Saturday, 26 May 2012


There's something, isn't there, about the pink chestnut blossoms? They have a sweet, satisfying ice-cream beauty on the tree, especially a really big tree (giant strawberry sundae?). But carpeting the ground, there's something raw, lightly bloody, in the colour and texture; in each tiny form, something creature-like.

more pink blossoms here

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Open space

This both gladdens and saddens my heart. Five minutes' walk from my house is a grassy, wooded hillside with dense, lush vegetation and long views towards the city - a precious open space that I DIDN'T KNOW WAS THERE! I suppose it's more than a decade since I walked that way...

Sunday, 20 May 2012


Well, I have started working - working, as they say, 'for myself'. There's one substantial editing job beginning to come in, with other, smaller things in the offing and lots of business and office set-up work still to do. Work that I needed and yet dreaded, still feeling pretty tired and crazy and floating now in this new, open, frightening context.

Work - great relief - feels good: a competent and reassuring rhythm regained. Familiar and yet unfamiliar too, since there's a whole new challenge to approach things differently, more carefully and spaciously, though not without a realistic sense of time and efficiency.

With country, continent and world in frightening chaos, perhaps the worst in my lifetime, attempting to control and improve the structure of an individual life feels foolish and presumptuous. But what else is there to do? Despair and apathy, for sure, can only contribute to the chaos, while individual hope and creativity might just, a million times multiplied, be a bit helpful.

One piece at a time, I guess, like piling fruit into a giant bowl.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Thursday, 17 May 2012

More Bach, ouch

More lunchtime Bach. Solo violin. Oh dear, it was horrible. I wrote much more, but really you don't want to know.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Too wet to sit outside

We've just had two days with quite a lot of sunshine, which after so much rain felt magical and shone on endless, thickly painted shades of green (and on a lot of mud - oh, whoops, slide... not quite dried out just here!). I walked in the woods again and smelled clouds of hawthorn blossom that took me back to the village of Hartlebury, where I lived till I was six, heard songs and squeaks and rustlings all around, saw many birds I'd never seen before and foxes shimmying through the undergrowth. Used to think I didn't see much because of poor eyesight; seems it was more due to exhaustion and distraction. On Sunday, a retreat with Martine Batchelor: wise words that touched my heart and walking meditation in the sunshine. And now it's raining again and I have work to do. This feels too soon, but must be done and will be done. It's all good. Don't those birds I'd never seen before make it all worthwhile? I think they probably do.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Bach at lunchtime

Thursday lunchtime Bach, with an audience, mostly old, enjoying this less crowded and expensive pleasure at beautiful LSO St Luke's, where new leaves shimmer in the rain against the old stone. Here I am, intent on recovering motivation (no, I'm not sure this goes via intention). Bach Cello Suites come pretty high among motivations for staying alive. Will I ever hear a performance to match Casals' recordings made in the 1920s and 30s? I haven't found one yet. Not even Paolo Pandolfo's heavenly versions for viola da gamba. Raphael Wallfisch, one evening a few years ago in the new St Barnabas Church in Dulwich, was pretty great. For different reasons, so was this. And Pieter Wispelwey's Suite 3 and Suite 6? A lovely tone, but I kept finding his fast too fast and his slow too slow and he didn't seem to thread it all together. I see he has a broad repertoire - perhaps it takes a Bach obsessive...

The Bach concerts run through May, with the next programme (Schumann) scheduled for October - I wonder if I'll be attending then.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Sunday, 6 May 2012


These weeks of almost unremitting cloud and frequent heavy rain have been a bit depressing, but they make for lush and subtle greenery, of course - a continuing glory of this grumpy, confused old country and its near neighbours. When the clouds thin and briefly part, the pale sunshine glancing off all this green is a timeless gossamer dream. A deep collective memory sighs and reaches out to the passing moment. Well, it could. Sometimes it does. But all too often an obsessive awareness of one's own - my own - individual inner climate stands between.

The way I feel is... well, since deciding six months ago to leave my job there hasn't been a conscious moment when I haven't felt sick with fear. This is probably not literally true: my attention must often have been taken elsewhere. But it feels true. It's rational fear to some extent since leaving the job at this difficult, crazy time is clearly a big risk and, although there are some positive indications, there's no knowing how things will turn out. It's also desperately unhelpful. I'm not dying and not powerless (and if I was dying what a waste of life such fear would be). Fear changes nothing and consumes vast amounts of needed energy and confidence.

So why so much fear? I think it stems from guilt, from the suspicion that I made a self-indulgent choice and and so deserve the worst. I felt a lot of other things before, some of them horrible, but mostly not fear, or only short-term fear: afraid I can't get out of bed, can't cope today; oh, now I have: ok, fear over - that kind of thing. Now it's endless, an ever-present aspect of the new reality. And it's nuts, for this is my one life, too precious to spend it being afraid, especially when nothing frightening has happened yet. I suppose I could resort to anti-anxiety medication, and I don't rule that out. Meanwhile, breathe into it and slowly, deliberately try to act as if I didn't feel this way.

The fear is in my throat and belly, and recently in my back. I've never had backache, or any of the aches and pains in bones and joints and muscles to which my age-group may be prey. I get severe and frequent headaches and migraine and it's been as if the body's need to express pain was focused in my head and therefore had no need to manifest elsewhere. These past few weeks, the headaches have slowly started to abate for the first time in many years. Pain, meanwhile, seized my lumbar vertebrae. On the retreat, sitting fulltime with a crazy, fearful mind, there was none of the familiar stiff shoulders and sore knees from sitting still, but this new pain flowered lushly and shockingly half way down my spine, then faded a few days later. As I wrote this blogpost, a week after returning from retreat, it came back suddenly and violently (and, yes, when the words had been set down it left again).

There's no escape from fear, it seems. I used to escape briefly, gratefully, totally, after work into novels, films and radio programmes, and (excessively) into food. Well, these - or I - have changed. While still pleasures, they no longer make the rest disappear. Paradoxically, when life is mostly a relentless discipline, is it easier to fully embrace the moments which are not? I suppose the lack of wider choices, the clear limitation of such moments, while removing hope, also removes responsibility and uncertainty. If the moment's all there is, you have to grasp it. (But it's always all there is, stupid!).

Perhaps I shouldn't blog this. The haiku poets counsel us to find an image, not indulge in drear, abstract description of emotions. Writing has been very difficult, and of course it's one of the main things I'd longed to do more of. Perhaps I need to give words, any words, to this stuff before I can give words to anything else. When I first started blogging - not here - I wrote something very personal and emotional about my past and family. It was chosen as some kind of 'post of the week'. To write it down and have it read was helpful in some concrete way and I never needed to do so again. So, in that spirit...

Friday, 4 May 2012


Lousy photos, but he's sooo beautiful!


The big photo exhibition I went to see was too big and its contents too disparate for much enjoyment. But the great thing about looking is the way you come out still looking - every object, every person becomes a picture.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


Monday morning dawned with limpid sunshine after many days of rain and with many more days of rain forecast. So, inspired by these lovely photos of my local woods and by Parmanu's exquisite shots of woods elsewhere in Europe, and feeling as guilty as a small, truanting schoolgirl, I walked in the woods - on Monday morning!

Leaving my job: wow, it nearly killed me, I think. I say this not to be self-dramatising, but in the spirit in which many thinkers I consider wise tell us the way a lot of us live, in privileged as well as poorer countries, is killing us - emotionally, physically, individually, collectively, ecologically. So near the brink I was there, so exhausted and conflicted, this little, flickering consciousness could have flickered out. It happens all the time: the heart attacks and strokes and distracted souls under buses. It didn't happen to me, and coming so near the brink doesn't make me unusual. So now, emerging from a few weeks of much needed physical recuperation (and, oh god, I wish I could take six months off, but I know I'm very lucky to have had six weeks), it's time to think about how to live a bit better in future, about ways to live and work, both attitudinal and tangible, that better reflect my own concerns, beliefs and priorities.

This is not retirement. I kind of wish it was. Not that I'd want to stop working, but it would be nice of course to have a basic income and not have to work to survive. But the days of 'early retirement' - quite widespread for British folk in their fifties during much of my life - are over. So, how to make a living, whether to leave London: these are the big challenges. How to begin climbing out of a long downward spiral? Slowly. Realistically. And starting deep inside myself, while not residing there all the time. Well, Spring is a good time for this.

First up will be some choices re upgrading the home office, deciding on computer, printer, internet, broadband, phone and energy suppliers that I hope (whilst all too well aware that there are no virtuous options here) may be less supportive than some of the most egregiously unethical industries, less wasteful than some of my own and the planet's resources. I have some websites to check out, and all information and suggestions will be very gratefully received.