Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Still Waters Run Deep

I walked the River Hodder earlier today; not the whole length you understand, just about two miles of narrow, twisting pebble-banked stream and deep, slow, murky pools hiding their secrets from the damp world above. The Hodder has run its course through villages such as Slaidburn, Tosside, Newton, Dunsop Bridge and Lane Ends for centuries, bringing fresh water from the North Lancashire Moors down to the Trough or Forest of Bowland, one of those well-kept, remote, attractive but hardly unspoilt areas of our green and pleasant land.

Unspoilt is a misnomer! Of course it is spoilt, by the higgledy-piggledy stone-built houses locked together over time in each village, by the long and low farmhouses which litter the valley, by the stark and unwelcoming halls owned by the nouveau-riche who bought them from the families of deceased cotton and wool barons of the 19th century, and by the chain-link fenced sewage plant, all but astride the Hodder in the centre of the valley; this brick built monstrosity, ageing, rusting and weedy leaking its residue of filtrate into these ice-cold waters.

We describe the valley as unspoilt because it is so well maintained, manicured by locals who take pride in their trusteeship. The natural Trough would be forested and unfarmed, a home for small mammals and birds as well as the ghosts of history, those travellers spirited away by accident and evil and buried in the rich and fertile soil. Unspoilt, no, but beautiful and impressive, with sober and unpretentious colours which welcome rather than challenge both residents and visitors.

This is why I sat, stood and leaned alongside the Hodder, peering into the deep and slowly circling pools, searching for trout first but failing that, wondering what secrets these eddies hid. Time does not fly here; change is slow. No reminders of the speed of modern culture, just the bleat of sheep, the chirp of birds, the rustle of wind in the trees and the ripple of water over rock and pebble. Humans may well have changed the look of the Trough with their ploughs and cows, but no motorways or planes, few roads and cars left me to think, dream, ponder and reflect.

Still waters do run deep, as deep as my thoughts, as hidden as my soul, as profound as the blood running through my veins.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Society at Peace!

The story of Freddie is sad indeed, the son of a dysfunctional family with father in prison, mother on the game, sisters in poverty caring for themselves, getting themselves to school most days, but always in trouble! Trouble with parents, with neighbours, with teachers, with just anybody.

Freddie is one of those who might well have rioted last week, little sense of responsibility, little understanding of community, little to excite him but much to frustrate, to limit, to depress. Who got it wrong, who caused this division, disaffection and distress? Does it matter anyway?

Some say that society is broken; others that social unrest is the consequence of a disaffected generation of young people; others that policing needs to be stronger, more assertive with punishments that deter. Fewer believe that policing is by consent of the community and that justice and jail must be restorative.

Does it matter what we say, think or believe? Not for Freddie. He fell or was pushed from a third floor window and was impaled on the railings below a long time before these riots. Unlike our community today, Freddie is at peace!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

I can't converse!

I've tried to write conversation, dialogue and discussion but without success. I cannot get it right! My characters seem unconvincing, their speech fatuous despite scenarios which should be arresting and make for compulsive listening. But no! I cannot write conversation.



Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The first day in the rest of my life?

The inspection had ended at 1300 on Friday and I had spent the weekend in the garden and with the family. Monday morning now, and where am I? On a train to the big smoke for two days of assessment and report writing ..... and thought I had retired .... again!!

The train carriage is half empty, but also half full of slightly overweight middle-aged businessmen and smart young women making their way in the world. It looks and sounds like a two-way ladder with seriously boring guys pompously and pretentiously working with laptops and piles of paper, while aspiring and assertive (largely) women, clearly better organised, listen to their ipods and read the financial pages. Quite a contrast!

And in this melee, where am I? With a foot on both sides of the ladder? Who can tell? Certainly not me!

I tried to think this through but we are in Rugby already, more than halfway to London in just over the hour; the speed of life today! And here I am musing yet again! What would my favourite poet Donne make of this dilemma? Or tycoon, Alan Sugar? Or Paul of Tarsus? I sometimes think that I am thoughtful like Paul, but he was never confused; maybe he was like me? Reading him, I do believe that he was trapped with a personal issue he never describes; his theology may be sound, but his life seems to indicate a tension he never details.

Alan Sugar would not be where I am; no tensions for him, no train either! he is the exemplification of clarity, direction and judgement, underpinned with confidence in his own abilities. He really is the consummate professional, having faults but being wrong not being one of them.

So I am left with Jonne Donne, that sensitive and jesuitical poet with a resolution to every quandary, even if he does not share it, an answer to every tension, a solution to every problem! Whether his poem is compromise or conclusion, the outcome is always final, secure and unquestioned. At the "mingling of bloods" nothing stays the same, nor can the old world return; it changes everything ... for ever!


The Flea

Marke but this flea, and marke in this,
How little that which thou deny'st me is;
Me it suck'd first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled bee;
Confesse it, this cannot be said
A sinne, or shame, or losse of maidenhead,

Yet this enjoyes before it wooe,
And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than wee would doe.


Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
When we almost, nay more than maryed are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, w'are met,
And cloysterd in these living walls of Jet.

Though use make thee apt to kill me,
Let not to this, selfe murder added bee,
And sacrilege, three sinnes in killing three.


Cruell and sodaine, has thou since
Purpled thy naile, in blood of innocence?
In what could this flea guilty bee,
Except in that drop which it suckt from thee?
Yet thou triumph'st, and saist that thou
Find'st not thyself, nor mee the weaker now;

'Tis true, then learne how false, feares bee;
Just so much honor, when thou yeeld'st to mee,
Will wast, as this flea's death tooke life from thee.

John Donne

Monday, April 04, 2011

Conversation, compliance or mask?

"Who is she?" she asked.
"Who?" he replied.
"Stop kidding; you know what I mean. Who is she?"

These opening words of a radio play that I heard today made me think ..... made me think that this conversation (soon to be an argument) must have been repeated in so many homes, and made me think too that at home we sometimes pretend to be the people we are not!

A mask can be a wonderful gift, enabling me, or you, or us, to be both the person we are and the person we are not. What we think and feel and believe may be there, just under the surface, the real me, warts and all. The mask is there for all to see, a shell or peel which can be so attractive, warm, inclusive or loving, a comfortable skin, acceptable to family and to friends, and believed by all except our intimates to be REAL!!

Meanwhile, underneath the mask, a personality inhibited by events is just wasted or wasting, festering, infected with the germs of hurt, anger or isolation. Just as flesh softens, hardens and heats up, hiding the puss just under the skin until the boil bursts in a thick, grey, putrid flow, so our hurts fester behind the mask until it is torn away in a realisation for one partner that truth is health, and for the other a realisation that the truth is (or is not) welcome; living with a mask is tolerable. Living with truth is heaven or hell!

Schizophrenia, that frightening term for those with split personality is often misused by amateurs like me. So few of us suffer from this maladie, but we seek comfort in the divisions we hide. Having two sides may provide comfort and security, and with practice may even become almost perfect. How many partnerships follow this model? At work or at home, so many crave an audience, needing appreciation, gaining satisfaction to sustain a mask. So many others see themselves as misunderstood. For others, the mask slowly becomes reality and one side of the split personality disengages as the other comes to dominate.

What does all this mean? Which is our true self? If the cap fits, wear it! If not, be grateful for peace of mind and heart!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Green Agenda

Fukushima may yet be a name we all learn to speak, not because it is the surname of a Japanese politician, the current chair of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, but because of its impact on the green agenda here in the UK!

Fukushima, an atomic power electricity generating station on the east coast of Japan, is built on bedrock, just as such complexes are in the UK. There the similarity ends as the UK does not have the range of active tectonic plates off and around Japan but this will not be relevant in the debate on government proposals to expand the UK's nuclear generating capacity. Bedrock, intended to be the factor which makes the nuclear facility "safe", has proved a liability in an earthquake zone just as other factors, maybe remoteness of location or sophisticated technology will prove ultimately to be the failings of the UK model.

Everything man-made is fallible; everything natural has its day. Harmony between the two is possible, even likely, but never eternal, As we say, every dog has its day, and nature has a way of proving its omnipotence …… it always bites back .... in the end!

Nature strikes back?

I guess Aborigine, Maori or other indigenous peoples of "under-developed" regions would make the connection between natural disaster and dramatic changes in the equilibrium of the world's resources? I have to ask if there is a connection between today's earthquake and tsunami and the speed of the North's consumption and abuse of our finite world.

Maybe this question is conceived in my belief that blame for the world's failings can be mostly laid at the feet of capitalism (there are instances of the combination of nationalism and socialism having similar failings!) However the unity of nature, the Earth at peace with itself, the sort of allegory which the film Avatar portrayed, these are long-held traditions of animist belief ... that the gods must be assuaged if pestilence and disaster are to be minimised.

So where do BP and the supranational companies stand? What of the increasing influence of the political right? How about the domination of the media by Murdoch and his friends? Will these groups question our trusteeship of this world? Or will they continue to spout ideological platitudes about trickle down, ending poverty, the development cycle and the morality of the market?

Meanwhile nature confirms its ambivalence about when and where it challenges humankind; and the West has been asked the question more in the last year or so than for some time ...... from New Orleans to New Zealand, from Queensland to Japan.

Like the gentle breeze, my words are lost in the ether, but we have to answer the question, not simply ask it!

Friday, March 11, 2011

An Empty Tube?

Vauxhall to Waterloo takes just eleven minutes on a good day but to look at my fellow travellers during the rush hour this evening, few had had a good day! From their silence, the lack of conversation, the total absence of eye contact, the unhelpfulness of those with no regard for fellow travellers looking for a space to stand not sit, or somewhere to place a bag, it's clear that Cameron's "big society" has little chance in the south-east where the prevailing isolation and apparent self-reliance of my colleagues on the Tube is a foundation of quicksand for his brave new world!

I'm told that the human race is gregarious; not much evidence of this on the London tube. In fact, the very opposite may be true, a race of isolates, maybe the consequence of generations of inbreeding influenced by the political bigotry of the right wing media?

Yes, I do that see that link as logical, that years of living on a diet of the abuse of society, selfishness, and intolerance of the less fortunate leaves communities bereft of spirit, afraid of teamwork and prisoners of intolerance.

We reap what we sow said the prophet. Well, it will take more than eleven years of reflection to begin to challenge my eleven minute judgement on those who travel by tube. By then I will be seventy-nine years young and I Hope still taking an alternative view.