Friday, 22 June 2012

The Blessings of Pain

I am grateful for trigeminal neuralgia (TN) and the other pains I experience (mainly arthritic and migraine) which have taught me the invaluable lesson of slowing down, getting off the gravy train, as it were, reassessing why I am here and what life is all about.

Without these severe and ongoing 'intrusions' into my life, I would still be chasing empty dreams without knowing why or where I was going. Rather than experiencing and exploring my pain, I would be suffering desperately and collapsing under its weight . Instead of being able to observe from the outside without the distractions of 'work', 'commitments' and 'duties', I would still be trapped in the matrix of 'convention', unable to see myself clearly let alone find a way out. Without the pain, I would not have found the strength and commitment to search for holistic healing within.

TN and other pains have released me from the bonds of conventionality into a wonderful, painful yet fulfilling evolution where spiritual and emotional growth are just as valued, if not more so, than physical and mental growth.

Because of the blessings of neuralgia and rheumatoid arthritis, I feel more whole, focused and on the right path. I appreciate that it is often difficult to change the suffering mindset at first, but I hope, one day, we can all find the abundant blessings within our pain.

Blessings, patience and peace x

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Book Review: We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

We We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wonderful little book with big content. Perfectly apt for these changing times, We was written by Yevgeny Zamyatin almost a century ago yet its basic premise of human kind's desire for happiness has altered little.
Set in the future, the story of We is narrated by Number D-503 and written as his report of events preceding the launch of the INTEGRAL spaceship of which he is designer and engineer. The spaceship will take his report and other manifestations of the glorious One-State in which D-503 lives, along with its ideas of a perfect world, to other planets and galaxies beyond Earth, enabling others to benefit from One-State's ultimate wisdom and achievement of happiness for all.
As D-503 describes his life and how happiness has been acquired, we see that all is not as rosy as it might be, particularly with the threats to coherence that lie not just in the unknown world beyond the Green Wall surrounding One-State but also within, from human kind itself.
A brilliant, enthralling read.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Continuum Concept Review

The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost (Classics in Human Development)The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The premise and basic concept of this wonderful book can be life-changing in a very positive, long-term way. To summarise it crudely, the act of being held and physically carried around (by a parent, sibling and/or other carer) as a new born and growing baby can have an incredibly positive and essential influence on our consequential life experience. Conversely, if this stage of development is missed out or reduced (as it is with most of us born into so called 'modern civilization'), this has a detrimental, but not irreparable, effect.

The author explains the concept and how she came to discover it through her experiences with the Yubena tribe in South America. As a piece of anthropological and social research, The Continuum Concept is an amazing yet common sense realisation and most readers will probably find themselves thinking "oh yes, of course" as the book progresses. To give the Concept full justice however, requires (for most of us) a whole new approach to the way we rear our own children, help raise, educate and otherwise interact with children in our community and, perhaps most promisingly, the way we view our own childhood and relationship with our parents and/or caregivers - and thus ultimately, the way we view ourselves.

There are snippets of outdated comments particularly regarding the role of mothers and women and some in regard to race. I found myself mentally editing parts of the text as I read and do believe that a re-edit would prove useful to make the book as accessible as possible, to as wide a readership as the content merits. However, given that it was written in the 70s, these points are mere trifles compared to the bulk of the book and it's wealth of advice and potential for human benefit.

An essential read for anyone who wants to contribute positively to the evolvement of humankind and live more peacefully with ourselves and each other.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

TV Worth Watching: The Edible Garden

Image Copyright: BBCPresenter Alys Fowler takes us through her wonderfully lush urban garden in which she uses permaculture techniques to produce a space full of beauty and sustainability. This first episode of the series includes layout of Alys' garden, aquisition of two generous chickens - Gertrude and Alice, planting and picking of peas and beans, amazingly easy and versatile pea-shoots, recipes for no-faff falafel and peatini cocktail - yummm, and so much more. Enjoy!

From: Alys Fowler, BBC Two - The Edible Garden
"Why I garden. I garden because I am hungry. Or more precisely because I have a hunger, one that can only be satisfied through soil and satiated through fresh growth. I garden because I have to, it is how I define who I am, it is one of the ways I make sense of this world and it is how I pay back my place in it. Over the years I have come to see is not just that I garden, but how I garden that matters.

Making The Edible Garden has been about finding a way to garden that is as gentle as possible upon the world. A garden that will please and feed me and still be a home for all others that visit it. By choosing to grow my vegetables alongside my flowers in a perfectly pleasing muddle that is polyculture, I have found a way that allows the best of all worlds.

The aim is to eat at least one meal a day from the garden throughout the growing season and to have enough loving thing in the store cupboard to keep the winter bearable.

I’ve gathered some friends together for this journey. Some will tell you about permaculture, others about how to make delicious things with stuff that you grow or find - everyone shares one common belief about how happiness is formed; that real pleasure is something that is created not bought."

Further Info: BBC Two - The Edible Garden

Friday, 26 February 2010

Book Review: Eco Baby, Sally Jane Hall

Eco Baby: A Guide to Green Parenting Eco Baby: A Guide to Green Parenting by Sally Jane Hall

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a very well laid out guide to help us minimise consumption of products and goods when having a baby. Sally demonstrates that much of what we are told or think we need when a new life enters is unecessary at best and can be dangerous at worst. For those items that are healthy, useful and essential, Sally provides great references and links to organisations that supply more sustainable products than mainstream.

Eco Baby is easy to read and very useful for anyone wanting to stick to or take on green principles when contemplating pregnancy, birth and beyond. I have given it 3 rather than 4 stars simply because I would have liked a bit more in-depth information about sustainable practices that make consumption even less necessary. For readers relatively new to ideas of ethics and sustainability though, this book will provide a great starting point for eco child-rearing.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, 12 February 2010

TV Worth Watching: Let There Be Light

1 hour left to watch this first in a series of programmes about Light and how we are affected and affect it. Fascinating!

From: BBC iPlayer: Factual | History
"Series in which Professor Simon Schaffer explores man's fascination with light begins by revealing the unwitting role religion played in forging our scientific understanding of the properties of light.

He reveals the extraordinary lengths to which the early light pioneers went to unlock the mysteries of light. The Greek philosopher Empedocles marked his theory that light travels like laser beams from our eyes by throwing himself into the volcano Mount Etna.

The Roman Church's obsession with Easter forced it to turn a blind eye to its own doctrines, as the religious authorities sanctioned the conversion of cathedrals into massive sun clocks, a move that would eventually drive the rabidly anti-Catholic Isaac Newton to unravel the true essence of light."

Broadcast on: BBC Four, 8:00pm Thursday 4th February 2010
Duration: 60 minutes
Available until: 8:59pm Thursday 11th February 2010
More Info

Friday, 15 January 2010

Interpreting Signs

You Can Call Me Al, Paul SimonI had the song You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon playing in my head this morning for some reason... but couldn't remember all the words or put them in the right order.

Looking up the lyrics on Metro Lyrics I re-discovered some wonderfully potent writing by Paul Simon. The words seem to be very relevant to this present time where many of us feel lost and confused about the purpose of our being here on this curious little planet. Where we wonder around from situation to situation, seeking the things we are told may be of benefit - fame, family, sex, someone to imitate and learn from. In this present time we may find some of these 'saviours' but still feel empty to the core.

My interpretation of the song, with absolutely no pretense at knowledge of Mr. Simon's intent is thus:
The song follows a man's life with each successive era succinctly summed up in metaphoric experiences during a walk down the street. Maybe it's the same street, maybe in different places, maybe in different times. It is the street that flows through his life. Or perhaps it is the street followed by his soul travelling through successive lifetimes.

He - Al - feels the soft centre of his existence even at the start of his journey, the place where something sacred should be. Where something sacred, now forgotten, once was. Perhaps at this stage he feels that a challenge would offer the opportunity for him to win back what was lost. He wants a shot at redemption for fear of continuing in emptiness.

Afraid of finding no meaning and becoming no more than an animated character with no real purpose he searches for truth in obsolete places plagued by moonlit mutts barking a message he cannot yet hope to understand. They may be distracting demons or assisting angels but Al cannot decipher the dogs so shoes them away in frustration all the while dreaming of the light calling him home.

The chorus sounds like a plea for assistance, a true friend in a world of illusion. He offers himself in exchange for a guide.

I imagine many of us can relate to the 'short little span of attention' which seems all pervasive in these times of speedy internet with multi-tasking windows and simultaneous tabs as well as quick-fix technology where the controls seem to be set on permanent fast-forward. Can anyone else remember the time when we'd focus on / read thoroughly /use one single page, screen or programme on our computers for a few hours without even thinking about flicking to another programme, another tab, clicking another internet link, quickly watching a video, briefly scanning a news page for information, downloading something in the background to look at later, and so on? All this whilst having a 'conversation' with a colleague or loved one!

The second street continues Al's search for something to validate his existence and shorten the long nights of despair. He wonders why the things he was promised or imagined would come his way have not yet appeared. With no guide in sight he tries to distract himself with meaningless relationships that lead only to more sorrow.

In the final stage of his life / journey, Al finds himself in a place he either does not know or cannot remember. Maybe it is the same street that he is approaching with fresh eyes, seeing familiar sights anew. He has to start his journey again, this time with nothing but what he carries inside himself for support. However Al seems less afraid of this than in his previous journeys. Perhaps the soft centre has begun to fill up.

We can imagine Al closing his eyes to take in the cacophony of sound surrounding him in the market place. The critical sounds of life seem like music to his ears. Opening his eyes and looking up he sees 'angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity'. These signs, audible and visual - which undoubtedly surrounded him all the time - can finally be seen for what they are. These vital clues help him to re-member who he is, why he is here, what this life is all about. He says, Amen! and Hallelujah! A perfect ending indeed.

Here are the lyrics courtesy of Metro Lyrics:
"A man walks down the street,
He says, Why am I soft in the middle now?
Why am I soft in the middle?
The rest of my life is so hard!
I need a photo-opportunity,
I want a shot at redemption!
Don't want to end up a cartoon,
In a cartoon graveyard...
Bonedigger, Bonedigger,
Dogs in the moonlight.
Far away, my well-lit door.
Mr. Beerbelly, beerbelly,
Get these mutts away from me!
You know, I don't find this stuff amusing anymore...

If you'll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal!
I can call you Betty, And Betty, when you call me,
You can call me Al!

A man walks down the street,
He says, Why am I short of attention?
Got a short little span of attention,
And whoa, my nights are so long!
Where's my wife and family?
What if I die here?
Who'll be my role-model?
Now that my role-model is
Gone... gone,
He ducked back down the alley,
With some roly-poly, little bat-faced girl.
All along... along...
There were incidents and accidents,
There were hints and allegations...

If you'll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal!
I can call you Betty, And Betty, when you call me,
You can call me Al! Call me Al...

A man walks down the street,
It's a street in a strange world.
Maybe it's the Third World.
Maybe it's his first time around.
He doesn't speak the language,
He holds no currency.
He is a foreign man,
He is surrounded by the sound, sound...
Cattle in the marketplace.
Scatterlings and orphanages
[Scatterings and oranges?].
He looks around, around...
He sees angels in the architecture,
Spinning in infinity,
He says, Amen! and Hallelujah!

If you'll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal!
I can call you Betty, And Betty, when you call me,
You can call me Al! You can call me Al..."

Thursday, 7 January 2010

TV Worth Watching: Dear Diary

Dear Diary
Episode 1: Richard E Grant

From: BBCiPlayer
"The first in a series of three programmes asking what we get from reading, and writing, diaries.

Writing a diary can be dangerous. As can reading one. Richard E Grant, a diarist since childhood, uncovers the power of the diary. He considers the diaries of Joe Orton, Kenneth Williams, Erwin James, John Diamond and Rosemary Ackland and asks whether a diary should, or could, ever be totally honest, wholly accurate and absolutely true.

Richard talks with Joe Orton's sister, Leonie, about her long-held belief that Orton's confessional diary was actually responsible for him losing his life. Richard also meets prison diarist Erwin James to understand the power of writing for a serving offender. Joss Ackland tells Richard about editing his wife's 50-plus years of diary writing. And Richard meets with Sheila Hancock to talk about Kenneth Williams' diary, in which she appeared many times. Williams had a charming public face. But in the diaries he could be savage. He even wrote that he'd never again speak to Sheila Hancock."

Broadcast on: BBC Four, 12:40am Tuesday 5th January 2010
Duration: 60 minutes
Available until: 12:59am Tuesday 26th January 2010

Further Info:
Dear Diary

TV Worth Watching? Growing Young

History Of Now: The Story of the Noughties
Part 1: Growing Young

From: BBC iPLayer
Image Copyright: BBC iPlayer"The first of three films exploring what it was like to live through the last decade, and the surprising, often hidden connections which are shaping the 21st century.

During the Noughties, an ageing Britain became obsessed with recapturing its youth. The result: trends and fads such as kidults, micro scooters and 'middle youth'. But at the same time, the generation gap emerged as the most significant split in society. While older people pursued a more youthful image, real young people were demonised as 'hoodies'.

Reflecting on the decade we spent 'growing young' are a host of leading commentators and experts including Andrew Marr, Tanya Byron and Will Self. Along the way we discover how rave culture led to binge-drinking, learn about Britain's 'baby gap', and find out why downloads saved the Millennium Dome."

Broadcast on: BBC Two, 9:00pm Tuesday 5th January 2010
Duration: 60 minutes
Available until: 9:59pm Friday 15th January 2010

Further Info:
History of Now: The Story of the Noughties

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Real England by Paul Kingsnorth

This month I am mostly reading:

Real England, Paul Kingsnorth"A wonderfully passionate exploration of the onslaught against non-commercialised, non-corporate life in Britain. From the closing of local shops to the death of the farming communities, Paul focuses on the human cost of these changes. ‘Real England’ serves as an important reminder of what’s at stake with the corporate takeover of Britain, and also leaves us with some optimism by showing green shoots of resistance, as people begin rising to the challenge of resistance against the onslaught."

This brief review is by Housmans where you can purchase a copy online here or instore here:

Housmans, 5 Caledonian Road, King’s Cross, London N1 9DX
t: 020 7837 4473 | e:

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A Gift, The Dream And You

"...The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it."

This truly inspirational address by author, journalist and environmentalist, Paul Hawken at the University of Portland Commencement 2009, speaks many truths about why we are here and what we could be creating and giving back - both individually and collectively - during the precious time we have been given on this wonderous planet.

From: Paul Hawken, Commencement Address 2009, University Of Portland
"Let’s begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation... but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums..."

Full inspirational speech here

Further Info:
Portland University Commencement / Paul Hawken

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Beekeeper, Tori Amos

The Beekeeper by Tori Amos is a song too beautiful for words so I'll only attempt a few. Somehow I only discovered this track very recently (perhaps the time was right) and I cannot stop listening to it. The section that immediately and most intensely struck me is the main chorus:
""Do you know who I am" she said "I'm the one, who taps you on your shoulder, when it's your time. Don't be afraid, I promise that she will awake tomorrow""

On a spiritual adventure of my own the idea of being awakened at a certain time - the right time - by someone or something tapping me on the shoulder rang true. The music accompanying the lyrics is utterly poignant and stirs my heart and soul.

Having sought out (thanks to Lyrics Mania) and read the whole lyrics, I have a sense - which could easily be entirely wrong - that Tori may have been writing about the loss of a child who only just or didn't quite make it into this world from the other. The painful anguish of loss and desperation are intense. The desire to make sense of something so sad makes for enchanting listening.

"Flaxen hair blowing in the breeze
It is time for the geese to head south
I have come with my mustard seed
I cannot accept that she will be taken from me

"Do you know who I am" she said
"I'm the one who taps you on the shoulder when it's your time
Don't be afraid I promise that she will awake
Tomorrow somewhere, tomorrow somewhere"

Wrap yourself around the tree of life
And the dance of the infinity
Of the hive
(Take this message to Michael)

I will comb myself into chains
In between the tap dance clan
And your ballerina gang

I have come for the beekeeper
I know you want my
You want my queen
Anything but this
Can you use me instead?

In your gown with your breathing mask on
Plugged into a heart machine
As if you ever needed one

I must see the beekeeper
I must see if she'll keep her alive
(Call Engine 49)
I have come with my mustard seed

Maybe I'm passing you by
Just passing you by girl
I'm passing you by
On my way, on my way

I'm just passing you by
But don't be confused
One day I'll be coming for you...
I must see the beekeeper
I must see the beekeeper"

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Corinne Bailey Rae: Life Drifted By...

Corinne Bailey Rae: 'It happened to me. It could happen to anyone at any time'
From out of the darkest place, following the sudden death of her husband, Corinne Bailey Rae is re-emerging with an extraordinarily intimate and impassioned album. Here she talks about grief and the redemptive power of music

Sean O'Hagan, The Observer, 4Oct09

"...Then came the strange inertia that grief instils in those left behind, the long, terrible numbness that is, in itself, a kind of death. "I didn't do anything for a year. I mean, nothing," she says, still sounding as if she can barely believe it. "Everyone was asking, 'What have you done?' But I had nothing to show them. I didn't go anywhere. I didn't write anything. I didn't work. I sat at my kitchen table for a whole year, people came and people went, life drifted by. It was just bleak. Bleak."

Did she think that she might give up music altogether? "I did think that I could never do this sort of thing again because if anyone asked me about Jason, I would just explode. For a long time, I didn't even try and write. It was just too big a thing, too raw. It was just too destructive to make anything creative out of. All I wanted to do was destroy things. And I'm really not that type so it was all these emotions that were totally alien to me. It was just a bleak, empty, hollow nothing.""

Full article here

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Hawksmoor: Short Review

Hawksmoor by Peter AckroydHawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd is:

Awesome, in the truest sense of the word. A veritable labyrinth of clever and intriguing word play caught between the glass frame of a paper weight in which all time is no time and no time is now! Shake it up and watch the effects. Wonderful!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Preciousness of Books

I have so many favourite books my top 10 is often changing but will probably always include T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland which I can read over and over and over... Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor and J.D Salinger's Franny & Zooey all of which had a profound effect on me when first reading, plus I studied the former two in school at a particularly tempestuous time in my life! I lost myself totally in the magic of the stories and words and was quite swept up in the drama of other worlds and lives.

Whilst movies can, and indeed have, had a similar effect on me, I find that the effects don't last as long or go as deep. There is something about reading from a real book, held in our hands, carried around with us for days/weeks/months even years, the fold of the corners when a book mark has been misplaced, the smell of new paper or even better, the smell of musty bookshelves acquired from a second-hand book store, the scribbles made by previous readers, their name printed neatly or scrawled carelessly on the inside cover, a certain timeless quality, all these things, along with engaging contents of course, make a book far more potent than even the best film ever could be (and I do love a good movie). Perhaps it's the ability to touch and hold and thus feel more engaged with a book than one can with a dvd which relies on a machine to be played or a film viewed at the cinema with many other people.

This is an excerpt from a discussion started by Maddy called Has Reading Become A Lost Art on Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Underworld by Don DeLillo is long but worth a read

Don DeLillos's Underworld is as relevant and valid today as it was at time of publication some ten years ago. In that time so much has happened and yet precious little has changed.

Underworld, Don De LilloI acquired Underworld by Don DeLillo over 10 years ago as a result of having studied and enjoyed the author's book White Noise at university. I desperately wanted to read more work of this person who seemed to have his fingers on the pulse of our era as well as a good grasp of the past events, both small and sizeable, that helped to form the present. He also seemed to dislay an almost uncanny insight into the future.

DeLillo has the magical ability to present the varying strands of our current ethos, culture, lifestyles and ideologies in succinct form without foregoing any of the vital minutiae of daily life that make up these things. One minute his characters are discussing, quite seriously, the merits of wearing sunscreen in the desert, for example, and in the very same sentence or paragraph we realise that they are also commenting on the atomisation of society at large. The author manages to do this without any of the usual jarring gaps in flow and avoids any sense of disconnect. The books - all those I've had the good fortune to read - flow like understated but crucially zeitgeist movies - think American Dream and perhaps sometimes Donny Darko.

Reading DeLillo's work (I can't bring myself to use the words 'novel' or 'story' as they seem too trite descriptions for works so intrinsically linked to real life) is like watching a perfect mix of documentary and fictionalized drama that blends so well it is almost impossible to tell what is 'real' and what isn't. In this way his work is simply a mirror on our lives. If you cannot find yourself, or at least a part of yourself in his work, perhaps your existence is questionably.

Back to Underworld, which I wanted to read and attempted to at least hit the 100 page mark before giving up (as advised by one of my English tutors at school) several times over the last ten years. The size of the book overwhelmed me however and in conjunction with the highly americanised subject of the first chapters - baseball - which I felt no desire to even try to relate to, meant that I quit after only a few pages several times over. Size (and sport) are not everything however and honestly, I think I was just not ready for Underworld. Not yet ready to understand its simple complexities and appreciate the subject matter from a well balanced distance matched with the closeness of experience.

Until late last year. Now I am finally ready to devour this book in a way I could not have done ten years ago. I have just passed the half way mark (in page terms) and am as excited about it as I was at the start. The characters are familiarly intriguing, their personalities forming, dissolving, adapting before my eyes as DeLillo takes his readers backwards and forwards in time. The events of over 50 years played and replayed from different angles with clues and signs dished out here and there. I feel as though I've been given special privilege to wallow through restricted archives on vast micro-fiche, piles of newspapers, audio and film reels and diaries.

The specifics of Underworld's era, from Cold War fever, J Edgar Hoover's paranoia through 70's alternative counter-culture, consumerist ignorance and the shameful wastefulness of post war periods right through to the present, are as relevant today, if not more so, than they were in the late 90s. I would highly recommend this book as both fascinating fiction and documentary research of why we are where we are today.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

First Female Poet Laureate

From: Alison Flood, Guardian, 1May09

"Four hundred years of male domination came to an end today with the election of Carol Ann Duffy as poet laureate. Duffy, the widely-tipped favourite for the post, only agreed to accept the post ahead of poets Simon Armitage and Roger McGough because "they hadn't had a woman".

Speaking on Woman's Hour this morning on Radio 4, she revealed that she had thought "long and hard" about accepting the offer.
"The decision was purely because they hadn't had a woman," she said. "I look on it as recognition of the great women poets we now have writing, like Alice Oswald.""

Full article here

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Who Is Running The Show?

No individual species is 'in control' of the planet. We are all part of the same ecosystem. Each species plays its part and is as vital as the next.

The sooner we, as human beings, realise that we are simply part of the planet and all the species, resources and elements contained therein rather than 'lords' over all else, the better. Better for the planet and for all the life it sustains, including us.

The only hierarchy is a false one. It is sustained by those who hope that controlling others will lead to personal evolution or enlightenment. The truth is quite opposite. It is the meek, not the powerful, who will inherit the earth.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Here's Where The Story Ends

The Sundays: Here's Where The Story Ends

People I know, places I go, make me feel tongue-tied.
I can see how people look down, they're on the inside.
Here's where the story ends.

People I see, weary of me, showing my good side.
I can see how people look down, I'm on the outside.
Here's where the story ends.
Here's where the story ends.

It's that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore.
Oh I never should have said, the books that you read
Were all I loved you for.

It's that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes me wonder why;
And it's the memories of your shed, that make me turn red
Surprise, surprise, surprise!

Crazy I know, places I go, make me feel so tired.
I can see how, people look down, I'm on the outside.
Here's where the story ends.
Here's where the story ends.

It's that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore.
And who ever would've thought the books that you brought
Were all I loved you for.

Oh the devil in me said, go down to the shed,
I know where I belong;
But the only thing I ever really wanted to say
Was wrong, was wrong, was wrong!

It's that little souvenir of a colourful year
Which makes me smile inside;
So I cynically, cynically say, well it's that way
Surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise!
Here's where the story ends.
Here's where the story ends.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

My favorite room...

ImagineMy favourite room is the cosy, self contained room that lies within the realms of my over active imagination. It is like a tardis inside, or more accurately, I suppose, like Wonderland.

One minute there is just enough room for me contently curled up warm and snug on the world's comfiest bean bag, reading endless books and munching my way through delicious food that handily keeps appearing from nowhere.

The next, I suddenly feel alone, surrounded by deepest green water. A brood of baby sharks are playfully piercing holes in my barely floating beanbag. Oh, bugger! I'm falling into the ocean and I can't swim - agh!

My favourite room is also my most feared...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

If you paid me enough, I might sing this song at a karaoke bar

That Day by Natalie Imbruglia

I would embarrass (is that really how it's spelt?) myself with this song because, like much of Ms Imbruglia's work it is beautiful but also a challenge to sing and breathe at the same time - plus my partner (DFH) loves to hear me sing it trying to remember the lyrics and who am I to disappoint... hmmmm...

And so it goes: "Well, that day, that day, what a mess, what a marvel. I walked into that cloud again and I lost myself. And I'm sad, sad, sad, small, alone and scared, craving purity and a fragile mind and a gentle spirit. That day, that day, what a marvelous mess. Well this is all that I can do. I'm done to be me - sad, scared, small, alone and beautiful. It's supposed to like this. I accept everything. It's supposed to be like this..."

Natalie's lyrics are dynamite. In this potent epic poem of a song, she describes perfectly that sense of desperately trying to fight the often overwhelming negative thoughts and feelings of despair that life will sometimes insist on throwing our way. Do you recognise the feeling? You find yourself suddenly swallowed up by an ocean of emptiness, pulled deep down under the dark pounding waves of loneliness and futility, utterly alone and more miserable than a weekful of Mondays.

As you begin to sink under the weight of all the world's sadness however, a minor life-saving miracle takes place and you suddenly remember how to swim. With each stroke you repeat your mantras - I AM beautiful. EVERYTHING happens for a reason. It's SUPPOSED to be like this - breathing in the sweet air of instant comfort that they bring.

Cliched phrases these mantras may be, but those powerful words not only offer a life line, they force it into your hands. You cling for dear life as another wave blows over your head knowing that if you can just hold on, sooner or later you WILL find yourself on the beach once more. Exhausted and bewhildered perhaps, but on solid ground none-the-less.

Complete lyrics (how I hear them):
"Well that day, that day, what a mess, what a marvel.
I walked into that cloud again and I lost myself.
And I'm sad, sad, sad, small, alone and scared,
Craving purity and a fragile mind and a gentle spirit.

That day, that day, what a marvelous mess.
Well this is all that I can do. I'm done to be me.
Sad, scared, small, alone and beautiful. It's supposed to like this.
I accept everything. It's supposed to be like this.

That day, that day I lay down beside myself
In this feeling of pain and sad and scared and small
And find me crawling towards the light and it's all that I see
And I'm tired and I'm right and I'm wrong and it's beautiful.

That day, that day, what a mess, what a marvel,
We're all the same but no-one thinks so.
And it's okay and I'm small and I'm divine
And it's beautiful and it's coming and it's already here and it's absolutely perfect.

Well that day, that day when everything was a mess
When everything was in place and it's too much hurt
Sad and small and scared, alone
And everyone's a cynic and it's hard and it's sweet but it's supposed to be like this.

Well that day, that day when I sat in the sun
And I thought and I cried cos I'm sad, scared, small, alone, strong
And I'm nothing and I'm true.
Only a great man can break through. And it's all okay. Yeah, it's okay.

That day, that day when I lay down beside myself
In this feeling of pain and sad and scared and small
And find me crawling towards the light and it's all that I see
And I'm tired and I'm right and I'm wrong and it's beautiful

That day, that day, what a mess, what a marvelous mess.
We're all the same but no-one thinks so.
And it's okay and I'm small and I'm divine
And it's beautiful and it's coming and it's already here and it's absolutely perfect.

So sweet, can you feel it?
Are you here? Are you with me?
I can feel it? And it's beautiful."

by Natalie Imbruglia
on White Lilies Island
Watch That Day on YouTube

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Scenes In Shadow

Underneath the shadows
Where the moonlight cannot reach
So softly she is creeping
Forgetting oft to breath.

Far beneath the cloudless sky
Where nighttime shadows play
She steals a path unfettered
Her one and only way.

As the night unfolds it's pillow
Against a grainy sky
She wallows in the sorrow
But she will never cry.

Pale morning finally beckons
And moonlight fades away
She will be here no longer
Tho' in my heart she'll always stay.

Originally written: April 2007

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Cheer Up! It Might Never Happen

(Memoirs Of A Miserable Childhood)
Advice To The Under 30s

If anyone tries to tell you that school days are the happiest time of your life, not only are they lying to you but they probably deserve your deepest sympathy.

Imagine being at your happiest at school, which is roughly from 5 to 17 years of age - twelve years at most of your whole life, wallowing in bliss only to spend the next 53 or so years (assuming it'll all end around 70) being miserable and wishing you were still at school! Sad, or what!

Let's put this foolish notion into perspective. Yes, at school you do not have to drag your sorry self into an over air-conditioned office to give the impression of doing a job that you hate almost every single day for the rest of your sorry life. You do not have to appear respectful and answer to the meanest most pig-headed, self absorbed, self-appointed, uneducated manager in the world. This is true.

But on the other hand you have to go to school almost every single day, learn pointless things like algebra and the names of some dead and long buried King's seventy-two wives. You have to show respect to that pig-headed, self absorbed, self appointed, uneducated teacher who makes you sit still in class when you'd rather be chasing girls/boys in the playground and generously showers you with impossible amounts of homework and constant public criticism to boot.

It's true that as a school kid, you do not have the responsibility of earning a living and chances are someone out there is probably providing you with a roof over your head and hopefully at least a couple meals a day. But the chances are also high that through most of these heady school days you cannot stand the sight of this all-giving person (or persons) because they just don't understand you and will insist on shouting at you several times every torturously long day, expecting you to do the dreariest most unimportant tasks immediately when the last thing you want is to be disturbed from the vitally important business of navel-gazing.

"Come down NOW! Your dinner is on the table!"
"Turn off the TV NOW and get on with your homework!"

There is no doubt these persons are getting a kick from deliberately making your life miserable.

"No! You can't go to Charlie's party - someone has to look after your sister/brother!"
"Have you tidied your bedroom yet?"
"What are you doing in there?" and so on and on and on.

Plus, you mainly have to eat what you're given and there is little sympathy for your delicate and ever changing palette even when you experience a spiritual epiphany watching TV secretly one day in your blacked out bedroom and become unable to stomach meat and dairy for almost a whole month! Agh, it's so unfair!

My advice, dear youthful reader, is to stop striving in agonising vain to make your school days the fabled 'best days of your life'. Just get through them as best as you can and hope that there are better times to come. If handled correctly, school days can see you in good stead for the real fun part of your life - adulthood. But they will amount to the steepest learning curve you will ever experience.

This will not seem like good news (because it isn't) but whether you feel as though you are courageously climbing up or constantly slipping down the curve of essential learning, there will be no poles capable of sustaining you satisfactorily. You will fall. You will break a limb or two. Hopefully you'll break a heart or two, including your own. Life will be generally difficult and fraught with all kinds of danger.

But, and this is your only salvation, so grab a hold and hold fast: the pain of being young will end, eventually. Though it may take an inordinately long time full of tears, tantrums and traumas, you will finally reach a plateau, approximately somewhere between 18 and 25 years, when you can look back at your school days and think

"Well, thank God they're over and I'm still alive!"

If your school days are long past but you insist on harbouring feelings of failure for not having had the most super splendid time at school or think that you must be the only one of your friends/peer group that did not excel at being a carefree, positive-experience-absorbing, negative-experience-shrugger-off-er of a child, put those thoughts and painful memories behind you and move on. You made it to here didn't you? The future is now and the past my friend, is just that.

With a huge portion of patience, foresight, tolerance, good observational skills and the regular company of those who actually do know better (rather than the majority who simply think they know better), it may be possible to get through childhood relatively unscathed. However, if you can collect at least a few scars along the way, you'll know that it has been worthwhile and you will have something to look back on in admiration for making it through to the wonderful world of being 20 something and almost grown-up.

Then there is simply the matter of your pre-30 days to get through, attempting to put all you've learned into practice, re-learning the algebra and history you didn't pay attention to at school, discovering that there's so much more useful stuff that can only be learned through experience, finding your own way and carving your own space in the world. But don't worry about these years, if you've put in the hard graft already, compared to being at school, they'll be a breeze, trust me!

Saturday, 16 August 2008


Reading, writing, rhythm sticks
We bang the drum so hollow.
Walking, talking, drinking whilst
Red river keeps on flowing.

Upside, downside, inside out
The aching soul revealing.
one step, two step, leave the floor
I think it may start raining.

Slowly, surely, creeping on
Warm distant sun is fading.
Wake up, wake up, see the moon
Beyond the pale cloud hiding.

Lisping, tripping over words
From glossy lips come falling.
Whisper, stutter, what's the thing
I try to say, so telling.

Upstairs, downstairs on the bus
Bright streets go by all blurring
To one undistinguishable mass
Of light aglow all burning.

Quietly, quickly, in the house
Upstairs now, go softly.
Hot tea, PC, check the 'phone
Radiation greetings.

Slowly, softly, under covers
feel the rhythm breathing.
Intake, outake, deep and low
Dissolving into dreaming.

Thursday, 14 August 2008


Aoishka! I yawn aloud
Pulling cobwebs away
Rubbing sleep from aching eyes
Not yet ready for new day

Hot tired eyelids fall,
And rise, and fall again
Wrapping mind in auburn glow
For just another moment, again.

Has a decade passed me by
Or was it merely a second?
Dreams rescind and thoughts descend.
No place for sleep in crowded den.

But, still, lying here, I am
Held under covers, warm,
Glimpse To-Do lists and memories
Wash over, and under and... now they're gone.

Back to the safe snug place
So warm, so cosy, so serene
Where daily demands can be ignored
And life is nowt but a dream.

Still, there is no true escape
As day-light grabs it's vivid hold
Wrenches body from reverie
Demanding I make a move, bold.

Sitting upright in musty bed
Covers thrown aside
Now I'm awake and ready to face
Whatever awaits outside.

Another morning has been broken
Another day dared to unfurl
Another chance to scatter seeds
'Cross bright and wondrous world.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Playing God

Maybe when we die, we all get a chance to 'play God'.

When we meet God and s/he asks us why we did or didn't do this and that, we will come up with excuses about how hard life was. And God, in her infinite wisdom will say:

'What would you do differently then?'

And s/he will give us a day, week, month, year, century or second to try being her.

Maybe every second, minute or day we experience here on earth is under the influence of another 'God' - someone else, who used to be like us - having a go at being in charge of the universe to see if they can do better than the original God.


What would I do differently then? What will I do when it's my turn?

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Dear Neighbours

Dear Neighbours,
We were kept awake again
Last night until half two am
Due to noise that seemed to emanate
From your walled garden near.

Dear Neighbours,
We live in close proximity
Thus any noise between our homes
Travels too easily and reverberates
Off brick, through window to collective ear.

Dear Neighbours,
We would be grateful if
Out of kind consideration and respect
You would please ensure that all of your
Late gatherings are strictly kept indoors.

Dear Neighbours,
Perhaps after midnight during weeks
And weekends after one am
You might consider keeping quiet
To permit your weary neighbours sleep?

Dear Neighbours,
This is not the first time
We have had to most politely request
That the constant noise levels are reduced.
We really really need our rest.

Dear Neighbours,
Can you have failed to notice
Hot summer requires windows left ajar
Thus we can hear all the noise you make
Whilst attempting futile dormir.

Dear Neighbours,
We are truly tired
And quite fed up of losing sleep
We will consider calling enforcements
If your noisiness does not soon cease.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Turtle Dream

It was the turtle that did it
Last night (just now) in my dream
He was wandering nonchalantly, or so it seemed,
Along a country road, with huge cars whizzing by
Somehow managing to miss his sturdy little body
As they sped on their way over him.

I sat and watched in amazement, until
- What am I doing, lying here in the hot sun
Sketching drawings, watching the turtle
Waiting for surely imminent death by squashing?

I got up and 'rescued' the turtle
Picked it up off the road
And brought it back to my workspace
Placed it down amidst the notebooks and pens
Watched it find its feet in the new environment.
I photographed it with my camera
Snap after snap of wrinkly turtle head
Eyes staring back at me, expectant?
Or annoyed? Perhaps I'd moved him
From an essential journey. His life's journey.
Perhaps he was on the road he was meant to travel.

Not any more, or, infact, yes, still on the road
Just a different view, different surrounds, philosophy
Different experiences from the one he'd gotten used to
Over, however long he'd been travelling on the road.

I put the photographed steps together
In a row. I sketched them. Fragments
of a life; a being; a moment;
Each one on its own, yet joined to the next
By an invisible thread.

It was the turtle that did that.

The Rescue

Did I rescue the turtle or did it rescue me?

I lay nonchalantly watching until woken from my stupor.
By what?

By the realisation that I had more meaningful purpose in life than lying in the sun making drawings?
By realising that if I didn't help the turtle escape death, perhaps no-one would?

If not me, then who?
If not now, then when?

It was my duty to rescue the other life.
From what?

From cessation of life?
It was my duty to preserve life.

In so doing, I changed lives.
The turtle's life was changed.
My life was changed. I now 'had' a turtle to protect, to nurture, to find a home for, to release.

Your life has changed. You now know about the turtle because you're reading these words.
These words tell you how the turtle changed my life and I changed the turtle's.

I am the turtle.
And the road.
And the cars whizzing by.

I am the sunlight burning my skin
I am my skin.

I am the page on which I write.
I am the pen with which I sketch.
The camera lens that peers and captures and stores.

I am the turtle.
And I am me.
And so are you.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Bank Station, Monday

Peace in the city
Small haven amidst metropolis traffic.
A bus driver angrily beeps his horn.
Street cleaners ferociously spray
Unnamed liquid at chewing gum marks
On the pavement.

City workers amble by
Ascending from, descending into
Bank underground station.

JH Greathead stands tall to my left
Perusing his plans.
Chief Engineer of City & South London Railway,
Inventor of the travelling shield
Enabling deep level tube
By tunnel cutting.

Wellington sits yonder
On horseback.
A memorial still and grandiose.

Pretty girl in cap and skirts
Talks effusively on mobile phone
Drawing attention from the street cleaners
And other nearby men.

The girls glance up and smile knowingly
To each other. Pride or jealousy?
Mere observation?

Two police officers stroll past
Playing with their radios.
The sun beats down
Upon hot denim clad knees.

Two flags wave listless in bored breeze.
Buses thunder by.
People sitting near like me
Leaning against ancient stone
Chatter or in solitude
Never alone in our city.

The ghosts of London past
London present, London future,
Hover, amble, lie and lean
Rush past, sit quietly, watching,
Always watching as time floats round.