surfsensei

Reflections and observations on life in general.

Category: Uncategorized

Cat sitting.

I’ve cleaned the flat, washed up, am ready to cycle into the city to sit among other people, hunt down the best coffee, gather a few market-fresh vegetables and design ideas.  Out of the bedroom window I see a cat, sitting, perfectly balanced, on top of the neighbours’ gate, at ease, ignoring dogs and noisy children.

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In the café,  layers of conversations and human preoccupations: “Theresa May…”, “Jeremy Corbyn .. “, “I used to stand on a rock,  taking off one item of clothing…”, “mummyyyy!” (Very loud), “do you want some cake? “,  “the bus is late again…”, “Brexit. ..”, “I was joking when I said. .”

A tired toddler whines and squeals on a note that makes my ears hurt.

I keep thinking of that cat.

Steam clean – relief from drowning

I am sitting with my head wrapped in a towel breathing steam in temporary relief from intermittent choking on the aftermath and “collateral damage” of a nasty cold that has filled my upper airways and chest with microscopic battle the last few days. I woke out of a dream of some region of England being used for military practice for the bitter Troubles in Ulster, the dream perhaps arising from the resonance of narrow-minded hate-filled comments I read in passing on Facebook not long but too soon before turning in, too tired and late to meditate and release my mind from things I cannot change.

Thinking of those years in the 1970s and early 80s when unrest and murder and hatreds were at their most intense and active in that uneasy land – for me, fortunately, in the news and not my daily life – I recall the relative simplicity of things. A time of fewer channels, when bigotry and binary views of the world were mostly spread in smaller circles – in the pub, works van, watching TV (4 channels), muttering at the tabloid on the train. Respite, release from the feeling of a need to say something, anything, in response to yet another joy or outrage was a little easier; the Forum closed for rest and cleaning in those days, it didn’t chatter on in your pocket, leaving echoes in your head.

So reading the compassion-free comments that captioned an image of more deluded and hopeful and despairing refugees (other adjectives also available according to your views) arriving with the tide in southern Europe I felt no rage towards the commentator, just a realisation of how widespread and deep the poisons of hatred and division are in every part of the world; most worryingly in those nations with the greatest wealth and actual security and established education. There are real problems to be tackled, many we have collectively failed to collaborate to face, his comments arise from things we need to discuss and deal with for sure. It’s the retreat into a blind trench warfare of beliefs that is so unhelpful, worse in its own way, or at least as bad, as the consensus-free committees that leave everybody outside frustrated and reactive.

I have not “unfriended” him, deliberately, I want to keep open even a silent channel of communication through the rising hedges and walls of a social network that resembles a labyrinth of walled gardens, within which people sit isolated with fellow enthusiasts for their particular flower, be it roses, tulips or poison ivy. I await a moment when, like a sniper with one round left for the enemy general, I can conceive and convey a comment to his rants that may actually make him think and reply with a more open view of the situation, a shift, even briefly, from binary to base-ten view of the world, from “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” to seeing that there are other places to stand and go to. Or perhaps I am, like that metaphorical sniper, already surrounded, the general is not one man but is now manifesting in so many heads that his uniformed body is now redundant to the cause he led; hope and some faith in the benefit of helping even one person see something differently sustain me in my hideout, however hopeless.

And, after all, these pervasive media are themselves neutral, facilitating the spread of joy and hope and healing as well as mental poisons; we need to keep the channels open though, at least let poisoned messages sprout but wither un-nourished, rather than just block them to keep the smell of a different flower out of our own garden, to revert to that metaphor.

I let it go at last, switched off devices, went to bed, “to sleep, perchance to dream…” and now, here I am, my mind and airways a little clearer, weary but no longer drowning from within, steam-cleaned for a short while, while the earliest commuters drive by outside and I lie down to rest a little.

Maybe there is value and a wider benefit in simply sending out basic good wishes, if I can’t think of or lack the present skills to do more effective things, even if that just means that I get a better rest and don’t carry the poison to spread on to others, inadvertently, through careless speech or actions. OK, just that then, for now, starting with you, dear reader, and thanks for reading this.

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(Perhaps a a better metaphor: a guerrilla gardener with one seed of a different plant, the compassion tree, that I would plant surreptitiously in the least dark corner of his garden? Too late, go to bed mate!)

Underground

It’s cold and crisp here today, taking a short walk to Bantock Park on the west side of Wolverhampton. The Rose Garden looks barren, an arrangement of cropped stumps and jagged branches corralled in neat miniature hedges or tied to bare metal frames like forgotten prisoners. There’s not even enough sunlight to power the sundial.

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Winter, above, but underground the slow stirring begins.
I am warm indoors now, in the cafe, enjoying good coffee and delicious cake and free wifi.
On the way here I sent the first of several letters that I hope will begin something new this Spring.

Like the trees. .

Like the trees

I held on to autumn leaves

When they were ready to fall away.

No surprise, then, when they did.

Only in my mind was it still summer.

Fallen gold is turning brown,

Returning to the source.

Sadness to nourish future happiness.

In time, the days are growing longer

And there will be green again

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All these.. moments

If asked for the title of my favourite film, I would have to say “Blade Runner “, which I saw on its first release back in 1982. Something about it struck a deep chord in me; it is one of the few films I have on DVD and which I have watched several times over the years.

It is also one of those that I thought was an improvement on the book that inspired it (“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K Dick). It is more than just another dystopian sci-find action movie, it has depth and an ambiguity too rare in mainstream films. The characters are neither simply “bad” nor “good”, they are driven to terrible deeds by the desperation of survival and the fear and pain of not knowing how much time they have left, yet they have the potential for change and compassion within them.

Rutger Hauer’s portrayal of the main and longest-surviving “villain”(or should that be “prey”?),  Roy Batty, moves me still with his mixture of menace and fragility in a futile mission to extend his four-year lifespan.  His soliloquy, (you can find it on YouTube easily) delivered to Harrison Ford as the hunter (“Blade Runner”) Deckart captures for me the essence of the impermanence of all our experiences, however profound or solid they seem.

It came back to me, today, as I worked alongside some less-highly-motivated pupils in an art class, asked to sit with them and give gentle encouragement and example.  I had a go at the same painting exercise, watercolour versions of the single eye motif that seems to be a feature of much teenage art and doodling.  As I blew and trailed the wet paint, the last line of the monologue seemed appropriate:

“all these… moments.. will be lost, in time, like… tears in rain”

I’ve been experiencing this a lot, recently, the understanding growing from a logical thought and observation to a powerful experience that can hit me suddenly, like somebody turning on a bright light in the middle of the night; it’s a similar shock.  The realisation, no, a different word would be more appropriate, perception? … that suddenly the things I’ve just done, whether over the last few years or days or hours, are gone, completely, existing only as echoes in my memories.  I’ve had this when returning home after holidays or from visiting friends, almost like the fleeting shock of seeing the ‘not there’ of a familiar object that has been moved from its accustomed place.

At one time I found these moments almost unbearable, I had to sing, shout, find a distraction, seek out company, look at the photos or sketches or letters, anything to try to verify the ‘reality’ of those past moments or relationships.  Now though, something has shifted in me, these feelings arise, sometimes intensely, but I notice them passing much more quickly too, almost the moment I see them for what they are. I notice the same with the painful and frightening experiences, too, and I’ve had a few of them in this last year.

Some might think this a callousness or detatchment or devaluing of people or things, but this is not the case for me, I know those feelings too and they are not it.  It’s more a feeling of not needing to or trying to hold onto them so tightly in order for things to feel “right”.  It’s more like being able to appreciate  them while accepting the inevitable shift in circumstances; after all, everything we meet and have goes, in one way or another, sometime, we can see that even if it doesn’t hit home until it happens.  No, I value those experiences and love those people just as much, sometimes that’s difficult, but how things are now is simply how things are now.  And I’m fortunate to be able to say there have been a lot of wonderful moments.

Yet I’m still getting used to this subtle but significant shift in my experience, it’s like I’m getting used to the rain, maybe seeing that it’s all water, too.

 

Thought for the day, 1 of …?

I received an unexpected present a few days ago,  a calendar from the Netherlands, that has inspired me to draw some cartoons again, as well as helping me with my Dutch learning. 

It comes at a time of adjustment to changes and a review of my life situation and direction.  While I go to redraft a letter I hope will be a catalyst for a move forward, here’s a thought for today:

Poppies – in memoriam

I saw a link to this article by Robert Fisk, in the Independent, on Facebook this evening, a well-written piece that made me reflect on the issue of the wearing of the red poppies around the UK Remembrance Day (11 November):

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-do-those-who-flaunt-the-poppy-on-their-lapels-know-that-they-mock-the-war-dead-6257416.html

I replied to the post after considering my own thoughts and feelings about this, including my own short and undistinguished military career, fortunately between conventional wars and at the end of the Cold one:

I’m happy to give a donation, even wear a poppy on the day in memory of the “poor bloody infantry” and others who are mostly being told to do the dirty work for politicians who keep well away from the consequences of their actions, particularly in the last generation or two, but I want to see this Remembrance grow to include ALL the casualties of war, such as the 14-year old boy in Aleppo today orphaned by two separate rocket attacks [[BBC radio 4 World Tonight 2200 3 Nov 2016 – grim report from a hospital] and many others …

At 1100, on the 11th, I pause to reflect on those in and out of uniform, all of whom are harmed deeply in many ways by this continuing stupidity.

 

 

Munro with cancer #80

Goodwill hasn’t gone…

“Whatever happened to goodwill?”, said somebody in exasperation to a friend of mine some time ago.

“It doesn’t pay the bills”, she replied. She was beginning her career as a self-employed photographer. They had asked her to do some publicity photos and she had, quite reasonably, asked for payment.

I remembered this incident recently when I had a similar request at work – my experience and skills for free for something I am not employed by them to provide and which I do as my own business outside my contracted time. I explained that I would charge a fee for this, I doubt they will ask me to do the work. I am not disappointed, I like my weekends free at the moment. If they are not willing to pay a proper rate in exchange, it can’t be that important to them or they will find another way.

There seems to be a widespread expectation that, if you do work that is creative or adventurous and perceived as “enjoyable” or “worthwhile”, then that is surely reward enough and you should be providing it cheaply, if not free, and certainly on a basis of “goodwill”. I pondered this the other morning, while I guided a razor carefully over my too-early-morning face, and a new view of the issue emerged.

My reply to the complaint “where has the goodwill gone?” is this: it hasn’t gone, I provide all my labour and skills and experience on the basis of “goodwill”, there is no charge for that.

However, I am faced with a problem, I also need the “goodwill” of others, to take food from the shelves of their shops, get them to service and put fuel into my car, allow me to sleep and keep my things in their property and so on. They are nearly all generous and helpful people, all happy to do these things but they need to know that I am also part of the “goodwill” exchange system and I can only do this by providing material proof of my having also given my “goodwill” to others; as is the nature of our society, some paperwork is involved.

The administration has grown complicated, over the years, but the basic idea is simple; I do something in “goodwill” for you, you give me an officially and socially recognised receipt that confirms my act of happy generosity and indicates the amount of effort I have donated to your organisation or your quality of life, I can then give this receipt to others and they will reciprocate with an equivalent quantity of their “goodwill”.

To save us all having to make our own, these receipts or vouchers are ready-made and are really quite beautiful, combining aesthetic qualities with good functional design, they even feature a nice portrait of our illustrious Monarch, to confirm their authenticity ( clearly, a lot of “goodwill” has gone into the making of them ).

So, as long as we both agree on the quantity, nature and duration of the “goodwill” that I will give, and the type of vouchers to be exchanged, then I am entirely happy to help you!

Shaving safely completed, I made my way to turn on the kettle and the radio, which announced the news headlines and something about executive pay; they must be very generous people indeed, given the great quantities of “goodwill” vouchers they receive.

My employers need help today, I cannot bear to stand by and watch them struggle, I have no other commitments…

Brexit: Burning our bridges

This is one of the most clear and articulate articles I’ve read, please read and share…

Just an anglophone

It’s hard to know where to start on today’s result. Like many, I’m still feeling regular waves of shock, horror and nausea when I think about what we’ve declared as a nation, and what impact it could have on our future and others’. I’ve refrained from blogging on the subject previously, because I’m not as politically informed as the many people whose posts I’ve shared, but now it’s become the only thing I can think about, I’m going to have a stab. Because I’m angry.

I’ve seen a lot of people on my social media requesting that we stop verbally abusing leave voters and tarring them with the ‘bigot’ brush, and that’s fair. There’s already been too much anger and personal hatred in this debate; in fact, that’s probably one of the reasons we’ve made such an insane dangerousludicrous unprecedented decision. There are various reasons to vote leave, not all of them xenophobia, and I…

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