Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Getting ready 

One of the props for the show...

It also doubled as a bit of practice for the local fire brigade with their hydraulic cutting gear:

More pics and perhaps some words later.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


A moment of calm at the start of a hectic day.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cat’s Eyes 

How do you write about snow without repeating every cliché in the book?

When I see a soft white blanket draped over the landscape (which I don’t at the moment – it’s more like a ragged, threadbare shawl tossed in the dirt…) do the words represent what is in front of my eyes, or is it that the mere fact of snow – a piece of intellectual, almost abstract, information, decoupled from the senses of experiencing – has triggered a stereotypical response?

Take, for example, that brief sight this morning, glimpsed from the comfort of the train as it rushed on its way (definitely not motorcycling weather today!), of white-carpeted woods. Bare, spindly trees; motionless, mute, they offered no resistance to the night’s snow; the scene an archetype of primitive silence… There’s a reality, certainly, in my initial response, yet as I try and represent that response in words, the true, unique experience, still delicate in it’s newborn state, begins to disintegrate and disperse under the clumsy weight of all the past experiences of all the trees and woods and snow - real, imagined, portrayed in books and films (I have a memory of a black-and-white spy film containing just such a scene) – which together make up my personal history of these things. Am I seeing the woods in front of me, or is the picture in my mind an amalgam of all snowy woods in that inner history?

Our cats – two sisters – have known 2 winters (or is it 3 now? I lose track…) Today’s is the first snow they have ever seen. I watched Jazz, the extrovert of the pair, dash excitedly from side to side of the garden; I swear she was energised by the pure novelty of the experience.

How would I write about snow if I was experiencing it with the senses of a 3 year old cat?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Life has but two components these days; work and the show. All else – all thought, all action, all feeling not directly associated with these two - has been pushed far off to one side. Tunnel vision with a vengeance.

When eventually I get a moment to finish off thing #4 (thing #4 of what? you’re forgiven for having lost track; I’ve dragged this meme out for over a month and I’m still not finished), it will be about a much earlier instance of this single-minded dedication (which has been known to mutate into bloody-minded obstinacy). It’s probably not a healthy way to be, but it’s what’s driving me at the moment.

Opening night is a week today, and the show runs nightly until the following Saturday. After that, I may get a bit of my life back…

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Talking to myself 

You’re very quiet.

I don’t have a lot to say.

I don’t believe you.

That’s not very diplomatic; aren’t you supposed to reflect back what I’ve said, or say something gently probing? Like “Really?” in a questioning, inviting sort of way? Anway, now that we’ve sidestepped the niceties, why don’t you believe me?

I can feel it. All that pent up desire to experience and reflect and respond and communicate. It’s as strong as ever it was; you’ve just filled yourself up so full of urgent but unimportant stuff, stuff that doesn’t really matter - even though you know it doesn’t matter - you’ve left no room for anything else.

Now it’s my turn to be disbelieving. Or, following your lesson in saying what you think, my turn to tell you that you’re talking out of your arse. The nearest I’ll get to agreeing is to say that maybe there’s a desire for a desire, but that’s as far as it goes.

Oh, come on, you don’t believe that; you’re just being defeatist.

You think a label explains anything? It’s more complex than that.

(expectant silence)

Look; if it was so simple that I could give you a straight answer, it’d be simple enough that I could do something about it and I wouldn’t be sitting here blogging about not blogging.


It’s quite a struggle, isn’t it? To keep driving on down this road…?

Which road would that be then?

The one you’re on; the one that presses on relentlessly through a barren landscape to a place you don’t want to see. Why do you struggle so to keep battling on down it?

This isn’t the way I thought the conversation would go; I thought it was just about the blog, and the writing and the reading and the commenting and stuff. Excuses for not doing any of that, you know…

Remember when you began all this? It seemed as though you’d opened a secret door into a whole new world; you thought you’d at last discovered somewhere you belonged; you thought you’d unearthed hidden talents as a wordsmith; you even thought, occasionally, you had something to say…

Hold it right there; I know what’s coming next, and I never believed it…

No, I know. And look where that lack of belief has got you. You’ve all but abandoned – no, you have abandoned the hope you once had. Now you just cling on here by your fingernails simply because you’re afraid that if you let go altogether you’ll fall and fall and fall and fall, so far you’ll never climb back up here again; smothered by the softness of the landing, you’ll just spend the rest of your days scratching around in the dirt down there, along with the rest of the blind and the ignorant and the stupid and the vision-less; the small-dreamers, half-hopers, feeble-wishers; surviving on whatever crumbs the wind blows your way; alive, but not living. I’m right, aren’t I?
Aren’t I?

Bloody ‘ell; you don’t pull your punches do you?

Well? You know I’m right; you haven’t denied it…

Yeah, but… it’s not knowledge that helps, and knowledge that doesn’t help isn’t knowledge. Don’t they say that to know and not to act is not to know? Yours is a book I leave on the shelf.

Perhaps it’s time to get it down, blow the dust off, and take another look…

Nice metaphor, but I put those words into your head just so that I could pretend to say “yeah” and then close this conversation down and get back to the business of the day – back to reality.

Is that what you call it?

What else should I call it?

Let me put it another way. Remember that quote which popped unbidden into you mind the other day? From Teilhard de Chardin, we think. It went something like “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey, we’re spiritual beings on a human journey”. I know you still believe that, in spite of the lack of any evidence for that belief in the way you live these days, yet you behave as if you’re determined to shut out anything but the most superficial experience of that journey. Why? Isn’t that where inspiration lies?

Exactly. So now you’ve got the answer to your opening question, perhaps you can leave me in peace. Or at any rate, you’ve replaced your question with another one. It’s quiet because I’m so single-minded in my carrying out of the business of the day that I’m closed to real, original, spontaneous experience. Well, that’s how you’d put it. I might even agree, but that doesn’t help. Telling me my symptoms doesn’t cure my disease. Now gimme a break; I really do have to get on.

Okay… for now. I’ll be back, though…

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

i-thingummy (yawn…) 

For the record, and to balance the barely-suppressed squeaks of thrilled excitement echoing around the blogosphere at the moment…

There’s a strong streak of Luddism running through me; I do not give an airborne instance of fornication what new gadgetry has come out of the fruit factory. I just hope Mr Jobs has made them sufficiently waterproof – otherwise he’s going to get a lot of returns; the first batch to be shipped are going to be subject to some serious drooling.

Unlike countless other bloggers, I neither need nor want the latest i-thingummy. I already have very natty little device I carry around with me; it’s called a Mobile Phone. It may be old (4 years, I think) and a bit battered, but it does everything I ask of it. I can talk to people with it; I can do this really cool thing called text messaging with it; it’s small enough and light enough that I don’t notice it in my pocket; its been dropped countless times – even onto a concrete floor – with no more harm than the odd scratch. I’ve survived quite happily thus far, thank you, without a PDA; it’s bad enough being managed by a computer during the working day; why would I want to run my entire life at the beck and call of a piece of techno-gimmickry?

Now, pass me a couple of sticks… I want to make a fire.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

On Heavenly Bodies 

No, not that kind; I mean REAL heavenly bodies; the bodies that reside in the heavens.

If the skies your way are clear, AND you have an unobstructed view to the horizon, AND you know where to look, this might be what you see - one of the brightest comets of the last century.

Unfortunately I fail to meet two and a half of the above criteria so I’m unlikely to spot it. Do keep a look out though if you think you have a better chance.

Incidentally, continuing the astronomical theme, until I saw this comparative image, I had absolutely no idea that galaxies were so big. Well, yes, I knew they were big; I just assumed they were so far away they would appear as raindrop-sized smudges to anything less than a giant astronomical telescope. Yet if they were bright enough that we could see them with the naked eye, some would appear larger the moon. Amazing that such a basic piece of astronomical information has escaped me for so long.

Imagine being able to have such an intimate view, to be able to wander out at night, gaze up, and experience the cosmos first-hand instead of through published images; how that might affect our perception of our place in the universe. Or maybe we’d just get used to the sight and never give it a second glance – just like all the other wonders of nature we pass every day.

Which wonders would they be then…?

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Middle Ground 

It is inevitable, I suppose, that reading blogs will generate comparisons in my mind between other bloggers’ lives and my own. After all, I choose writers whose words resonate with me in some way, as I suppose most of us do – writers and photographers who respond intimately to the richness of their surroundings, often evoked in wonderfully subtle cameos; deeply personal writers who explore their own inner worlds - or even more powerfully, those who combine both, with reflections on outer and inner worlds springing from each other; writers seeking to reach out and connect; is it any wonder these so often produce a powerful response in me?

Perhaps it’s just a case of the grass on the other side of the fence being greener; nevertheless I sometimes feel I’d fit better into some of the lives I read about than I do into my own. I feel nascent talents lying idle and undeveloped while only my lesser skills (or those that are of lesser value in my own perception) are called into play.

Is it jealousy? A kind of envy, perhaps, but perhaps too it’s a more subtle feeling than that. It starts with recognition of a kindred spirit, but immediately following the joy of recognition comes the sharp pain of awareness of the divide which so often separates us. No; however much we might share in values, attitudes, hopes, fears, these lives are not mine. My path is my own unique way in the world; I might just as well feel disappointment or regret that I wasn’t born an eagle or a dolphin, as seek to bend the pattern of my life to the shape they have created.

Start where the client is, as a change consultant once said to me. Or as Popeye would have said, I yam what I yam. Right Here is where I am (even though I often ask myself the question: What am I doing here?)

I realise I’ve been subconsciously censoring writing – perhaps even censoring thinking – that isn’t in some way aligned with the ideals which are represented in aspects of these others’ lives and writing. I love nature; I love the outdoors; I value harmony, cooperation and mutual support; I love wild remote places; I value a reflective, even introspective approach, I take pleasure in dialogue, listening, understanding, coaching and so I read many blogs which reflect these things. Yet the reality of the way I live my days is very different. An urban, largely indoor lifestyle, with superficial relationships and a focus on doing rather than being. A life about which I rarely write, other than to bemoan it.

The two worlds – the ideal as illustrated in others’ accounts, and the actual - feel poles apart; a source of chronic dissatisfaction or dis-ease. I nearly said ‘are’ poles apart, but I suspect the separation exists largely in my own perception. When I started writing this, I had in the back of my mind the notion that there is a way to explore the middle ground; a way to bring the values I claim to espouse into the routine of daily living; a way to build a bridge across the chasm which separates these worlds. Once in a while, I manage to do just that. More so in the earlier days of this blog; much less frequently of late. For the moment though, right here and now and feeling the pressures of the day mounting, calling me back to the world of busy yet superficial doing, that middle ground has dipped below the horizon again. I still believe it's there, but I can't quite see it. Not directly; in the time it has taken to write this post it's vanished out of sight.

A few months ago, I went on a ‘Bikesafe’ motorcycle training day with the Police. More than any other, there’s one piece of learning I took away from that day: Raise Your Vision. Look ahead; look around; look beyond the patch of tarmac immediately in front of you. It strikes me that the lesson is transferable; raise your vision not only to the tarmac further ahead, but raise your spiritual vision also. That’s where the middle ground between actuality and desire is to be found.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

No reason... 

...other than that I like it - for its wilderness feel - and it brings back happy memories.

Hard to believe this was nearly four years ago, and I haven't been out in the hills in the snow since.

Monday, January 01, 2007


- especially historical context - is everything.

Thanks to Jon for the link.