecle.  Life and death.  Endings and new beginnings.  Slight of hand.  Deception.  Loyalty.
A mysterious circus that..... 'arrives without warning. Opening at nightfall and closing at dawn'.
It is one of those books that from the moment you begin to read you are immediately hooked. The characters come to life like a waking dream.
A real work of the imagination that taps into and demands the attention of your own imagination. I love books that do this. I've always loved books that have done this. Some of the happiest memories I have are of reading books that do this.
To me the experience is as real as any of the true life stories I have read.
And there waiting for me, next in the queue, top of the book pile, is part three of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Another feat of and feast for the imagination. Another love story playing out over time. Time itself becomes distorted. No one quite seems to know what is real and what is imagined (rather like life itself, yes?). Two central characters and a strong supporting cast.
And I have just found out that Carlos Ruiz Zafon has written and will be releasing sometime soon The Prisoner of Heaven, the third in his series featuring the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the Sempere and Sons bookshop.
And what I love doing as well is finding out about the authors and their lives and there art. Just as interesting as the stories they write. Just as stimulating to the imagination.
Books and Imagination.
I love these.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


I'm not convinced I can yet I'm not convinced I can't either. The evidence is inconclusive either way, in fact supports both arguments. Which leaves me here in the present, neither one thing or another. The path ahead is unclear and I am uncertain and concerned about my future.

I keep asking for guidance, yet nothing clear comes my way. Perhaps it would benefit me to concentrate on what I have to give rather than feelings of resentment for what I haven't got. To leave mistakes and guilt behind. Then where do I get my sense of identity and truth from, what am I without my failings? Do I see my life as lacking or abundant?

When everything is crumbling around me and I stand naked in the ruins of my life, what do I cling to, what do I make of this? Is this how it is 'meant' to be, or just how it is. All this introspection just deepens the chasm and leads me further down. The way out is through. The journey is the path.

What does this mean, for me?

Success or failure is just a thought away.