Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Join the Virtual Party

No, this is not an obscure political campaign.

I am having a party this Saturday (one of the big, apartment-trashing kind), and I thought I'd try and invite friends (and, indeed, strangers who just happen upon my blogs by chance) who are not able to attend in person to join with us in spirit by participating in a 'live chat' via the comments section of my Round-The-World Barstool Blues blog.

It's a nice idea, very much of the times. I wonder just how spectacularly it will fail.

Oh, go on - indulge me. Look in over there on Saturday and leave a comment. Pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

The other day I ended a post on brother-blog Round-The-World Barstool Blues with the line "You gotta try, dontcha?"

I have been asked to explain the reference.

My favourite teacher at school had a rich stock of jokes and literary anecdotes with which he would regale us. One of his quirky enthusiasms was a study of the career of Huey Long, a celebrated populist American politician in the Depression years who won the governorship of Louisiana.... but later came to a bad end.

Huey was apparently quite a colourful character, prone to most of the vices. My teacher particularly liked this story about him:

Once, Huey Long was taking a long train journey with a close friend (perhaps it may even have been his campaign manager or an important political backer - I forget) and the friend's wife. The friend had to leave the carriage to answer the call of nature. Left alone with the charming lady, the libidinous Mr Long immediately made urgent and rather physical advances to her - which she gamely rebuffed. On his return, the friend quickly realised what must have transpired from his wife's flushed and agitated state, and glared accusingly at the would-be seducer. Huey, quite unabashed, smiled and said simply, in his ingratiating Southern drawl, "Well, you gotta try, dontcha?"

The 7 Habits of Highly Efficient (?) Readers

1) Read books in bookshops without buying them.

2) Browse, rather than reading whole books.

3) Make snap judgements about the quality of the writing by skimming a single page at random (and never read anything badly-written).

4) Have several books on the go at once.

5) Don't worry about not finishing books.

6) Always carry a book in your pocket.

7) Always buy one book - but only one - whenever you visit a bookshop.

I'm not really sure that I believe in this advice - but I throw it out there as a provocation. I have noticed these tendencies in myself, and was reproving myself for them the other day; but then I fell to thinking that there may be arguments to be made in favour of each of them.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More torments for the famous

I was browsing through a copy of Alan Bennett's Diaries in a bookshop last week, when I came upon an entry about W. B. Yeats. Bennett recorded that he had read somewhere that Yeats was once horrified to have been threatened with having to suffer a performance of his 'Wild Swans at Coole' sung by a massed choir of schoolchildren (it would appear that this performance never actually took place). Bennett wondered whether Philip Larkin had ever heard this story, whether it had prompted his own bitter joke that he expected one day after his death there would be a ceremonial recitation of his 'This Be The Verse' by 1,000 Girl Guides in the Royal Albert Hall.

Now that I'd like to see!

This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

The experience of 'home'

Last summer I was reading 'The Book of Evidence' by the Irish writer, John Banville. A number of the rich descriptive passages in that have lingered long in the memory. My recent return to my childhood hometown has brought some of them to mind again particularly poignantly.

Like this:

"Surely this is a universal, this involuntary spasm of recognition which comes with the first whiff of that humble, drab, brownish smell, which is hardly a smell at all, more of an emanation, a sort of sigh exhaled by the thousands of known but unacknowledged tiny things that collectively constitute what is called home."

And a little later, this:

"I was thinking how strange it was to stand here glooming out at the day like this, bored and irritable, my hands in my pockets, while all the time, deep inside me somewhere, hardly acknowledged, grief dripped and dripped, a kind of silvery ichor, pure, and strangely precious. Home, yes, home is always a surprise."

Where in the world am I? (22b)

I have just learned that the shroud of gunsmoke hanging over this city for the past 10 days has on occasion been so bad as to cause a suspension of flights at the airport.

An 'international' city closed off from the outside world by a firecracker overload? There can't be too many places where that could happen....

I suppose I should count myself lucky that my own return journey suffered no such interruption.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Continuing the 'What is poetry?' series....

Slow Boil

A poem is like the watched pot of the proverb
It doesn't like to be seen going about its business
If you fix it with your stare
It will grow obstinate, impassive, inert

But let it lie unheeded
Attend to something else awhile
And soon enough the kitchen of your mind
Grows dense with steam
The singing of the kettle-whistle
The possibility of tea

Thought for the week

"The unlived life is not worth examining."

A useful warning to all diarists, bloggers, and other exponents of "confessional writing".

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Where in the world am I? (22)

The official weather descriptor here today is once again 'smoke'. The city is choked in a grey-brown fug, visibility only a few hundred yards.

And yet, and yet.... it is ominously silent.

The blighters are out of ammunition! The firecracker frenzy of the past week or so has evidently exhausted everyone's stocks; the revellers are taking a day or two to regroup and resupply.

But the 24/7 bang-bang, rat-tat-tat-tat-tat will resume soon, I'm quite sure. Oh yes, things are going to get very noisy around here....

But still and all, despite everything, despite the crappy air and the absurd noise pollution.... it's good to be back.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

My persecution continues....

You would think that one of the few benefits of being back in a 'developed' country would be decent, fast, reliable Internet access.... but NO.

I seem to have been having just as many problems while in the UK as I was before back in The Unnameable Country - different problems, perhaps, but every bit as galling.

At home the connector socket for the 'broadband' broke, so we had to rely on dial-up via the regular telephone line, which was agonisingly slow..... but of course I missed it when the telephone line got cut off.

Luckily, the Internet access in the town library is now FREE (it cost £1 or so an hour when I last had to use it a few years ago); unluckily, the county council's IT service which adminsters the computers is still absurdly over-officious - or just random? - in the censorship regime it imposes. After one or two days of being able to keep up my two little blogs, I suddenly found that Blogger was now being denied me - apparently labelled 'a sex site'! I could still view blog pages OK on Blogspot; I just couldn't add anything to my own blogs - maddening! I had very similar problems the last time I had to use these library computers: it seems that any site I wanted to visit (really - anything: Google, Wikipedia, CricInfo, The Onion) would migrate to the 'banned' list after a day or two. Why, why, why? Is it just me???

Anyway, after extended complaining, I did manage to get Blogger restored this time.... a few days before I left town.

And now, here in London, the two friends I am staying with both use the BT Yahoo service.... and it is SHIT, keeps disconnecting every 30 seconds (the guy's connection is far worse than the girl's - where I am now - and made even more exasperating by the fact that when the connection relaunches it always reverts to his Yahoo e-mail account rather than mine: that has led to the loss of several long e-mails over the past few days, I can tell you!).

Probably things will be even worse back home in The Unnameable City.... but right now, I am itching to get back and try it out.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Lives of the poets

Ah, it's good to start the day with a laugh-out-loud moment!

I was just reading an account of the last days of the poet Heine, and discovered that he suffered one of those less-than-perfect marriages. However, having no-one else much to leave his worldly goods to, he bequeathed everything to his wife - but on the condition that she must re-marry.... because, as he said, "Then at least one man will regret my death."

This week's haiku

Rank on faltering
Rank, they stumble to their end -
Wasted wave-fury

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Dark Streets of London

I have never liked London.

There is a pervasive 'darkness' about it for me - 'dark' in a moral or metaphysical sense, as in Blake's "dark Satanic mills"; something so soul-sappingly oppressive that even the brightest weather cannot pierce my inner gloom.

And we haven't had much bright weather these last few days. It's been damp and grey. My memories of London in Autumn and Winter, and much of the Spring, are that it's always damp and grey.

And the wind has more knives in it than in any other place I've been. Hell, I've survived a winter in Toronto, and the wind can be pretty cruel there. I've been in places where the temperature regularly gets down to -20 or -30 C. London, rarely falling below freezing, always seems much worse somehow. The wind and the damp collaborate, insinuating the chill deep down into your bones until you feel you could never get warm again, even on the sunniest beach in The Maldives.

I have a particularly acute experience of this because most of the time I've spent in London, as a law student and later, I've been pretty near penniless, and have thus had to fill my time by wandering the streets for hours on end, gazing forlornly into shop windows and reading restaurant menus for sustenance. During such blank and cheerless days, I was often reminded of one of my favourite Pogues' songs, 'The Dark Streets of London', from their debut album 'Red Roses For Me' (more than twenty years after I first fell in love with it, this is still the album most likely to reduce me to floods of inexplicable tears):

Now the Winter comes down
I can't stand the chill
That comes to the streets around Christmas time
I'm buggered to damnation
And I haven't got a penny
To wander the dark streets of London

All of those memories come washing over me as I walk the streets now. I haven't been so depressed in years. I am desperate to get back 'home'.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In praise of failure

I was just reading a review by Simon Callow in Saturday's Guardian of Tennessee Williams's diaries, and was struck by the playwright's bitter observation, regarding the wilting of his talent in his later years, that he had suffered "a kind of sunstroke under the baleful sun of success".

It seemed to me another odd coincidence (of the kind that are thronging me of late) that I had only a few days earlier come upon this similar complaint by Malcolm Lowry about the downside of having a successful novel. (We should have such problems!)

After Publication Of 'Under The Volcano'

Success is like some horrible disaster
Worse than your house burning, the sounds of ruination
As each roof tree falls, following another faster,
While you stand, the helpless witness of your

Fame like a drunkard consumes the house of the soul
Exposing that you have worked only for this -
Ah, that I had never suffered this treacherous kiss
And had been left in darkness forever
to founder and fail.

Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957)

The tyranny of coincidence

I was talking the other day about tarot cards, and about how, even with the deepest scepticism (and mine runs pretty deep), we can be tempted to ascribe some possible 'significance' to them.

Yesterday morning I suffered a vaguely comparable experience with bathroom scales. The friend I'm staying with in London (a regular - and much appreciated - way-station for me here over the past several years) has an ancient set of scales which I have long been convinced weigh several pounds over the true mark. I was particularly alarmed by the news they gave me when I arrived here on Monday. However - for various convoluted reasons which I needn't go into - I am actually staying this time in his girlfriend's flat (virtually next door), and she has a much more modern (and perhaps reliable?) set of scales - digital readout and everything. They gave me exactly the same reading as the other scales. I am, apparently, above 205lbs (for only the third time in my life)..... and closing in on 210 (which would, I think, be a new all-time low for me; or rather, an all-time HIGH).

Now, of course, they could both (as I fondly like to suppose) be reading 7 or 8lbs high; but somehow the fact that they are both giving me exactly the same readout predisposes me to think that they are speaking an unwelcome truth.

Exactly the same with the tarot last weekend.

We humans are programmed by evolution to seek for and recognise patterns in the world around us. And whenever we see an apparent pattern, we can't help but think that somehow it's terribly important. Most of the time, we're probably wrong about that; but it's hard to overcome the atavistic impulse to believe in the significance of mere coincidences.

"A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with two is never sure."

Unless both watches happen to show the same time - when our watch-wearer will be happily convinced he knows the time exactly.... even though both his timepieces are inaccurate by precisely the same amount.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Funeral poem

My sister-in-law chose this poem to be read by the minister at my brother's cremation service a couple of weeks ago (I gave the eulogy, which is probably the most emotionally devastating ordeal I've ever been through). I hadn't encountered it before, but I can see why it's so popular on such occasions.

Curiously enough, it has become widely-known as an 'anonymous' piece (and was so described on the 'order of service' card at my brother's send-off); although I gather that it is now fairly definitely attributed as an early work of the American writer, Mary Elizabeth Frye.

My sis-in-law was convinced it had been written by a woman she used to know at her church when she was younger. And I'm sure that many other people have been similarly self-deluded that they knew the real author; it happens so easily with 'anonymous' works. I don't like to rob my sis-in-law of her illusions; sometimes it's best to stick with the story we prefer (as I've said before: "Print the legend.").

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.

Still going strong

Despite the recent shortage of blogginess here on Froogville, this is (cue drumroll)...... Post No. 200.

I didn't really expect ever to reach such giddy heights when I first set out on this experiment. I certainly didn't expect to pass this milestone in under 6 months.

How much longer can I carry on? Will I pass 300? 400? 500??

Place your bets.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dabbling in The Occult

A little while ago I happened upon a deck of tarot cards that I had bought as a child (inspired, I suspect, by Jane Seymour's desperately sexy tarot-reading voodoo priestess in the Bond film 'Live and Let Die') but which had lain lost and forgotten for many years.

Since my (so-called) love life is once again in ruins, and since I had recently fallen to ruminating on romances past as a result of last week's reviled V-Day, I decided to see if the cards had any advice for me. I was, I think, prompted in particular by the teasing I received last week from my commenter-in-chief, Tulsa, that I appeared to have my next romantic target already in mind. Alas I do not; I do, however, know several very clever and attractive women in The Unnameable City who might be considered worthy of further investigation in this regard. So, I decided to do 'a reading' on each of them in turn, to see if the prospects were auspicious for transforming a friendship into something more.

And you know what? They were all alarmingly BAD. A few of them were so ill-starred that I was left wondering if the lovely ladies in question had embraced lesbian feminism or been run over by a truck or contracted bird 'flu in my absence - really quite frightening. The one on the girl I would have regarded as the frontrunner (a long-standing but icily discouraged crushette of mine) was not quite that bad..... but deeply unpromising. I was so dejected by this that I repeated the reading to see if I might get a better result. In fact, I repeated it twice - and got almost identical (identically dismal) results each time. Oh dear.

Then, in a moment of folly, having almost run out of 'live prospects' to put through the test, I casually tried out one of my exes..... and the reading was astoundingly positive. I was sceptical, scornful, derisive. I thought I'd try again, to prove it was mere chance, a misleading divination. I concentrated on a slightly different question regarding my relationship with this woman, and shuffled and spread the cards again. Almost identical result. I repeated the process - varying the 'question' just slightly each time - twice, thrice more. All the readings were very encouraging... most of them seeming to trumpet 'love of your life', 'what are you waiting for?', 'strike while the iron is hot!', and so on.

Very, very strange. The Finger of Fate is once again jabbing me playfully in the ribs and chuckling, "Does this hurt??"

And NO, of course I don't believe in all this hokum. But I am intrigued as to how the process interacts with and is influenced by my subconscious (the scope for this is more obvious in the interpretation of the cards themselves, of course; but where, as here, the cards are mostly pretty unambiguous, you start to wonder if you aren't somehow unconsciously controlling the shuffle...).

I am intrigued also by my responses to these stimuli. (It's a bit like using a coin toss to make a decision: if after the first toss you opt for a 'best of three' decision-making process, you realise that at some level you really want the heads alternative rather than the tails that came down - or whatever it is.)

Who are the cards encouraging me to pursue? Will I follow their random promptings? And with what disastrous (or ecstatic) consequences?

Watch this space.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The weekly bon mot

"To believe is very dull; to doubt, on the other hand, is intensely engrossing. To be constantly on the alert is to live; to be lulled into a sense of security is to die."

One of yours, Oscar? Indeed so.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another haiku, for a LOCAL festival

But NO, that last haiku was not the 'haiku of the week'.

No, this Saturday marks the eve of the New Year in the Asian lunar calendar - a huge festival in most places east of India. For a couple of weeks at least, during the main phase of the celebrations, there will be almost continuous explosions of firecrackers - gunpowder smoke shrouds the towns and cities, as on a Napoleonic battlefield. I am not particularly sorry to be missing all that this year.

In the last year or two, a number of other types of firework have been making an appearance too. I have a perverse fondness for the "bunker-buster" - which is no more than a bucket of gunpowder designed to create an enormous percussion wave: it offers no visual pyrotechnics at all, only a dull whuuummp (felt in the pit of the stomach rather than heard) that will set off car alarms for a couple of hundred yards in all directions.

Also, there are rockets. Not terribly good rockets, for the most part. Alarmingly inconsistent. Even the best of them don't get much higher than 100ft off the ground. Some of them limp only a few yards into the sky, before bursting just over your head. On the Lunar New Year's Eve last year, shortly before midnight (as I was on my way to my favourite neighbourhood watering-hole, the 'Haiku Bar') one of these rogue rockets fizzed out of a doorway in an alley to my right and exploded only a yard or two away, directly in front of me, at head height. I was momentarily blinded by the flash, and could have sworn that I smelt my eyebrows singeing....

I commemorated this brush-with-maiming with the following haiku:

Starburst in my face:
Percussive celebration,
Etching braindazzle.

A poetic observation on the wretched V-Day (2)

And another one....

In my new home, The Unnameable Country, as in much of East Asia, they have been growing quite besotted with 'Western' festivals over the past few years; and with Valentine's Day in particular.

Last year, things just got CRAZY: almost every street vendor in the city abandoned his or her regular trade to become a florist for a few days beforehand. On The Day itself, everywhere I went, I saw gawky, spotty local youths lying in wait to ambush their sweethearts (mostly equally unattractive, and invariably squealing in schoolgirly delight) with the obligatory love token - a single (plastic-wrapped) rose.

On my way home from a bar at around midnight that night, I noticed one of these roses abandoned in a gutter. Then another. And another. Four or five in the space of a few hundred yards. I could not help but feel a thrill of schadenfreude.

Hence this haiku:

Valentine failures,
Relics of broken romance:
Discarded roses.

And by the way, I decided then that if one day I finally get around to founding my own rock group, I shall call them The Gutter Roses. A good name, no?

A poetic observation on the wretched V-Day (1)

Strange Trophies

Once I used to know a girl
Who every year on Valentine's
Browbeat her boyfriends
Into giving her a huge bunch
Of long-stemmed roses.

She kept them, year by year,
(The roses, not the boyfriends)
Pinned to her bedroom wall:
Faded, dusty, desiccating -
Like mummified cadavers.

Every year a new boyfriend;
Every year a new bouquet of brittle roses.

This, believe it or not, is a true story - one of my first girlfriends (though I wasn't with her for V-Day, so was spared the bizarre rose ritual. We did, however, stay in touch for many years; so I witnessed the steady accumulation of 'trophies'.).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A (pre-)V-Day frippery

Even without the additional pressure of Valentine's Day, I often get myself into difficulties with my 'romantic interests' through my unorthodox and often dogmatic views on the question of love.

I much prefer the small but genuinely spontaneous, sincerely felt, unique gesture of affection to conventional declarations and presents. Hence I was once - many years ago now - prompted to write this.... to try and get myself off the hook with whoever it was I was seeing at the time (I probably can remember who it was, but I don't feel inclined to tell all of you).

Love Poem No. 3
(all-purpose excuse for alleged oversights
in the romance department)

Do not chide me
That I do not do
As other men do

Consider, it may be
That I feel for you
As other men do not

Valentine, schmalentine!

Oh, god - it's that day again tomorrow.

I have a well-known rant about Valentine's Day, quite the little party piece. I loathe the event from the bottom of my heart.

I loathe not just the tacky commercialization of it (or the increasingly onerous expense... although that can be a factor), but even more the fact that it is in so many cases a form of institutionalized insincerity. A significant proportion (perhaps a majority) of the people who will be exchanging expensive gifts and bandying "I wuv you"s about tomorrow will be doing so almost entirely out of peer pressure - or fear of repercussions from their partner - and not because of any genuine sentiment. Even if genuine sentiment is there, it is easily drowned by all the knee-jerk "romance" required of the day. As far as I am concerned, it is nothing but a farrago of fake emotion.... for people who are incapable of any real romance or spontaneity on the other 364 days of the year.

Naturally, this is an unpopular viewpoint - and I apologise to any of you who may be anticipating a day of ecstatic happiness with your loved one.

Luckily for me, I have seldom been in the position of actually having a girlfriend on St Valentine's Day. And this year is no different!

However, this is a very good time of the year to be single. Partly because other singletons frequently feel the loneliness of their status (some poor souls even feel it as a stigma) more acutely around this annual lurve-fest..... and go out rampantly on the pull to try to rectify the situation. Even more because many of the couples who have followed the (decades old!) conventions of celebration find their relationship strained to breaking point by all the forced lovey-doveyness. Walk past any crowded (and price-gouging) restaurant tomorrow evening and take a peek in the windows: feel the tension in the air, watch the break-ups coalescing over the sickly chocolate puds....

A few weeks post-Valentine's is an ideal time to stop being single. Such at least is my hope!

Another nun dyed the bust

You can make up your own stories to go with this!!

It came from a BBC Radio comedy show I listened to in distant childhood (I forget the name of it at the moment... but perhaps a commenter can remind me), which featured a challenge to its panellists/participants to contrive an extended story leading with inexorable logic to a punchline such as this - not always quite a pun, but a playful variation on (some might say a 'mangling of') a well-known phrase or saying. Hours of fun!

Another I recall particularly fondly was: "This creation is Tibet.... or part of Ella."
(Harder to surmise the story behind this one; something to do with aerial reconnaissance photography and furtive romantic assignations in a dark-room on an RAF station during WWII, I think.)

This game was rather similar to the "Keats & Chapman" stories, one of the regular-ish features in the Irish Times funny column written by Flann O'Brien, one of my favourite comic writers. I don't have time to give examples now; but do go check them out some time.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A bon mot for the week (very slightly early!)

"We'd be a lot less worried what other people think about us if we realised how seldom they did."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Another one bites the dust

Alas, The Artist and I have split up.

Trying to keep the flame alive for the past 3 or 4 months solely by e-mail and telephone had been a frustrating, failing effort - and when we finally met face to face again, well, it didn't take us long to realise that our 'compatibility' was much less than we had fondly been trying to persuade ourselves it was.

Unspeakably bad timing, of course, that I should have to fly to the UK just as she was finally about to rejoin me in The Unnameable Country. Bad timing too that we should be trying to cement the relationship when I am so preoccupied with family problems, so overwhelmed by grief.

Even so, it was something of a shock that things should fall apart within the space of a single weekend. Even in my abysmal 'dating history', that has to be a new low.

Of course, one expects a certain amount of studied eccentricity in creative types, and a broad streak of egocentricity also. I've gone out with enough writers, actresses, musicians to know this only too well. Hell, it is a large part of what attracts me to them. I often find the former quite charming; and can usually at least tolerate the latter. However, I had been hoping - had somehow convinced myself - that The Artist was more down-to-earth, less complicated, less bloody 'challenging' than all of those past romantic interests; less likely to tie my heart in knots than the two Great Loves of my life, The Poet and The Evil One. But it seems I was WRONG. She suddenly revealed this previously unsuspected propensity to downright oddness, which - at least in my current state of emotional exhaustion - I found it quite impossible to cope with. Sigh.

When I whinged to a confidante the other day that I had been surprised and disappointed to discover that The Artist was "95% absolutely lovely but about 5% flaming neurotic", I received the withering response: "It's called being a woman." And before any (either?) of my readers berate me for the possible misogyny of that remark, I hasten to point out that it was my sister-in-law who said this (with a winning combination of mockery and sympathy that very few people can pull off). Am I really too impatient of that little vein of madness that we are all striped with? Perhaps I am, perhaps I am....

Anyway, I think we're both relieved to have wriggled out of the relationship before we got too emotionally invested in it. I hope we can remain friends. (We'd better be able to - since my home, The Unnameable City, is a very small world at times: especially in expat circles, and especially in 'young, free, and single' expat circles!) She is a fascinating and talented woman, and I am very glad to have known her.

Heavens, though, it would be nice, one day, to achieve a cosy and settled relationship with someone. Or at least to find someone capable of doling out sympathetic hugs at the right moment. It doesn't seem like so very much to ask.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Never miss a haiku

Oooh, kind of a topical one this week:

A single mis-step
In emotion's minefield.
Failed relationship!

Snow in February (again)

There's been snow today in the ancestral homeland. (Well, OK, my ancestral homelands are actually northwest Ireland and central Germany, but.... I grew up on the South Wales border, where I am now.) Not anywhere near the 6 or 7 inches that was threatened, but enough to keep the kids off school. And the sky is still woolly with more....

Snow at this time of year seems to be becoming a regular event for me, wherever in the world I may be: this year, Wales; two years ago, DC; last year, the Unnameable City where I mostly reside these days (a surprise last gasp of arctic chill after what had been for the most part an uncommonly mild winter).

One of these unexpected snow flurries last year came in on a Saturday afternoon, blown onwards by such a violent wind out of the northwest (and then trapped in the cul-de-sac of my U-shaped apartment complex) that when it hit the back wall of my apartment, it started flying upwards. Really. Not just swirling and hovering about a bit in the eddies. Positively zooming vertically skywards.

This striking phenomenon inspired one of my 'instant' poems - composed in only minutes or seconds, faster than I could write it down. This doesn't happen to me all that often; but I do find that these are generally the good ones. A year on, I find I still rather like this. Of course, it had particular resonance for me then because I was still painfully recovering from one of the great romantic traumas of my life..... and a whole raft of other upheavals too - work, money, friends - most of them self-inflicted problems, a cycle of craziness that had begun at the end of the preceding October.

Maybe it has particular resonance again now because, in many ways, the last 4 months have again been more 'challenging' than I would have wished....

Well, anyway, here's the poem.

Snow Fantasy

Outside my window the snow
Is falling upwards,
As though Gravity had given up
Or Time were running backwards.

Four months ago I stepped off a high cliff.
How I wish that I could switch off Gravity
Or reverse the flow of Time,
Reclaim those four months of freefall....
Follow the snow home.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A thought for the week (slightly late, but...)

"If at first you don't succeed - give up! There's no sense making a darn fool of yourself over it."

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Elusive Pimpernel

Well, it's not so much me as my Net connection which is a master of the sudden disappearing act. I find, rather to my surprise, that I do have a working computer at my 'family home' (huge thanks to Adam, the IT bod from my late brother's company, who has done enormous favours in obtaining and setting up a 'retired' computer for us). Alas (and not greatly to my surprise), Wales is scarcely more developed than my usual 'Third World' stomping ground, and the Net link here is almost as crawlingly slow and unreliable as the one I have been complaining of there for the past 3 or 4 months.

Perhaps we will get a proper ADSL broadband service hooked up next week, rather than just connecting through the phone. Then again, perhaps we won't.

And I don't have a lot of time for such fripperies as blogging at the moment anyway.

And I have to fight for computer time with my two young nieces.

So, don't expect to be hearing too much from me for a few weeks yet.

Return of the Haiku Man

Don't get too excited: it could be a one-off.

The first place you looked
Is where lost things always hide;
Found the second time.