Friday, 27 February 2009

Saw the ghost of Elvis...

Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn reminds me of Return to the Forbidden Planet, perhaps more than songs do that were actually in the show. Well. It reminds me of the auditions, and for me that show was so much more about the process than the product, ace though the product was. I end up back in the new music room in Johns watching some guy whose name I don't even remember (he asked us not to consider him for casting in the end - pressure of work) singing his heart out. Hugh was at the piano, dressed in black tie from the night before (...dirty stop out...still one of the funniest things ever and top of the list of stories to tell at his wedding...). The guy just walked in and said he was going to sing something. There must have been a reaction from us on the panel that I don't remember, but he then said, 'or I can sing Walking in Memphis if you like?' Hugh just started playing - not the chords, the full accompaniment, and we had Walking in Memphis. It was fantastic. It was sunny, and I was excited. The words reflected the moment - a beat when there was suddenly more to the world than the everyday. 'But boy you've got a prayer in Memphis'. 'And she said -- "Tell me are you a Christian child?" And I said "Ma'am I am tonight".' It's all about hope, and I love it.

Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes from Paul Simon's Graceland sends me straight back to the A1198 and the A1, driving in the dark with the volume and the heat up as high as they would go. It's a patch of road that has been significant, on and off, for most of my life. The whole album is important, but it's this song that has the association. And I'm driving back from Royston at two in the morning, tired, worried, jittery, elated, buzzing. Or I'm driving back from St Albans in tears. I've done that a few times, but only once with this song in the background. It has T, C, my dad, W, R and all sorts of other people woven through it. I've written about this a bit before. The album wraps up the rollercoaster of the last 4 months of my life in itself. The incredible highs and the deep misery are all there. Love, pain, anger, sadness, loss, relief and joy. I'm sort of proud of the strength and depth of every one of those emotions. I lived them all, and felt, feel, alive through them. It will always mean that, this, part of my life to me. True experiences. I've never listened to it with T, I don't think, but I almost feel about this song and that album the way I feel about my journals. Musical memory, in the way that they are the paper one.

There are other songs, and other memories associated with them. By My side from Godspell, because I've known it a long time has a couple of attachments. Singing it in assembly at school, reasonably well for once. Singing it in the kitchen of the ADC at mini-camp. Damien Rice's Canonball is Andy singing it with the guitar in 95a. And Hugh. Specific moments and emotions. The music is the key to their clarity. I recall totally, just for a flash, but the flash is a bead on a wire.

Thursday, 26 February 2009


I have become reluctant to plan - certainly not to plan more than a month or two ahead. This is probably what's behind my failing to book singing with the Robinson choir types for the 18th April for AGES. It was too far away to commit to. I've been living a shifting life for a couple of years now, and I half resent closing down options. I should pick it up again though. I have holidays to organise!

For someone who doesn't like change very much but who has been rollercoastering around life for the past 5 odd years, I think I'm doing ok. It took a bit of doing, but I think I succeeded in transferring 'home' from being a place to being a state of mind, or an atmosphere, generated by people. I can keep in touch with them wherever they are in the world, and so I need never feel as completely alone as I was when I was uprooted from physical places I felt attached to. I love Cambridge, don't get me wrong. I'm comfortable here; I know where to find things and I know the shortcuts and there are beautiful places that I go to when I feel the need for them. But all of those things are not home, in themselves. The fact that I see people around all the time does start to make it home - the whole place takes on the feeling of a shared house; somewhere to keep stuff and feel comfortable. An old coat with huge pockets.

Maybe nobody creates home as an adult in the way that children do when it's the place that they've always known. Maybe one never recaptures the pure affection for somewhere in the same way. I adored Ashwell. It was an idyllic place to grow up. I wouldn't want to live there now, and I was in the end glad we moved to St Albans. I fused myself to that place, after initial resentment. My life revolved around the city, and I barely left it at all except for actual holidays for 8 years. It tore me apart to be told I wasn't going to have that base any more. Now, though, it's not friendly any more. It's dirty and smelly and old and I have to be someone I'm not when I go back there. I changed and it didn't feature in the change, and neither did any of the people who live there, so now we're not in sync any more. Like a couple that have split up in difficult circumstances who come back together later, hoping to find a little of the spark that had led to them being close in the first place, only to find that they really have nothing in common any more.

The people who mean home to me now do not necessarily live nearby, but they're always at the end of a phone or an email. I locate home in the airwaves, somewhere? Perhaps I do. If they were around, and some of them are, home is easier to pin down. Safe and comfortable.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

No explanation needed.

"Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me. Moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep. Why is it that men give so poor an account of their day if they have not been slumbering? They are not such poor calculators. If they had not been overcome with drowsiness, they would have performed something. The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever." "

Henry David Thoreau, from Walden

My underlinings. I might come and explain more later, but that'll do for the time being...

Sunday, 15 February 2009


I was sitting in peaceful, dim old Great St Mary's. GSM. The Grim. I love large empty spaces. Auditoria are great. I used to go and sit in the pitch pitch black of the Abbey Theatre, with even the exit signs switched off, and just drink in the silence. Warm and dark. Womblike, I suppose, though I never felt enclosed by it. I have always felt much more free and safe in the dark. I spent my teens walking about the dark streets where I lived, sometimes with a friend and sometimes not. I was often miserable, and I walked and cried and felt sorry for myself in a wonderfully teen-aged fashion. It really wasn't a very safe thing to do, as a young girl on reasonably dodgy roads chosen specifically because they were deserted and dark. But I felt a weight lift every time I did it. I could look up at the dark and the moon and remember that things were bigger than the here and now. It's not a feeling I get in ordinary daylight - the light has to be special if it's there, making the humdrum stranger. Bright summer sunlight through leaves, the perfect reflection in glass water, the dark light in a storm. These things do the same. Big, quiet, man-made spaces have a similar effect. They stand, bigger than their purpose, something beyond what they were created for. There is a permanence to them that does not exist in their creators. That church is not particularly old, or even that beautiful. There are beautiful things in it - the magistus above the altar is one of the more lovely of its type and though the lights weren't on it, the gold leaf gleamed in the dull of the winter twilight. It wasn't even that quiet in there, so central as it is and it still being fully afternoon. But it was peaceful, and I was alone. I do not have connections enough to it as a place to feel real affection for it - not like St Mary's in Ashwell, that is still on several levels the home of my heart, if that had to be somewhere physical. So many memories it holds, and such a feeling of being rooted, there. But GSM is important to me. I went there when Paddy died. I needed to feel as though I was doing something and the ritual of evensong was soothing. And there was music. There still is music. It was time for choir practice.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Music in the dark.

Darkness is important. It is freedom. No-one to see me. I can hide in it. I don't have to see anything and or understand anything. Icy moonlight on the half-sunk river boat by the old iron bridge that is itself relaxing into the embrace of the water does not require anything from me - even in my contorted mind.

My mood had been following the music tonight. We started with Purcell 'My beloved spake', which sets the Song of Solomon, 2:10-13 ([10]My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. [11]For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; [12]The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; [13]The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.). Controlled and renaissance, but complex. The tone of the music and the tone of the words are at odds, and it slips out of perfect comprehension. The Song of Solomon always gets me - a confused and incomprehensible love poem written 3,000 years ago and still potent. Tablets of stone. Who cares to whom the speakers refer? Then there was Harris - 'Strengthen ye the weak hands' (Isaiah 35), which is dramatic and strong and lyrical. And the writer of Isaiah understands poetry - imagery and beauty through it, which the composers point up. That passage is stern and demanding, but offering comfort with conditions. Hard. And as we left, there was a copy of Cosi Fan tutte in the narthex, with 'Una donna quindici anni' in it, for me to sing with frenetic teenage false confidence. It took the distance home from church to calm down from the crazy Mozart, through dramatic Harris to melancholy and luminous Vaughan Williams, which reflected in the moonlight from the boat and showed me gentleness. I wish I had recordings of all of them - I have sheet music of some, at least.

I know the world does not ask the things of me that I imagine it does. I know that the relationships that matter are not the ones where anyone is making any account of who does what for whom when. I know there is no need to try to achieve the nebulous success without a form that drives me. I know these things with one half of my mind. But on the other side there is that illogical unbending wrong belief that these are things that matter, and I swing around it like a dog on a chain - only able to move so far.

I am not an animal; I can think my way out of here. Can't I? Eventually, I can work out how to unclip the chain, wear out the collar or uproot the bar. With help, because paws aren't good for that. I can do that. I think. But I must ask for that help. It is there. I have to understand how the chain is made and put together, and then I will be able to see the weaknesses of it.


I haven't read or written much poetry in the last few weeks (I did buy Rapture, and I have a stack of books to read that I want to read and that people have lent me - I WILL get to them all!). I feel I have been living it. The heights and the depths and the sheer exhilaration. Oscar Wilde's 'life as art'. Here it is. I found it. It's not always beautiful, it might be challenging, it might disturb - might upset, might make one want to hide. It always has the power to move. It connects - people, places, things, time. I'm scared of it. Scared of not being able to hide in 'illustration' or 'entertainment' or pictures and words that aren't 'art', that I can pretend were art and keep my inner self untouched. That still isn't living, though it can be. There are doors there still to open, in understanding of how we can be together and how we fit into the world. Too far too fast and the doors stick. Time. Understanding. Sleep. These things will make it better. I'm excited by it. Part of it. Surfing the crest of the wave. Coasting down a mountain on a bike still just about under my control. It's a buzz. Incredible thrill.

I love you.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Flock of starlings stirring the sky - a twisting ribbon of living black through the aimless and uncontrolled white snow. Unconnected specks nonetheless altogether.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Ringing practise.

Something about bells over London. Walking along Borough High Street, tired to my bones with head aching and eyes itching on an unforgiving grizzly February evening, I suddenly heard the Southwark bells tumbling out over the sound of traffic and trains. They cut through the garish colours and lights and battered at concrete and the dented steel. They brightened dingy puddles in the patched pavements. They reminded me how much more there is to this existence than the humdrum and everyday grind of vehicles and mundanity. A glittering flash of sound among the half-blanked hiss reminding me to live for the moment and the experience - not in money or work or past or future or other unconnected people's existences. A life full of oil drops on fishing line. A necklace of memories. Glittering like beads. Each one as close to the last as before, so that the whole thing is dense with life. This is the aim of being alive.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Questions of self.

This is fascinating. I don't know very much about multiple personality disorder*, but this is an amazing picture of it. It's a fascinating literary device, turning up all over the place in books and films and so on. Terry Pratchett uses it a fair amount, and then there's Fight Club - though having read the article I would suggest that most of these depictions are nowhere close to accurate. To be fair to them, I suspect they're not really intended to be.

The question I want to ask is how does that woman name her 'alters'? Because they clearly all do have names and are recognisable to her and her therapist. Is it like the Pratchett concept - that when you name something you give it existence on a higher level? Everyone has aspects to themselves; you're a different person in every situation with everyone you meet or know. It's a carefully judged performance based on assessing your relative status, expectations, motives and so on - Stanislavskian given circumstances. That's how we make up ourselves, so often, in relation to others around us. The core of an individual I guess can be regarded as those elements which can always be found in each persona we put on.

This woman has elements of her character that take on aspects of her life - several are children; several are part of her career; one takes on her aspect as a mother. I'm intrigued to know about the mechanics of how it works. Is there a centre self that carries the memories? The way that the article runs, it seems there must be. Do the alters retain memories? But she tells us that there are huge black spaces in her life, where she has been someone else. It's a difficult thing to comprehend. I suppose I could go an read the book, but I don't actually want to. Reading someone else's neuroses would be hard. It would feel very prying. The article is enough for a flavour and to prompt some thinking about definition.

I remember getting quite upset when I was 18 or so, that I didn't know who I was because as far as I was concerned I become someone entirely different with each group of people. And they were very different too - are still in some ways. The biggest split for me is the person I am around my family and the person I am around everyone else. As far as my relationship with my parents goes, 18 was the worst point. They had declared they were moving to Cornwall and that I could do as I liked, and I was distraught. With them, I was sullen and closed and dutiful and dull. All to do with protecting them and trying not to disturb the image of me that they were comfortable with. I was one person there. It was different outside; I could choose more. I could be the clever weird one at school, the obsessive still slightly weird but mostly accepted one with the youth theatre crowd, the enthusiastic naive youngster with the theatre adults, the unpopular but sort of useful one with the lacrosse crowd, the goodie-two-shoes in choir...and more. Is it part of growing up, weaving those aspects together into some sort of whole? I remember noticing when I saw people who'd been away at uni for any length of time that they seemed to have become more themselves than they had been at school. They were more concrete. Quite a large part of that is just to do with becoming more comfortable with themselves having settled into a new situation where nobody knows their history and they can be accepted without question. Quite a lot of it too is to do with getting used to oneself...aligning all the thread of persona together into a rope that wears itself denser as time goes on and the strands rub together - a more coherent whole.

I don't remember that happening to me in the way I noticed it happening to others. A lot of people commented to me that I'd barely changed since I was 12. I hadn't in many ways, but in many ways neither had they. As I said, they had just become more themselves. I have always been a bit afraid of change. Everyone is, I guess, but I have a suspicion there was something unhealthy about the way I viewed it. I did a fair amount of growing up through being forced to re-examine my assumptions about myself in therapy, and was thence kick-started into trying to understand myself a bit more. I don't in any way think I'm there. The day that I feel I understand will be the day that life ceases to be worth living. Ditto the day I feel I have grown up, though the two concepts are nearly synonymous.

This woman suffered terrible terrible abuse, and came out of it able to function. Our bodies and our minds are amazing things. She found the strength to carry on giving to the rest of the world, despite that. It's almost mindboggling. Despite everything, to remain that strong. Makes one feel humbled, really.

*Can anyone help me to the name of a film where the central male character has the illness and commits a series of murders? I remember it being a great film but I can't remember the name. Typical. It wasn't Fight Club. I'm SO bad at names.

I seem to have got a little behind.

It's a whole 5 days since I saw Frost/Nixon, and I haven't got around to posting about it.

It's a very simple thing. This is refreshing, really, in the context of the complex story of Slumdog Millionaire or of the heavy special effects and over-thought concepts that are putting me off wanting to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The whole thing centres around one man's ability to draw out another. It's very static, which is how it made such a successful play (look at the list of award nominations), and that could have been a criticism for some. Indeed, there have been comments on its slowness. The bulk of the screentime is focused on the interviews themselves, two men sitting opposite one another in a room while others sit in other rooms and comment, and on scenes in hotel rooms discussing strategy. The drama of the thing is in the words and the lead up. The interactions between Frost (Michael Sheen) and Nixon (Frank Langella) depict a battle, between a young knight with something to prove and a wily old fighter. Neither man appears particularly likable - Frost is cocky and slimy and lackadaisical in his approach to the work. He regards the exercise purely as a means to ratings, hardly paying any attention to how important these interviews could be for a nation that felt betrayed. Nixon could actually be attractive, if shown as a man who accepted his mistakes and who wanted to make good. It humanises him. This film, like the interviews themselves, must tread a very fine line between intriguing us with this man and reminding us that he has committed quite possibly criminal wrongdoing in an unforgivably selfish and cynical way for a man in his position. It was here that I had the quibble with it, where I felt the otherwise faultless credibility of the film wavered. Nixon makes continual references to money - how much he can earn from this, how much something is worth. Is a man who can become President of America really that focused on money? Power, that I could understand, but if you wanted money, why would you become President? There are jobs paid nearly as highly without the associated risks and exposure. I suppose it's just about believable; you're going to have to be badly adjusted, or become so, in some way in order to reach that kind of position. I mean that, one must know that one is different from everyone else. In some way, the focus on money reminds us that this Nixon is just a man, not different to anyone. I think that was a failing - I just didn't believe it.

The denouement is known from the beginning; everyone knows that the Frost interviews were the trial Nixon never had, and that he succeeded in getting the confession it seems that the world had been craving. I didn't know anything about the Watergate scandal, beyond that it happened and that it resulted in Nixon's near-impeachment and resignation (sorry Americans and historians, I appreciate I probably should know more about it, but I suspect it fell into a hole in which I was too young to remember anything about it and it hadn't yet become old enough to be history taught at school). The film doesn't give you a great deal to go on, rather assuming knowledge, I think, but doesn't do so in such a way that it becomes completely impossible to follow. That was a point in its favour, really - it doesn't patronise its audience at least in this way, even if I feel it does a little in its treatment of Nixon as a person.

In short, I found it riveting. I suspect many people wouldn't; it's atypical of most modern films. To be honest, I'm slightly surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did, usually preferring my films not to be hugely thought-provoking but possessed of an engaging plot (involving car chases, people getting shot, sex scenes and a romantic ending - I'm a boy about these things). I suspect that the reason I usually prefer action films is that they are so formulaic that they almost always fulfil their potential. I am frequently disappointed by cerebral films that have gaping holes in their thinking - that aim high and don't succeed, and seem to feel self-satisfied about that. I find it difficult to forgive someone spending the millions they do on making something that is not great art. I suspect I'm slightly more forgiving of theatre and literature; if it doesn't live up to expectations, well, more resources might have helped. When you have seemingly limitless funds, there seems to be no excuse for making a bad film. I don't know what they spent on this, but in the context of film budgets I suspect it was not huge. And it succeeds.

Worth a look.

Friday, 6 February 2009


Today the snow made another sortie against the world. The sky poured out all it had, hæmorrhaging fat white belly feather flakes in hypnotic pirouettes towards the stolid ground. We should have drowned. Should have felt it pile up around feet trapped in allied ice and then inch upward, unstoppably, beyond knees, thighs, crotch, waist, breasts, shoulders - towards chin, before filling up mouth nose eyes ears hair and carrying on piling onto the tops of our heads, pushing down upon us. Should have been paralysed with the weight and the cold of it, as it locked us into blue-white stasis - limbo and death, diamond hard.

But we weren't. The covering on the ground never got deeper, unable to reach beyond a 3 inch barrier, no matter how determined the blizzard. The wily ground drew the snow to itself, and it was water, and the snow could not defeat it.

We are not unscathed. The snow that there was still covered the paths and the roads and the plants and the houses. The ice tomorrow will be thick and dangerous, and the world will still be snow-blind. But it will_________eventually_________melt.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


Carl is ace - mp3 links added in the paragraph about Greek love in this post and at the end of this post.


...they now even work.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Notes on snow.

"I stand on Kite Hill, looking across the London panorama below and remember the ending of Joyce's The Dead. "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead." My soul was swooning (there, I admit it) yesterday as I stood and saw the snow falling, not on Joyce's Ireland, but on dirty old London, reborn as a thing of beauty. It was snowing from Epping Forest to Heathrow, Upminster to Uxbridge, on duke and dustman in a way that it hasn't for ages and probably won't for a good while. Savour it, I told myself."

Stuart Jefferies, Guardian, Tuesday 3rd February 2009

But that story of Joyce's is not comforting, in any way. The snow universalises, yes, but it has a horror about it that I was in part trying to get to yesterday - snow as numbing, cleansing, rotting death. The article is in general lovely, and littered with literary references ('measured out our lives in coffee spoons' - why miss a chance to link to that poem?), but I think he misses the reference in the Joyce. Either he's showing off and getting it wrong, or is plain wrong. It's disappointing. I must re-read 'The Dead'.

Monday, 2 February 2009

This is for you. Called: I love you.

Three tiny words. Eight letters or ten characters. Five vowels and five distinct vowel sounds (count them). Three consonants, none of them plosive or percussive or in any other way harsh. One glottal stop, or 'voiceless glottal plosive', according to Wikipedia. Why does so much hang on them? The softness of the phonetics means they're easy on the ear and easy to say, once you get past the awkward glottal at the beginning - which makes them hard to start to say. 'Je t'aime' ('I like you') or j'adore ('I adore you') are not the same. 'T'estimo' (Catalan - 'I esteem you') is even worse. Liking, adoration, esteem, are fine emotions, but they are aspects of love and not the whole. Adoration puts an object on a pedestal; liking does not convey the urgency; esteem is formal and distant. Gaelic makes more effort - there's a whole list.*

- Gráím thú (I love you)
Simple enough, that. Like the English, though, it's imprecise. A cipher for a million things. Shorthand, in the way that a hug or a touch is, for feelings that would take a lifetime to express in words. That would never be complete. That can't be precise or complete, because words don't cover all of the elements in the right ways, all at the same time. Everything that follows is part of this phrase - it has to be all-encompassing, in as many senses as I can think of. But it remains a code.

- Tugaim cion duit (I give you affection)
- Tá cion agam ort (I have affection for you)
- Tá mé ceanúil ort (I have affection for you)

Three ways of saying 'I care', but 'care' is not enough for the whole feeling. 'Having affection' is better than 'adoring' or 'esteeming', though. Better even than 'liking', because one can like many things in a purely cerebral way; it does not demand the involvement of emotions. Affection is human and warm. Close, safe, content. It's curled up on the couch under a blanket watching a film with that person and the cat. It's not about thinking or analysing. It is coming down to find your breakfast laid out for you in the kitchen. It's not about pain. It is safe and easy and content and close. This is love, too, on one day or at one time. Not all the time. It doesn't show the pain or the danger or the exhilaration or the need or the mania, the heights and the depths. It is level, safe. A part, not the whole.

- Tá grá agam duit (I have love for you)
- Táim i ngrá leat (I'm in love with you)

The distinction between loving and being in love is important. If I have ever said 'I love you', I have been certain of meaning the first of these - nobody ever believe otherwise. I love easily, for reasons I am rarely able to fathom until I get some distance. I may not have been certain about the second. I may have believed that I knew what I was talking about, but I may not really have known underneath. Almost, not quite, every time I fall in love, I feel that I have never been in love before. Maybe I just fall harder each time. I certainly understand more, and seem to stretch and grow with each time. So that the last time I expand so much I feel enormous. Great. Empowered. Alive. Loving someone is the extension of affection, going deeper and further, but it ultimately lacks the urgency of being in love. I'm not sure that the need is there in loving, and it is fundamental to being in love. It hurts when you give up something you love, and you miss and you hurt - but you aren't made less in the same way? Being in love is mutual, and you can love someone who doesn't love you back - and if they don't love you in the same way, then you can never be more than yourself, because they do not give totally of themselves. Being in love with someone, makes you more than yourself. I think that could almost be the definition, at least for me. [How much 'romance', in the most pejorative way of inflecting that word, can I betray in myself? Quite a lot, probably. I only like to pretend I'm a cynic, I suspect.] The two become more than the sum of the parts, in the way that two building blocks can interlock and form something entirely different. One brick is a brick; two bricks can be a wall, and if their shapes are right, they need never come apart once they have come together. And it is circular, never ending conversations that have to stop because it's four hours past too late where there isn't a moment's silence and you have gone so many places that you wouldn't be able to visit even with anyone else and you have held one another and talked with touch as well as voices aware of nothing outside the compass of yourselves, but since the whole world is in that space what is left? and it is sex that makes your body shiver with just the thought and it is when you have found out the souls of one another and discovered them fractal and total and it is silence understanding without contact and the reason to get out of bed and the reason to go back and it is finding yourself stripped naked and it being ok and stripping the other to their core in your turn and finding them beautiful and being beautiful because they find you so and this list is trite and partial. It is the whole of these and more, and it changes and it ebbs and it flows, always greater than it would be possible to be alone. And people settle for 'affection', for 'comfortable', for 'suits me', for 'safe' - for an image of happiness that they think they fit, if they fit at all. I have learnt that I want more than that.

- Tá mo chroí istigh ionat (My heart is within you)
- Ádhraím thú (I adore you)

'My heart is within you' is probably reason that this list is in Gaelic and not any other language I could have found. That's the poetry of the Irish right there, written into their idiom. You can think like a poet when that kind of phrase is built into the everyday lexicon. I wish I could pronounce it - maybe I should learn. It says, "The centre of my being is part of you. I do not hold it back - cannot, now. It goes with you. I cannot live without it, but it is in your keeping. I am incomplete without the part of myself that is in you. Stunted. But with you, I am fully alive. More than it was possible to be, away from you." To me, this is 'true' 'romantic' love. What is the phrase from Oranges? 'Romantic love has been diluted into paperback form and has sold thousands and millions of copies. Somewhere it is still in the original, written on tablets of stone.' This is one of those tablets, in an ancient language.

I was going to write about Greek love, too. About 'storge' and 'philia', which encompass friendship and affection; about 'eros', which is total devotion as well as erotic love; and 'agape', which sounds better as 'caritas' in Latin though I suspect it's then slightly different, but which covers an unconditional love often used to describe religious devotion. See here for more. It's a bit Christian (C.S. Lewis), but it's worth reading for the underlying themes, that aren't about religion. I found I'd written them, mostly, though.

Oranges, again:
'The emperor, walking round his theatre, could see them all at once, if he wished.
Round and round he walked, and so learned a very valuable thing:
that no emotion is the final one.'

I only had one RS teacher at school who said anything I remember. He was called Mr Campbell, and someone had weasled him out of retirement to come and teach us. I rarely remember us keeping an RS teacher at school for more than a couple of terms, and he was no different - but the whole school begged him to stay. There were letters and impassioned pleas and all sorts. For a man older than most of our dads, in a school full of spoilt little rich girls in the south east of England. He never taught us anything that seemed to be part of any curriculum, we just sat and debated. He started every lesson with a 'wise saying', many of which I remember. There was 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,/ Than are dreamt of in your philosophy'**, and the passage that starts at Luke 12 verse 27 'Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these', and there was 'Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' (here). There were more, and I still have the exercise book that I copied them down into with the rest of my class, somewhere. They weren't all religious, either. I must dig it out again. He spent a whole lesson teaching us about love and its types. An odd thing for a 60 odd year old man to spend his time discussing with 14 year old school girls, really. I don't think I ever realised that he was using C.S. Lewis as a pattern until I did that search, but he was. I am grateful to him for the time he took to teach me and my schoolmates about things that were more than our exams or our curriculum and for the thought he put into our lessons. I never liked RS unless it was philosophy, and he seems to have been the only person who thought it necessary to try and make us wonder about the world around us and our place and our lives, the entire time we were at school.

*See here for source.
**Hamlet, Act 1, scene 5


Watching it come down yesterday, I felt the snow smothering my living. It cut me off in my empty dead house, wrapping me about in an ice straitjacket, mewing me up in the lurid dimness of rooms lit by the reflection of sick pollution. Falling like feathers plucked from the skin of the sky; the waste product of slaughter come to drown us in blue-white death and purity - the two things the same. Stepping out in it this morning, pushing feet down into the numbing tactile blanket, I felt it suck at my shoes vampire-like, drawing at my heat and my soul. It left me marked, sticking to me with a sweetness like candy floss, spreading white patches of mould across me. I am not dead and pure; I am living, in dark relief against the brightness, staining a world trying to cleanse itself.

And the day moved on, and the people pushed at the blankness, and left trails across the snow. It recorded and registered their movements like a wax tablet, watching, knowing, for reference - later. And then there came the slush; the snow receded with the day to show the world as it was. Everything grey filth. The people and the cars spattered with it. It clings to shoes like the snow did, but leaves behind more than water. We are marked again, with ash not aqua. And though the streets will dry and regain their appearance of cleanish greenish aliveness, the stains on shoes will take longer, and the stains on souls do not go. They show both our distance from purity and from death - the two things the same.

Tomorrow, though, the slurry will freeze, and the world will be coated in a varnish of its own muck - shined and polished in grime. And we will not damage it, will not stand upon it except with great care. It will buff up our danger and our fragility. And we will carry on, our minds not thinking, the snow moving then to smother the stream of consciousness in the way it blankets the ice-hard streams of the physical city.

Just a note about an update...

I have a half-written post that I'll finish later and put up - it's been a busy weekend. Just wanted to point out that I've updated the Blue Guitar post having found some more things to do with the poem.