Thursday, 27 November 2008

Poem for Pittu

(Pittu Laungani 1936-2007 was an extraordinary man who I had a few brief meetings with in the last years of his life. There will be a book out shortly - watch this space - in which a n umber of us explore the relevance of his life and ideas to modern therapy. I think my poems work best like most poem when read out loud.)

Poem for Pittu

I cried at your funeral
No one else did
It was so strange

I befriended a man there
Dress like a plumber
He was an old colleague of yours

I saw how white your world was
It was a very English
And multicultural funeral

There is a Pittu shaped hole in my heart
So I couldn't write your obituary

I struggle to make sense
Of Your life
Of our few intense meetings
And your death

I have to say
You were one of my teachers
I think you can live
(and die) with that!

It's funny curious
Living without you
Living with all your words on paper
And on one CD

So maybe
Just maybe
You are not dead to me
But can I ever see you again?

Monday, 10 November 2008

How do you live? (poem)

[Another poem gifted to me at Tony and Steve's class]

A while ago
She said
There's no point me carrying on
I'm going to die
When I saw a video of him
Reading a book out loud
And so beautifully
My heart melted

We are all going to die
You know
It's how you live
With what you've got
And how often your heart melts.

Stacey appears

[Stacey has been a rather mysterious figure hovering just out of my consciousness for the past few months. I knew she was a good editor and a bit of a perfectionist but then at Steve and Andy's Creative Writing workshop on Saturday she emerged into the light.]

"Cheating is not pretty but it happens. That's life aint it?"
"No it bloody aint!"
There was a silence.
Then a longer silence.
Then she swallowed hard and blinked three times. I cautiously reached a hand out and touched her ice cold hand. She flinched but then relaxed a bit.
"I dunno... I dunno, what I am going to do-"
"Why do anything just yet?"
"Whatcha mean? I've gotta."
"make the bugger suffer for a while."
She laughed, "Yes!"
And so began the revenge campaign.

At first it was fun - you know the odd cut up shirt, the odd nasty text message, a very odd computer virus; but then it got nasty. And she was getting way too much pleasure out of it. It had almost become her reason fro living or so it seemed.
"I can't let go."
"I know but you must. It's time to move on."
"But it's like 'I revenge therefore I am'."

Still waiting (poem)

Waiting for you in the cafe
And the click clacking of high heel shoes

I seem to spend half my life
Waiting for you in the cafe

The cafes change and I change
But still
Waiting for you in the cafe

It could be spring
It could be winter
It could be Paris
It could be Rome
Waiting for you in the cafe

And I could be calm and content
Or angry and sad sullen and withdrawn
Waiting for you in the cafe

And one of these days I'll wake up dead
Waiting for you in the cafe

Friday, 7 November 2008

Frankie in despair speaks to Q

(For new readers Frankie my PA, Q my spiritual director and the Boss are merely(!) figments of my creative imagination or so I allege!)

"Hi Frankie how can I be of use to you?"
"Oh Q, it's been a bad time..."
"My life is a mess and I drift from relationship to relationship and I screw up at work and sooner or later the Boss is going to get fed up with me.."
"Yes, I don't know what to do..."
"And you are talking to me"
"Yes it's weird aint it? What with you being religious and all that"
"All that?"
"Well my grannie was an Italian Catholic and my mum was a Welsh chapel goer but me and my sister had no truck with that...And... I ain't the kind of man that's very welcome by Christians"
"You know... you know what I am. You know what Christians say about Gays"
"All Christians?"
"Most, and the ones that might welcome gays are mostly quiet about it"
"True Frankie... How do you feel talking to me since I am as you say religious?"
"Well I guess you are OK you are a friend of the Boss'(Q nods) and he doesn't have a homophobic bone in his body despite his bad moods from time to time.."
"So Frankie, where do you go from here?"
"Well Q... I was walking home late the other night and I saw Orion - you know the stars ('Yes') and I suddenly felt drawn into the sky towards the stars and there was great light all around me and a voice 'Frankie you are love' and I sobbed my heart out... I can't stop thinking about it. Was it true? Was it real? What should I do?"
"What's it like talking about it?"
"Oh... it feels good."
"And how has it affected you?"
"Well it scared me especially that voice, but if I believe, if I can believe in it I feel better inside despite my problems."
"Hmm.... is that not some kind of answer?"
"You mean... you mean take the experience as real?"
"Why not?"
"But... but...well.. er."
"Try it."
"OK I will, but don't tell the Boss."
"Frankie I wont tell a soul. Come and see me again if you want."
"Sure will and you are not that bad for a straight" (They both Laugh)
"There's praise" said Q in a Welsh accent.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


I can't write today without sharing my pleasure at Obama's victory. It is so important that a black man be elected President of the USA on a left of centre programme. Having a Kenyan father seems poignant too, perhaps the US will have a healthier relationship with Africa from now on?

Something shifted in me over the weekend with my visit to the Sound of Music and the Cabinet War Rooms over the weekend (see my last blog for more). I remember a difficult discussion with my Dad about Northern Ireland in about 1970. He really had a go at me for supporting Civil Rights and the radical People's Democracy movement which promised so much at the time before Internment and the decline into further violence, the British troops so welcomed by the Catholics all too soon became part of the problem. I could not answer his arguments, indeed I felt destroyed by them but I knew I was on the side of the peacemakers. I still am. And I recognise that I might in some circumstances copy my dad and fight like he eventually did in 1940 but meanwhile how do we peace make?

When the post election violence erupted in Kenya I was scared for my friends out there - their safety but I was also scared for Kenya as a whole, a beautiful country and people facing some real difficulties and on the edge. I felt helpless. When I viisted Kenya next last September at the KAPC conference I heard about the work done in the Displaced People's Camps. I encouraged Gikundi, from KAPC, who was chairing a session and presenting a report on the counselling work done in the camps that he ask the audience to stand up if they had been to the camps to offer counselling, group work, de-briefing, or had supported the work through supervision and in other ways. Well out of an audience of 300+ about 4 out of 5 people stood up. I am weeping as I write this so moved at the memory of this love and care freely given, not always even with transport costs covered.

Yesterday on the course Clare and I teach we had a visiting speaker Ian Kaplan who does amazing work with photography. One thing he does is hand out cameras and get children in school to photo places they like and places they don't like and then talk to him about it. There was a picture taken by an African student from Zambia of his favourite teacher and his class. It was fairly typical in my experience - a bare class room with bright children in it.

I made a connection, I was the first in my direct family to go to Uni - my mum and dad left school at 13. My sister at 15. I broke the mold and crossed the line. All of my adult teaching at Universities since 1994 has been with mature students some of whom are breaking the mold too. I identify with them. This is why I work with the people in Kenya I want to lift them up as I was lifted up.

When I had the chance to do a second degree and then a third degree both with John McLeod I was hungry to learn. I biked or bussed into Leeds railway station at 6 in the morning and caught 2 trains and bus to reach Keele Uni. I read Carl Rogers and Gerald Egan on those early morning trains. I travelled to Keele for 5 years like this, weekly for 2 years and then fortnightly. I raided the Uni library in my lunch breaks - there was no electronic journals then. I had a passion for learning. I still do. When people are up for it I am with them.

I aint no saint and my teaching is often a bit rambling but my spirit is clear and when people can connect with me we can move ahead together.

Bill still on bike and it is a bit less cold and my heart is warm today

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Sound of Music

Hi, I was in London with Grace and Sheila and we went to see The Sound of Music at the London Palladium. It was a pretty good show (if you like that sort of thing!) but I found the final scene most disturbing. What happens is the family sing some songs at a festival in Salzburg in 1938 and then they run away to Switzerland as the Nazis want the Baron to captain a ship in the German navy. So the final scene is done by turning the theatre into a festival setting complete with some armed Nazis in uniform and several giant Nazi hangings complete with Swastikas.

This really upset me. I wept and wept thinking about how my family and other people's families and lives were changed for the worst by the Nazis. I think the hangings were in bad taste and whilst it was good theatre I am disturbed and not sure this is the best way for the many children in the audience to understand these horrors from our history. We visited the Cabinet War Rooms the previous day so all this Second World War stuff was around for me.

I would have liked to have felt angry but I wept instead. So the next day in a taxi to Bethnal Green and the taxi man talked about this mother being evacuated from the East End in the War and about her nearly dying in the disaster at Bethnal Green tube station when many did die in a stampede in the War. He spoke of how kind the Jewish people were from the Whitechapel area (nearby) providing clothes and other help. That had me crying again. And then he says 'Not like the Bangladeshi people today'. Oh God.

I think it is natural for most of us to feel compassionate. Yes it can become dulled and we can develop prejudice. Most people of my generation in postwar Britain were fed a diet of anti German feelings - the old black and white war films, the war comics, the plastic aeroplanes. I think the anti German jokes that still have currency are a residual way of dealing with these feelings. It doesn't make it right and when will it end? Meanwhile under our very noses the same racism remains.

So maybe the Sound of Music has got me thinking usefully!

best to all,

Bill-on-bike in the sunshine