Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Assimilation - resistance is futile

Blue Boy is staying. ( touch wood so far)  I have plugged myself into the Cat Lady Network and the Vet has checked for a chip. His details have been advertised in the local paper. This has resulted in one call. As I answered the phone I was filled with conflicting thoughts. This cat has been loved. It has no fear and no aggression and a certainty that if he asks nicely he will receive. He is sweet. In short he is lovable and I, knowing my place, am doing that.

The person on the phone started to describe him. I held my breath,  in one indisputable way the cat she described and mine are different. It was with relief that I breathed in and said  "no that's not my cat." I noticed that. I said not my cat. I hadn't realised til I said it that I had made a decision. She was crestfallen. I then heard her story, about a lost companion who was/is also loved and hope that she has better news soon.

Had he belonged to her I would have given him up. ( But - as the vet said to me as we discussed this eventuality - with my arms folded and pursed lips.  He knows me so well!)

As I talked to the Hound I referred to him as Blue Boy. He emerged from the kitchen where he spends a lot of time keeping an eye on his bowl. We  have agreed a longer formal name which is not for sharing, it might make his blue blood and pink tongue blush.

The other master and mistressess in the household are ok with this.. He doesn't make demands on them, doesn't try to use his maleness to dominate - a wise decision with my two canny females. He has seen and concluded that it would be "a funny sort of game"

He would probably prefer to say " How about a nice game of chess"

He has certainly shrewdly played me as the Master he is.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Unexpected arrival

Last week out walking with the hound late, we were enjoying the stars. The fields are a bit damp at the moment, the frosts haven't hit hard enough long enough, to make night walking pleasurable. So we were looking at the sleeping village in the dark. It's usually just the two of us.

That evening the Universe had done a sterling job with the stars. Lots of twinkling but very little moon. Sparkling  pavements. It was quiet, the sort of "eerily quiet" demonstrated on Dr Who before the Tardis arrives.   (It hasn't so far) It's a beautiful peaceful experience without noisy interruptions

There was a frost that evening, a  harsh one. We were about 5 mins in. Bouncing along Primo was bursting from one smell to another. There is a turning point where we enter another part of the village, a different set of houses and there is patch of grass here that if we pass Primo must at all costs investigate.  A long thorough investigation, the smells there must be particularly fascinating.

As his servant that he leads along I was standing patiently waiting. I could hear a strange snorting sound. It was odd and I couldn't place it for a while as this particular spot is a bit of an echo chamber. Eventually we moved on a few steps and the noise continued. Eventually I located it. There on a wall was a funny looking creature coming towards me.  It looked a bit like a very scruffy owl with 4 legs. It was light on its feet.

It saw me and jumped down onto a lower wall and continued to stare at me snorting,
By this time I had worked out it was a cat. A rather distressed one. Decision time, do I walk on, come back later without hound or approach now with the hound and risk frightening the cat away.

I approached the cat. I got very close and could see and hear it was in a very sorry state. Long haired and horribly matted, so that sitting down or lying down must now be very uncomfortable. Dog on lead in right hand. Again decision time. Do I risk putting my hand out for a savage scratch. How will the dog react. I looked down. Primo's tail was wagging furiously but he had his mouth pursed forward - he was about to wake the village with his hound ROOO ROOO ROO.

Shut up Primo! He looked surprised but he did. I reached out and touched the cat. He turned his face and looked  up at me. Hard to breathe and with eyes running. He let me touch him and just looked at me. His face spoke of sadness, his body of slow starvation, A bone bag with fur. Primo increasingly interested danced at my side.

I pic up the cat and he fell against my body relaxed through weakness. All the way back the cat rests and Primo dances along looking at it.

When I get back into the house I  take a proper look. So does the dog. He is very interested and talkative with it. The cat looks even worse in a good light than he did before. Very compliant and wide eyed.

Since then he has eaten bits as I've given him small amounts, drunk. He has spent the day at a vets whilst they check him out and remove some of his knotted hair. He now looks worse, if thats possible as he is partially shaved. They couldn't get to the rest he was too stressed, but we will return next week for round 2.

The local cat people network has been alerted to see if we can find the owners. In the meantime he is here, takes the odd stroke with dignity, navigates the other cats, and regularly leads me to his dish.

Going to be an interesting few days

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Speaking of death

It is a dark time of year. And we have festivals that bring us light along with crimson red poppies against black to remember. It starts with the ghosties and ghoulies. The saints attempt to appear but they don't have the charisma to blot out the darkness, the mists and the mystery.  I like it. I like the winter approaching and the cool and the regular bright twinkly starlight.

This evening speaking to one of my oldest friends, we found ourselves discussing death. He is a half orphan and I am a total orphan.  Strange and unreal terms to use for either of us. And yet it is true.

Even though for both of us the departures were several years ago, there are times when that deep pang comes forward and very present. When you want to cry out

 " I want my Mummy"


  "I want my Daddy"

For those that have been lucky to be loved I don't believe these feelings ever go away completely.

That is not to say its always sad either. Sometimes in the midst of something amazing happening there is a desire to share it very particularly with one or other parent. The thought skips across the brain like a child on the way home from school with a picture. And then you remember...

When the orphaning is new so many people report thinking they see a loved one in the street. Sometimes its a garment or the way the head is held, their gait, sometimes even a smile can take you there. When it is raw when it is new, it cuts you up inside, slays you.  But later there is a strange unreal comfort from this and even amusement.

Looking around at siblings and the children around you, you see the missing ones. It might be in a glance, a turn of phrase, an attitude to life, a laugh, a bark, a dark one liner.  Sometimes "stuff" appears to skip a generation and new people who did not know Our Originals, are manifesting things they could not know about. Where has it come from?  Is it coincidence?

Then there might be that special  shared look of those who are connected to the ones that went before, as together they observe what makes sense to only them and is an invisible bond between all of them through time.

And we know they are not gone.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Looking in the wrong place?

Watching the dog running earlier this summer from a distance  I could sense something was not right. He was lame. As I got closer I looked at his legs as he moved along. He was quite happy, there was no sense of pain, he wasn't frowning, he was accommodating it.

A phrase came unbidden into my head from working with horses. I was taught when I was quite small that you can see if a horse is lame by looking at its head. This seemed bananas at the time, and I think I said so, though probably a little more carefully, she was not one to annoy with flippancy! Anyway a hand came out and pointed to a horse running around and how the head is carried. Easily. There was another - the reason we were there - that has lame. I couldn't spot which leg it was that was causing the lameness. "look at the head" so I shifted my eyes away from looking at feet and looked at the head, the head carriage wasn't the same.  This horse was lame.

I still couldn't tell which leg it was that was out, but by shifting my gaze away from one of the possibilities, stopping trying to look and compare all legs at once , I saw the overall shape.  I had a good sense of what the horse should look like in movement and by seeing the head and then the whole shape I had a much better idea of where there was something not working right. I was encouraged to use my ears too.  I thought  my Aunt was a scary genius ( she was!)

So with Primo I reverted to what I could only do at a distance, I looked at the overall shape. I  had a good sense of what it should be and sure enough it was easier to choose which leg to pay attention to. He canters everywhere, over and under and through things, simple removal of a thorn twig and off he went, the right shape. Everything was elegant again, even when he was working hard. He had accommodated it. Sometimes as part of his running an alien object is ejected naturally, so the accommodation is a sensible response. With a thorn, that could have embedded and caused all manner of systemic problems.

Recently he had some other bother, (highly sensitive wonder hound that he is) which is now sorted. As he spurted along and charged up behind me demonstrating a fluency, speed and joy that can only honestly be described as beautiful, I realised his ears were floppy and a bit mad again. It's another "tell" which I can now use to see if he is quietly accommodating something he shouldn't be.

Dogs and Horses. My Aunt had shown me a way to look at the whole system to help decide where there might need to be an intervention.

It seems an obvious leap to me to think about how this plays out organisationally. After all Organisations are systems, made up of systems, teams, groups, right down to each one of us. Humans the most magical special systems of all.  In teams or groups or even whole organisations, commercial or not, what might be showing as problematic might not be the source of a problem. It also might not be problematic, but naturally symptomatic of something else.

Sometimes you need to have a sense of the OVERALL shape and let your gaze rest on it, your sense of it, go soft - to take in the whole - to pinpoint where there might be something wrong in the system. And sometimes when there are changes happening it is essential to have a sense of what the new shape is likely to resemble so that you can calibrate if it is progressing or stuck. Then you have a better chance of making the right intervention or letting the system right itself.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

My top 5

A few of posts back I shared a link with a site where people post their top 5 rules for life. In the intervening weeks I've given this some thought off and on, as I work through another set of small personal but important projects.

So to break all tradition there is some overt structure to this email  - won't be making a habit of this, its my blog to say arbitrarily what I feel like saying when I feel like saying it, how I feel like saying it at the time ;-)

1) What are my top 5 rules ?

2) Are they really rules ?( I dont like rules!) they shape my life.. they do get broken, I feel the nuances at times and appreciate them differently as I get older. I doubt the essence has changed much in the last few decades, but the words I use as I currently understand them do change.

3)These things that arent really rules, what happens when I forget them?... well it ranges from mild unhappiness to serious illness.

It turns out that question number 3 proved to be the test for membership of the top 5. Or to put it another way, when I remember these 5 things, I am a nicer person to know, even for me!

So here they are:

1)  Trust your instincts to be true to yourself

Ultimately the only person who influences you, is yourself. It is your voice in your head, even if you have inherited some of the ideas from others and sometimes suffer the emotional contagion of other people's feelings. If you are having a reaction to something it is important to pay attention. Your instinct doesn't tell you what is wrong, it tells you that something is not right. Your observation and investigation might tell you what and why. Your instincts tell you to check it out. This is biology's calibration system, sometimes it is an alarm, sometimes its a big loud "go on" signal. Be respectful of Mother Nature and pay attention

2) Forgiveness is liberating for others of course AND  for yourself. A good memory does not make forgiveness even harder, just less accidental and more conscious. What greater compliment than to forgive and be forgiven?

1 and 2 are entwined somehow, inextricable but still distinct.  I learned 1 from my Mother and 2 from my Father.  Lifelong gifts. Thank you both

3) Remember you are an animal get in touch with your inner animals.. Cats have nine lives cos they are curious, they also sleep a lot! Dogs approach the world with a nose for fun. Toddlers are lovely animals and instinctively seek. It is the best way to learn, aware of the world but not made self consciousness by it.. They just do it and enjoy. Some might call this playing.

I dont know who gave me this one  Playing is Joy in action.

4) There will always be a way for you to contribute and be you, find it and do so.

This came from my Granny who saw everything and loved anyway.

5) Spend time under a big sky every day, AND night. Star light and the moon provide a different illumination on life, the universe and everything. It is a place to breathe.

Breathing is good :-)

Note: I used the word YOU all over this. I am talking to myself

Monday, 17 October 2011

WhipLEASH experimentation

The Hound excited by his play with his friend the Ridgeback decided to leap over the ditch.

However I was not ready and still climbing under the fence, the lead was inadequately around my hand. He leaped. I tried to grab, failed, but felt the sensation of sinews stretching unnaturally and fast. I now have a VERY bruised left hand. I was told that it would be better if the hound was wearing a choke collar. I demur, I don't like them  AND my fingers would almost certainly have been broken had I been using one.

The mistake was mine, NOT Primo's.

I know this pain I've had it from a horse and rein accident too.. It is painkillers and pain and swelling and temporary sausage fingers (UGH!)

I wonder about violin practice, but other practical matters like putting clothes on to go outside are more pressing right now. Tentatively the car was tested this morning. I can drive safely because the middle fingers  and thumb are unaffected for gear changes. I won't be driving far though.

Stupid things catch me out, like holding a jar whilst taking the lid off. More experimenting as per a month or so ago, this time through necessity.  The natural rhythms are upset. All food making is hampered by my one armed ineffectualness. Typing... hmmm not for long.

Try pulling on and off socks one handed, or putting on a bra!  Or taking it off. I can use the forearm as a sort of counterbalance but I find I catch my fingers unexpectedly and I yelp. It makes the animals jump when I do that and I get reproachful looks from them as I disturb an afternoon siesta. Selfish chatelaine, they think.

My sister, made me laugh out loud on Skype in the coffee shop this afternoon, with her comment about how much the earth needed my violin playing. Even digitally delivered in words I heard the tone of voice. This was not a comment hidden by the post modernist cloak of "irony."

This was first order  Sarcasm similar to the honesty of my other sibling who said he wanted me to practice for a very long time before he wanted to hear me!

To them I say two things - in order.

THANK YOU and Bassoon.


Thursday, 6 October 2011

This is NOT about Primo at all.

Primo is not sure he likes Robert Redford yet. He was very interested as I approached Mr R and he gave him a good sniff. Mistletoe has met Mr R before and was prepared a long time ago.  Squidgey returned to her place under the workbox behind the radiator. Mistletoe looked at the pink ribbon Mr R was wearing around his neck and gave me a look that said "oh really is that dignified even for him"

Dalmatians are interested but sensitive souls. So he stood alert wagging his tail as I ran my hands all over Robert, and tidied him up. Up until this point Primo was prepared to give MR R a chance. And then I pulled the bow over the strings and Primo ran away.

Now that's feedback!

Its funny how things once you start looking for them collide in front of you. Of course sometimes you don't know what it is exactly you are looking for. You've mislaid it somewhere and are on the alert but you've also forgotten what you've mislaid. Like going into the kitchen and making vague gestures with your hands for an implement you need but can't remember the name of.

We all are many people, thank goodness, with the unique essence of us  in each of them. We define ourselves by our relationships, (or dangerously others attempt to define us by our relationships) we define ourselves by what we do, our jobs, our aspirations, our feelings. Definitions happen even when we decide we won't define.

An identity I have held in the past is one of musician and every so often it whispers to me. Sometimes.  For a long time I was too preoccupied to hear, until eventually the whisper becomes assertive, gets hold of your hands and your fingers and there in front of you is a website that has non copyright musical scores to access. When did they arrive there? Why hadn't I thought to even look.Obviously they would be there, the activity and attitude of the Internet would make that such an obvious candidate.. Why WHY WHY didn't I look before. Just finding them and looking at some of them made me smile inside for over a week. Knowing I could go back and have a quite look whenever I wanted.

Then I stumbled across something else.

So last night I found myself sitting in a room with about 40 other musicians none of whom I had met before. I was greeted by the leader and found myself sitting down in the section with the first violins. How did that happen? Last time I played 1st Violin I was 18 ( A V LONG TIME AGO). Eeek. The first piece of music in front of me after all this time was Schubert's Unfinished Symphony. EVERYONE else in the room knows it and has played it. Bugger its in a minor key, what time is it in, what does that Latin word mean, is that an 8th or a 16th note, which way up is my bow. Oh hell that notes high up, What IS IT? Ooo do I even know this piece, oh that bits familiar, no don't know that bit. So all this is going on in my head. My hands, wisely, choose to ignore it and get on with it. I got through it

The Musician is OUT...(she needs A LOT  of practice before she stops being a sonic hazard though)

Of course I am not stumbling. "Stumbling across" is just a short hand for  "somewhere part of me was ready to get out and declare herself again."

Monday, 26 September 2011

Canine House Rules

1) It is not possible to get to the top of the stairs before a Dalmatian. This rule applies whatever house you are in and where ever the Dalmatian might be before starting the ascent. The Dalmatian must be at the top of the stairs to wait

2) If a Dalmatian has ascended the stairs for his own undisclosed purposes, a Dalmatian is unable, under any circumstances to descend the stairs until the Dalmatian has heard, clearly, the tinkling of an appropriate amount of biscuits into the Dalmatian's bowl

3) A Dalmatian does not descend the stairs for an inappropriate number of biscuits.
The Dalmatian shall  decide what constitutes the appropriate number of biscuits  even when the Dalmatian can not SEE the biscuits

4) Wet food whilst acceptable as well, will not be acceptable for a Dalmatian to descend the stairs. Please see rule 2

5) A Dalmatian's duty is to be certain about the contents of the fridge at all times. To do this the Dalmatian will open the fridge when the Dalmatian believes it is most appropriate to do so, to be certain of the contents of the fridge.

6) A Dalmatian shall liberate the fridge of contents which the Dalmatian believes are inappropriate and have been misfiled. For the avoidance of doubt the Dalmatian shall decide what foodstuffs fit into this category of misfiled food.

7) The Dalmatian has the right and duty to dispose of the misfiled contents in any way as the Dalmatian sees fit. Dalmatians are efficient and speedy in the despatch. The Dalmatian shall leave the fridge open afterwards as a silent reminder to the Misfiler of the inappropriate contents of the fridge.

8) A Dalmatian shall take outside any object that might be of use to the Dalmatian for recreational purposes. This can include the previously mentioned misfiled contents of the fridge. Generally however only the empty receptacles of the misfiled contents of the fridge will remain as objects to be observed by the Misfiler on the way to a later walk. This along with rule 7 is part of the Dalmatian's duty to nonviolently point out the error of the Misfiler's ways.

9) The Dalmatian shall guard the contents of the oven as food is cooked within. The Dalmatian shall do so assiduously and the Dalmatian very rarely has reason to ascend the stairs for his own undisclosed purposes whilst the main oven is in use.

10)  The Dalmatian is aware of the difference in use of the top and bottom oven. When the top oven is being used to grill toast, the Dalmatian has a personal quest to snatch the toast as it is transferred  to the plate.  This is to ensure the sharp reflexes of the Toaster. In the event that the garden is not available to the Dalmatian, after the execution of this act, the Dalmatian may ascend the stairs for his own purposes. Please see rule 2, which will apply when the Dalmatian is ready.


Please remember at all times that the Dalmatian is demonstrating his service and duty towards you when considering these rules.

Rule 1 is a Universal Law of Dalmatians, as well as a Canine House Rule

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Left handed experimentation, making the dominant go quiet for a bit.

A  few weeks back I had a left handed day.  I needed to give my creative side a bit of a boost.  Some thoughts had been colliding in my head but looping. They weren't wrong, they just weren't going anywhere. It started out as a normal day, became a left handed day and then a left handed themed few days. It was worth the effort.

I wanted to give the right hand side of my brain some deliberate dominant time. The right hand side of the brain seems to be the place activated when engaged in creative, artistic, musical and lateral thinking. To quote from the great virtual hivemind demi-god Wikipedia,

"While functions are lateralized, these are only a tendency. The trend across the many individuals may also vary significantly as to how any specific function is implemented."

The right hand side of the brain controls the left hand (usually) . The left hand side of the brain is associated with  linear thinking and apparently rational ;-) thought. There is a lot of stuff out there to read and understand about effects, tendencies and variations with the wiring of the brain. I was watching what happened with me, and hoping that a shift such as this would encourage other shifts. That was my test. There is some suggestion/thesis that the right hand brain has a more direct access to the unconscious too, which I am curious about.

I am naturally right handed, but luckily not overwhelmingly so.  My left hand takes a supporting role.  Noticing which hand operates for preference and then reversing it has an interesting effect on how you think, what you think and what you do,. It also affects the speed at which you do things.  This is pretty obvious, of course it will!

But think - what else can happen when you do things slowly?

I had intended to have a left handed day, but even though I declared it out loud it took a while before my hands believed this. So as I reached for the kettle, the fridge, my pen  and the animals, I'd have to stop and remember to reach for it with my other hand. Just the mere fact of noticing how much you rely on one part over another was salutary. I started out believing I wasn't overwhelmingly right handed, by the end of the day, I'd reconsidered that thought. So everything I did became less automatic and more considered. This was in part what I wanted but really only the first stage.

I changed nothing when driving.

I really started noticing what happens when your left and right hand play clearly complementary roles in a normal task, like peeling fruit, unravelling something, sorting through coins.  I noted  that for some tasks not only did I have to consider what things had to happen, but in the reversing, sometimes they had to happen in a different way. That sets up some odd sensations generally: an awareness and concentration that isn't normally present. It is learning in a way that you don't normally get to experience as an adult very often. It's quite exhilarating

I knew this already hence my decision to experiment in this way. A few years back, I had to learn to sit up, stand up and walk all over again. This was a fascinating and exhausting experience.
This set my thoughts flying beyond what I was doing.  I routinely anthropormorphise things; so my right hand thumb became the confident leader who wanted to take control and the left hand thumb was in a supporting role. Just trying to swap around which thumb does what and expecting it to happen does not work. The right hand goes out and does stuff, the left hand stays at home,  but is essentially there to support when the right hand needs it. This sounds bizarre, as I read those words - but if you test it out and watch your hands and fingers you may see what I mean.

Some tasks just couldn't be accomplished by a straight swap of physical movements, some things had to be done in different ways. Playing with that, doing things radically differently or just in a nuanced way, it was pretty easy for me to make a leap to what happens in organisations when there is a leadership shift. When someone who previously had a supportive role, who had a sense of how things should be, because they had been part of it for a while and then when in a leading role realised that everything they had understood needs to be re - examined in light of both the new requirements AND the new perpective.  Similarly when watching my right hand adjust to a supporting role and the muscular temptation of it to just take control - when a leader has to step into a different place and watch a new leader do things.  This proved to be a very rich seam of thought for me. This also seems to apply in families too, watching as people take control and responsibility for their lives - or attempt to.

Try tying up shoe laces, or a knot of string the other way around. Don't use a mirror, do it as if the other way around Would be the way you do it normally . Peeling potatoes...found myself going very slowly there :-)
I extended this over a weekend in the end and watched what happened walking the dog, putting on his lead, his harness etc.

I was blackberry picking during this time too and this proved for me to be one of the most worthwhile bits of the experiment. The simple act of holding the bag for the berries in my right hand and doing the picking using my left hand, led to a concentration, focus AND at the same time width of general thinking about STUFF I need to think about that was rich and rewarding and just a little bit mad. ( well a lot mad!)  I also noticed useful changes in my peripheral vision.

I also swapped which hand I wrote with and this had an effect on how I recorded my thoughts and plans. The context of my thoughts was the same but the way I approached the context shifted in a very useful and complementary way.

All in all it was worthwhile, weird and normal at the same time and it accomplished the thought shift I thought it would.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Hard to contemplate or comes to you easily?

I came across a wonderful website today.


where people list their personal (not defined or decreed by someone else) top five rules for life.

Browsing through my personal reactions varied from, 
Yes!  EH? and NOOOOO!!  All of which were good indications of one of mine. 

You can submit your own, or just think about it....

Uplifting and Useful as long it doesn't become an unthinking dogma


Sunday, 28 August 2011

Primo status report

 A few people have asked me recently how is Primo.

Summary: he is fine, his grasp on leading a full industrious life includes: opening fridges to swipe butter and bacon, attempting to snatch bread from under the grill, taking a used yoghurt pot to his place in the garden, collecting the dustpan and brush for idle afternoon chewing under the cherry tree. These are all normal parts of his day. Sometimes he rings the changes a bit, another pair of glasses were destroyed last week.

We fall out mostly over my shoes and his desire to chew them. Many pairs have had their lives ended by Primo. More recently the game has shifted.  Now if I haven't taken a hint quickly enough he disappears briefly. He reappears for me to see he has shoe in his mouth, whilst his tail wags furiously behind him, head slightly to one side and down, he raises his big eyes at me. COME ON!!!

This morning, whilst I surfed to check on news of hurricane Irene on the East Coast, Primo bored with waiting, climbed on to some packed boxes by the bedroom window (I am not currently at home). He returned,by climbing down backwards and then continuing this reverse theme over mountains of cushions with a Masai Warrior in his mouth. I know without even looking, that whatever else was in that box, it will not have been as important as the one item he chose to show me he had. The Warrior has been  retrieved and placed well out of reach to survey the rest of the room. Primo wants to play across the fields and I am not quite ready. A combination of his antics and the quite extraordinary array of vocalisations he will make will contribute to my making the decision to comply with him. Primo has his own understanding of Pavlov's stimulus response technique which he uses to great effect.

Earlier the Orange Cat that resides here, purred in his face as he tucked into his food in front of Primo. I did take Primo to another place and fed him his biscuits and he has had his morning dance around a garden.  Until the energy he has been generating in his body all night - whilst the rest of us merely slept - has been dissipated with a few sprints, and lots of cantering, the solo canine Jazz singing will continue in one form or another.

He needs this:

And some of this

All will be content in the house when we reach this:

However briefly.

Primo also likes meringues.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Flintstones, Gardening, US Budget

When I was a child and The Flintstones were on, sometimes I would weary of the story line.

I loved the rendering of stone age life,  was amused by Dino, BamBam and Pebbles, and the bird beak record player. I liked the surreal and the word play and it was all this that made me watch it regularly.  


Sometimes Fred would get himself into a predictable predicament and worry about what Wilma would think and I couldn't - even at 7 or 8 years old - be bothered to stick with it. The rules of the cartoon meant that it would be resolved in some way in the next 20 minutes but so what ? I knew the ending and I was bored by the process. I'd go and do something else more interesting to me, sometimes that was just running round the garden with the dog for a while.

When my Mother was facing waiting for news she could do nothing about but would then have to deal with the consequences of - she'd head off out into the garden and focus on something more fertile, and real and long term.

I've felt the same about watching this crisis in the US for agreement between the executive and the legislature. Some resolution (whether it is the right one or not, I have no idea) was going to happen. In the meantime there was going to be posturing and competitive obfuscation and unedifying game playing. This is  boring and timewasting.

Can't help feeling that BamBam and Obama share only letters.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


Ich esse gern Kirschen mit Kuchen und Sahne. 

Die Katze hat leider die Sahne gefressen, die fuer die Kirschen geeignet war. Aber Donnerstags, wann das Einhorn kommt an, stehen alle beide zurueck . 

Ich fotografiere das Einhorn nie, weil es schuechtern ist.

Hochachtungsvoll wuensche ich Ihnen eine gute Nacht.


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Garden Ghostly laughter

This morning I discovered something about my garden that was blindly obvious to everyone else but I had completely missed out on. I have been gorging on the very ripe cherries plucked from my heavily laden cherry trees.  This is a first for me, usually the birds have them on account that "they are for the birds, Sarah."

When I first moved here the trees were tall but only flowered. Or so I thought. And yet as I think back I do recall some fruit on the trees, in small amounts. I remember squishing them on the path and I have spent many hours watching from my bedroom window the blackbirds hop about the branches as easily as I navigate my sitting room, singing a bit and snacking a bit as they go along.

Today one looked particularly shiny and plump, dangling above my head just about within reach -- and for the first time in many years I reached out and took one. It was delicious, juicy very dark red almost like a sauce juicy, like rain drops of blood, juicy. The taste was tangy, not sour but definitely the piquant side of sweet. I am not dead yet so I am assuming that they are in fact edible and for me to enjoy as well as the birds.

Earlier this week one of my friends commented on how lovely it must be to have cherries grow in your garden and I said they aren't meant for eating, "they are for the birds."  And this is why.

When I moved here my Mother would stay sometimes and work in my garden. This was because she was a fantastic gardener and turned every patch into a little Eden, a haven of loveliness and peace.  She found pleasure in the work, meditative and took delight in watching and waiting for things to happen. I am a crap gardener. I like gardens, but I don't like working in them, I also don't like them too manicured. (I even have dreams about what to do to an overdone garden and the small minded person "wot did it")  I likes em a bit wild, slightly out of control, surprising. My Mother somehow could make this happen AND be an attentive gardener, her gardens were a partnership between her and everything in it. I can't so, I have am very happy for things to do what they will and all the bipeds, even the ones with wings and the quadrupeds make what they will of it, which is mostly enjoy it.  She looked at the cherry trees and told me that they probably would flower but that the cherries ( if there were any) would be sour and for the birds alone. She mentioned my Grandmother's mock orange tree when I tried to say but they are cherry trees, and how that didn't have oranges either, but that the blossom was almost overwhelmingly lovely. And I heard what she said, filed it and thereafter I have never attempted to eat a cherry from those trees... until today, when captivated by it's allure I helped myself. And very much enjoyed it!

As I ate that first cherry I distinctly heard her laughing.  Her dry delivery a wilful tease... and finally the punchline.

The questions in my mind are: who was she when she warned me off the fruit of the tree? And who was she when she was laughing after I had eaten the fruit from the tree..

Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Owl

This evening driving back from an agreeable afternoon of chocolate, coffee and great conversation I had an encounter that I think ( hope)  will live with me for a very long time.

I was driving home humming along to some music in the half light. That light where if you could only be certain there was no one else on the road you wouldn't bother with headlights at all because what you see with the headlights obscures what you could see in the shadows. That light where the edge of the light is the most interesting place but when you are driving a heavy fast thing, responsibility means you have to alert others to your presence.

There were few cars on the road, but it is a very hilly and winding one, the presence of the lights from other vehicles a forewarning of their heavy lethal unnatural automated arrival. It is a great road for making the most use of the curves and feeling the gear changes, using the hills as they fall away from the tyres to full effect. To physically experience the drive.

As I approached the brow of a hill there was something odd in the shadows between one long white stripe and the next, something unexpected. I slowed my approach aware that about half a mile behind me at speed was another car. As I crested the hill just at the top I realised what it was. Before me nearly in the light was an Owl. It was about 9 inches tall and somehow unnaturally stationary. I felt the air escape from my lungs and a tingling in my stomach. I stopped, the Owl turned to look at me. It was alive. I breathed in.

I put on the hazard lights and considered my next option. Not only was the owl at the top of a hill from my direction, from the other direction it was around a blind bend. The benefit of the lights in the darkness was that hopefully my hazard lights blinking yellow along with the white dipped headlights would be visible enough through the trees to forewarn any other vehicles and their human inhabitants of my presence. Otherwise there would be two squished creatures on the road, which would not have been good for the Owl at all.

I got out and walked towards the Owl. As I got closer it became obvious it was a baby. I felt an inward tug. In the distance I could hear the car that had been following me approach up the hill. It had evidently seen the hazard lights because the indicators had gone on to overtake. I decided how far I needed to step into the car's way to ensure the Owl was not harmed as my lights would have obscured the bird's presence.  The car slowed and went smoothly past me and the bird.

In one sense I was relieved the presence of another car had not startled the bird into dangerous movement but in another way I knew this meant the creature was mesmerised and confused. I stepped back towards the bird. As they do the OWL turned his head around nearly 180 degrees and I gazed down into the wondering of its big round yellow and black eyes. His feathers were downy, fluffy like fur, soft and new, a soft grey. The beak was hooked but tiny.

I do not know if it was wonder or fear I saw as I looked into those amazing, vulnerable and curious  eyes.  I do know I was seen. I was properly looked at. I was considered. I looked around to see if there was a parent in sight. Hard to do, in the dark but up in a nearby tree I could see a mirrored shape, I sensed a presence before my eyes rested on it. I could see the mirror shadow shape, so whilst I looked at it, I have no idea if it looked at me. It was definitely connected with my Owl on the road and I believe it was watching the scene. Still the baby Owl did not move. Could it fly? Was it transfixed by fear, confused by the hard concrete of the road? Or was it physically harmed?  I hoped, if I had to touch it, that the parent above, having witnessed the scene would not care. I bent down, not certain exactly how but planning to pick up the owl with it's soft down and little pointy beak and take it across the road to the trees below the Shadow Guardian. I considered the beak and told myself " I can take it pecking me, but I have to get it off the road." The owl's head flipped back and looked hard at me. There was a noise from the tree, the Shadow owl. The baby turned away and stretched out the feather down wings. A gentle, calm reach and in slow motion the bird stepped forward, with the gentlest downward push from the wing the Owl was off the road and into the trees beyond. The Shadow Owl had disappeared from the branch and the sounds from the trees told me they had connected.

Relieved,and feeling immensely honoured and glad I stepped back into the car and finished my journey home.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Thank you Mr Simpson : Help for Heroes

When I was about seven there was an old man and his wife who lived next door but two from my Grandmother's house. My Grandmother knew them both by their first names being the same age but to me they were Mr and Mrs. I used to wave to him sometimes across the garden fences and he always waved back and he always had something to say to me.  The conversation wasn't deep, it might be about the weather, or the state of my Grandmother's roses ( an amazing display always) or the smell of the honeysuckle in the evening. He'd have a question about school. I never once felt he was talking down to me or that he was too busy. If we met passing on the road where they lived he would invariably lift his hat as he walked past and smile as would his wife. It was a road I was often walking up, not least to see my Grandmother but in the summer without fail to head to the outdoor pool in the park as soon as school was out, then back to Gran's for tea and a chat.

I remember the first time I saw him. I was with my Mother walking back from town with the shopping. We had recently moved back to the town of her childhood and whilst everyone was a stranger to me, for her everyone was familiar, and people were pleased to see her and talk to her. On this occasion we were walking up the hill as they were coming down. We were dressed casually ( in comparison) and they both were properly cloaked and they both wore hats. Shoes were shined and she was wearing gloves. If I had wanted to check there would have been a clean handkerchief in her polished handbag and in his  trouser pocket.  A generational thing.

Across his jacket  he wore a line of medals. He had fought in the First World War and was proud to wear them. This in part is what made that meeting memorable to me. Like other men I knew he had been a soldier, only this was a war that I didn't at that time properly know about. I knew the dates and that it was a long time ago. I knew the phrase  a war to end all wars,  and that the Second World War had denied this. I knew both these wars had been fought against the Germans, a country I had recently been living in.  I knew that people died in wars. Or rather I knew the words. What I didn't know was what death meant to the living. I had no comprehension of the impact on people: war films, my tv film diet for years, some how showed, but did not tell, what war meant. What it means to be at war.

Mr Simpson always neatly pinned his sleeve to his jacket as he walked in his hat and suit with his medals in the street. I knew not to stare the first time I saw him but I did have to ask - later after they were safely out of earshot. My Mother explained matter of factly and plainly. Mr Simpson when he was a very young man lost his arm fighting in the First World War. Though it was a shocking injury and would have been hard for him, things were so terrible during the First World War getting injured like that probably saved his life and he came home to a wife who loved him and went on to have children and grandchildren. From hell to hope in a couple of sentences.  He wore his medals with pride and people as far as I could see accepted this. She went on to explain more about how when she was a little girl she was used to seeing lots of men with missing arms and legs, some begging. 

 (The First World War left the UK with 41,000 lower leg amputees (and this British only) and 9900 from the Second World War statistics from this source)

I had no sense that he felt he was a hero, for that generation I suspect it would not be a word to bandy about. I would guess that he wore them out of pride, that he stood up and did what he thought was his duty. Perhaps he had no choice, perhaps it was peer pressure. Standing up for peace in such a time would have been another sort of heroism too without the support of the masses, of the crowd. Perhaps the medals provided an explanation for the missing arm, saving questions. A statement silently told.

He didn't speak of the glory of war, none of my grandparent's generation did. They knew better. It is not a glorious thing. Perhaps Baldrick's poem whilst funny in situ in the episode, says it as it really is.

"Hear the words I sing,
War's a horrid thing."

The Guardian provides the statistics here for dark contemplation.  These are British figures not including US, or other allied forces nor those of the Afghan people. Everybody belongs to somebody.

Another century on from Mr Simpson, and for nearly a decade  we have been at war. We watch the funerals, the coffins saluted in the streets but what of the planes that return night after night bringing the horribly scarred and wounded. What has changed? The Poppy appeal instituted after WWI still effective and active. 

HelpforHeroes is an AMAZING  organisation of people, that has grown from a ground swell of feelings, their phrase Passion not pay, started it off and maintains them now.  It's stance is strictly non political. Bugger the rights and wrongs of war, think about all the individuals affected. A charitable body, a company ltd by guarantee with a trading company subsidiary which funds 100% of the administration costs, leaving EVERY SINGLE PENNY donated to be used where required. And quickly too. By partnering with expert organisations they provide significant funding and practical support for those that need it.

Since 2007 when the Charity was formed, the volunteers  have raised 97 Million pounds, built state of the art centres, funded individuals, families and pioneered progressive programmes, making a tangible difference. They have guaranteed 100% online donation to their cause and for other charities too by the astute purchase of bmycharity Supporting  the 21st Century Mr and Mrs Simpsons and their families. The acts of war sadly haven't gone away, but fortunately neither has the desire to support. Millions of people are not looking away in embarrasment but doing something, with a varied mixture of cash, time and courage.

Actually this is worthy of the word AWESOME.

When I think back to Mr Simpson I find myself having an inner argument about which arm was missing. I must be able to remember surely, but I can't. I've deleted that unnecessary detail.

Mr Simpson wasn't defined by his injury, he was defined by the man I knew. A kind man, who had gone away in his youth, come back, raised a family, wore his medals and raised his hat in greeting.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Well .. mm verses?

On the trees I see
small bursts of cherry blossom
rebirth and new life

And in other news:....

His strawberry nose
sharply raked by the felines
Camera shy for now

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Dark thoughts

This evening we completed our usual exploration of the valley at night. Primo hops about and I walk trusting that I don't put my foot down a rabbit hole.

Night walking is a pleasure - the darkness is cool and the skyscape more easily gets to play centre stage. Tonight there were plenty of stars out quite early, the moon was not making herself known and around the edges of my sky was a tinge of blood redness near where the sun had set. It was in this environment that we paced the fields.

The first minute or so of walking is based on trust and memory. My body seems to know where some things are to be avoided. After about a minute sometimes sooner depending how relaxed I am on starting out, I can see quite a bit.

Primo glows in the dark. No really he does. He doesn't glow outrageously as if he has quaffed Delboy's radioactive juice, but about every 6th hair seems to have an iridescent quality.  He twinkles sometimes against the snow when it has reached  the 3rd  frozen day - the glistening point.

When there is very little light I am not sure how I can see him but sometimes I just can, across the other side of the fields or running along a hedgerow. We share an awareness despite distance.

In the dark all the other senses awaken, the eyes are not bad without sunlight and still perform a function but the ears tune up. And the feel of the air across your face and any other bareskin all communicate different things. Breathing  is quite a different experience and provides lots of information. Breathing in cool air somehow goes beyond the lungs and straight to the soul.  Refreshment. It is a great time for thinking, there is a space and peacefulness to the darkness that allows a deep contemplation, of the big things and the little, the trivial and the serious. The darkness somehow gives a  long term perspective, long term as in aeons. Perhaps that is the presence of the sky and the immediacy of the message that everything is transient and the moment, NOW is to be explored and lived.

One evening a dark moonless winter night we were out walking. Primo was doing his thing, trotting back and forth, sniffing the ground, whiffling at the air, raising an ear here and there. Simultaneously paying attention and carefree - an enviable state. He was quite a way off and I was not near a path. I had paused to watch an odd movement in the air. I could sense, rather than see, darkness coming towards me   It was a very odd sensation and then about 4 metres away from me I realised there was a man approaching climbing upwards and further behind his black dog.  He seemed  very surprised to see me there, perhaps at the last minute for him. He had been concentrating on his dog. I had known something was coming towards me but didn't understand what. Air and the darkness was moving, but I couldn't hear footsteps in the grass. He looked up startled, there was a person right in front of him - me. I remarked that it was good to know there were others as mad as myself that paced the fields in the night time. He managed to laugh and admit that it was a kind of madness, relaxed finally and then moved on. The dog, a bossy black labrador, spent a cursory few seconds checking me out then sought out Primo for a serious and thorough sniffing session.

This evening there was light somehow, in the darkness without a moon.  Spring is evident even in the night time.  I could see from field to field, as the breeze hit my face like cool water on hot thoughts.

My trust to not find rabbit holes with my feet was rewarded again, but on returning home later I have noticed that Primo appears to be walking with a limp. He is favouring a leg. I buttered his paw to encourage him to explore for thorns and perhaps a nights rest will help.

Tomorrow we may be visiting the vets.