Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Hitting the keyboard

Weeeellll I had my first piano lesson ever last night with my marvelous teacher Rebecca. After 45 minutes I could begin to use 5 fingers of my right hand to play notes and I could begin to read music, cope with beats to the bar and mostly stay relaxed.

This morning first thing I did my first ever piano practice. So what you might think but as I have earlier blogged I have had a real problematic history with music teachers and self confidence.

So Grace and I are talking duets for the family at Xmas! The first one planned is a copy from Elmo where you sing repetitively one word to a well known Xmas tune - I'll try and get me and Grace on youtube doing this. More ambitiously, Grace and I would love to duet on the Pets Red letter Day (I blogged about that song recently). "Oh no!" exclaimed Sheila at the prospect! It's tough being the partner (and mother) of a Pethead!

Talking of the Pets I found a hilarious clip mentioned on their website (- - their jube box is great). The clip features the phone jacker.

Best to all,

Bill on bike and loving the spring sunshine

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Old Admirals

There's an Al Stewart song with lines that go "The saddest thing to be/Old admirals who feel the wind/And never put to sea". I remembered this line on the bike this week feeling the pull to cycle and cycle. I cycled to Altincham, on to work, on to Dee's and back home about 22 miles. I felt a bit cream crackered(!) afterwards and a bit sore in the legs the next day but good to do.

My dad was a sailor in the Second World War but he never wanted to mess around in boats afterwards apart from the odd fishing trip and a couple of cruises up the Norway coast - which he called his 'spiritual home'. When he retired at 65 he did very little apart from taking over cooking from my mum, she hated cooking, he enjoyed it it was a shame it happened so late on. But he said he didn't want to weave baskets or stuff like that. So his 25 years in retirement seemed pretty dull to me.

That frightens me! I want to carry on feeling the wind and putting to sea. I mean doing stuff that I love. My fantasy retirement is doing even less of what I don't like and even more of what I do, all within what is possible.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

On being open to the possibility...


I was talking with Dee about how I teach, supervise, counsel, hang out with people. When I am working I aim to be competent and I try and arrange things so that I can give of my best, the more present I am able to be the better it usually goes. So I do the 'office politics' to bring this about as best I can, ie to spend as much time as possible on the things I enjoy doing workwise. At times it is a challenge to run my agenda in harmony with my that of colleagues, managers and the institution at large but I have some nouce on this.

Sometimes things seem to go really well, like they are functioning on a different level or state of consciousness. Unfortunately I don't have control over this, can't turn it on or off at will, it is not really about me. I can get out of the way, let it happen. I can be open to the possibility of things being better than usual as I put it to Dee.

But if I am not truly responsible for when things go amazing well am I responsible for those few occasions when it goes not well. I feel so. But sometimes I find myself with a group that is not receptive to what I am trying to do, or we don't gell or whatever. I seek to minimise these experiences to use my skill and nouce so that the conditions in which this can occur are infrequent. And I am human!

Post me on this stuff if you connect with it.

Best to all,

Bill on bike and enjoying the spring sunshine today.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Bike Cycle poem


The genesis of this cycle of poetry is curious. Christmas 2006 I decided to once again write a novel. I had what I thought was a good plot about a middle aged man who disappears on his bike(!) So I set to and wrote the first few pages or chapter one of the book. It did not feel at the time like it was working out. So I threw aside. But recently working on the poems about my Dad’s war stories I that I had written them in the same book. Out of curiosity I re-read the bike writings. ‘Heh I quite like this’. So my daughter Grace once more found herself listening to my writings. She was definitely impressed and that says something, she can be my hardest critic. It seems I either have a short story or a long poem here. So let’s try it as a poem


I was cycling
I could cycle all night …
I could
Damn it I will …
It’s effortless and my legs are hungry to travel
I am hungry, damn near anorexic, to travel …
Travelling South
all the time
with the North Pole Star behind
Playing head and seek with the clouds.

It’s darker now
It must be midnight
I will go on for ever
Maybe I will
Maybe I’ll cycle until …
I run out of land.
Cycle across the sea
Across Europe
Across Africa
To Antarctica
Always cycling.

I can leave it
All behind me
Be free
Cycling all ways
Into the night
Into the dark
Travelling South.

I am hungry and
Smell fish and chips.
It’s a great smell
A smell from my childhood
Of Friday nights
And happy families.
It’s an old fashioned chippy
And it tastes great
I wolf it down
And follow it
With a coke.

You might think
I planned this
But it is not
I don’t have
my passport with me
For a start
So there’s a decision there
That I have to face
To go back
Where she is
To pick it up
OR stop
When I reach the coast.

I have got
My wallet and credit cards
And that’s it
Apart from this bike.

I was on my way
to my therapist’s
And just decided to
Carry on cycling.

It’s cold now
But the cycling's easy
I feel warm enough
Just pedalling and …
I don’t want to stop.
When I stop
It will all end and …
I have only just begun.
I have only just begun to
Be me
And …
I can’t turn my back on me
Just now
So …
I have to cycle.
I cycle therefore I am.

You might think
I am cycling away
From something or someone …
Home … work … family… and so on.
It is not that
I am cycling to be.
I am not going anywhere
Well I am
But it is more
I am becoming
As I cycle
I feel like I am growing
Beginning to fill my skin
Fill my body
For the first time ever.

I am travelling towards my becoming
I can’t stop
I dare not stop until …
I don’t know until I know …
Who …
I …
Am …
And …
That …
I …

It’s funny
I am near Nailsworth now
Not where I expected to be
Not where I planned to be
But it is not a surprise
It’s almost dawn now
And …
I am hungry again and tired.

I smell a bakery
It’s not really open
But they are willing
To sell me some …
Bread rolls and …
Sausage rolls and …
A Cornish pasty
So I am happy
But thirsty
And then find a newsagent
Where I buy a cartoon of milk.

I am so near the cemetery
And find the tree
She is buried under
In the half life of dawn.
I stand there in silence
I don’t have a prayer
Only memories of what was …
Her too early birth and …
Too quick death and …
The pain, the tears and …
The pain and the numbness
Still lingers in my heart and belly.
I have to honour her with some flowers
Some tiny Freesias
From a nearby shop
Paid with my credit card.

Time to cycle on
My legs are
A bit tired
And weary
But I soon reach
A steady rhythm and
The miles past by.

Thanks to my readers!

Bill on bike

Thursday, 10 April 2008

The pull of the open road


great day for cycling, the sun is out and there is just the hint of a nip* in the air. It's a day to hit the open road and cycle and cycle and have a nice picnic lunch on a seat on a village green... but I am only just back at work with a shedload of work to do but at least some of it is pleasurable. Yes! you can enjoy work and enjoy it without being a masochist...

* I resisted the temptation to make a joke about Kamakasi Japanese airplanes! Working on the poems about my Dad's Second World War experiences and recalling many conversations with Fenia my Greek colleague I realise that how marked I am by the Second World War. This is because my Dad was so marked by it. In his case it got worse as he got older - more grief for dead comrades, the telling, re-telling and re-re-telling of his war stories some of which I wrote about/turned into poems.

When I flew into Moscow 2 years ago via Frankfurt I had visions of waves of German War planes and then when I got to Moscow there were many memorials to what they call the Great Patriotic War but also memorials about Napoleon's invasion of Russia. All that stuff is still very real to them. So the anti Japanese and anti German humour is partially an expression of anger that has been passed onto my generation. My dad started telling me his war stories when I was only 13 in late night sessions over a beer. I guess this was part of my training for warriorhood, to be the next generation of fighters. Well I went the other way. I am not sure what I would have done in 1939 or when we next face (civil) war in Britain BUT meanwhile I am all for promoting peace...

Meanwhile I feel great to be alive, more than that I am thankful for my existence, each day for me is a blessing despite or perhaps because of everything. I am so thankful for my health and don't want to waste any minute and drop of time, any drop of life. Who knows when it will end? I can't promise myself I will be here tomorrow nor can any of us so meanwhile enjoy what we can.

Best to all,


Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The poetry of the Pets

Hi, well not many of my friends share my love of the Pet Shop Boys even though the one of the Guardian reviewers compared them lyrically to Noel Coward. I really like Neil's kind of semi detached way of singing and lyric writing. He feels it in an English sort of way so has to detach a bit and do a kind of ironic distancing. He also does a lot of lyrics that can be taken as being about love and/or politics.

My all time favourite song currently(!) is A Red letter Day. Here are the lyrics:

A Red Letter Day

Go to work and take your calls
Hang the fruits of your labour on the walls
Such precision and care
What does it matter
if there's no one here to share
the flowers in the garden
the wine
the Waiting for Godot
and so much modern time?

All I want is what you want
I'm always waiting for a red letter day

The years perfecting a stance
of measured cool fade into insignificance
the moment one starts to understand
what on earth does it profit a man?

All I want is what you want
I'm always waiting for a red letter day
for something special, somehow new
someone saying 'I love you'
Baby, I'm waiting
for that red letter day

You can sneer or disappear
behind a veneer of self-control
but for all of those
who don't fit it
who follow their instincts
and are told they sin
this is a prayer for
a different way

All I want is what you want
I'm always waiting for a red letter day
like Christmas morning when you're a kid
Admit you love me and you always did
Baby, I'm hoping
for that red letter day

Let's look at this. The first verse, what does it matter if there's no one there to share the fruits of his labour. Of course it matters. What is the point otherwise. No-one dying has yet said they wished they had spent more time in the office!!

He wants a red letter day. This is a bit risky to admit. It is about longing and some of it is probably childish but still...

The second verse is an attack on being cool for cools sake and ends with half a quote from the Bible (There is a thesis - or at least an article - waiting to be written about the Bible and the Pets - I'm up for it any would-be publishers out there!) The whole quote is "what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?". In other words take care of that which is most precious to you and don't just go all out for material prosperity.

Then into the chorus extended now to show his need to be loved, that a red letter day involves being loved.

Then the magnificent third verse. Again an even sharper attack on those who play it cool and hide behind a veneer of self control. Then we get the real heart of this song. 'For all of those who don't fit in'. This is classic Neil Tenant because he is clearly singing about being gay but also the lyrics can apply to all of us and not just in relation to (our) sexuality. It could be about following our bliss, doing what we know we need to do to be authentic whatever society says about us. This is massively powerful. But Neil also insists that this is credible spiritually. 'This is my prayer'. he doesn't care if the Christian church is homophobic he will still claim his right to be spiritual and to pray. Wonderful.

I can't tell what it was like for me to be in my Quaker Church a couple of years ago and celebrate the public commitment of two gay men who are friends of mine. I spent most of the service in tears. Somewhere deep inside me I felt with them. It was a home coming. I can't compromise on this issue and wont. My spirituality and my God are inclusive. End of story. My gay and lesbian friends are beautiful and human.

And then finally he links it all back to our childhood and the magic of Christmas. This is even more risky and its true. That's where we long from. Childhood. Oh boy that takes some living with.

OK you don't have to like this or the Pets but you can see there is a richness to this stuff. That Neil and Chris of the pets are more than "two queers with a drum machine" as Shane McGovan of the Pogues said but maybe he was just mad because the Pets where No 1 with 'You were on my mind' keeping his beautiful duet with Kirsty McColl at no 2 that Christmas...

Best to all,

Bill on bike on a wet Manucian day.