Sunday, December 26, 2010
Even on the coldest night, although they are blackened and are drooping up to their necks in deep frozen drifts of snow, you can still smell the lavender.
A shrunken old man, in freshly ironed clothes that are now two sizes larger than himself and wearing improbably shiny shoes, gets on to the bus … and he’s reeking of mothballs.
Hungry and returning from a freezing hour on the Common, walking through a wide empty space between some anonymous tenements, I am taunted by the smell of bacon being wantonly fried by invisible sociopathic housewives.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
the last few weeks at work have been hectic and exhausting
and somehow, i failed to send a single christmas card
of course, each of you was top of my list ...
love and best wishes to you all xxx
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
folowing lucy's introduction to the topic, but without having studied the others' lists ...
1 Let the people who matter know why they matter.
2 Dare yourself to do things.
3 Challenge yourself to understand things.
4 Warm dry comfortable shoes and warm dry comfortable beds will make you happy.
5 Violence and bombast are futile … I know !
6 Don’t be a fashion victim.
7 When in the slightest doubt, seriously consider getting advice or help.
8 If anyone tries to intimidate you … ask them if that is really their intention.
9 A spare pair of spectacles is often handy.
10 Clip those toenails regularly.
11 Stop and listen to that bird’s song.
12 Education will never be as expensive as ignorance.
13 Experiments may fail, but your willingness to experiment is vital.
14 If you can’t write it, see if maybe you can sketch it.
15 You’ve only got one liver.
16 Articulate your ideas … you often won’t know what you think until you’ve said it out loud.
17 Music invokes virtues.
18 What is this life, if full of care we have no time to stand and stare ?
19 How many languages have you really listened to ?
20 Don’t be shy.
21 Seek to experience every kind of harmony.
22 Marvel at the human eye and brain.
23 Try to keep up with new ideas, even though you don’t have to agree with them.
24 George, don’t do that !
25 Get outside and smell that wood smoke.
26 Always kick off your shoes and wiggle your toes in the sand … that’s what they were made for.
27 Rest whenever your body or your mind tells you to.
28 Keep your sunny side up ! Up !
29 Join in sometimes, even if you really can’t dance.
30 Courtesy costs nothing.
31 Travel slowly where possible to explore and discover.
32 There’s often some method in their apparent madness.
33 A little polite scepticism will often be necessary.
34 May the best team win: because the game is more important than the players.
35 Can you articulate your values and your principles clearly and concisely for the benefit of people who won’t or can’t ?
36 It is never too soon to say sorry.
37 Know your weaknesses before others discover them.
38 Render unto Caesar …
39 Beware of slippery slopes, some are longer and steeper than you might suppose.
40 Even a little kindness will go a long way.
41 Beware of biting off more than you can chew.
42 Pilgrimage needn’t be religious. It can be cultural or intellectual or spiritual or just plain hedonistic … the journey’s the thing.
43 Be slow to anger … count to ten, or some greater number if necessary.
44 Russell: Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
45 Russell: Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
46 Russell: Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
47 Russell: When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your spouse or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
48 Russell: Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
49 Russell: Do not use power to suppress the opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions may suppress you.
50 Russell: Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
51 Russell: Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
52 Russell: Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
53 Russell: Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
54 Never spontaneously argue with gravity, or with momentum. When an irresistible force such as me meets an immovable object like you …
55 More haste will often result in less speed.
56 Go easy on the salt.
57 Your personal hygiene is never a private matter.
58 Help others to become themselves, for no one is complete.
59 Never be too proud to say “I don’t know !”
60 Wherever you go you will discover people who are more diligent, more caring, more talented than you can imagine. Be prepared !
61 Let there be light !
Saturday, December 18, 2010
At the vets, a plain woman enters the waiting room carrying a basket containing a Botero cat. Cat and owner look grumpy. She puts down the basket on a chair and crouches to speak to the animal … in French, with a voice so musical and tender it raises the hairs on the back of my neck.
Whilst I’m riding home on the bus, the snow is falling so thickly that you can’t see where the roofs end and the sky begins.
Later I get lost in the snowy wood during a short walk. It isn’t a big wood, but it doesn’t take me long to lose my sense of direction. Twenty minutes slowly becomes an hour and I begin to wonder what kind of idiots might ever have wanted to walk to the South Pole. In the dark and silent middle of the wood I find a holly tree, weighed down with snow and bearing just a few handfuls of properly seasonal scarlet berries.
Monday, December 13, 2010
1 dominic hurcombe rides his motor scooter into the public bar of the king’s arms in malmesbury one evening, and revs it up sufficiently to do a wheelie and places the front wheel on the bar … we all run out in to the street, choking on his exhaust fumes
2 the gamekeeper ted horton sings and dances on a scrubbed table top in the carpenters arms at sherston, his bald head bumping on the low ceiling … then pauses with eyes closed and hands crossed on his chest, before opening one crafty eye and muttering “it’s alright lads, its only my heart !”
3 in a bar in ornaisons in the south of france, the scornful wife of a drunken farmer makes a huge folded paper hat from the local broadsheet newspaper and places it on his head … he parades around the bar like napoleon … and whilst everyone is distracted she goes to the bar, buys some matches, and then when he sits down again, she walks up behind his chair unnoticed ... and sets it on fire
4 in a tiny spanish village on a hot night during a september fiesta, just before a rock concert there is a sudden thunderstorm and the rain pours down … everyone runs in to a tiny bar and just as we are crowded shoulder to shoulder the lights go out … candles are soon lit and soon after that the people are singing ancient songs that the whole village has known for generations
5 in a chinese restaurant in madrid, I realize that our sangria tastes of curry powder not cinnamon … and everyone slowly agrees, “but what the hell ! we’ll drink it anyway !”
6 the bar in the borough arms in malmesbury is in chaos, furniture is overturned, broken glass litters the floor, roy the landlord and several customers are bleeding … sergeant burgess walks in only about half an hour after the emergency call went out and asks, “is anything wrong ?”
7 six old men line up seven wooden chairs on the parquet flooring in the middle of a public bar at lunchtime and form a train for a three year old girl who sits in the foremost chair and “drives” whilst the old men “choo-choo” and “whoo-whoo !”
8 at closing time on new year’s eve, the regulars in the carpenters arms at sherston kneel and then march out on their knees in single file singing “hi-ho, hi-ho, its off to work we go !”
9 in the window seat of the smoking dog at malmesbury after the carnival procession, two men in wedding dresses and high heels discuss foundation cream
10 on a summer day, the infant Tristan is carried in to a small dark bar in his father’s arms, and marvels for the very first time at the brilliant rich colour of beer in straight glasses when illuminated only by the light from one small window
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Setting forth on my Saturday errands, I see movement at the bus station and I run seventy yards and leap on to the bus, thrusting the closing doors back with both arms held straight in front of me.
It seems evident that even whilst the snow lay all about, the grass has continued to grow beneath it. The snow thaws quickly in the sunlight and a thin mist forms so that you only see the tops of the trees across the common.
The dog loses sight of me when she stops to converse with a small terrier whilst I continue to circumnavigate the bandstand on Clapham Common. She runs up the ramp and then catches sight of me just as she steps on to a steep bank … and then slides down the icy slope on her bum with legs akimbo … and an expression on her face which suggests that one half of her brain may be shouting “WTF?” whilst the other half already cries for “Help!”
Friday, December 3, 2010
Driving out of London towards Gatwick every morning involves a gentle but tedious ascent to the gap in the North Downs at Hooley, where the Brighton road at last turns into a motorway, and then swoops down to the left to face the morning sky. This morning is as deeply cold as any I can remember, minus nine degrees, and in a crystalline sky the brilliant planet Venus dazzles low in the south east. But even lower than Venus, directly beneath it and almost couched on the horizon, is an apparently enormous yellow crescent moon. In the next hour, the distant planet slowly ascends a little way from left to right, whilst our sharp crescent moon turns silver, gradually lagging further behind, until both are obscured in a freezing fog.
In that same fog, towards the late morning, I glance away from the snowy road through a tall hedge towards a descending vista of ancient oak trees, still bronze and leafy but snow laden so that each twisted bough declares its own long fading history until that vista of ancient sunlit trees fades into a seeming eternity of frozen mist.
Back in London and slumping homewards on the bus in mid-afternoon, I listen to an African woman with a mobile phone conversing in a language I’ve never heard, but I cannot fail to enjoy the universal syntax of her husky laughter. Glancing up occasionally through the dispersing clumps of fog into the pale blue yonder, there are glimpses of shining aircraft on their inch-perfect glide path into Heathrow, brilliantly under-lit by the sinking sun like herald angels.