A Vinegar Valentine Present -Have a Taste? Explosive!!

 Stimulated by a post from Nicholas Rossis that disabused me ( I thought this idea had been original) instead I offer a short short story for your delectation! A collection soon due. Free taste.

 

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Hard Cheese

Yesterday was my best Valentine ever; the day when I, nobody from nowhere, knew that God loved me. You can keep your red roses.  Usually on Wednesdays I have two hours to meself, seeing as how Tuesdays is the night Dad spends with his bit-on-the-side and comes in late. After I open up the factory I makes a cafetière of decent coffee and I sets out some fresh scones or rock cakes, and then I open up me magazine and usually have two hours fancying a new hairdo or planning a recipe with duck. I love duck.

Not this one. I didn’t have to wait for Dad to appear and start complaining that I ought to at least look busy.

‘Can’t have my own daughter slacking, sets a bad example’ He always says that and I always takes no notice.

So it was the last thing I expected when, instead of Dad, his Land Rover spat through the gravel and hand-braked like a rally stop in front of the stores. Who do I mean? Well that’s the something! It were Heil Hitler Walthorpe hisself. Not his manager, not his driver, but Lord High-an-Mighty at the wheel with his farm hand in the back holding on for dear life. He got out, slammed the door and stood waiting for service like we was his herd of cows and would come running. He’s a right arrogant git in his combat trousers trying to look like a man of the people, when everybody knows he inherited his millions from Daddy who made it selling hardware from the back of a van in some concrete Midlands jungle…

He seemed in a hurry. Well I wasn’t, so I took me coffee with me and strolled across the yard.

‘Your father, where is he?’ No good morning, how are you, nice day.

‘He could be anywhere’ I says, ‘Maybe up at mother’s, maybe down at Mole Valley…’

‘Well fetch someone, will you.’ I obviously wasn’t a Someone.

‘Righty ho’ I says.

‘And don’t say righty ho, just do it’

That’s the sort he is. If I hadn’t had the coffee I might of given ee the Nazi salute with me finger under me nose and practised me goose-step back across…  He just stood watching me like I was a mangy dog, too old to bark.

I found Marcia doing her cuticles in the cloakroom and told her that Walthorpe wanted something from the stores so she’d better take the keys. She looked right smug to be doing the honours; bustled out with that person-of-importance clip-clop she puts on. Marcia is Dad’s PA, she thinks she’s a cut above and she resents that Ed, me brother, and me will inherit the farm when she is pensioned off. She will have to take her see-through blouses and her shorthand with her.

I watched her open up and then, blow me, Walthorpe and the farm boy start throwing all the metal cheese moulds into the back of the Land Rover like they was due for scrap, sounded like a harrow chewing barbed wire. Anyway they moulds had only been made last month. Just then Dad arrives and I see him trying to talk to Walthorpe who ignores him. Then he points to the stores and Dad nods. Then he drives off with the same mad frenzy. Dad tells Marcia to lock up and he comes in looking real puzzled.

‘What’s going on, what did he say?’

‘Not much. Just that we’re not to make any more of those heart-shaped cheeses’

‘Well you never wanted to make them anyway. You should be pleased’

I had never thought dad should get involved with that rubbish. The formula was crap, the milk organic but only just, and the method? Well let’s just say MacDonalds would not have batted an eye. They could’ve made it in their sleep. I mean who in their right mind would want to give their Valentine a plastic cheese looking like raw liver?

‘Don’t get sarky with me girl. You know why I agreed to it. It was just to keep the work-force on through January instead of laying them off till March. Now I’m going to have to pay compensation for breaking their short contracts…’

‘Didn’t you tell him that?’

‘Some things, girl, you just have to let go. I knew I shouldn’t trust him…I was a fool to ignore it’

‘What’s he planning to do with they moulds?’

‘Scrap, he said’

A week earlier we’d had six hundred of they cheeses stacked like outsize German Lebkuchen waiting for custom. It weren’t no Christmas.  It was horrible seeing those swollen hearts sweating in the dark at the back of the stores, not like Dad at all. We make good Cheddar and we get lots of prizes at agricultural shows. I couldn’t really understand why he’d agreed to put our reputation on the line with a short order for Johnny Walthorpe. The only good thing was that although Dad had agreed to make them, he said no to marketing or distribution; so maybe the damage was done. Nobody would need to know we’d had anything to do with them. All but eight had already gone.

On the whole I think Dad was relieved, but worried that he couldn’t get a handle on the why’s and wherefore’s. Dad deals with real farmers like hisself, not these tax-loss Johnnies whose farms are left to rot while their Statelys are rebuilt, and their driveways re-surfaced. Walthorpe had set up his so called ‘vintage organic’ cheese five minutes after his farm was registered ‘organic’. How do you get both vintage and organic that way? No wonder he sealed it in plastic after it was punched out with cookie cutters like fat biscuits. A cheese that can’t breathe, can’t age. Dad had to watch Walthorpe’s fleet of trucks bustlin about the country with ‘vintage organic’ written everywhere, when he’s spent his life trying to improve already good real cheese.

Walthorpe wasn’t the sort Dad could talk to. He couldn’t ask the proper questions, like ‘why have you changed your mind’ but had to content hisself with the ‘what’s and when’s’ instead. Dad may be slow but he’s used to being in charge, understanding things. I made him a fresh cafetière and put out a rock cake as well. You know what they say about a man and his stomach.

What I couldn’t understand was why Walthorpe had cancelled the operation just after the whole consignment had been bought. Didn’t make sense. We’d had a sudden phone call from the other side of the County and told they had to be delivered that same day, which was last Friday. Seeing as Valentine’s Day was yesterday that figured and Joel, the driver, had put on a clean shirt and managed to take the whole afternoon off, and stretch the delivery into Saturday when he was due to be off anyway. I had a hunch that the two was connected. So I went to find Joel. He didn’t seem too co-operative but went on cleaning his nails with a screwdriver, not looking up.

‘Joel, where did you take that consignment of hearts?’

‘Bridgewater way, leastwise in that direction…’

‘Look Joel I’m not bothered about the time it took, or what lay-by you parked in to snog Tracey just say where exactly…’

‘Cherington Manor first, then on from there… Cherington unloaded ninety two himself, and then gave me fifty quid to take the rest to Butlin’s Holiday camp. He said I was to say they was a gift for their Valentines Day bash from a nonymous well-wisher…He also told me about a place, St Valentin, where heart cheeses has allays bin…intrestin’ bloke Cherington…’

‘Lord Cherington?’ I could hardly believe it.

‘Yup’ No wonder Joel had kept it dark. Fifty quid bonus on Dad’s time was out-of-order. Still, we could think about that later.

This was big time fishy. You have to realise that Cherington is the cat’s pyjamas when it comes to cheese. He never has to exhibit. His entire output goes to the Palace, or to Fortnum’s. His is the real crème brulée. He even imports the linen from France to wrap the truckles and ages it for five years. What would Cherington want with a load of plastic cheese tasting like soap?

I decided not to tell Dad about Lord Cherington. It was hard enough that his Lordship knew who had made that cheese, let alone that the only time we had any contact with him was through jumped-up Johnny Walthorpe. Cherington is Dad’s God on two counts; first when it comes to cheese, and second on the Countryside Alliance. He reckons Cherington is one of the few gentry who understand country ways.

I need not have bothered keeping stumm.

That evening it was in all the papers; our bleedin’ cheese, worldwide! When we turned on the telly Dad went white. To start with he thought it was a plant to get him banged up for being so mouthy on the Countryside Alliance. It was much worse than that. It was first in the six o’clock headlines.

‘Today, both Houses of Parliament were evacuated due to a bomb scare.’

It turns out that heart-shaped ‘bombs’ had been left first thing outside MP’s offices in the House of Commons. Major panic! No wonder Walthorpe was going to destroy the evidence…There was pictures of all they politicians being shepherded out, and the Lords being escorted like a crocodile of vintage schoolboys across the bridge, with their fur and flaming gowns a’flyin. The Japanese tourists were snappin’ away while the bomb squad was shunting them back. There was serious interviews of MP’s nodding in that know-it-all way, sayin it was clearly an Al Quaeda plot because they timed it for Prime Minister’s Questions, being Wednesday… Bingo to the British Government.

Then someone reckoned that Al Quaeda had got together with the Mafia (it being the anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre) and there was pictures of the police in Palermo rounding up every Mustapha wid a moustacha…..with helicopters hovering…

Of course I knew it had to be Cherington and I was sure it was supposed to be a joke, a political joke; ninety two cheeses, ninety two hereditary peers. Work it out. Come to that, some of the MP’s seemed miffed they wasn’t important enough to get a personal heart-shaped explosive.

The bomb squad likewise took it po-faced. They marched off all the cheeses and x-rayed and scanned and reckoned by the weight it was semtex; but they couldn’t find no detonators. They did a controlled explosion on one and everyone agreed it tasted like semtex. Anyway one swallow does not make a summer so they took the lot off to a disused quarry and blew them up. At this point I realised Dad was crying… tears of laughter.

‘If they’re so keen on re-cycling why didn’t they use them to demolish the Dome’ he says. I decided not to tell him there were still 500 unaccounted for via the Butlin’s knees-up.

They are still running around trying to decide how the terrorists got into Parliament and why they chose the people they did. After they let them all back in they found three more under the Dispatch box. ‘ Sorry fellas, out again’  Then there’s Blair tryin to find his emergency face and swingin between ‘ Churchill’ and ‘Plum scared,’ and stroking his tie the way he does for the cameras, like it was a ferret. Loved it! Much better than Question Time.

You know the best bit of all, the hug yourself forever bit? I, Emmy Johnson, who yesterday wasn’t even a somebody, is the only person in the Country that knows the recipe. The last cherry on the top was added after.

In today’s local paper there’s a small paragraph which is going to put egg on everyone’s face. It says that Butlin’s have started this new tradition, the anti-Valentine Party…you send a present to the person you hate most in the entire world (hate being more common than love they say). All they cheeses were given out to start the ball rolling. No wonder some got three. Cherington must have got the intelligence early somehow. I can’t decide whether to show it to Dad. Best not probably; less he knows, less he’ll hang hisself. He’d never be able to keep it quiet.

No wonder Lord Cherington is God; wiping the smile off the Prime Minister and doing in the scam of the local Ponce. That’s what dad calls economy of effort, that is.

What I must do is get me brother Ed (he’s the local post-man) to drop they last eight at the Grange. He could drop them in a sack by the kitchen door. Better still, I’ll put a candle in the middle of each and leave a flickering line to Walthorpe’s oak portal after dark. I’ll light up his ‘Fetch someone!’ He’ll never know which local nobody might be a Somebody. It’s put paid to the ‘vintage organic’ that’s for sure.

My sweet secret is like chocolate on me tongue.

IMage By Myrabella – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6814083

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Poems by Asmaa Asaizeh

Taken from Asymptote Journal.  Quite wonderful poems in their use of searing language to speak of the unspeakable…. ( translated from the Arabic by Yasmine Haj)

Do Not Believe Me Were I to Talk to You of War

War preoccupies me. But I’m ashamed to write about it. I flagellate my metaphors then implore them. Pain makes me depict a bullet, after which I recede into depicting an emotional slap. I disembowel the words and the harakiri victims awake, all of them, and disembowel me.
Do not believe me were I to talk to you of war, because when I spoke of blood, I was drinking coffee, when I spoke of graves, I was picking yellow daisies in Marj Ibn Amer, when I described the murderers, I was listening to my friends’ giggles, and when I wrote about a burnt theatre in Aleppo, I was standing before you in an air-conditioned one.
Do not believe me were I to talk to you of war. Because each time I bombarded the city streets in a poem, the concrete would recline, the lamps would sway towards it, and the prophets would pass by in peace.
Whenever I imagined my father’s skin flayed in it, I could still touch him afterwards, safe and sound, with an embrace. And whenever I heard my mother’s wailing, she would lull me to sleep with an old song, and I would sleep like a baby.

But dreams are open cheques
Signed by a Hourani woman whose….Read More

Kahlil Gibran- Personal Love, Universal Expression.

I have always been fascinated by Gibran’s ‘source’. The chapters in The Prophet speak so universally, and have done for decades across all cultures, that one might assume his ‘Road to Damascus’ had been a detached spiritual encounter. Certainly the tone of his pronouncements, the universally loved sage, drenched in light, implied that.

Instead today, thanks to Brain Pickings and Maria Popova I find that it was the deepest personal passion, but that passion sacrificed by the object of it, ( Mary Elizabeth Haskell) for his own greater fulfillment and the eternal preservation of what they both ensured would stretch beyond them. I have always believed that love denied the narrower road, would spread above , and over all, in creative expression for love has to be expressed.

Since this site is entitled ‘Letters of Love’ it seemed imperative to share this quite literal exchange of letters. You can read the full article here: 

kahlilgibran_maryhaskell1

A similar encounter for Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freemen was similarly described in a previous post on Brain Pickings.  It is, for me, wonderful to encounter such confirmations of the explosive creativity of personal longing, because ‘love’ is the universal Creator, and so often diminished to ‘happiness’ or ‘fulfillment’ rather than the Souls’ search for Self.

Re-homing a Stray- Author?

Re-homing a stray- Author?

milly-observing

 

Two years ago this month our last beloved collie died. Having written a poetic tribute to her ( here) we have gradually become used to the sense of absence. Life is flatter, the day without a wag of celebration or the need for disciplined walks. A dog’s life it is no longer, but a dog’s life it now feels.

Recently the urge to try again has been festering. But here’s the thing. We are too old and too arthritic to contemplate a puppy. Yet it seems an adopted dog is a half formed affair, a love born of need ( both ours and any-old-dog’s) one with a time limit ( our decrepitude and a dog’s need to age in synchrony) and a substitute for the choice of that glossy coat, that starred bib, those soulful eyes and then the bond that comes from mutual training, mutual acquaintance and the growth of mutual tolerance. The thread of an infant dog is twine that snakes through every routine, we grew up together, didn’t we? We both know where all the balls are buried.

Shall I re-home a half breed dog, a mutt mongrel of no known pedigree, and when people ask simply say ‘I felt sorry for this abandoned cur and we hang out together. Don’t ask me why.’ ‘Nobody else wanted it; I suppose that explains it.’

It occurs to me that this is a parallel for my own condition. Anybody willing to re-home this similar runt of an author? Rejected by so many trial homes? The latest promised well; a home that advertised the persuasive search for ‘your signature story’ and had me biting out fleas from my matted coat? I  do have quite a flourish signature story ( nearly as many curlicues as the Virgin Queen) so, with a will, I  re-launched a shiny new website ( this PHI one) that has garnered even fewer pats than the previous version. Then I visited the home that promised my ‘first ten thousand readers’ and asked me to ‘funnel a free book’ to hook in a devoted following who will sniff out my continuing hot off the press, book-a-year series with as-clear-a-genre markings as a Dalmatian. Or ‘get together with other similar authors and box a set for a mega splash‘ Yeah? Who might they be?  This beach I occupy is deserted.’Oh you’re the intellectual indie‘ they said when I tried.’ Not much of a fit.’ Nobody realises that my signature story is as contra-intellectual as ‘Hello Magazine’? Not so much flesh, granted.

None of my potential ‘funnels’ are any kind of guide to my smelly genre which changes as the seasons do. ‘Fergetit, Novellas are read only by the French, not cool. Short stories? Nah. Now whaddya got besides?’ The home that blasted an advertisement ( for a whopping fee) and gave me the first respondent ‘Not very modest are you?’ I yelped a protest ( It wasn’t me wot wrote it sir) and slunk away.

I had been whimpering quietly, and to myself for years and thought ‘ah well, these professionals should know what they’re about. Time to bite back modesty and accept help! Let’s PAY to be re-branded!’ I was branded a boaster with fire tongs. Szzzz. Ever smelled burnt hair?

That was after I had become house-trained in the independent author kennel. I  tried not to foul my concrete run; I had given before asking (some thirty odd reviews of demanding books) and four for a single small, no, not small-minute, publisher. Not a peep of ‘how can I help you, need a run? Stretch your legs? I hung out the Twitter taping and Facebook bunting, and made metaphorical cup cakes for the indie street gang. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed doing it, because  Oh, I was young and easy under the apple boughs, about the lilting hope; licked any hand extended, but now I curl up with a chin on my paws, time holds me green-and-dying-and-all-that. Even my favourites are scrambled. Purity never pays.

Once in awhile I get thrown a snack ‘I bought your book, really enjoying it but wonder whether you might…?’Or the publisher who suggested he’d like to republish part, but ‘Here’s the deal. You pay set up fees, you buy review copies ( at a mere 55%), you repurchase unsold books and I authorize any publicity and hold the copyright for five years of the one you have already managed to publish’ The one already published that ‘magnum opus’ doorstop I bravely put about when I was a young and agile trainee in agility classes , wiggling through tunnels of editing and clearing those hurdles of high-flying endorsements. You just try endorsements without an intellectual pedigree! To be allowed to think you have to have letters, peers, published papers, and tenure.

Even those endorsements were a humiliation ‘Send me the script in hard copy by next week when I have a holiday window’ Fifty pounds and four months later ‘I have not had time unfortunately to read your script, but leave it with me, I’ll see what I can do’. That was three years ago. The worst but far from the only. So under this plastic tunnel I lurk, and the rain spatters down.

I don’t even look up anymore. I watch the adoptive readers walk by for the breeds they recognize, the Spaniel romances, the Red Setter spotted crime, the Labrador litters that wrap ‘cosy mysteries’ in loo roll. They get film rights when they grow up to join the opening credits of Downton Abbey? What IS a cosy mystery? A mongrel doesn’t stand a chance. Especially a grey muzzled one.

I still wag a tail for a kind word. I have a few and very valued occasional visitors, and some stay to talk awhile, but a home is fast fading.The tramp of the 20K a week soft porn and pecs drowns out the whistle I was hoping to hear.

Any suggestions? Anyone with an idea? I’d accept a modest outside kennel and write to order? Sod expecting to sell. Is anyone like this dishy owner who turned up for my companion when we were both dreaming of adoption? His mentor was envisaged, and conjured up with horn rims and a lovely smile. Led him away for a life of adoration.

 

Now that I have watched my kennel companion’s happy valley I realise I am not even a hound dog. I am a pangolin without a neck to take a leash, a iguana with swivel eyes and bristles; I am in the wrong department.

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Beast in Key West

By Karsten Seiferlin from Neuenegg, Schweiz – Beast, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32903243

Yes and No- Synchronicity, Knots & Evil

Yes and No- Synchronicity, Bonds, Knots and Evil.

This is really Coming Clean. Full Circle was once the title of my book Involution, about the omnipresence of memory guiding events. Here you have it. Full Circle in a day.

In the cross hairs of today the past came tumbling in. Not only my own, but the wider circumstances of echoes, of history and the continuing influences of the present past.  Nothing is ever incidental, or accidental, everything contributes. They all take a particular shape by being connected to me, and what that shows is dominantly the ‘yes’: But ‘no’ is always present because their correlations are not simple. So there is more to them and if clear for one, that means for everyone.

I will lay out ingredients. Starting with today.

First thing: I opened a blog post from Sivan Butler-Rotholz’s site called As it Ought to Be. The poem she published was called

HOPE, TRUTH, FEAR, AND MY SPIRITUAL QUEST. YES! By Stephanie Wellen Levine.  

I had never heard of Stephanie Levine The poem searches for the spiritual meaning to be found in everyday encounters and asks (more than once) ‘Isn’t there more?’

 I was so taken with it I re-posted it on here ( see below). I then turned to other work, notably some preparation for ‘selling myself’ to possible agents by writing a literary CV in bullet points. One of those bullet points was this:

  •  Surviving an unrepentant cross-dressing Nazi landlady in Bavaria. Her name was Frau F***, she played Schubert on a windup gramophone, and sailed off in a Mercedes Cabriolet to preserve medieval Regensburg from modernity and take tea with Herbert Von Karajan.
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Hitler’s  House at the Berghof- Painting

Frau Fick (yes German meaning as discreetly indicated) was the widow of a Roderich Fick who worked on Hitler’s Berghof with Albert Speer. While staying in her eleventh century mill I encountered unadulterated Nazism within a short drive of Dachau concentration camp. So I refreshed my facts by reading about Speer who largely escaped the death sentence by acknowledging that he should have known about the holocaust but chose not to. So for him it was ‘no’ but actually really ‘yes’.

While reading this entry in Wikipedia a pop up happened alerting me to a new post from Watkins Bookshop where a lecturer called Philip Pegler was talking about his new biography of a man called Martin Israel. He had been married by Martin Israel ( once he had turned priest) and adopted him as a spiritual mentor and guide. The book was about how to deal with evil and exorcism, and during this lecture he mentioned that the esteemed Martin Israel was not immune to possession and once had had to deliver an Easter sermon while confronted throughout with it.

It happens I knew Martin Israel very well, and I was, I suspect, the ‘evil’ that sat throughout his Good Friday Service. I too had adopted him as a spiritual mentor from a distance ( I was awaiting a divorce in Mexico). He wrote frequently to exhort me to maintain my spiritual path and secure my ‘radiant spirit’ It was giving me rather a hard time. When I reached England and called on him to ask for his help in recovering from a profound series of mystical experiences he summoned the police and committed me to a mental hospital. I escaped and, believing he had mistaken my appeal, ( which was for a referral to a whitewashed room in a monastery where I could recover- since he gave retreats at all of them and held the keys so to speak) I returned to his flat in Kensington. Before I was even admitted over the threshold he re-called the police and I was recommitted on a police order without a single word being exchanged. In one of the most notorious mental hospitals in Epsom I was shackled to a bed with wrist bands in a locked ward. The day room was filled with the terminally deranged in strait jackets and catatonics. If I escaped I would be returned compulsorily. I was threatened with a frontal lobotomy and nobody knew I was there!

Long Grove Being Demolished 1992
Long Grove Hospital being demolished in 1992

Bedlam shackled_on_his_bed_at_Bedlam._Wellcome_L0011319

 

So much for the spiritual ‘loving’ Martin Israel. He had abused not only my trust but his position as a lecturer at the Royal College of Surgeons. He was not a clinician but was prepared to end my sentient life! On the authority of his letterhead. At the time it was incomprehensible, but very frightening.

Shortly after he became truly ill, and incapacitated, requiring round the clock nursing but nothing medically wrong was discovered. He recovered slowly and took orders in the Anglican Church. When I had first met Martin Israel at a conference on Nature Man and God at Culham College, Oxford he was verbally violent about any religious orthodoxy. ‘These people have not begun to wake up’ he said of the assembled clergymen, one of which, the Chairman Richard Milford, had been Chancellor of Lincoln and Master of the Temple, who became a close friend of mine after the Conference. It was he and his wife who rescued me before the lobotomy after Martin Israel has written to them to say they should have nothing to do with me ever again. They ignored that and instead collected me from the hospital and asked me to drive them home!

Which brings me back to the Good Friday Service in Sherborne Abbey: I went to show Martin Israel my ‘recovered’ rational sanity and as I filed past him at the door I held out a hand ’Hello Martin’ I said. He looked straight through me without a sign of recognition. ‘I knew but I chose not to know’ Yes and No. He took the next hand proffered.

That next hand belonged to a woman who had taught me Theology in South Africa. I had not seen her for twenty five years, nor expected her to be there, but she had recognised me and hastened up behind.

‘Do you know him?’
‘I did once’ I said.
‘Well he didn’t recognise you!’ she said, sceptical. Martin Israel was too important to know her ex pupil.
‘Yes he did; he chose not to acknowledge it’ I said.

Yes and No.

Fifteen years after this service this my mother died in Swaziland and I went to bury her. The presiding woman priest at her funeral service had been in Swaziland for only three years. Although she had ruined the occasion ( another story) I invited her to lunch to thank her. On the bank of a sullen river, in a valley of oppressive heat with cicadas almost drowning the narrative, this priest told me she had formerly been a nurse and nursed Martin Israel during this collapsed state during which he had no control of bodily functions, but it was clear he was phobic about women physically. She was convinced his illness was due to repressed homosexuality to which he could not reconcile himself. Her view was that the priesthood was a shelter from himself. Whether true or not it helped me. Yes and No

Lilwala

 

My mother dies: I go from England to Swaziland to meet the only person who could corroborate my own near death/destruction and offer an explanation that made sense.

After listening to the eulogy in Philip Pegler’s lecture today about a man now being lionised and while wondering whether to write about this I received an email from a long standing virtual friend. Brian George has been the most generous supporter of my writing and we have communicated constantly for perhaps three years. He simply wrote to say that he did not realise I knew the poet Stephanie Wellen Levine but that she was a frequent visitor to his salon in Boston. He assumed I must!  I had merely read her poem this morning. Yes and No.

Many years ago I wrote an imaginative story ‘The Obituary’ about a memorial service for Martin Israel when I knew he had died. My way of laying him to rest ( and getting small restitution). Since I had had no knowledge of him since that dreadful time I set it in a part of London that I know well. During this lecture today in which Philip Pegler was pegging out Martin Israel’s last years  he named the church at which Martin Israel presided ‘Holy Trinity, Prince Consort Road’. The reason I know the area well is because my daughter was at The Royal College of Music, almost opposite. That was where the service happened in the story. So again today I discovered I wrote truth, without any knowledge of Martin Israel’s terminal career as a priest. Holy Trinity is right where I planted him. I knew but I did not know. Yes and No.

Evil denied, knowledge denied, mistaken identities all gathered up to weave with unerring synchronicity the links in the chain. It began with a poem and called up friends, the past and the clearest signposts of well thumbed evil in Bavaria. You could not put it in a novel and be taken seriously!

Mindblowing. Even though I knew all of that. When it strikes so coherently it affirms the Yes Yes Yes. As it Ought to Be. As it is.

P.S. The Milford’s ( my rescuers) daughter married the son of the Founder of Watkins Bookshop, and I gave a talk there three years ago. Nothing is for Nothing.

Watkins

 

Addendum ( I hope you will read this because it changes everything.)

Many readers known to me, and perhaps a few that might find their way here will find this searing and personal post inappropriate. The conventions of blogs is to keep it light, general and, if personal, undemanding of emotional investment. I took some courage to defy all those because the circumstances of split second synchronicity arrested me and catapulted me back to a time when thought and outer event were constant companions. Hence the accusation of insanity. The co-ordinates to which I was (at that time) privy made living in time impossible. The ‘Power of Now’ when it is all there is ( for all its theoretical hype and mindfulness applications) is like being buffeted in a stormy sea. There is no anchorage if past and present are all equally available and indistinguishable. So MY first reason for sharing it was because it came as a reminder of the richest inspiration for my life and my work. If you recall I have called Involution ‘The Book that Wrote the Life’.

BUT to implicate the role of Martin Israel and more immediately to make his biographer Philip Pegler aware of an aspect that I suspected he might not know- might prefer not to know-was almost an act of cruelty. Why did I decide to contact him? I thought long and hard before I did but in the end gave him the choice to know- if he wanted to, precisely because my own illusions about Martin Israel’s infallibility had so endangered me (and punished others). My experience of Martin was not Philip’s, and I had to trust that he would sustain his own even when accepting mine differed. It was a huge risk that he might perceive me embittered or pointlessly destructive. What I hoped was to balance what had, from his lecture, seemed an unquestioning admiring and devoted eulogy.

I took a chance and he rewarded that risk with extraordinary generosity. Let me quote from his response. First of all – thank you for taking the trouble to write as you did. It cannot have been easy after all you have been through, and although  you may  find this difficult to believe, I am very glad you did so. I much appreciated the searing honesty of your carefully considered communication, even though it made distinctly uncomfortable reading late at night. It is quite true that I have long respected and admired Martin, feeling grateful for the wise counsel and support I have received over the years, but I would never wish to slip into the trap of heedless admiration of anyone. I have had far too much salutary experience of my own for that.

Philip went on.

Reading your extraordinarily gripping narrative, I can now properly understand just why you are so infuriated to hear anything approaching a eulogy, such as my talk must have come over to you. You see, until now I have never had reason to doubt Martin’s integrity as you have, but I must emphasise that I have also never been under the illusion that he was perfect – and indeed he never claimed to be so in his prolific writings, acknowledging his own failings and irascibility on numerous occasions.
    Your well written account of events is thoroughly convincing and I would not presume to discountenance its veracity or evade darker aspects of Marin’s personality, including the probability of his repressed sexuality. Are you aware that he was physically abused as a child by his own father and openly acknowledged it with great sorrow towards the end of his life? He claimed to be a natural celibate, which may have been true enough as far as it went, but would also seem to represent an escape from a deeper part of his all too human nature, which he could not bear to face.

What this candour and ‘meeting with Philip’ has done is to offer not merely explanation, but to offer me the chance of compassionate forgiveness, and to dissolve the hard knots of gnawing perplexity. From some deep and buried horror of his past Martin felt the need to eradicate me. It was a rejection of himself, and I move from the prevailing anger that has dogged my life to pity and forgiveness.
For that I am truly thankful, truly liberated, and grateful for a secondary rescue, not from insanity but from bitter anger. I trusted the wrong man at the wrong time, and perhaps in the wrong way, with insufficient understanding of his vulnerability. It does not exonerate what he did but I must take some responsibility for tying my tossing craft to a deeply damaged tether. It broke. That’s all.

False Starts- The Price to be Paid?

False Starts. How much do they cost? Another of my beach-comber bottle posts.

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Having made a quick sprint to recover this blog, I was called back to the starting line. That dissipated resolve, and led to heavy panting. I am still crouched on the blocks.

The same is happening to the writing of a memoir. I can shape a chapter with some pleasure, but where do any of them fit? It is leading me to ask about the cost of false starts.

As some of my followers know I have recently taken a course whose purpose was to assist defining one’s relevance in this over crowded marketplace, and that course returned each of the participants to their ‘signature story’ their life that had determined their creativity. It was in the life itself that the story begins, and gives the passion to fuel the work.

In my case the life WAS the work, the signature story was written by the Book-to-Come. Every ingredient necessary, every vocabulary mastered, every deprivation cogent. Nothing irrelevant. Okay so far? My life was planned backwards, only I did not realise that, so there was much barking of shins.

I believe this is true of every life; the Soul’s Code to carve out a personal destiny with each sharp knife of experience, whittling away until something steel and slim remains.

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Noel- My Christmas Present saddled at the gate 1947

Here’s the problem. Memory is multilayered, not chronological (though some tidy it up that way in autobiography), the important events shine starkly and often without reason or logical context. I can remember some hit-below-the-belt moments that took breath away; my first meeting with a horse whose smell presaged the smell of a baby, not in anyway alike, but alike in their distinctiveness and perfection. Inimitable.  I remember seeing ancient Greek written on a blackboard by a teacher fluent in Greek who teased out the nuances of Agape, Eros, and Charis and I thought that knowledge worth a Persepolis and dying for. I remember a Catholic seminarian singing, on a Lesotho mountain track, Danny Boy in a voice like Bing Crosby’s which made me pine for a country I had never known. These shafts of longing came from other lives and other times. My current one floats like flotsam on those deeper currents.

Try to give such expansions of inexplicable joy any kind of framework (other than poetic fragments) and they enter a straitjacket that rob them of power. I start anew each day, and with each attempt the immediacy is rubbed away, the material worn smooth where it was and should remain, rough or rustic. I am alarmed and increasingly afraid that if I continue they will disappear altogether.

I know that putting one’s house in order, which is what writing a memoir is attempting, is a tidying and systematic process, but for there to be any value in offering it to a reader, it must retain that immediacy, and false starts strip it of vitality. Memory and dreams work best indirectly, from peripheral corners-of-the-eye. Life’s pedantic  frames hang lifelessly, and can be set in any order. The drawers of the decades, open and shut, all over familiar, inter-tangled by unmatched pairs of socks you hope to unite. I want simply to tip them out on the floor and let a reader rifle through them, a circular work without beginning or end.

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Starting at the Beginning?

Here’s the rub. Books are chronological, language likewise, and time is the least important component of Memory’s rich store. You can bid a fictional character to guide your story; your own is already set, and I am not interesting to myself. Since I am not a musician it seems I must accept the strait jacket and allow myself some madness.

Does anyone else feel this? Wrestle with it? Have a work-a-day answer?

P.S. Yes I have read ‘How to memoir’ books, and am now reading other people’s mastery of memoirs. Those are other people’s stories, and retain the fascination of the ‘other’.

Casting Bones: Examining Entrails.

My Place in the Market- a board across two barrels.

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I am limping back after a three month break from blogging, and this is the first breaking of the ice of silence. I simply lost any belief that anything I might write would be of interest, so I took a break, not knowing whether it might prove fatal. If I am to write I have to hold to a working title ‘This is for you- whoever you are’

Instead of a holiday I took a course to evaluate my Artmark. My Artmark defines whether what I do holds any allure, relevance, or dynamic for anyone else, so brave, nicht? The moment of horrible truth. This required a further act of courage, to join a group, blind. Groups and me? Dangerous.

Would I go on a river cruise with twelve close-confined retirees, ( who have scrimped for their treat) and lie awake knowing that the veneered plywood between my cabin and theirs would amplify the snoring? Of end up at a ‘regular table’ where everyone has their own napkin ring, metaphorically speaking. I would not. Paddling my own canoe has always seemed safer. Things get rough? Swim. No waiting for a lifeboat, and ‘you first’. I’ve tried quite a bit of ‘you first’ in the past three years, and watched most other authors bear away reviews without a ‘no, after you’.

So I opened up my doubts, like slitting a carcass, to an array of strangers peering at it and poking it in the hope of restoring life. They were kind, to a man; well to each and every woman. Only women seem to attend these kinds of courses. They were all truly generous about the old woman unlikely to rise armed with doables, lists or intentions. I found it difficult to stay straight faced, and nobody seemed to mind. I made a few genuine friends, who may find their way here.

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The intention was to guide each of us to an understanding of our unique message, and to evaluate how better we might reach our ‘patch of the planet’ (aka PoP). Mine went the way of the weasel. My message has always had one indisputable quality: Uniqueness. That was its problem. We also went through an evaluation of in what ways we ‘fascinate’, in order to learn how best to do more of that. There are some 49 different ways you combine seven  ‘advantages’ to define your style of fascination and as I wrote in a earlier blog mine ended up as ‘Rockstar’ which contributed to the continuing silence.

What do you say after that? You peep down. It did however clarify why the last three years had brought me to my knees. I was trying to fascinate by doing all the things defined as ‘inert’ for me, ( some of the words to describe them are ‘judicious, pro-active, detailed, strategic, steadfast, composed, meticulous) No wonder I was looking like the crawler across the desert, tongue hanging out, for the water,(even brackish) of life! I had not had a sip of much since I was passionate, innovative, bold, artistic and unorthodox, which come (allegedly) naturally. Those had come to a grinding halt, blown over by all the sand of meticulousness. ( all those marketing courses, strategic planning, and twitter techie hashtags.)

Anyway now I know that my Patch of the Planet are all solitaries, like me, and probably don’t join groups ( or not beyond the table outside a quick fry beach café) and unlike most of my travelling companions on this course I do not have ‘services’ to reach my potential ‘heroes’. As solitaries mine are heroic already, and don’t need my help, though I catch the occasional fish to grill and share.

I write. Period. So you will find my posts shorter, because they will fit, carefully rolled, into a bottle for any beachcomber to find.

Thanks to anyone who picks this one up. Write a tick in the sand if you’re likely to come this way again. I’m just waving but no longer drowning. No heroics called for.

By Hariton Mizgir (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A Reader Friend; in Need, in Deed.

Brian George Reviews ‘Curtains’ A Short Story.

The barns( If you want to read the story itself first sign up to follow and I’ll email it to you)

This restorative generous response to a short story illustrates what readers do for writers. Times have been hard recently and this story was a way to ‘write the wrongs’ like taking a soap scrub to the mind. That any reader found literary survival, more, literary merit in this hose down was beyond redemptive. You never know. It may be an augury that this writer will revive.

Review of Short Story ‘Curtains’ by Brian George ( March 2016)

I have just finished reading “Curtains,” a sad and wonderful piece, in which the author’s stoic reserve portions out all of the twists and turns of the drama, transforming what should be a simple landlord/tenant conflict into something far more primal and lifting the reader to a plane of both empathy and detachment. This stoic reserve exists as a kind of free-floating presence. At one moment it appears as an attribute of the semi-autobiographical protagonist in the story, at another, as a quality of light, and at another, as an encircling awareness of the inevitability of loss. The protagonist of the story, Battered, lives with her husband in one part of a remodeled farm and former music center. She is old, although much younger than her husband, who is ancient, with one foot in this world and the other in the next. If they live in a state of steadily diminishing expectations, this does not relieve them of the need for finding a paying tenant. The antagonist of the story, a supposed New Age therapist and writer, called Curtains, is not quite what she seems. The rhythm of the piece is fascinating, in all of its permutations. Drowsy reminiscence will suddenly give way to crackling confrontation..

At the beginning, the story reads like a haunted pastoral, with a sense of many things left unsaid. The music of the prose is hypnotic, like waves lapping on a darkening shore, with the rumble of thunder in the background. All looks to be serene, but we sense that some form of tragedy will be not long in arriving. To some, the events that follow might better be described as “tragicomedy.” This would be true as far as it goes, yet  each event in the story can be read in terms of what is there and what is not there, as an object that is simultaneously its own shadow. As the tenant moves in, we take note of the many warning signs not heeded, and even the most commonplace objects and exchanges take on an ominous cast. The first small conflicts with the tenant are like the first few raindrops of a storm, the first thin flashes of lightning. Then, when the full extent of the conflict emerges into view, the effect is hyper-real, with details taking on a painful immediacy, as in the aura that precedes an epileptic seizure, with ever stronger flashes of light illuminating a dilemma that is at once both horrifying and absurd.

The story also reads as an editorial comment on the beloved New Age cliché that WE CREATE OUR OWN REALITY. While magic may be real, and a positive attitude can have some sort of a measurable effect, there are also hard, external limits to our actions, beyond which even the most determined may not push. I do not feel that this story is “frivolous” at all, as the author, in an email, argued. If anything, “Curtains” reads like a rural English version of “The Old Man and the Sea.” There is a mournful poetry as well as a mordant humor to the author’s descriptions that transforms the apparently mundane details of events. The modest surface both conceals and reveals the tragic undertow. There is a visceral sense of the scale of the dreams that have been frustrated. There are no grand gestures; there is only matter-of-fact resolve.

Lies are resolutely uncovered and confronted. Much effort is required to remove the worm from the garden. It is something of a mystery, perhaps, that it should have been so difficult to spot a prostitute who had been delivered to the renovated cowshed by her pimp. After so much disillusionment, both personal and cultural, Battered should have been well positioned to spot such a deception. Then again, the most obvious things are often the last ones to be noticed. We remember how as children we put our full trust in the world. Such trust dies hard. However idiotic our judgments, this desire points to a truth which should not be second-guessed. The conflict with the New Age Angelic Hooker Therapist ends with no more and no less than the reestablishment of the normal. If the Genius Loci do not cooperate in the showering of any obvious form of wealth, they are nonetheless relieved. Having struggled with the temptation of bitterness, having exited beyond the noise that had obscured the inner music of the landscape, Battered’s quiet courage returns her to the home that was always hers.

 

Milly grave

Joe Linker comes bearing gifts

 

Two days ago it gave me great pleasure to introduce you to Jose Diez Faixal’s extraordinary paper in ‘The Lyre not the Flute’. One thing I have reason to understand is the gnawing compulsion that follows a gift of vision, gnawing in his case for forty years. (In mine for a little longer) Finding a language in which to convey something that arches across creation, snakes deeply beneath superficial appearances, surfaces only for long enough to catch a glimpse before submerging, and runs contrary to all received opinion makes for a prolonged loneliness.

The labours of Sisyphus must roll vision against the collective gravity of opposition. ‘Who are you anyway?’ echoes in the mind, and enlarges because vision is a gift not unlike  that described by Virgil Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. ( I fear the Greeks even when they come bearing gifts). 

The Trojan Horse is an apt reference with the capacity to destroy the citadel of sanity.

The compulsion of an idea carries with it a sense of being unworthy for it and inadequate to find a language to do it honour. What makes it worse is the prevailing climate of hostility to anything that challenges orthodoxy, and the assumption that as ‘beneficiary’ of the idea the unfortunate visionary sets himself ‘above’ those he hopes to reach. Who would seek his place when the mockery, disparagement, cynicism, and open hatred is almost constant? Yet he is a Gurkha on Everest, burdened with an obligation to keep trying, if only to shift the load of responsibility, and set it down.

Jose Faixal admitted that he was not looking for what happened. ‘I was focused on vivential and theoretical research of non-dual Reality. I had no intention of proposing any evolutionary hypothesis. But intuition “fell from the sky” and I felt compelled to check its validity. I’ve been 35 years trying to make the testing with the scientific data that I found’.

It gave me such pleasure to walk with him a little way, and take his arm.

Joe Pizza Face by Emily

Can anyone understand what receiving a similar arm unexpectedly yesterday might have meant to me? Joe Linker’s response to Involution came late at night, unheralded, and like a fresh wind off the sea. Not just because he wrote what he did ‘this is a book to live with’ but because I sensed that he understood what saying it might mean to me. Such gifts come from the same place as the original ideas do.

Just when I had resolved to turn from it, and walk away, it gave a wave through him. ‘I might be Okay’

Here is Joe’s gift to me, and it might stretch to being shared. Today gratitude is impossible to express!

Involving “Involution,” a book by Philippa Rees