False Starts- The Price to be Paid?

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



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.

Noel and Me 001
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.

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.


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.


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

Review of Go Set a Watchman- Harper Lee

Review of Go Set a Watchman- Harper Lee.

Hot words before the tears dry and the work is desiccated by analysis.

Virtual and Sometime Friends ( Really Careless Talk!)

Virtual and Sometime Friends ( Really Careless Talk!).

A general view halloo after weeks of neglect. Hope some are still within hailing distance for nothing either important or demanding. I, too, can chew the fat!

Oyez Oyez…Last call for the Jury in the Trial of Involution. Closing Arguments: 1 Prosecution

Oyez Oyez…Last call for the Jury in the Trial of Involution. Closing Arguments: 1 Prosecution.

Do cross the road to the other site and join the debate? All welcome for a penn’orth

Verdict imminent! The final evidence in the Trial of Involution-Odyssey.

Verdict imminent! The final evidence in the Trial of Involution-Odyssey..