Sunday 30 November 2008


That was NaBloPoMo. Decided on seventy words a day, a length I could easily write to, and it proved SO HARD. Reluctant work-out for a miserable mind that wanted to cower in silence. No. Bugger it. Go away. No words. But there are always words, and words are something. A small confrontation with the nature of writing. The mind telling itself: yes, I'm here. However hopeless, I am conscious, someone.

Saturday 29 November 2008


lots more under-people here

Trafalgar Square on a freezing, rainy day when the wet pavement shone like a cold, still lake. Clicking away, thinking: this surface is so good, there’ll surely be something of interest. Looked at what I’d got and thought at first there was nothing. Then, looking below the people instead of straight at them, realised there was a lot – a brief, clear view into the underworld peopled by all our doppelgangers.

Friday 28 November 2008


Struan Gray: Elder

Via Wood s Lot, a beguiling new blog, Twiglog, by Struan Gray in Lund, Sweden: my commonplace book …ideas, musings and works in progress …and photos, naturally. He also has a photo website: photographs which move me the most are the ones taken ...on repeated visits to the same small places. His is an aesthetic that resonates completely with me and I know will also with many of my blogging friends.

Thursday 27 November 2008


Difficult one. I'm feeling ungrateful. And guilty. Very Protestant. It’s a problem, perhaps, that for most of us now there is no annual harvest. We’re genetically programmed, I think, for cycles of feast and famine. The hamster-wheel life of regular work and regular pay, however well padded your wheel, may be less conducive to well-being.

I’m truly grateful for my American friends (especially Tamar - check out the video at 0.49 min) and hope they’re all enjoying a long weekend off.

Yes, that's more than 70 words (Tamar's fault). In brackets or italics doesn't count.

Wednesday 26 November 2008


Albrecht Dürer: Young Woman with Bound Hair, 1497

The exhibition was worth the major effort it cost me to get out of bed at the weekend. Such treasures of deep, luminous, intelligent beauty. Gazing at this lovely painting – the colours! the gravity! the delicacy! her nose! her wrist! - I heard myself silently ask: are you enough? Is art enough to make life worth living? And got no answer. I suppose the answer is ‘sometimes’ – better than ‘no’.

Monday 24 November 2008


Leaving the Renaissance Faces, the sublimely, timelessly poignant and inscrutable, and having heard about some smart-arsed photo of a woman with a plastic bag on her head, it was tempting not to bother with the annual photographic portrait exhibition next door. But it was free, and raining outside. In fact, the photo in question is beautiful, the subject's pale, Flemish face as haunting as those of her ancestors, as translucent as... well, as the plastic bag.


Eating pea soup for Sunday lunch, I remember something I never notice but suddenly noticed some months ago in a crowded silent retreat dining room. My manner of eating soup labels me - age: over fifty; social class of origin: lower aspiring (my grandmother had been in domestic service and raised her kids to ape their betters). Instinctively, infallibly, I spoon the soup away from me. Most people, these days, don't.

Saturday 22 November 2008


Another meme going around lately: post the sixth photo from the sixth file on your computer. Here it is. An early effort with my first camera. Not so bad. St Barnabas Church, Dulwich. I like those trees. They survived the fire that destroyed the Victorian church sixteen years ago, look just as good against the new church, completed in 1996, and perhaps influenced the form and positioning of its spire.

Friday 21 November 2008


Ernesto linked to this article about Sheila Jeffreys' clear-eyed condemnation of the global sex industry. Thirty years ago, she was a leader of radical, separatist feminism in England. Remembering how they tore my life apart, for I loved a man. No, unfair. My own immaturity, ambivalence and inability to trust my own feelings tore my life apart. Theirs was a brave voice of dissent. Such voices needed, then and now.

Thursday 20 November 2008


Dave King, whom I've got to know quite recently, first through his kind comments here and then his thoughtful, knowledgeable, sometimes lyrical blog, passed me a 'seven facts about yourself' meme, which he's just done himself. Here's a link to when I last did something similar - lazy solution, but also it's much more interesting than anything I could come up with today! And I'll just issue a general invitation...

Wednesday 19 November 2008


…photo from Sunday. Because today, spent in a spin, has no fixed image. This month of blogging is proving hugely challenging because I don't want to crystalise my current experience in words on a screen. I want to be numb, and writing even a couple of sentences every day makes that harder. The degree to which I want to stop this has become in itself a motivation for continuing. This hit home.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Postal Poetry

On a not at all negative note, I have something up at Postal Poetry today. I'm delighted about this, as I love the format and they've been publishing some really terrific, resonant stuff. I've very much enjoyed playing with this. Quite new to me, as I don't have Photoshop. The free image manipulation software, Gimp, is not bad though. Do consider having a go!


The wonderful PsychoTherapist likes my use of negative space (below). My current space is not just visually negative! Wondering whether words worth reading can come from such a space. Can there still be a perception of beauty or a satisfying verbal pattern? Or better shut up? Andy decides to shut up for now, and I’m sorry. His words, even when bleak, are never unengaging because he writes so well. Hmm.

Monday 17 November 2008


the white air hollowed out

A quiet Sunday of books, music, sleep, last leaves and, suddenly, silence: Sunday suburban silence like there used to be when I was young. The white air hollowed out and every surface (once the rain had dried) matt, dusty, friable. Tap and it echoes. Tap of few feet on deserted pavements. Pale crackle of those last leaves. Thought bubbles surfacing and bursting softly in the emptied, slowed-down space.

Sunday 16 November 2008


May Sarton: painted in 1937, photographed in 1992

Decide to reread all May Sarton's journals, beginning with the iconic Journal of a Solitude. It doesn't disappoint. Memory plays tricks, though. I had the journals down as all of a piece: limpid, vigorous, poetic dispatches from old age, and am shocked to realise she wrote Journal of a Solitude twelve years before its first UK publication in 1985. She was 58, scarcely older than I am now.

Saturday 15 November 2008


Radio Three Early Music Show on almost lost music from the Dutch Golden Age. Music for voice, strings, organ by Hooft, Huygens, Sweelinck. Notes as pure and intense as the colours in Vermeer's paintings. I was on the way out, but hover, listening, instead. Feel plucked, bowed. Multiple orgasms in the brain. Gorgeous music rising in the air, like mist rising from the dark waters of an Amsterdam canal. Wow.

Friday 14 November 2008


Anything new on the damn computer, my brain blocks. I'm from another time, began this too late, in my thirties. I hate this repeated blank incomprehension, want to run, screaming and flailing, from my dithering, humiliating incompetence. I know it will usually slide into place, given time and patience. But the fear is almost overwhelming. If I can't keep abreast of this, I can't make a living. And then what will become of me?

Thursday 13 November 2008


Beyond tired, beyond ill and beyond depressed, a flickering, sharp-edged place I've never been before, whose name I do not know, or whether it is to be welcomed or feared. Rewind, go on, as long as the mechanism responds. Maybe in the end that's all there is. But so far through the story, isn't it strange, this blankness, the links and assumptions breaking, the pages unwriting themselves?

Wednesday 12 November 2008


yellow-green leaves like a Tiffany window

Reading a prize-winning first novel, The First Verse, by Irish writer Barry McCrea, and disappointingly unbeguiled by it, although it's rich and surprising. But just read Diary of a Bad Year by J M Coetzee, a spare, dry semi-fiction, with great pleasure. Changing tastes are interesting, but also alarming and undermining because I've always, in the absence of successful relationships with real people, found self-reflection, validation in novels, films and music.

Tuesday 11 November 2008


From my sleepy, early morning kitchen, South-East facing, the sun, unseen for a week or more, is a blast of white light on the horizon - gone as quickly as it came, but silvery minnows slip now through the grey, watery clouds, followed by bigger fish, bigger, and finally blue whales, crowding the sky. Against the blue: the beech tree's remaining leaves, intensely yellow-green, like a Tiffany window.

Monday 10 November 2008


Derek Walcott writes a poem for Barack Obama, who’s been sighted with a copy of his Collected Poems. Walcott’s Omeros sits on my bookshelf, a present a dozen years ago from an older, better read colleague - sits unopened: I didn’t read poetry then. These days, a long reading voyage later (through books but mostly, amazingly, through the Internet) I’ve begun, very late, to read poetry, and now eye the book.

Sunday 9 November 2008


Through a veil of rain and a fog of fever (lousy cold), the quiet Sunday world is all echoes and contrasts, rushing and flagging, Autumn embers sliding down dark trees to lay thick, slimy carpets on the pavement. My inner kaleidoscope, flickering and shifting from black and white to lurid colour, shivery cold to fiery hot, and back again, turning it all into a crazy unfamiliar 3D picture show.

From now until Spring, it's a mole-like existence, with working days spent tunnelled deep and no idea what the sun is doing. So surfacing on Saturday to find it's not doing very much, lost above a roof of purple rain-clouds, is a bit disappointing. The cold and wet on your skin, though, on your dripping snout protruding from the ambit of your umbrella, do tell you you're alive.

Friday 7 November 2008


The squat, harrassed bus-driver smiles ruefully, which changes everything. London bus-drivers, frazzled, underpaid and usually from the least privileged ethnic groups, rarely smile. They get that fragile sense of control that feels so essential to sanity from sailing past crowded bus-stops, swearing at passengers and braking hard so we fall over. Meditators know there is no control - accept it, it won't kill you. Remind self to meditate, and smile.

Thursday 6 November 2008


An eye for found art (well, no, just inertia really) let them dry and drop, and the effect is haunting. They remind me of a small, dark oil study in just these red-brown hues, of dropping flowers in a vase - the only painting we had by my father, who had been a talented, if derivative, amateur artist before he was overtaken by the demands of a late, misguided marriage.

Wednesday 5 November 2008


Well, I'm very glad, of course. Especially for all my friends who campaigned for Obama, who tremulously, then less tremulously, hoped. But, well, for myself, I note this morning a depressing sourness and inability to be moved. The Blair years have made me despise and fear the genus Politician, pretty much regardless of species. I wait, and long, to be convinced. Slow-burning hope is the strongest kind.

Tuesday 4 November 2008


My 'other America' is my blogging friends, in none of whose name the war and the waste have been, any more than the crazed antics of the British acolyte have been in mine. I was going to post the Buddhists for Obama logo, but the time for labels is past, I think. Today, though, in good Buddhist fashion, I'll sit still and breathe out love across the ocean.

Monday 3 November 2008


The tree is losing its foliage in a strange way. Brown leaves litter the ground, but those not yet shed are as vivid a green as ever. You wouldn't know how brittle, unless you touch, how comparatively sparse now, unless you'd seen their previous luxuriance. The next brusque squall, some moody November dawn in the next week or two, will bring on shocking instant baldness.

The crunch quite gone, last night's rain left a world carved from sodden sponge. If I broke off the church steeple, wavering there in the blurred, mauve air, and poked myself with it, I'm sure it would be blunt and water would cascade from the tip. Nothing like yesterday's talk of sleep and dreaming to make you sleep and sleep and .... uh-oh, not now, I'll miss my bus stop.

Up early on a Saturday to go and and hear a talk on dreaming and dying! My cynical side sees more than a touch of masochism, and a sad need to fill my life with something, anything, while my idealistic side goes gladly, seeks devotion and discipline, and admires the teacher. In the stark morning, frosted leaves crunching underfoot, my head snaps crazily between the two.