Out Now!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Merry Christmas, and goodbye - for now

 I'm taking a break until early January, but I'm hoping you'll all be having such a great Christmas you won't notice. Have a good one, as they say, and this is my present to you. Thank you for all your comments over the year


Check it out.

PS A less welcome present is a temporary return to the dreaded captcha. My in box has been flooded with anonymous spam and its difficult to weed out the one in a hundred genuine 'anon' from the spurious.

Friday, 14 December 2012

A cold banana counts

I visit a friend who has a terminal illness. The nursing home is airy and modern. Elevators and doors are password controlled, and there is a faint smell of urine on the stairs. When not in bed, my friend sits in a communal area staring at the wall, or at other people coming in and out of his range of vision. There are others like him, unable to do anything but sit and be looked after, and there are spirits in each of them, memories that come and go, and a reminder to me that life is to be lived – every second of it. I’m eating a cold banana – resting it on me knee to type this - and it tastes wonderful.

In terms of the sensory, my Damascene moment came in my late twenties. I had just read Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. The book beautifully evokes London club land of the Edwardian period.  Finances and location (Newport) precluded me from experiencing any such luxury myself – though it has figured in my writing since. But in the same book Erskine Childers describes sailing through rain and storm in the North Sea so brilliantly you share the same storm-tossed craft with his heroes. Just reading makes you part of it – more - you want to experience it.

Unfortunately same problem: finances and location…but not necessarily. One dark November night, Newport was hit by a violent storm, rain sheeting down in huge, boisterous slabs. This was it. No dinghy but the wind was doing a pretty good job in tossing me about. I walked the three miles from my house in Malpas to Newport Town Center and reached the 'Engineers Arms' wind-swept and sodden. Never had beer tasted so good, a fire so hot and other drinkers cosily blurred through steamed up glasses. I’ve craved the sensory ever since.

I love the colour of autumn; I enjoy coldness, the threat of worse to come, and blazing fires. When I walk to the swimming pool on winter mornings it is dark, the lane a narrow black ribbon shrouded by trees. When the cloud breaks it is like walking on moonbeams. The pool, too, is magical, turquoise and silver, the water occasionally chill, sometimes lukewarm, other times warm enough to poach eggs, given patience and the cooperation of other, more competitive swimmers. 

But I believe there is magic in every moment, even towelling yourself briskly, and you know you’ve had a good day when you go to bed tired and wondering what you’re going to dream about now. Whatever you do don’t dream about ‘bucket lists’. Treat every day as a bucket list and then you’ll never run out. Sermon over. A banana in the fridge has my name on it

Friday, 7 December 2012

What do I think? Tell me

I was left with a degree of uncertainty this morning. It has quite spoiled my day. Normally I’m up at dawn, sitting in the dark, with tea and radio  to hand, and I’m told what to think for that day. There are some things now I know to be immutable truths:

 The government is both incompetent and heartless.
Wind power is the future.
Shale gas is bad
Leveson is good.
The Press is bad 
The internet needs to be regulated
Independent Schools are bad
The Republicans are fools.
Obama is God
Starbucks is bad.
The Right Honourable Margaret Hodge, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and the doughty champion of fair taxation is good. No mention is made of her shares in a family company (Stemcor) It is 'allegedly'  making millions and paying 0.01% in tax. An obvious oversight I’m sure will be remedied, 'explained' or ignored.

 So far so good. I'm surrounded by tablets of stone, modern commandments.  'Though I walk in the shadow of death' Wormtongue is there, drip feeding news and telling me how to interpret it. No chance of forgetting. It is persistent, like rain, reminding me what's right day after day.

Until today. 

Today the guidance faltered. Like a SatNav losing signal, and as a result I feel rudderless.

I've been picking up suggestions that Presidient Morsi of Egypt is 'bad'. He is over-riding a large section of public feeling in his attempt to impose an Islamic Constitution, and a mass of Egyptians are rioting or, if you prefer, protesting.

But what am I to feel about the Belfast Assembly taking down the UK flag from public buildings? In doing so they have outraged a large section of public opinion in Northern Ireland, and they are doing much the same thing as the rioters in Egypt – making their feelings known. Am I to support one lot of rioters and not the other? Is one set of rioters morally superior to the other and by whose criteria? No clear guidance has been given yet, though I'm sure it is only a matter of time…as is the next war. There is a steady drumbeat for involvement in Syria, and maybe Iran. It is the sound of  a public being ‘prepared,' opinion subtly formed.