Monday, July 06, 2009

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!

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Of Posties, Politics and the letter P

I should look in the dictionary at words beginning with the letter P. How many there are I don’t know, nor whether P words are more numerous than those with different initial letters. What I do know is that it’s possible to reflect on the world in which we live by using definitions of P words as indicators of the state of our planet.

The Postie was completing his walk the other day, an introspective man committed to his job of delivering letters parcels and junk mail with relentless efficiency but not a great speed; the sort of man who clearly avoids conversation and is happy with his lot. No great pretensions, just the bustle of a job needing to be done. The Postie oozes confidence and determination; he is focused, never raising his eyes nor looking left or right, he will not catch your eye and hates responding to those who greet him, but a man with a mission. Would that more were like him!

So what of this Postie (“le facteur” for my French readers)? He made me think about the Press and Politics, of Pride and Poverty, of Paranoia, of Protest.

An odd world in which we live, where the life-blood of the Press is the destruction of Politicians and the reduction of the Public to consumers of cynicism. An odd world in which we live where Politicians are and are seen as the Purveyors of greed. An odd world in which we live, where Pride in personal achievement is so often ridiculed while celebrities are made famous only for their fame. An odd world too where the Poverty of the South and East is largely ignored by the West. A world in which Paranoia is a defence for crime, where Protest is a cover for brutality by police officer and anarchist alike.

I may be doing my postie a disservice, but I half envy him his abstraction from the world, his introspection. Content with his own thoughts, he has no need for or interest in the Vox Populi; independent and autonomous, he seems unaffected by the burdens of the economy, debt and the need to be nihilistic. Or maybe I have misread my postie; maybe it is these very burdens which make him the man he is. I will never know as intrude into his private hell I never will!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The End of the Line

(A tribute to my friend Dalva whose poem this is. Poignant, sad, even a little depressing, this dark destination we all pass through!)

Ah! when I arrived at the vortex of life,
When nothing more, nothing around me, was ascending,
When at last I arrived at the end of the line
It makes no difference whether I go or come.

When the loves and passions and friendships,
And their range of inescapable emotions
No longer sound like drums inside my chest,
Being just sad, poor and sultry echoes,

When my bodily properties, if all regathered,
Again in these clothes,
My hat, one or two books, some poems
And a feeling of not winning what I wanted,

Ah! when I stopped, at last, at the end of the road
And I considered the evil that I had within me,
(and what I did not have)
I was silent, like a rock,
Like a tree in the edge of an abyss,

Like an arrow that was loose in the bow,
Like an idea that would never come to fruition,
Like a shadow, or like a rough draft,
Of everything I dreamed, and did not have.

This is the end of the line ……..

British Summer Time

The clocks go forward tomorrow night, as we move from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time, but is this really a sign of summer, warmer times with happier smiling people? I think not!

The world is in crisis, not necessarily the crisis of war, but of changes to the human condition, the climate, the economy, all of which may already have tipped over the edge with few realising that this is indeed the case. Trauma and tragedy? Time will tell but when the fish of the sea are increasingly hermaphrodite, man's sperm count is less than half what it was fifty years ago, the seasons are more and more unpredictable with one polar cap soon to unfreeze each year, the world economy brought to its capitalist knees by the greed of bankers and money men, when will we see sense?

No longer are we masters of our destiny! No longer do the winners write the history books; no, history is the province of a future we can only guess at, hardly predict. Out of our hands, man has committed the gravest of sins in recent decades, maybe longer. Industry has poisoned not only rivers and soils, but our minds as well. Our right to choice, that oft proclaimed plank of the right, but also now of the left, denies the trust for our world, a trust recognised by those we scoff at as animist or primitive, by those communities which are self-supporting and whose lifestyle does not threaten the future of the planet. And what of the "civilised" world with its consumption of resources far beyond nature's ability to produce? East mimics West and the impoverished South jumps on this bandwagon to a world desert. But nature will always keep its own counsel and payback will be in its own time, not when humans decide.

So what of our future? Our best hope may be to stop, to think, to reduce the demands we make on ourselves, family, neighbours, communities, governments and nations ...... and ...... and what? Live as vegetarians or vegans? Probably not! Become pacifist? No! Go Green? Maybe! No, the answer must be to work together, black and white, rich and poor, Christian and Muslim, believer and agnostic, woman and man, and review the minimalist lifestyle needed to bring nature and nations into harmony.

So my hope for British Summer Time is that the Sun will shine, warm our hearts and minds, open our eyes and ears to the realities of this world, to aspiration not desperation, and that hand in hand, Afghan and American, Briton and Brazilian, Serbian and Sri Lankan will rebuild the future of mankind. After all things can and do change; who would have guessed in 1991 that the next American president would be called Hussein?