I haven’t been very active on my blog lately not because of running out of things to say; the world at the moment provides far too many topics worthy of a good rant. No, my silence is due to the annoying habit of the non cyberspace reality poking its nose in! Family ponderings have produced the decision to up sticks and move away from Britain. The forthcoming election and the prospect of UKIP in any kind of coalition with the Tories has reduced my other half to a combination of quivering terror and stirrings of a desire for violent direct action which since he is a Budhist has caused much internal debate and angst. So we are plunged yet again into the process of sorting our stuff – for people who practice non-attachment we seem to have a hell of a lot!
Trawling through one of our many boxes of things that come under the heading of ‘too useful to throw away but haven’t been used in thirty years’ I came across an old diary from 1976 – I’m not good with diaries. I used to want to keep them and I’d start in January with every intention this would be the year I actually was still writing it come November – I never got much beyond March; entries in April were a rarity! I eventually recognised my limitations in my mid thirties and gave up the whole enterprise – I can honestly say I never missed it – this diary must have been one of the last I kept. One of the last entries was in March and I thought I would share it – just because…
“I got very drunk last night so I went to a Turkish bath and this morning I felt better. Then I found someone had stolen my socks. That’s a mean thing to do. I had to be in Court and had no time to go and get replacement socks. It’s very hard to concentrate on making a good case when you know you have to be careful how you sit and stand so no-one will know you are not wearing any socks.”
The only other entry after that was one line written during June when Britain was in the grip of the heat wave “whole City reeks of dog shit”
I hope 2015 is a place of possibilities for each of you a time when your talents and happiness flourish and projects hopes and dreams come to fruition.
Robin in the rose bush
Weather Report for North West England: We had ten minutes of sunshine, it is now raining again and looks set in for the day still we don’t actually have to go anywhere since my other half long ago embraced his femininity and does his Christmas shopping well in advance. We probably won’t stir unless Dog decides he really needs a walk but at the moment he has his ear glued to the sitting room door and isn’t budging.
The sitting room has been commandeered by an outsourced Santa workshop – sounds of activity can be heard behind firmly closed doors. My other half is in day three of his annual present making frenzy (I’m assured he’ll be finished by lunchtime) interspersed with appearances in the kitchen to knead the foccacio bread he is also making. I try to guess what this year’s presents will be from the state of his person, at the last sighting he had PVA glue in his hair and his hands were decorated with streaks of ultramarine. Very Interesting! Cat and dog have been banished for ‘helping’ and have retaliated by sitting outside the door barking (dog) and scratching (cat). These efforts draw occasional shouted ‘f**k offs’ from the forbidden region of the house which deter them not one bit in fact dog regards this as encouragement to bark louder. I’m holed up in my study from which I have to phone him to see if I’m allowed out to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.
Previous years have produced jewellery (I don’t smell solder or the carpet burning so I’m sure that’s not this year’s offering) carved wooden spoons (chewed by dog on Boxing Day, we don’t like to remember that incident) papier-maché objects of various descriptions, hand-made paper, stuff with shells and so on. Clever and inventive my other half but with a tendency to overrun deadlines so we’ve also had pieces of paper with ‘Sorry, your present is still drying in the shed you can have it for New Year’.
Still it makes for a much more interesting time than opening the door to collect the parcel you’ve ordered over the internet and much less daunting than fighting through hordes of demented bargain hunters on whatever this particular day is now called in marketing speak ‘Last Chance Wednesday’ probably, or if Manchester Christmas Market is anything to go by ‘Abandon Hope and Prepare to be Fleeced Wednesday’.
We always enjoy the annual Sprout Fest that is Christmas, being among the one percent of the population who actually like Brussel Sprouts and eat them on other days of the year as well! Shock, horror still now you know how truly eccentric we really are. Another report from the Far Side will follow after Boxing Day when we have recovered from our over indulgence in Nut Roast and Christmas pudding and just before we plunge into the excess of Hogmanay. My other half has now appeared in the study door saying I will be able to come out ten minutes and asking whether we have any sticking plaster. I don’t see lots of blood so assume it is only a minor flesh wound.
Merry Christmas Everyone Let’s hope for a peaceful and happy 2015 for everyone and particularly those who are experiencing war, hunger, homelessness or illness.
i.m. A.H. – Frost Ferns and Winter Iris.
My intention this week was to write about language or more specifically the origins of it. A subject in my mind not completely divorced from my musings last week on the way in which we categorise the world and the need to encourage ‘chaos thinking’. Life, however, as it has a habit of doing, intervened. This week my friend lost her battle with Motor Neurone disease. A battle which she had no hope of winning but which she nevertheless embarked on with determination and humour.
By the hand of fate and the even more inscrutable workings of the college authorities she and I met on our first day at university. We were allocated rooms next to each other on the same stair. We had nothing in common. Freshers are valence electrons in the atomic structure of college and in their excited state they make multiple collisions for a short period of time before losing energy and settling into their ground state. I was no exception; I pinged about the University looking for my orbital. Of the people I bumped up against in those first few weeks I remember nothing at all except that they were the gateways to the people with whom I settled into real friendship over the course of the next few years. The exception was my neighbour on the stair; everything that I was not – an abstemious non-smoker even as a student, politically a conservative, a devout Christian with rigidly orthodox views on sex, sexuality and gender, not given to experimentation of any kind not even hypnosis let alone mind altering substances. She regarded my hobby of rock climbing as proof of lunacy and she made the worst coffee in the history of the universe.
After University our lives followed very different trajectories and since in those dark days there was no such thing as Facebook, we exchanged occasional postcards and even more occasional letters and the odd phone call. We met up at intervals, sometimes with years between them but unlike some people from University with whom I had perhaps more in common our friendship never dwindled to the point where we ceased to be in touch. Whenever we did meet we simply picked up from where we’d left off as though we’d seen each other only yesterday. That is the litmus test of a comfortable and enduring friendship. I saw her a few weeks ago and we sat in her garden talking about this and that and she started making plans that we should visit our old college next year to celebrate fifty years since we met. One of our many differences, she was a great one for college reunions whereas I tend to avoid them like the plague. My feeling about them being that the sort of people who turn up for them are the ones you spent your time avoiding while you were an undergraduate so why inflict on yourself the pain of standing in a room pretending that it’s absolutely great to see them again and they haven’t changed a bit even though they have become rich and successful, lost their waistline, hair or teeth and are wearing garments made of crimplene with elasticated waists – (my partner has made a living will asking to be taken to the vets and put out of his misery if ever he starts wearing garments of this nature; but I digress) My friend obviously reading all this in my carefully neutral expression hastened to say that she didn’t mean an official reunion, just a day out. So we sat there having fun planning what we could do and see, despite the fact that both of us knew that if she was still alive the chances were that she would be too ill to go.
Well this all set me pondering on the reason why our friendship stuck. To begin with it clearly came into the class of ‘friendship by circumstance’ of the sort you make with people such as work colleagues or in our case proximity and a shared kettle. These friendships are genuine but rarely survive the change in circumstances. Changing jobs or moving away, loosens the glue that holds them together and they gradually dwindle and fade. That didn’t happen to us; despite our many differences we had a deep and abiding respect and liking for each other. I realise that we shared one thing and that one thing was sufficient to overcome the multiplicity of things we didn’t have in common. We shared the quality of tolerance, an acceptance or patience with the beliefs, opinions or practices of others; a readiness to allow and embrace difference as a necessary part of being human. Which I realise brings me by circuitous routes back to the idea explored in last week’s blog about labels and the bigger picture. If we’d stuck to labels then we would never have become friends.