Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Narnia again

I seem to have walked through the wardrobe and found myself here again. The trees are becoming heavy with snow which is predicted to continue. The BBC weather forecast says the temperature here in deepest east sussex will plummet to minus ten by Friday, which is when we are due to go to London to see son play the romantic lead in West Side Story. The launch of a poetry anthology I was to have attended today has been cancelled because of weather. Leaving aside other considerations I would not, in any case, have been able to get my car out of the road.

I am uneasy in my soul - for other reasons than those listed above, and also for no clear reason, but the wintry landscape does serve as metaphor. It is Narnia in the grip of the White Witch, and Aslan is not in evidence. Of course, this is the real advent experience, everything getting darker and more difficult. It is just at this time (at these times) that you have to light the candle, that substance inside you, the wax and wick of it. I have lost my box of household matches, and here - conveniently - is another metaphor. I do not have the werewithal to light the candle. Well, ok, I lit it from the gas stove, but you get my drift.

There is food in the house, enough for today at any rate, and it is warm here. If I could just get myself out of the cold forest. But on the other hand, I have been there before and know the terrain.

Go deep and you are on hard ground.
You know the way the air grows cold,
it’s always winter and the light burns low
in a single lantern on a post, and you are
lost again. Flame won’t flicker, heart won’t beat.

The wardrobe is dreaming you out, pushing you
from the nest of your familiars to wander in the
dark wood. You have no compass. It is good.
Your breath is white, the ghost of owl calls
from the forest. Who walks in the night?

Friday, November 26, 2010

only human

London writerfriend came for a Brighton sleepover. We had a delicious time - meaning, of course, nice food, including the oyster late breakfast (creme caramel for desert) followed by a beach walk - the sun always shines on these oyster breakfasts and I am thinking there must be some correlation here. Meaning also that we had a delicious time talking about life and stuff - and The Writing. I have given up on Nano in the sense that I am no longer adding up the word count and realising for the second time of trying that pushing myself in that way is incompatible with having ME/CFIDS and is therefore unlikely to work But on the other hand, having a month where one focusses on the novel, or any creative project, is a good thing and potentially sets something up for (slowly) working on - in bed, eating lots of toast (I listen to you, Ms Pants).

I am reading my first Kindle book. I have had the Kindle (birthday present from Mr. Signs) since September but have struggled to find what I wanted and find it extraordinary and frustrating that I couldn't get books by Tim Winton, Marilynne Robinson, Lorrie Moore and various other good, well-known writers. The book I am reading is not a novel but a kind of buddhist self-help book called How To Be Sick by Toni Bernhard. No surprises, it basically peddles the route of acceptance and positive thinking and it is perhaps a measure of how recently clobbered I have been with Symptoms that I pressed the order button for it, having seen it recommended on various sites. But the writer does herself have M.E. and it is strangely reassuring to be reminded of what we are up against and the importance of being kind and forgiving to oneself. I do not accept, though, the notion that when bad things happen there is inevitably some kind of silver lining or higher purpose. Sometimes shit just happens and it is just shit. And sometimes it is right and fitting to give utterance to this in ways that might not seem immediately compatible with Upekkha (equanimity; a mind that is at peace in all circumstances). And I do have a sneaking suspicion that those who continually harp about the benefits of the Ten Steps and things of that kind do perhaps protest too much and that Metta (loving-kindness, wishing well to others and to ourselves) can manifest in mysterious and apparently contradictory ways because, peeps, we are human and therefore complex, innit. I was at a poetry reading the other day, reading some of my own stuff as well as listening to others. One of the readers announced that she used to write miserable poetry until she discovered - well I won't say what, but you know the kind of thing - and now she just writes happy poetry. Nuff said. And another thing. My current Shrink (whose days are definitely numbered), on learning my interest in the teachings of a certain Jeepers of Nazareth drew my attention to the time he threw over the tables of the money-lenders in the Temple, not the first time my attention has been drawn to this when someone wants to make some point about the Son of God being angry and therefore human, just like us. But I prefer the story about when he blasted the fig tree to damnation for not giving him fruit when he wanted it. Now there's a Son of Man for you.

What was the point I was about to make? I have forgotten. And I have a script to read - something devilishly good written by the daughter. Oh yes.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Well, so this is how it is, Peeps - yesterday, intending to put up a small post, I wrote:

"Brighton in winter is lovely. Did I know this? Apparently not, or I would not find myself so surprised by unpeopled beaches, the pristine quality of the cold clear air, a kind of hush over everything that allows the natural world to reveal itself more completely.

I reached the afternoon threshold beyond which new creative work is exceedingly difficult and unlikely. But I did really want those oysters, feel something or other that's in them does me good - and I did really want to get out with the sky so suddenly clear."

And then a pigeon flew into the fireplace - a live, beady-eyed beauty of a bird, Father Christmas in pre-festive disguise perhaps, a winged messenger from the gods, or perhaps even the holy spirit him/her/itself (though it was not white so unlikely). But whatever, a bird. And thank goodness for the fire guard in its place, though we have not yet lit a fire in the grate and had e'en the night before the bird's appearance spoken of getting a chimney sweep in preparation.

Bird and I stared at each other, I in my human fashion, straight on, and bird in its fashion, turning its head from side to side. After a short while it got fed up and hopped from the grate, pushing at the fire surround with its beak and pecking at the ground at some ancient bits of grit. Not being a natural bird-grabber, in spite of having done night shifts on a kibbutz turkey farm years back, I went looking for helpful neighbours and found one in the flat immediate above. He was half way to the shower and late for the dentist but promised he would look in. Meanwhile bird and I communed. I dropped some pieces of bread down, which it snaffled up. The eye that beheld me kept filming over as the head tilted in that suggestive way pigeons have. It was a good-looking bird, but still, I wouldn't have wanted to touch it with a barge pole, I had promised the flat to friends for the weekend and had visions of it flying around the room, bashing into the floor to ceiling windows and crapping on the IKEA furniture. Sweet upstairs neighbour turned up, tried to grab the creature through carrier bags but in the end we trapped it under a waste paper basket and shoved a baking tray underneath before setting it free on the balcony.

Now the thing is, I really do have to Read the Signs in this. My paternal grandmother, a Jungian Analyst, died when I was six and foretold her own death by means of a bird (I don't know what kind) falling down her chimney. In her case, though, the bird was dead on arrival whereas my bird was alive-alive-oh! It's a case of 'physician heal thyself' when a Sign-reader can't read a Sign that literally stares her in the face.

So it's up for grabs. Any thoughts?

(M.E. is being a complete bastard at the moment, btw, and is hating any sniff of sustained creative endeavour. Had intended to bang on about that before bird interrupted).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The writing is going well. I say this based on a good session yesterday when I felt I hit the seam again after much seemingly pointless hacking about. And I reminded myself that meandering digressions, inconsistencies, abrupt changes in tone are all fine while one is at the stage of discovering the story. I have almost completely abandoned the word count thing and my aim is now to simply keep on with this particular idea for the month of November. If I decide to continue with it after that then I will be prepared for it to take a long time. Still working within constraints of M.E. so bursts of energy, if at all, are short and if I don't catch time in the morning then I am unlikely to do it (composition, I mean), later in the day. Evenings may be ok for poetry revision, though, and I have recently done a little of that too. The result - a short poem I am pleased with.

In other, completely different news, I have another little project on the go: briefly, to disengage more effectively with certain people in certain situations; to get myself a set of shiny feathers, the better for allowing negative projections to be water that runs off a duck's back. Small measures, small steps. Any blame knocking around looking for a place to go? We are no longer open for business.

Friends, familiars and gentlefolk - I carouse to your fortune.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cap'n's Log (2)

Things would be easier if Real Life, in the form of hospital appointment, eye infections, empty fridge syndrome etc. did not get in the way of artistic endeavour. To anyone who has recently tried finding a place in a hospital car park - respect, I know what you have endured and wonder if, like me, you have gone through the barrier of one car park, been unable to find a space and then been unable to leave through the exit barrier because you have not paid. But why should you have paid if you haven't been able to park and need to look elsewhere? Not their problem. Not anyone's problem except yours. At reception you have to fill in a four-page form but pootling around in the freezing rain trying to negotiate your way back to the right department (they sent you a letter explaining how to do that but the letter never arrived - not their problem, yours), feeling like Tess of the D'Urbervilles on a particularly inclement day when Angel is nowhere and has in any case dumped you, takes its toll, makes you late and your varifocals keep steaming up. Everyone in the waiting room looks miserable, in spite of the water dispenser (which has in any case run out of plastic cups), and the copy of Literary Review lying next to the Daily Mail. And it does not make the situation any better, here in deepest mid-Sussex, to know that things are immeasurably worse in London. Just saying, because the receptionist told me that, meaning that I should be grateful and count my blessings. I do, actually. Count my blessings. But no reason to tell her that, especially as there was no toilet paper in the loo.

Anyway, back to the endeavour. Eye infection probably not helped by staring at a screen. The writing not helped by it either, so back I go to the notebook and see how the words begin to flow again, probably helped by the company of my two very trusted writing companions, one of whom is also doing Nano. We have decided to do the thing at our pace. Sufficient unto the month the dedication thereof. I will not be aiming to produce fifty thousand words. Today's output was around nine hundred, which is quite respectable.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Nothing is static and I am changeable as the wind, and probably less predictable. Artist's Temperament, as before, meaning it is a smokescreen and of course I know that what Artists actually do is get down to work, and I have been and will. A little more sanguine about the project today, having had a small pause as Son has been here collecting things for his new flat. One needs the pauses as much as the wordage. The characters need them, as we need sleep in order to process almost everything. Nanowrimo does not really allow for pauses, but that's ok. It's about getting a certain habit of working into your system, and it's about naming an objective and overcoming fear. So it's all good, and I say this because it is almost certain that there will be trouble ahead, and I won't want to face the music and dance. But I probably will.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cap'n's Log

I have been clocking up the words so all is, one could say, going to plan. But I am not exactly enjoying the process. Truth to tell, other than the grim satisfaction of updating my word count each time I have bashed out the required number, I am feeling quite miserable about it, and the deeper into story I go, the more something or other (I really don't know what) presses on me and in me. It feels strange and personal, like grief - a big word, I know, but I can't think of another that fits. I have not plotted out my story at all but am writing from scratch, working with an idea and allowing it to unfold as it goes along. But it is not a natural, organic unfolding. If nothing emerges, then I make something happen or find something or other to bring to utterance because otherwise I would fall behind, and I have committed to the game, am playing it seriously. There is a sense, though, that in pushing on in the direction it is going I am leaving something else behind, and that something else may be the real, the actual heart of the thing that first suggested itself to me. I am making myself believe that it (the story behind the story) will hold fast.

And I am very tired. It is tiring to do this every day. No strength to spare and the cupboard is perilously bare.