Category: reflections

Rummaging Through My Drawers

Since turning 70 a strange urge has come upon me.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to make an embarrassing personal confession! No, the urge I’m talking about is a desire to clear the decks of clutter and travel a little lighter into whatever time is left me.

Today I’ve been going through boxes in my spare room, rifling through folders of stuff I wrote years ago for fun. I was looking for things to recycle, in both senses of the word – ideas that could be reworked and junk I could bung in the bin.

After some inconsequential paper-shuffling I came to a slightly shame-faced conclusion. I wasn’t yet ready to decide what was worth keeping and what really deserved pulping. So I sat down and scribbled a quick list of, er, aesthetic principles that might help me sort out the wheat from the chaff.

  1.   Make it modern  (Arthur Rimbaud)
  2.   Make it new  (Ezra Pound)
  3.   Be kind to your mind, write from the heart
  4.   Be true to the earth  (Friedrich Nietzsche)
  5.   The words must be irrefutable  (Joe Orton)
  6.   Regard cliché and genre as portals
  7.   Write about what you don’t know
  8.   Don’t waste words, jump to conclusions  (graffiti on a hermit’s cave-wall)
  9.   Forget yourself  (graffiti I saw on a walk)
  10.   Rules are there to be broken

Not too bad for starters! I’m going to sleep on that and have another go tomorrow, doing a little every day until the paper-pile is processed – one way or the other. And who knows, some may pop up on here? I could do with some new inspiration, even if it’s sometimes rather old hat.

Any coincidences, of course, are serious contenders for inclusion.

Here’s one. The CD I’m listening to at the moment was plucked at random from my sizeable collection – how else to explore its full variety? – and connects with an old poem of mine that came to light while rummaging through my drawers (Ooh, missus!). That album – Jug of Love by the little-known Mighty Baby, who were previously called The Actionwas also the focus of the poem, copied below:

follow your star, baby

in '69 a British band  
          saw Gram play  
with the Byrds - the lads
          were blown away -
that music gave them
(such lyrics, songs and
to sing like angels and
          play like little devils
just like The Grateful Dead
          or Spirit or The Doors -
a course of action with
          a load of perils
but what a gas and
    what a mighty cause!

they put their heads
          together one last time
and made them there a
          picturesque swansong
(such harmonies, such
          tunes, such lovely rhymes!)
so deftly did they tread
          no foot was wrong -
their jug of love was full
          though not their pockets
and so this mighty baby
            missed the rockets!

Digging Deeper

So, no more WordPress Daily Prompts!

Like any addict with supply problems, a week in and I’m still wrestling with a cold turkey – feathers everywhere – if you see what I mean. It’s been hell. Sweats, cramps, fevers, insomnia, the works …

Image result for addict

Actually, it’s not been that bad. In fact, I haven’t given it a moment’s thought. It feels like the school holidays have started and I’m climbing trees, having escaped that old bossy-boots of a teacher who kept giving me random things to write about.

Oh yes, the ball’s well and truly in my court! All I have to do is pull back my racquet and let fly … but where to place the shot?

Aarrrggh … decisions! I hear that ball thump into the wire behind me, the derisive laughter of my opponent … curiously familiar, wonder who it is … and now I’ll never know because I’ve just woken up to the sounds of birds and bees, the scents of garden flowers and an unsipped gin-and-tonic in the arm of my reclining chair.

Hmm, reckon I should stop stressing about style and just scramble the ball over the net any old how. As our bewildering world unravels ever faster, it’s too easy to convince yourself nothing you say will make any difference and – the curse of every passionate perfectionist and thwarted idealist – you don’t bother to say anything. Nothing’s your fault, anyway, though Philip Larkin is as perceptive as usual on the subject of luck:

Bad As A Mile

Watching the shied core
Striking the basket, skidding across the floor,
Shows less and less of luck, and more and more

Of failure spreading back up the arm
Earlier and earlier, the unraised hand calm,
The apple unbitten in the palm.

I think back three years to when the apple of blogging was still unbitten. Here are my first two posts:

My voyage of exploration begins. I want to recapture the spirit of childhood, when we would set out from home with the deliberate aim of getting hopelessly lost. No point in going over old ground, after all …



I find it sad that children today don’t occupy the streets and open spaces like we did when I was young. There have always been risks in such freedom but we made a habit of going around with our friends, rarely if ever alone. We knew the dangers and were able to avoid them. So many kids were out and about, there was safety in numbers. With more adults around, too, we behaved ourselves most of the time because we didn’t want to get into trouble. In this way, we learned how to take responsibility for ourselves.

Sitting alone in your bedroom is not a healthy substitute, especially when you factor in the online risks and bad cyberspace influences that would shock many parents. It’s a case of out of the frying pan into the fire, I’m afraid. Let’s make the open air a place for children again, providing proper facilities and a sensible but not stifling adult presence. It would be quite a challenge but I can’t think of a better way to create the communities of the future …

Back to 2018, I’m struck by the campaigning tone and buoyant optimism above. Plug in to your inner child, I seem to be saying, and everything becomes possible.

Yet here I am, three years on, myself a pitiable victim of those same online risks and bad cyberspace influences … well, aren’t we all, after the surreal horrors of 2016 and their unfolding fake-news consequences? And as for guiding the young, fat chance when the adults appear to lack all direction!

Enough reality already! Or perhaps, less unreality masquerading as reality …

So the other day I was telling my little granddaughter this joke:

There was a vicar who used to visit his parishioners’ homes where they often asked him to stay for tea. They would sometimes serve him baked beans on toast, which he hated but was too polite to refuse. So anxious was he not to cause offence that he always pretended to enjoy them. People would tell each other how much he enjoyed baked beans with the result that he was rarely given anything else.

One day he was given a double helping, so he asked for a glass of water and when his host went into the kitchen he frantically spooned baked beans into the top pocket of his jacket. When the host brought the water, the vicar was licking his lips and polishing his plate with the toast.

On his way out he thanked his host from the bottom of his heart, patting his chest and spurting baked beans everywhere. He ran out in acute embarrassment but his host couldn’t wait to tell the next-door neighbour. ‘Do you know,’ he said, ‘the vicar likes baked beans so much he keeps a big stash of them in his pocket wherever he goes!’

Squeaky clean and yet silly enough to please any four-year-old, I’d say!

It was one of three jokes my dad insisted on telling at every family gathering. I won’t trouble you with the other two. We’d heard it lots and would always groan, of course, but my granddaughter asked for it again … and again!

It suddenly occurred to me that I was telling it just like my dad did – same intonations, same actions, same everything. Our relationship was always a little uneasy – common, I think, between us post-war kids and our pre-war parents – but this  was one of those moments where the present links up to the past in a flash. Gratitude for my old man welled up in me for the first time in … well, ever, really.

Sad but true.

Tell me about when you were little, she says, a frequent request. This time I tell her about my dad and some of his funny ways. All of a sudden, he’s still here.

There’s an African saying, I believe, that it takes a village to bring up a child. And if there’s one thing that should bring us all together, it’s the welfare of children. There is a very real sense in which nothing else matters.

Here is a positive little film that makes the point better than I can. The apple is always unbitten.