Friday, 27 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 12): Highlights 2013.

White lights blink messages of cheer through slivers of curtains all the way up our street. Darkness lives on outside, but his life is shortening day by day.

Christmas is shortening too. The strange world we inhabit for a few weeks every year will soon be over.

Before I sign off these "Daze of Christmas," I'd like to offer some of my highlights from this year (in no particular order) as a way of remembering the past few weeks:


1) A family nativity making day earlier in December.  We spent a few hours with our extended family and this was the result:

Photo: End result.-

2) A Christmas day cycle in the rain!

3) The big issue seller moment.

4) "Attempting" a 1000 piece Christmas jigsaw.

5) A trip to see the film "Frozen" on Christmas Eve. (Olaf the snowman is a hero and legend!)











6) A trip to church on Christmas Day; everyone batting balloons around the hall as part of the service.

7) Seeing lots of family over the holidays.

8) Making a lego helicopter (with my son).

9) Listening to some great Christmas music.

10) Reading my daughter's book "The Guinness Book of Records 2014".


So, with Christmas almost over, what were your best bits?

Finally, thanks for joining me on the Daze of Christmas trip. I hope to catch up with many of you in cyberspace or in real life in the new year.

May God bless you and yours in 2014.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 11): Christmas Eve or Boxing Day?

A while back at work, a few of us asked ourselves the either/or question of whether we preferred Christmas Eve or Boxing Day? I'm not sure what that question suggests about Christmas Day itself, but as I recall, it was a pretty even split with about half preferring the day before and half preferring the day after.

I suppose the choice is between the frenetic anticipation of last-minute preparations for the big day and the feeling of it all having come and gone. How you spend both days might vary at different points in your life too.

Our Christmas Eve evening this year was spent with the kids at the cinema seeing "Frozen". There was an element of magic about the whole trip and real excitement on the drive back home for the final sleep before the big day. Today (Boxing Day) has been less frenetic than the past two days but I fitted in a cycle with my son this morning and a whole family walk around a loch this afternoon. Tiredness is definitely setting in now!

So, what do you think? Christmas Eve or Boxing Day? Which do you prefer and why and how did you spend either or both this year?






Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 10): Shopping on Christmas Eve.

Slowly scanning the glittery shelves, Arnold tried to hide the disappointment in his face. The aroma of perfumes mingled and caught on his throat as a fresh-faced girl of around eighteen approached him.


"Can I help you sir?" she chimed, her head moving in rhythm to her dangling Rudolph earrings.

Arnold spluttered into his white handkerchief but quickly let the twinkle return to to his eyes.

"I was looking for the perfect gift. For someone special. But I think you're all out of her favourite. It's Anais Anais, I was searching for."

"I'm sorry sir. We haven't been able to stock that recently. You could try Boots?"

"Thanks I'll do that," said Arnold.

As Arnold trudged back into the mall, the sound of Jona Lewie was being piped out of a clothing boutique. Arnold imagined himself shuffling along, like in his days of National Service. The Salvation Army brass band outside WH Smiths took up the refrain. Arnold stopped to listen and threw a few coins into the bucket when he moved on.

Nearby, the queue to visit Father Christmas wasn't as large as one would expect on Christmas Eve. Arnold guessed that people had been put off by the snow. Still, the shops were bulging with folk looking, like him, for last minute gifts.  

Reaching Boots, Arnold loosened his tartan tie a little and unbuttoned his top shirt button. It was warm inside; the contrast even more striking because of the bitter cold outside. He'd taken off his overcoat in Debenhams and it was now draped over his arm like a wine waiter's towel. 

Arnold approached the counters and scanned for Mildred's perfume. In his head he tried to recall the many occasions when he'd done the same in the years gone by.

Then he saw it. On the top shelf. A gift-wrapped box set, complete with matching hand cream. It was the perfect gift.

He parted with the crisp £50 note and wished the assistant a merry christmas.

As he wandered out of the store Arnold struggled to push his tweed jacketed arms into the overcoat. Placing the bag on a bench, he wrestled himself into it, till finally he was ready for heading outside.

Out through the revolving doors, Arnold battled against the wind, his boots crunching through the freshly-fallen carpet of snow. In his right hand he gripped the bag and the knowledge of his purchase raised his spirits once more.

Reaching his street, Arnold was suddenly aware of all the brightly-lit windows. A curtain was being drawn in one as he passed. A "Santa Stop Here" sign stood on the front lawn of the next. At number fourteen, they had, as usual, gone for the works: white lights on every bush, a multi-coloured  rope-ladder leading Santa up the wall to his destination and the small brightly lit animals on the lawn seeming eerily quiet in spite of the wind.

Arnold moved slowly up his garden path. In the darkness, he fumbled for his keys. The door creaked open and he battled the wind to shut it quickly behind him.

The house was steeped in darkness. Arnold placed his finger on the light switch.

He slumped into his armchair by the fire and slid his fingers under the gift wrap. Clutching the glass bottle, he sprayed the perfume all around him...

For just a brief second, she was there in the room with him again. 




 









Monday, 23 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 9): your gift..

christmas stalks around:
your present is to live and
grab the chance to give.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 8): December tanka

blustery dusk sends
whistling, swooping, gusting birds
on freshening wings;
            eddies swirl and nestle down
bleak sleeping ground is waking.    




for: imaginary garden with real toads
shared at: poets united

Friday, 20 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 7): Newborn baby

I saw them sitting in the foyer and walked over. Jodie smiled as she always had when she was in my class this time last year. Declan's response was more muted but he nodded in my direction. His way of saying hello.

The boy was signing off from school today. He had turned 16.

His baby, in a cosy blue sleep-suit, looked content in his mother's arms, as he sucked his milk from the plastic bottle.

Framed behind their seat was the school's little nativity scene and its juxtaposition with the little family before my eyes was so striking and obvious, that even I noticed it.

"What you going to do after leaving school," I asked Declan.
"Dunno. Nothing I guess..."

What struck me was Jodie's serenity as she held her little boy. In spite of having her life turned upside down, she seemed as content as the nursing child.

Even so, the last time I saw both of them, they were just kids.

Now they're thrust into the world of parenthood with all its ups and downs... 

Again I thought of  Mary and Joseph, these immortalised superheroes of great faith.

Just kids.

And I thought, to trust the Christ-child with kids is surely the most amazing act of Christmas.  









Thursday, 19 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 6): A Big Issue

She was around 5ft 3in, beige headscarf covering her ageing face, one eye almost closed in a palsied spasm. She looked as if she was of Middle Eastern descent and when she spoke to me, her accent seemed to back this up.

I walked past her. Deliberately moving to the right to ensure that her cry of "Big Issue" hit ears closer to her than mine-to somehow absolve me of my need to get involved. The magazine for homeless people that she was selling would take all of my loose change. Three pounds. I needed that for the car park. Besides I had presents to buy. I nipped into a shop selling odds and ends. I had a few presents to buy-what to get for those who have everything...

The woman's bent and frail shape, bowing under the bitter wind flashed across my mind as I browsed the cosy corners of the boutique.

The voice in my head was shouting. I knew what I had to do, but I certainly hadn't thought it through.

As I approached I remembered I had a £10 note in my wallet.Do it, the voice said, so I did.

Her reaction stunned me. Firstly, she seemed so surprised that I had to take the magazine out of her hands. She grasped the £10 as if it were a cheque for £1million.  She kissed my hand and hugged me, refusing to let go, saying "God bless you," repeatedly in my ear. As I broke free, she took my hand again and this time it was me who was hugging her, saying the only thing I could think of "God bless you too".

 I broke free again and sloped off trying to make sense of an encounter that had left me feeling what I can only describe as "Christmas Spirit".

The whole thing took twenty seconds.Yet, in that meeting, I felt that somehow she had given much more to me than the paltry £10 I had given her. Someone in real need showing real gratitude is a thing to behold.

Driving back, I switched on BBC Radio 5live. Ironically, the programme was being transmitted from a homeless unit in London, which helps to keep people off the streets.  The stories of two homeless men mingled in my mind with the woman in Glasgow, and I wondered how many more there are like them. Those who need what we can give, while we spend to give to those don't need a thing...

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 5): Christmas Movies

http://www.gcu.ac.uk/media/gcalwebv2/glasgowimages/document_919_sm.jpg
Ashton Lane, West End, Glasgow.

Christmas is certainly a time for movies. The collection of festive hits that fill our dvd cabinet include a fair proportion of children's classics: "Miracle on 34th Street", "The Santa Clause" trilogy; "The Polar Express", "Nativity" and "Jingle All The Way" are all there, gathering dust amongst the others.

I find it really interesting that in recent years the black and white classic "It's A Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart has become a must-see for festive movie-goers here in Scotland. A trip to The Grosvenor cinema in Ashton Lane, Glasgow, to see the movie has been part of our traditional family build-up to Christmas for the past few years. Of course, another angel  plays a big part in the storyline, as beleaguered George Bailey wrestles with a monotonous existence, unable to recognise the impact he is making on the life of others until the intervention of Clarence changes all that.

But my favourite Christmas movie isn't "It''s A Wonderful Life". If forced to choose, I'd go for Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands" which arguably isn't a Christmas movie at all.

The narrative is book-ended by scenes of snow and certainly ends at Christmas time. I always choose to study it with one of my High School classes around Christmas to such an extent that watching Edward in action brings a real surge of excitement about the onset of Christmas. Of course, it's the fairytale story of an outsider who cannot ultimately become part of the society that he has been brought into, in spite of the attempts of some to assimilate him into their strategically perfect lifestyle.

Edward's desperate efforts to avoid isolation by relentlessly cutting hedges and hair, and George Bailey's restless desperation at not achieving what he should have, reveal two aspects of the same search.

Both movies reinforce the need for significance and belonging which we all must feel and which Christmas brings firmly into focus.

Perhaps we need to recognise our significance to those in our family and our neighbourhood and our place of work this Christmas.

The world would be worse off without you, as George found out.

Perhaps we should look out for those who might be on the outskirts of belonging at this time of year.

Could you reach out to any Edwards in your life?

Oh, and please, watch a movie or two. By the way, what's your favourite Christmas film?

 


Saturday, 14 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 4): Angels.

So, I'm on a bit of a Christmas voyage just now and trying to find some new meaning for a season that has become overly familiar and a little tired in my mind...

Today, I'm looking at the part of angels in all of this. I mean you might even have one at the top of your Christmas tree just now, (although we've gone for the star option). 

I like angels. They're the soothing voice of the bible story as far as I can see. Self-aware and perhaps even self-conscious about their appearance, they continually refrain the line "Don't be afraid".

Check these out: 
 
An angel of the Lord appeared to him.  Zechariah was troubled and overcome with fear. The angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah!" 
(Luke 1:13)


When the angel entered her home, he greeted her and said, “You are favored by the Lord! The Lord is with you.” She was startled by what the angel said and tried to figure out what this greeting meant. The angel told her,“Don’t be afraid, Mary."
(Luke 1:30) 

Shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem. They were taking turns watching their flock during the night.  An angel from the Lord suddenly appeared to them. The glory of the Lord filled the area with light, and they were terrified. The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid!
(Luke 2:8-10)

Joseph was an honorable man and did not want to disgrace her publicly. So he decided to break the marriage agreement with her secretly. Joseph had this in mind when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel said to him, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife." 
(Matthew 1:19-20)

Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid...

Say it to yourself. 

It kicks off every message that the angels give in the Christmas story. They are words that our anxiety-ridden, worrying world needs to hear. 

Maybe you'll be lucky enough to get a visit from an angel this Christmas, but if not, why not try to sum up the courage to listen to the angels' message. Whatever difficult, unbelievable  journey you face or are facing, don't be afraid. 



Angels

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 3): Christmas Innocence

close your lids;
in a kids'-eyed bid
to restore your mission
(unseen on television);
when the snow was white
(blood in your veins that night),
turn your innocence back,
and trek your Christmases past,
when ghosts who held no fears
said silent, holy prayers,
and all you had was theirs,
and you believed and cared...

the bell has lost its ring,
you don't say anything,
(and Disney does no favours
with gift-wrapped rainbow flavours...)
you watch them drink it in,
and let the sunshine win,
just shut your eyes again,
hope is no cardinal sin...


Posted on Poetry Jam: Magic of Childhood

 

 





Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 2): Introversion at Christmas


One of the most interesting books I've recently read is "Quiet" by Susan Cain. With its tagline of "The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" and its sleek white cover (it draws you towards it subliminally due to its almost invisible title) it makes both a powerful and understated first impression. One that drew me straight towards it on the shelf of WH Smith in Glasgow's Central Station.

Having flicked through the introduction I straight away took the informal introductory quiz. It told me that I was pretty much an out-and-out introvert.


As the train pulled off, having parted with my  £7.99, I was hooked.

So, hear me out on this one if you can.  Ms Cain discusses different levels of "stimulation" which are sought by and which, are needed by extroverts in which to thrive. I'm probably not telling you anything new here, but these levels are much higher than those of introverts. So, while an extrovert might find their "sweet spot" on the dance floor surrounded by strangers and friends and some thumping drum and bass, an introvert may be able to survive these stimulation levels for only a short time before needing to retreat to a more optimal level of stimulation or brain arousal. This might look like a quiet corner with one or two friends having a more focused chat.

The previous paragraph is a woefully inadequate introduction to the book, but I'll link Susan Cain's TED talk at the end and she will enlighten you herself on the power of introverts. Better still, buy the book.

But what, you might ask, has this all got to do with Christmas?  

Well, it strikes me that what we have is a series of social encounters which could challenge introverts and which they may well struggle with. There's the noise and the glitz and the over-stimulation and excesses of get-togethers and  parties and dances and pantos and general brightly-coloured "excitement".

Of course, you already knew all of this didn't you? If you're an introvert like me, then, for sure you were aware of it.

Christmas can be difficult for any number of reasons, but the challenge is how to carve out a meaningful, restful time at Christmas whilst  negotiating whatever else comes your way...

So, what do you think? What are your top tips for a restful, meaningful Christmas? Share your best ways to relax...




Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts








Monday, 9 December 2013

Daze of Christmas (Day 1): Sufjan

"Look at my picture of Santa," says my six year-old holding up a smartly scarlet-suited, jolly St. Nicholas sketched out on a scrap of rectangular card.

I take a look.

"It's great," I say, releasing a smile that transfers from my face to his.

He wanders off as my daughter strikes up "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" on the piano, in preparation for tomorrow's lesson. It's hard not to sing, but I know it puts her timing off and I refrain from my refrain and hold it in.

The tree is up, tinsel and all, presents are being bought pushing up the January credit card bill and I'm wondering, perhaps more than ever, what this festival is all about.

The temptation within me is to endure the season. But, as this is my 40th Christmas, I'm keen to do some further exploration this year. In the next week or so, I'm going to try to post some of these thoughts.

I'll kick off with this.

The Christmas music of Sufjan Stevens has become the soundtrack to all things festive for me in the past few years. His work contains all the elements of kitsch, naff and sacred that mesh themselves together at this time of year. The juxtaposition of these elements create a beauty that manages to still exist in spite of the bizarre background of Christmas and all that it means.  His songs linger over the landfill landscape of stuff that no one needs or (secretly) wants setting us up for a darker new year. He sprinkles mischief, mingling with and poking fun at the meaning we have attributed to Christmas.

 In short, I like Sufjan. He's bonkers and Christmas is too.


Sufjan Stevens









Put the Lights on the Tree

Joy to the World































Tuesday, 26 November 2013

What depression looked like today...

The black creature, looming and ready, came at me just this morning. Now it is nagging and gnawing my insides. It has grown its own arms and legs and is wrestling me endlessly, trying to pin me to the canvas. I try to preoccupy myself. A trip to the bathroom, just to wander around the building... I lock the door to be alone, but I am not alone. I am tottering under the plunging sensation, battling to stand upright as the black one drips silently into my psyche. Trying to remember the rules of engagement, I trot through my mantras-breathe deep; thought challenge; pray. Mindfully walking, I head for the stairs.

Moving on up now, still not out of the darkness, I am aching for exercise to pull the black creature off my back, but I have the rest of the day to negotiate. Class after class. Yet another tedious meeting. Players on a stage and all that...

On the commute home, the black creature accompanies me, adding to the frustration of learner drivers, road-blocks and slow moving queues. I get out of the car, ready to pick a fight with myself.

The cross-trainer and the punch-bag wait for me in the dark, cold garage. Twenty minutes is all it takes, and I have managed to emerge again. Seemingly simple. Good for a couple of hours, but late in the day the black creature tries to re-emerge. All I can mouth are the same words I used this morning: "Father, if it be possible, take this cup from me, but nevertheless let your will be done..."

When the black creature comes on me, like today, it wishes to steal something precious. A part of me that I cannot live without. But I am stronger now. I will defend myself against this invisible onslaught. My grip on hope is vice-like.   

 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Hope Haiku

Resurrection talk
is mouth-to-mouth for all men,
essence of their ghosts.



copyright tutfoundationusa.org


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Make up a song to warm you up on a cold day...

(Just for a bit of fun I made this up this morning for my kids as they were getting ready for school on a wintry morning. We sung it while marching around the house. To be sung to your choice of tune, but I suggest 4/4 time signature. Start tapping your foot and maybe add some finger clicks or rhythms with your hands and it just might warm you up too!)

...
invest in a vest
in a warm thermal vest
yes invest
in a vest
when it's cold.

your right foot
in a boot
your left foot
in a boot
put your foot
in a boot
when it's cold.

fingers love
woolly gloves
fingers love
woolly gloves
colourful,
woolly gloves
when it's cold.

on your head
wear a hat
or at least some kind of cap
on your head
wear a hat
when it's cold
when it's cold
when it's cold....

Wait.

In this moment I am breathing. Breath rises. Breath falls. This is a gift. From somewhere I have been presented with life. In this moment, I am aware. There is movement all around me, but I am silent. I am still. Cars zip past on the avenue, their engines puncturing the quiet. Inside there is a life, or lives travelling. Hurrying. Trying not to miss something. The thing they seek is here, in my breathing. This gift is all we have.

To stop is not to fail. To rest is not to miss out. To be is sometimes enough.

The old book says, "those who wait on the LORD, will renew their strength" 



Thursday, 7 November 2013

human

beside yourself
not quite you
out of your mind
under the weather
getting there
the worse for wear

not bad
but then again

need prayer...





Sunday, 27 October 2013

clocks go back

At this juncture,
every so often,
we let our clocks call out
that time does not exist
and we submit
(allow them power),
to jump-start us into early darkness
bring hibernation to the spirit,
and rise and rest
at the nick of their ticking;

so let the blackness settle
our moods are drawing in,
to hide in caves of comfort,
heating tired feet and minds,
mourning our loss,
afraid to let the light from inside
out,
or celebrate the death of life reborn,
when living through the passing of the night...

Once in a while,
let your clocks go back
and back
and back,
to black and white,
and
listen to their sighs,
read the silence in their eyes,
glean wisdom from the wise, 
who let their clocks insist
that time did not exist...






Friday, 25 October 2013

The One Show 10 word story competition

 Here in the UK, we have a programme called "The One Show" and they are running a competition this week. Write a story in ten words. Sounds simple. I marvelled at the example of  Hemmingway's concise six words which reveal so much with such brevity and poignancy. 

I posted this in case any bloggers fancied entering or trying your hand at a ten word story. I spent much of the afternoon trying to come up with something. It was difficult!

Read all about the competition below:
TV Show · 49,743 likes
Can you write a story in just 10 words?

Richard & Judy are on the show next Wednesday to talk about their search for a new bestselling author. So we thought we’d see if we could find the best writers amongst our One Show audience.

So since it’s said that Ernest Hemmingway once wrote a “novel” in only six words

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”

We thought we’d ask you to send us in your stories in just ten words.They can be in any genre; love, horror or suspense, they just have to be ten words long.

So get writing and send us your very short stories. Send it with your name, age and where you are from. email us on theoneshow@bbc.co.uk or post it here. Get creative....



And, here's my attempt (in less than ten words)

Stars of David surrendered, herded into shower blocks, we...



Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Mediterranean (from this window)

All the while balancing on the tip of a rising, glistening meniscus
biblical trawler boats curve, curl, cut perfect crescents,
lazy tankers ghost the hazy horizon;
a cruise ship steals centre stage, lingering for applause
while piston kayaks power past and
water skiers balance and dance...

A fisherman puffs and casts, connecting into
(waits to heave from)
waves which whirl and weave perpetual tremors,
their unhurried worry lines dissolving into liquid dust
on shingle shorelines,
returning their rhythms to rest;
in travelling to sand,
enticing,
feeding the water instinct
in me.




Saturday, 28 September 2013

Repeat Prescription

fun addict
sun addict
marathon run addict
pain addict
train addict
new muscle gain addict
smoke addict
coke addict
laughter and joke addict
sport addict
port addict

prescribe yourself God.


FIFA addict
COD addict
grand theft auto 5 addict
i-phone addict
wi-fi addict
virgin and sky addict
wealthy addict
selfie addict
trying to be healthy addict
food addict
good addict

prescribe yourself God.

buckie addict
lucky addict
cash in the attic addict
porn addict
scorn addict
sad and forlorn addict
sex addict
hex addict
text and Tex-Mex addict
hair addict
prayer addict

prescribe yourself God.

love addict
glove addict
push comes to shove addict
fitness addict
witness addict
countdown to christmas addict
small addict
tall addict
going to the mall addict
spring, summer,
fall addict

prescribe yourself God

church addict
mosque addict
temple, synagogue addict
hate addict
weight addict
avoiding being late addict
darwin addict
marlin addict
business is the business addict
pill addict
thrill addict

prescribe yourself God...

 

posted on poets united poetry pantry #169




Monday, 9 September 2013

...rejecting the science of love...

shooting out across this space
spun aboard this mirror ball
no thread or safety net
alleviating threat,
just hanging
and 
evolving at the perfect pace
(some say)
to find us face to face;

sure skeptics can believe
we were not meant to be,
a chance encounter
surging from some 
mass
atomic 
spread;
 
but facts are facts:
i am secure 
and you were there
and you are here
for all i know
(words left unsaid)
the world's a snugger place
when tucked inside our room
atop a planet's pirouette 
i wake again
on your side of the bed.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Rain

... pouring rain,
is typing down,
in clicking bursts of
punctuation on the patio
rhetoric in the residue,
letters to the land, 
one question mark
or two...
 
a season ends 
and brings
the fury of the dove
up close again
(send her deep) 

in rainfall 
it's you,
who asks the earth to 
whisper back,
to sleep,
or to remain awhile.
 
perfect rain
casts out fear,
no question asked, 
no quarter given,
aiming shards of deluged heaven
(soak in)
on doubtful ground

and suddenly 
no sound.










Thursday, 5 September 2013

Bolt (100 words)

The gun cracks and fires everyone to life again. The stretched elastic seconds of hush are released. I unfurl my back and my legs piston into motion.  I zone out, channel the crescendo of  voices, the frenzy of emotion and never let go of the line. Colours are liquid, bobbing in the distance and I am moving across my dance floor. I am a hunted gazelle in a cheetah's body rushing to freedom. And all too soon I am pointing. Draping the flag around my shoulders. Joining the party and dancing. Touching skin in a volley of high-fives. I am untouchable.


Photo copyright Daily Mail.


Monday, 2 September 2013

old friends

apparetif voices meet in mid-air
cadence cracked, unbroken,
gushing from well-remembered yesterdays,
before the main dish is served:
an embrace
with a hearty helping of
chatting and cherishing
tasting their heritage:
private punchlines pulled from the past
memories long gone,
supping stories,
turning time meaningless,
eyes go glistening
with a tear or two,
a laugh and a nod,
a sip and a swallow,
of who they were,
forgetting, re-forging,
savouring on their palates
the food and drink
of their history.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

thursday foreshadow

just a
(thought):
who taught the rope
to be taut?

and what if it
forgot?








Note:
This little question came into my head as I went to hang the washing out today. I grabbed my pen and wrote it down and then returned to the job. Mysteriously, after I'd hung half of the washing out, the washing line forgot to be taut and all of the washing landed on the ground! Got to admit, this has me puzzled but in a good sort of way :)

Posted on Poetry Jam
http://poetryjaam.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/poetic-visions.html

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

existentialist chicken question...

Would every single stricken chicken,
feathers plucked and out of luck,
headless,
legs pulled as your lips smack
through another hurried lunch,
prefer to roost
and cluck
and lay
another
egg for you today?






posted on dverse open link night 108.
http://dversepoets.com/2013/08/06/open-link-night-week-108/

Thursday, 25 July 2013

untitled for 27/7/13

you land on
dinosaur feet,
jump
and
clump
through the hall
asking if it's
"morning time"
and so the day
begins
with a tap of my head
a demand to get up
and a reason to live.

as you run
you pull a plastic orca from its slumber
in a wicker basket of concealed anarchy.

(i pray that your eagerness is
not
biodegradable
like mine.)

rushing to your place
a little chair and table
(fodder for a future car-boot sale)
you wait
for
weetabix and shreddies
and disney junior
to swirl together in the milk of
your morning,
before
moving into adventures of
knights, pirates, shark-hunters, monsters.

drawing your masterpiece
you talk and talk.
and ply my mind with:
"were computers wooden in your day?"
and
"who was the first prince?"
and challenge
misconceptions
that have been set
these forty years.

and on
you dance
and hug or
sumo-wrestle me
and
stagger me,
through my days.

stay eager and alive
searching, healthy in your mind,
whoever you become:

you make me prouder
than perfection could,
you are my son.







Monday, 8 July 2013

Wimbledon 2013


greyhound of the grass,
chasing down lost causes,
a serving, sprinting, sliding,
soft-handed survivor,
never giving up,
son of Dunblane,
making angels smile,
a British, Scottish superstar
not in it for the money,
shifting left and right, forward, back,
a human cursor chasing a ball at will,
tenacious to win,
turning round bad situations,
a championship point drama king
of the court,
with a history lesson
for children to believe in,
kindness in that smile,
making us proud:
Andy Murray.






Friday, 14 June 2013

still point

on these silent isthmi
between
inhalation
and exhalation
i will rest
on dry ground
where,
neither here
nor gone,
i can
wait to be.

extending
rest
between
the
plunging
bellows
filling
falling
filling
falling.

still birdsong fills
this non-life
trilling on;
cars high-hat through
the waiting loop
but
i will tarry on
this grace note,
slow this
intersection
of the blues,
if only i can
think of
you.




Friday, 17 May 2013

Cloud My Vision

                                                                                                                                                    
cirrocumulus stratiformis
accumulate like cotton balls
and
stretch
and
knit 
and jostle-stitch
across the woollen skies.

no audition
held;
just met and
in the spotlight swept,
brief cameo of layers
of white puff pastry players,
they curl their hair,
slip-slide their way through
audience's stares.

shapeshifting,
weightless,
lifting
goes their perfect guest appearance,
momentary
beauty in the air,
no airs and graces,
standing on occasion,
no waiting for ovation.



photo: wikimedia commons












shared on poets united, poetry pantry #150

Monday, 13 May 2013

writer's block

Stalling for time
fingers on the buttons
in a fugutive stake-out;
ready for what's coming.

Like funeral chit-chat,
small talk
slips
from preoccupied lips;
///////////////////////////////////
but
////////////////////////////////
when my mind has this
/////////////////////////////////
blip
///////////////////////////////
I can't talk
/////////////////////////
for
//////////////////////
shit.
///////////////////






This is my hundredth post. It's been a fallow time recently but hopefully inspiration will be just around the corner :)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

such a winter

white witchcraft winter
chosen frozen limbs
deliver
daily december
to grey gloomed Denethor
in such a time as this.

taut and icy mind-map,
web of willful wilting,
seeming endless morning
carrion crow creeping
under door-frame,
seeping
curtaining the darkness,
lilting,
willing
to sickle this sickly psyche
hammering hindsight
to the forefront
of a thawing, thriving mind's eye,
glimpsing its twenty-twenty mission.





shared with poetry jam-carry on

Monday, 8 April 2013

St Andrews Days





i) prologue:
learning the f words 

forget fear
forge fun
for everyone's sake
forgo failure
find the faith
for your feet
and run...


ii) my two figures

fresh in the afternoon sun
a glimpse of spring has sprung
and
my two figures go skipping
down
a pine tree avenue
bouncing the ball of childhood
jumping shadows shaped by light,
lightly tripping leaves and moss
and tree root fingers shooting through
away away from me they go,
always
racing on to grow.

iii) postcards home 

bones of the brother
brought to Christ
         ***
martyrdom stories
come to life
        ***
fifty-two types
of flavoured ice
(entice)
         ***
twice Tom Morris
rests in this ground
       ***
ping of the oldest
swings in town
      ***
castles of sand
built up washed down
     ***
east and west shorelines
surfboards speed
     ***
Swilken Burn bridge
crossed by your feet
     ***
sniper gulls glint
(a) beady-eyed greed...
   

iv) you hovered on the water

last night i swear
your whisper slipped the waves
reverbing a prelude long gone
as you hovered on the water
shaping shells and
tipping tides in truth
i heard you share and rush the shore
the sculptor, potter, artist, singer,
writer, painter, universe maker
you hovered on the water
and let me listen.


NOTE:
Our family spent the weekend at St Andrews on the East Coast of Scotland. I came across this quote at Kellie Castle near Pittenweem, by renowned Scottish sculptor Hew Lorimer. It seemed a good one to me, in light of poem iv above:
"I came to see that human is not what is paramount in the creative process; what is paramount is ‘The Creation’ and He who created it, and that what the true artist is expressing is not himself but his response to the eternal process of creation"

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Big Society

pacing the halls,
finger in the walls,
i'm
papering the cracks,
still
breaking on the back
of your fathers' tracks,

...and so you lack
the drive to fly,
the tremors ripple in your sigh:
a seismic shy
or play the angry guy,
no matter
i will see you through
the piercing,
screaming
new tattoo,
you live to lie,
you've learned what's true...

we're more alike
than you will know,
the cracks appear
and
grow
and
grow...


Written for Poetry Jam: Castle of Glass which uses this Linkin Park song as the theme for this week:







Saturday, 30 March 2013

Easter Musings

Easter Saturday.

A day of waiting.

But late on Friday there is motion. The pulling together of the ties of religious order before the Sabbath brings the need to hurriedly remove bodies from their crosses. There is urgency in the speed of Joseph of Arimathea's request to Pilate to move the body to the tomb. Even the two women find they are unable to take their spices to the dead man's body because they might encroach into the hours and strict observances of what can and cannot be done on the Sabbath. And the conspiracy to murder is forgotten by all those who recognise that religion must be observed. The hypocrisy seems clearcut: we've just made sure that an innocent man is brutally, savagely, ripped apart, but we'd better do our utmost to ensure that the Almighty is pleased with our worship by following a set of dos and donts...

It's easy to spot hypocrisy. We all see it in someone else.

Anyone who claims to be religious will, to a lesser or greater degree, trip up before long. Some in outrageous, newsworthy ways. Others in the privacy of their own conscience.

Perhaps it's best to admit it. Get off that high horse. No amount of ritual can make me perfect.

Maybe that's the real message of Easter. I can't actually do this by myself.

It has to be taken care of for me...



 



Sunday, 24 March 2013

Simple Pleasures #3

Watching Snow

At night, watch it steal from a grey, leaden sky into a quiet cul-de-sac. Stealthily painting pavements and cars with its purity and piling up potential energy for a child's morning pleasure. I love to watch the streetlamp's illumination of constant falling snow, magically backlighting the main event. Snowflakes are beautiful and when they cascade from the sky, I find them mesmerising.

When the house is at its quietest late at night you can find me staring through a window hoping for falling snow. Round here, you might catch sight of a fox padding its way through backyards leaving its rounded prints as a reminder that it was around, looking for a scrap. Those kind of prints are fine, but I dislike footprints, even my own, spoiling the untouched white landscape after a flurry of snow. When it starts to melt or it becomes a little muddy, I can't help but feel a little disappointed...

Say what you like about snow (and I've spent more than my fair share of time shovelling it across my driveway) but I still think it's a simple pleasure. But enough about me. What are some of your best memories of snow?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Simple Pleasures #2

The smell of sun-tan lotion

I'm sure it's happened to you. You twist the lid and hold it near your face. It might be a wet and windy Glasgow evening, but suddenly you're transported back in time to that beach in the south of France. You might be soaking in Seattle, but your senses are sizzling in the Seychelles.The tiny specks of sand around the bottle neck only confirm that you're actually basking in the mid-afternoon sunshine. You can almost hear the waves crashing to shore...

Now, you may be pulled back to reality almost instantly, but isn't there something magical about this kind of time-travel? A fragrant De Lorean voodoo that can send your worries scurrying for a split-second? Let's give a standing ovation to the olfactory perception that sun-tan lotion or sunscreen can bring us. It's a simple pleasure. Have you been taken on a journey by your sense of smell recently?

Monday, 18 March 2013

Simple Pleasures #1

The perfect view

 I remember being stopped halfway down Polnoon Street in a nearby village called Eaglesham. Temporary traffic lights had been set up and I pulled the handbrake on. I'd never have stopped at that point otherwise. Framed through an overhanging oak, I glimpsed the perfect view of fields stretching in a patchwork of green far off into the distance.

When we glimpse the perfect view, we're momentarily transported. Eyes shift off ourselves for a second and onto something much bigger, beyond our tiny lives. A view can bring calm and tranquility. It's a simple pleasure. Keep your eyes open and maybe you'll see the perfect view today. Let me know if you do...



Sunday, 17 March 2013

A day in Crieff

The day begins. A tiny shaft of light spears across the ceiling and my ears open to the muffled, relentless delivery of the news reporter. His voice is coming from the next room. It strikes me that, whilst I can't make out his words, he has an awful lot to say at this time in the morning. His urgent intonation emphasises the importance he's giving to his thirty seconds of air-time.

I reach for my watch from the bedside cabinet.

7.55

My wife is still asleep. Our room, on the top-floor turret of Crieff Hydro in Perthshire, Scotland, has been specially chosen for my 40th birthday. It shapes out into a three window bay which looks down on and  across the surrounding countryside. Pulling the curtains apart I am met with a magnificent background vista of sweeping hillsides as far as the eye can see. Rolling mist forms the centre of the shot, whilst  the little town of Crieff makes up the foreground.


The hotel opened in 1868 as The Strathearn Hydropathic Establishment Company under the management of physician Thomas H. Meikle and looking down on the surrounding countryside, his choice of location must have factored in the health benefits of such a beautiful landscape upon its visitors.

Soon we are enjoying another window seat in The Meikle Lounge for a fantastic cooked breakfast. Maybe not so healthy, but certainly enjoyable.

Next stop, bizarrely,  is the chance to try out a two wheeled Segway on the ballroom dance floor. Despite my wife's calls for more speed, I'm happy to manouevre the boards with a slow elegance. Maybe I'm imagining the Segway is Ginger Rodgers or is it that I'm just scared that I might overbalance?

We head out as light snow begins to fall, icing the shrubs and trees as we squeeze together under the umbrella, glad to have put on warmer footwear. After a mile or so, we end up in the Clubhouse Cafe sipping hot drinks and reading the morning papers. To my right, another large bay window reveals the mist's descent to lower levels, but from the window to my left I have a perfect view of the clear eighteenth green and fairway stretching uphill away from it. We sip our tea and hot chocolate, interpreting, misinterpreting and laughing over a guide to improving marriage from a Saturday supplement in The Times as golfers pepper the green with various degrees of accuracy.

By mid-afternoon, we are relaxing in the hotel's Victorian Spa. It's a child-free oasis, hidden labyrinth-like in the basement of the hotel. As we descend the stairs, having parted with our entrance fee, piped music immediately readies us for a restful few hours. Despite its name, the spa has Roman marble decor as well as Renaissance-style frescoes on its ceiling. The glistening pool is mesmerising and the sound of jacuzzi bubbles merge with calming melodies and restrained voices. Soft low-lighting emphasises calm and the absence of hurly-burly.

Three hours pass.

(Steam room. Swim. Sauna. Shower. A drink of lime cordial. Bubble pool. Swim. Sauna. A coffee. Dipping into a Paulo Coelho novel. Eyes closed for a while. Another swim etc etc.... )

Bliss.

All is well with the world.

A perfect evening meal at the Brasserie follows. Time wanders past. After some good food, chat and people watching, I'm left with that feeling of having over-eaten.The pleasant sensation of sleepiness creeps ever closer and we are soon tucked under the covers where our day began. Turning forty is not so bad thanks to a day in Crieff.

(Our turret room is up there in the background. We were looking
out of those three windows at the top.) 

Monday, 11 March 2013

Last Time Thirty Something.

skirting the thirty zone
for the last time today
clouds opened
eddying Tim Burton sprinkles
of swirling snow
through a sky
new as blue
transported and transcendent
freed inside Caliban's Dream
to feel the health of God
on this dissolving mind,
shoring down
in cascading waves
of fairytale white,
whispering
warmth upon this
cracking shell
a truth to tell: be not afeard.



Note: Inspired by a magical moment I had whilst driving to work today watching a spring/winter wonderland and listening to Underworld. It was a good way to bid goodbye to life as a thirty something.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

sign on the door said...

gone out for a while
so don't wait up
scratching the surface of
bamboo and dirt;
soil under fingernails
won't come clean
and
dead, like a battery,
in a cell-phone fatality,
drain the mind off his back
where it cannot be seen.

plugged in and charging
loading, rebooting,
an avatar sabateur
just got him motoring
slow to assemble,
but
quickly resembling;
he faces familiars
redressed in this groundhog
shell,
under the poison tree
discotheque monastery
with
closed-circuit liberty
yelling its knell.




Posted on Poets United Poetry Pantry 141


Postscript:
This poem partly inspired the latest
poem by The Unknowngnome
"Untitled, March 08, 2013."
Read it here.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Monkeylands

In 1978, Ford Cortinas roamed freely around these streets. Ten a penny, a couple could lurch past you before you blinked. 

But on one cold winter afternoon near the end of that year, a Ford Cortina didn't go past Mark. Dark blue and merging with the dusk, it stopped at the side of the pavement for him...               

           ------------------------------------


"You coming to Monkeylands after school, Mark?" 
Kenny Fox whispered it just loud enough for Paula Martin to hear. Her giggle stifled like a trapped sneeze. Foxy was always trying to impress somebody.

The teacher's voice trailed into the distance as faces around the rectangular group of wooden desks shared a look. A look that Mark tried to ignore. A look that meant they all knew that Mark was never allowed out to play after school.

Foxy's question sat at the front of Mark's head all afternoon. Doing his maths workbook wouldn't shift it. When Mrs Lindsay told him off for day-dreaming, he still couldn't concentrate.

Because today Mark knew something else. He knew that his mum had to work late. She wouldn't be back until 5.00. He worked out that he could easily make it back home before then...  

Many times Mark had pleaded with her to let him go. Literally begged. In response her words had always been set in stone: "Too dangerous. You never know who's hanging about there, son." His dad had never been approachable either. In truth, Mark was not usually allowed out of his parents' sight. Aged ten and he felt like he'd been under house arrest his whole life. 

But this afternoon he was going to Monkeylands.

And then a passing blue Ford Cortina was going to slow down at the kerb. Its door was going to open and Mark was going to be taken away...

It was a strange name. Monkeylands. Mark often wondered about it. Played it over in his mind. In primary three, he remembered thinking there might be actual monkeys there. The thought still made him cringe with embarassment.  

Back in his day-dream, Mark decided that he'd simply surprise Foxy, Paula and the others. A picture developed in his mind. He'd saunter up, all casual, and act as if it was completely normal-that he came to Monkeylands all the time. They'd welcome him like the home-coming hero. For the first time, he would belong.

Suddenly the bell shattered his imaginings. Swirls of children cascaded down the stone steps and into the playground. They snaked across the cement and gradually broke into smaller groupings. A couple of boys with blue snorkel anoraks tracked along the white netball lines. They skillfully kicked an Irn Bru can between them. Some girls chatted about the new John Travolta film that their big sisters were going to see. 

At first, Mark found himself being pulled along in the excitement. The steady stream of children flowing out of the school gates eventually became a small trickle. Mark held himself back deliberately to let the others go ahead. He came out past the orange brick gates. As usual, he walked alone.

Hands in his pockets, Mark began to saunter down the hill. It was the opposite direction from his usual walk home.  He glanced at the fussy white bungalows on the opposite side of the road, before his attention was captured as he came alongside a football pitch.

The Ashy was imprisoned by a high metal fence. He'd heard talk in the playground that after school, some older kids sneaked through the broken metal at the bottom of the fence to have a kickabout. As he walked, Mark saw some guys going through. Hearing the ping of the ball against the fence behind him made Mark wish that he could join in the game. Instead he treaded on.  The Ashy melted into the background, to be replaced by row upon row of four-in-a-block houses. 

In time, Mark's footsteps began to drag. Lights were being turned on in cosy-looking front rooms. As Mark peered into one, the curtains were magically drawn.  He began to question himself. What was he doing? What would happen if his parents found out? His earlier bravado, imagining the Clint Eastwood arrival was vanishing into thin air with each heavy footstep. 

Already darkness was beginning to settle itself around the backdrop of houses. After the next block, up to the right, was Monkeylands. Mark stepped off the pavement as if he was part of a chain gang. His heavy feet waded past the final house and its tall spindly hedge. In the space before the next block began was a muddy path that led to his destination. 

Monkeylands was two hundred yards away from Mark.

With his feet squelching, Mark approached the iron gates. Flaking green paint barely covered the rust that was spreading all over them.  The dusk, in its silence, was giving up no ghost of conversation.

Passing through the gates, he panned the landscape from left to right.  And what he saw brought only disappointment.  The sniggers, and the look that Foxy had given Paula came flooding back. It all made sense.

Monkeylands was nothing special.  Some broken glass on the ground; a grass verge sloping up towards some back fences and another line of houses. A clump of trees to the left.  A wasteland.  Immediately Mark knew that no one in their right mind would want to come here on a night like this. The joke was on him.

As Mark was about to leave, he sensed movement from behind the trees. When he had back-peddled to the iron gates, he turned to see a stray dog lolloping off, being sucked away into the darkness. As he exhaled, his breath plunged a puff of fog into the blackness of night. 

The streetlamp ahead was already surging with a blazing red buzz. Mark followed the path, not caring how muddy his shoes were becoming. He reached the hedge, relief and disappointment battling inside him for home advantage....

It was not the high engine revs of a gear change that warned him. The squealing of the car's brakes it was that made him turn his head. The Ford Cortina came to a standstill and the passenger door was flung open. 

Watching from behind a nearby curtain a young girl saw the driver's mouth move. It spoke a single phrase.  In one movement, the front seat collapsed forward. An arm grabbed for Mark, its fist clamping round his wrist and pulling him into the back of the Cortina.

The engine flicked back to life and the car slithered on its way. Through rows of parked vehicles. It passed the Ashy and the school. Huddled in the back seat, Mark saw his journey to Monkeylands flash by in reverse. When the car reached a give-way intersection, Mark dared to look up at the rear-view mirror. Black eyebrows twitched briefly in his direction; then refocused on the road.

The rhythmic click of the indicators jabbed the silence as the Cortina glided on through these streets. At a bus-stop, animated, head-scarved grandmothers did not stop their conversation. But in the back of the car that passed them,  Mark shook silently.

When the car came to an abrupt stop on a cemented driveway, the shaking stopped and Mark glanced up. Tears were washing through his eyes.  

"Into that house. Now." A black expression. A threatening voice.

Mark squeezed himself cat-like through the Cortina's open door and thought about running. As if reading his thoughts, his dad moved between him and the pavement. For Mark, there was to be no escape... 




(Monkeylands was shortlisted for the Eileen Gilmour Award for Creative Writing in June 2012)






Saturday, 2 March 2013

kingdom

a tree for birds to shelter
stems from the smallest seed
            ***
and bread to stuff the starving
swells steadily with yeast 
            ***
there's gold for any digger
who cares to probe the field
            ***
the bargain of the century:
the pearl that seals the deal.





The Gospels are full of stories and I found four of them told in quick succession. I tried to put in them in a short two line form of seven syllables (mostly), followed by six. The second line had to be shorter than the first to fit in with the idea of a kingdom growing from something small.

Posted on dverse: Poetics. An Evening of Short Verse

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Tube Ride

Dragging a bag containing small trinkets, memories of the old life, Osler trudged across the platform.  They scraped and clanked with every step. Osler liked the noise and began to readjust his steps to move in time with the rhythm being produced by the holdall. A kind of primitive techno; a soundtrack for his subsidence.

Osler waited for the tube. He stood beside a poster exaggerating the sexual allure of men's deodorant.

The tunnel began to whistle and a crisp packet was blown upwards as the careering train arrived. A  squealing crescendo. Then, with a pffssht of the doors, suits exited and were instantly replaced.

Osler took his seat. He knew the rules. No eye contact, far less staring. He wedged his bag between his legs and closed his eyes. The train bumped on. Osler counted the stops in his head.

Four more to go.

He felt a tug on his trousers.

Through one eye, he could see that the boy was peering into the tiny opening at one end of the bag's zip.

"What's in there mister?"

Who was he with? Osler peered round. No one between the boy and the next handrail. Eyes were averted as if they hadn't noticed the boy's question. No one was claiming him.

Again. "What's in there mister?"

What was in there? How to answer that?

Default: "Nothing."

Osler closed his eyes again. Hoping for peace.

Again the tugging.

"Are you going on holiday, mister?"

Osler noticed the boy's keen eyes. Eager and blue. Dimpled cheeks. Blond hair. Looking for something.

"No."

"What's your name, mister?"

"Osler" said Osler.

With a sigh, he let him in. "What's yours?"

"Toby."

Osler nodded. The question was enough. The boy eased himself back against the faded velvet seat. The train gargled on, spitting out and re-swallowing passengers until Osler reached his stop.

The doors opened and he was gone.

Toby watched him disappear through the dirty perspex as the train fast-forwarded and was sucked into blackness. In the dull light, the boy quickly unzipped the bag.

Half a mile back, Osler escalated into the light and breathed the fresh air of spring.