Saturday, 28 August 2010

Mystic detective(7)

Paul remembered the time he had visited Marie in hospital. Hospitals scared him, psychiatric wards even more so. But he had to visit her - she was in there because of him or so he thought. It was a modern hospital just outside the city centre and opposite the university.

It was clearly not a quiet place or refuge or asylum but then neither were the old Victorian out of town, out of mind asylums. There was a distinct smell of cheap disinfectant in the air masking another familiar hospital smell - disease, fear and sweat - all three blended together.

The staff in the unit wore everyday clothes which was a bit confusing at first for Paul until he saw the state of the patients. They each in their own way had a lost air about them - if not why would they be there after all?

Marie was no exception, in a tiny room, (but at least she had a room of her own) with just a hospital bed and a small cupboard and much else. She was lying facing the wall, dressed in old faded hospital pyjamas.

- Hi
She grunted in acknowledgement
- How are you? (Stupid question!)
- Ok (but the shrug of her shoulders told a different story)
- you need anything?
- No.... well some clothes... I guess
- Sure
There was a silence.
- Dywant to get a drink somewhere?
She shrugged.
- OK, OK
Paul offered her the flowers he had brought. She looked at them but didn't take them off him or say anything. A tear slowly trickled down her face.
- Oh Fuck!

Paul went off in search of a member of staff, at least to do something. He found one who was very kind and rather young but of no real use to him. Yes she was going to get better. Yes she was on medication, anti depressants. Yes she would eventually see a psychiatrist - probably next month. No ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) was not being considered.

Well no she didn't get better and yes eventually ECT was used and it did succeed in pulling her back into a kind of reality. But her lost look remained. And there was no way back for Paul and her.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Hey this stuff is turning into a blog entry

This was a comment I left on Josie's Earth, wind and Sky blog:

Hi Josie (and Kelly), my two pennyworth. I write when I have to, sometimes it means I have to stop my bike and capture a poem. Some stuff goes straight to blog (or Facebook if brief), some stays in my pink notebook, some ends up after a lot of reworking as 'academic' stuff but that is much less fun and I am going off that message! What I enjoy most is reading my stuff out freshly cooked at a monthly creative writing class where people laugh because of the humour inherent in my stuff and how I perform it. I perform some of my poems publically but have not yet done any stories but want to eventually. I guess my bottom line is I want my stuff to touch people. Hey this is turning into a blog entry oops.

Yeah I guess it is all about contact, a need to be heard and to be accepted. Hey ho!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Mystic detective in Spain

Paul was on holiday in Spain, in August! It was way too dry, it was way too hot and despite clinging to the shade like a mussel he was way too sun burnt. What on earth was he doing here? he kept asking himself and the answer was Catherine his teenage daughter. But why on earth had he agreed to come here? Probably guilt.

He still felt responsible for the bust up with Marie - Catherine's mum, his ex - but really the problem was his job. No that was not quite true, he was the problem.

The trouble with men is that they are not happy unless they have a mountain to climb, a sea to swim, or a battle to fight. There was something in the male psyche that caused most men to want to do daft dangerous things at least once in their lives.

And these daft dangerous things - like some of Paul's contracts - occasionally ended up with him being in a fight, including one time being shot sat (see 'mystic days').

So Catherine was the poor victim of her parents' folie a deux or rather not just a victim. Like most teenagers she had learnt early on to make the most of her parents' differences and like most daughters had her father well figured out.

Catherine was swimming in one of the three pools in the camp they were staying in and Paul was nursing a glass of rather cheap tasting sangria. He was sat under an imitation palm tree that at least afforded him some shade and a view of the pool, whilst he read yesterday's Guardian which at least gave him a nostalgic feel for his home town.

But the trouble was it was hard to spend time with Catherine without thinking about Marie and the more Paul and Catherine avoided talking about her the greater her presence was felt.

Paul's way of working had stretched Catherine beyond her breaking point. She snapped - had a breakdown - and when she was out of hospital she was a different woman and Paul a different man.

Their eventual separation had come as a relief to Paul. For now he could lead his life the way he wanted it - with his work and non work lives totally blurred together. But there was a price to pay for this indulgence.

One price he was happy to pay was not to have to commit to a new relationship with anyone. Although he had been spending time with Martha for several years now he refused to commit to her even though their relationship was going nowhere and either of them might call it a day soon.

Paul was consequently lonely but he had always been lonely even in the early heady days of his relationship with Marie. Marie had seemed so cool then, so right for him, they'd made a good pair - everyone said so and Catherine was just a happy accident - 'Well we meant to have kids sooner or later - didn't we?''Yeah sure,' was all a good modern man like Paul could reply. Notwithstanding a feeling inside of being trapped which he found hard to accept or fathom.

Marriage followed.

Paul's loneliness however had grown stronger after they married when it should have grown lighter or maybe even vanished. he took on some risky contracts to earn, in his eyes, the 'extra' money needed now that he was about to become a father.

These 'extra' jobs took him away from home increasingly often and although he did not 'play away' they did impact on his relationship with Marie. But it was when he was shot, albeit by accident and only in his right shoulder that Marie began to lose it or rather lose both him and it.

Looking now at Catherine happily swimming in the pool Paul felt that deep contentment he always felt in her company. Here was someone who he loved without apparent contradiction and who loved him equally in return.

Paul dozed off in the hot sun and dreamt that his friend Frankie was being pursued by X from the OM group and then Frankie was handing over a cheque for £10,000 which X lit a match to and smiled rather sinisterly and said 'that will never do' and Frankie began to look really really frightened and... Paul awoke with a start.

Had OM really got there teeth into Frankie? Had OM got some hold over him were they milking him dry. Is that what this dream was about? Or what?

Time to text Frankie later but first off a late Spanish tapas lunch with Catherine - chirozo, Spanish omelet, Paella and more cheap tasting sangria.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Spiritual musings

This came from an old email exchange last with my friend Terty Biddlington and I quiet like it:

"'A quote from my choir mistress that points to a use of the word spiritual:

"Yes, it's amazing how singing together engenders such good feeling. I think a combination of the physical (deep breathing which oxygenates and calms), the mental (brain busy concentrating on harmonies, so too absorbed to worry about life/ourselves) and the emotional (lovely bonding experience) and sometimes I think we can reach the spiritual, when we're singing a powerful song and there's so much good intent in the room, it does raise us all up."

I suppose I can't really separate out my experience of singing in this choir, of being at a Quaker Meeting, of some times receiving Holy Communion, of being in a prayer room at York or Durham Cathedral, or perish the thought at Callanish stone circle on the Hebrides or cycling home with my eyes on the stars in Orion. It's all spiritual for me and its all about feeling blessed, feeling Created and thankful and so I am led to praise my Creator and figure stuff out about that. I guess I am saying that my religion starts with experience that I can only describe as spiritual and then stumbling towards/groping for a context to make sense of it. For years (around 1971) all I had was Wordsworth's poetry to explain to myself what I was experiencing, then it was New Age ( around 1981) and finally Quakers (1990) and then I found that I could make my uneasy peace with Anglicanism."' (Although I keep thinking I should just quit the C of E over Gays, Lesbians and Woman).

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Talking with Rebecca my piano teacher last night (yes we do manage to fit in some piano and voice work as well!) some things became clearer about this business of self-expression and making use of one’s talents. (I am also remembering here the writings and retreats of Francis Dewar who dealt with these issues in an interesting spiritual, if Christian - but big hearted Christian way). It is not a good thing to have unexpressed, and even worse, unexplored talents. Good education (and good parenting) for children and grownups should (!) be addressing this.

There has to be more ways of giving people the opportunity to explore without pressures what their range of talents are. What Rebecca made really clear to me was that expressing our talents at best involves our souls. Yes we need enough ego, and maybe the ego is the vehicle for our talents but unless our souls and spirits are involved it becomes empty and unsatisfying to all. If the soul is involved as it was last week when Rebecca played ‘Memories’ for me on the piano – it was like a concert for an audience of one(!) then the venue and the numbers do not matter.

I have always wanted my books and writings to reach more people. But that is largely my ego speaking. About once a month I get an email from someone who has got a lot out of something I have written, enough to take the time and the trouble to email me. That’s plenty!

So my life began to change in a good way when I began to work through my retirement list about 4 years ago starting with preparing for, and doing, my Lands End to John O’Groats bike ride. Then came the piano and, when I can fit it in again a choir and tennis, and the creative writings, blog and the poetry and the performing of the poetry. It is getting hard to fit all of this in with working full-time which is a great sign. And of course it is changing my full-time work for the better.

What I can truly say is that these last 4 years of checking out some retirement fantasies has been tremendously uplifting and healing. Some of it has merely involved following my nose. For for example I thought it might be taking up the saxophone until a 5 minute piano lesson from my daughter.

There is more work that needs to be done with young people on these matters but I don’t think that is my talent although I am open to finding out different. What I am thinking is that men of my age who felt that maybe their life is over could usefully have an opportunity to play with their unexpressed talents. I am not just thinking artistic because as the Pet Shop Boys tell us:

Every actor needs
an audience
Every action is
a performance
It all takes courage
You know it
Just crossing the street
well, it's almost heroic
You're so flamboyant

I guess you might think that this is OTT (Over The Top) but people can be truly delightful just walking down the street and our souls can be involved either as actor or audience. Indeed being an audience is a performance in its own right and takes its own talent.

For instance the Manky Poets audience greet every poem read out with enthusiastic applause. Can you imagine the impact that has on a first timer and her/his poetry? I have learnt over time to hear different notes in this applause, for example hoots of joy(?) or gasps of shock(?) when a strong emotional point is made. Once you realise that will be well received then you are empowered to take more risks. Can you imagine that? I risked 2 particular poems both rather long ('Bike Cycle' and 'Some of my Dad's War Stories') and I got some encouraging feedback afterwards.

So I try and make a point of thanking people who move me or delight me in some way and touch my life. So perhaps I am developing a talent for gratitude. I never really knew how full my glass was until closing time was close.

But maybe it is earlier than I think :)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Dreaming of you - poem

I have been dreaming of a strange but curiously familar woman/women in several dreams recently. here is a poem I wrote about it.

Dreaming of you

Dreaming of you
I feel complete
It’s a strange kind of intimacy
You visit me at night
In different guises
and disguises
But you are always the same underneath

I wake up
With you beside me
And I wonder
Am I dreaming
of you?
Are you dreaming
of me?
And what happens when we both wake up?