Oh clouds: unfold

* Without divine intervention, it might have been called Runners. Shriek.

In Special Collections, cared for by the British Film Institute, reposes the David Puttnam Archive. One of its very many treasures is the original screen-play for Chariots of Fire, Colin Welland’s story whose name change seems crucial-beyond-imagining to its ultimate, blazing success.

Tweeking things releases potential. For instance, one of the vanishing small number of wondrous consequences the Pestilence has ventilated is that exercise in the open air has infused thinking such that millions of people who didn’t, now do.

While part of me laments relinquishing the splendid isolation of communing with nature, pressing my whole being into the contours of its glory, there’s a generosity-of-spirit slither that grins from ear to ear in knowing how many more now benefit their own mental & physical well-being.

Each of us is one, whole entity. Though there are others inbetween, ya ankle bone’s connected to ya … hip bone just as ya kindess connected to ya wellness. Or ya imagination’s connected to ya hopes.

Apart from all those other years, 2021 has been the worst of the worst for a dispiriting proportion of the Earth’s current population. Each of us is going to have to be the change we want to see if things are spiritually and materially to improve. Not only is waiting for someone else to act pointless but it only deepens one’s own visceral gloom: autonomy vanquishes helplessness. By parting the clouds above my own head, I intend to let the sun smile down, warming what the departing year so viciously cooled.

May 2022 be a blesséd improvement – politically, emotionally, epidemiologically, intellectually – each feeling connected to their ability to foster wellness in themselves and others. Happy New Year, y’all.

* ownership of image not entirely clear. Goldcrest Films? Lord Puttnam of Queensgate? Hugh Hudson?


UThixo amsikelele umntwana*

Twitter screenshot of Gugulethu Ndzendze, aged 9

Howzitbin for you?

‘Unutterably bloody along to manageable’ seems an approximate spectrum of response to enquiries after how others have wrestled this forsaken, blighted year to the ground.

Remember 2008: when the financial waves crashed around our ears and one felt crushed by the weight of perpetual woe wafting from the radio? So, we’ve been here before.

A profound strength of emotional intelligence / literacy / resilience rests on principles of Truth. Facing up to reality is 1. soooooooooo much easier, and 2. soooooooooooo much easier. (3. & 4. equally so).

It takes the same amount of time to Listen as it does not to Listen but requires more of oneself. To Listen, you have to be prepared to give of yourself: your compassion, interest and untempered humanity. To be fully present.

I love that everyone round the planet celebrates Christmas in one way or another. Sacred and Secular unite in acknowledging the ontological/epistemic opportunity to thank with one’s heart for the gift of love. All of us can ‘save lives in different ways’ as Tamsin Greig mused on the radio recently.

When times are so tough there’s nothing tangible to give, we are given the chance to give the most powerful thing of all: our full presence.

Were there no pictures, you’d think Gugulethu Ndzendze a mature, academy-trained operatic luminary. Observe.

In reality, she’s a child, creating joy. Happy Christmas.

* Not being fluent in Xhosa, I was expecting God Bless the child to translate as Nkosi Sikelela umntwana in virtue of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica. Tiens, eh ben dit donc.


Smells like team spirit

© Michael Lavine

For our international readers, the UK is having a mirror held up to its principles and practises … revealing the blemishes. It is to this we refer.

Crossing Cricket’s boundaries has been as dismal as illuminating. Since Azeem Rafiq captured the vascular drainage of racism implicit to the Yorkshire dressing room [daresay it’s not the only county whose cricket club is thus mired], his eloquence has thrown open windows ventilating the snarling state of banter.

The cricket club has acknowledged Rafiq was the victim of racial harrassment.

Interviewed on the Today programme about the painful experiences Rafiq revealed, Monty Panesar championed his fellow cricketer’s ‘determined voice to be heard’.

Educating teenagers on the difference between micro-aggression and banter is important in light that “the Dressing Room is a great place to be … which comes under team spirit”.

Aye: and there’s the rub. There’s nothing soft about sensitivity to others’ feelings. Insulting one another in virtue of not knowing how to express admiration seems intellectually, morally and emotionally deficient and rather tragic. … Would that there were an expert in strengthening self-awareness and spirit of empathy; in fortifying emotional resilience.

Yet there’s hope this tipping point will yield more than a cascade of recrimination.

This is a miraculous opportunity for us all to examine the cause of our contempt for things beyond our ken and spring-clean values and principles by which we live. No?

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido
A denial, a denial, a denial, a denial, a denial
A denial, a denial, a denial, a denial

Songwriters: Chris Novoselic / David Grohl / Kurt Cobain Smells Like Teen Spirit lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Madeleine Baird Materials: expert in strengthening self-awareness and the spirit of empathy.


Poetry in motion


Full disclosure. Don’t have a telly, never seen Strictly Come Dancing : often walk across Tottenham Marshes.

Rose & Giovanni have risen up through audible visibility in virtue their recent performance on #Strictly included moves danced in silence, reflecting Rose Ayling-Ellis’ sound world. Watch them swoon here.

Giovanni Rose, a seventeen year old poet has just won The Foyles Young Poet of the year Award for his Welcome to Tottenham, a powerful reflection of what it means to be young, gifted, black and trying to survive in an ethnically diverse patch of North London. Watch him perform it here

It seems more than a co-incidence of name that three people are beamed to the forefront of consciousness at the same moment. Sometimes it seems the universe spins in such a way as to compel us to Listen.

Both dancers and poet express their message quietly which seems more powerful than bellowing. In such explosive times as these, it’s wonderful to remember volume holds less importance than meaning and it is often the suasive approach that endures.


Throwing another Christian to the lions?


Have you ever seen a sword’n’sandals film: one depicting the ancient world dripping in blood and parched of moral noblesse?

Almost fainting as intellectual and physical response to a depiction of how Romans would throw another Christian to the lions*, this depleting image has been blinding my view of the road while cycling round Town in recent months.

Why? It is how road-parked cars appear to my mind in light of the exponential increase – blizzard proportions – of shattered glass lying on the road beside where once the driver’s window existed. Their plangent exposure to ferocious attack defies belief.

I don’t know what these violent grabbers seek: it seems puzzling to suppose anyone leaves a thing of immediate financial value in their vehicle. It must be something else then that motivates a night’s exercise of smashing their way in to cars along an entire length of street. But what?

This, albeit a long way round, suggests that were understanding the emotions promoted up the academic hierarchy, there’d be fewer destructive souls in our midst.

It is a ubiquitous characteristic among those who carry out criminal acts not to reflect on their victims nor on the impact of their crimes as it entails examining their own motivations which, naturally, are unpalatable.

Famished inner emptiness is a condition marvellously simple to treat.

Empathy classes are beginning to ventilate some curricula. Teaching children how to stretch their minds to understand how their actions impact others … how reality exists beyond themselves … is an extremely sound start in addressing all kinds of social ill, crime being the most obvious.

By starving voracious minds of the chance to cultivate compassion and empathy, are we not continuing to throw Christians to the lions?

* For them as find this kind of thing to their taste, the wondrous Senhouse Museum in Maryport, Cumbria was where I saw it. (Simply couldn’t face illustrating this Blogos with lions gnawing through their supper. Image comes from Psychology Today)


earth … heart … hear


Listening to words woven from evolving meaning: is it possible to arrive at heart from earth merely by switching the order of characters and still have an ear at its centre?

© Steve Fallon …………………………………………………………………………… A few steep Munros

The Conference of those Parties who signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994, gathering in Glasgow at the end of this month, has a steep Monro to climb. Not only must it avoid platitudes of woe but present a practical, achievable plan all can grasp as the obvious way to evolve how each of us lives.

From Copenhagen’s gathering in 2009, we took the notion that if status were uncoupled from consumption, having a lot of stuff would be a sign not of wealth but bankruptcy. There seemed excitement that peak oil would influence a kinder maturity shaping better, less cluttered ways of living. But did it? Did it, hell.

Though understandable, it seems rigid to cling to the original title: CoP26 should theoretically be 27 (years after 1994) and this choice to disregard a flexible reality is troubling. What else will be conveniently ignored? Perhaps this blindfold could be termed eclimat?

Eclimat: a tendancy to dodge the truth of what stares us in the face.

In a world where we’re told the first shall be last and the last first, will switching the order of characters who lead and legislate our lives be sufficient to persuade? If there’s no ear at our own eccentric centre, what hope is there moral, intellectual and emotional duty will be embraced?

CoP26 : 31.x.21 – 12.xi.21 … Halloween to beyond Rememberance

As a wee aside, listening to William Shatner’s exquisitely affecting visceral flow of euphoria last week immediately following his egress from the Blue Origin capsule was a marvellous manifesto to value what we have while we have it. The planet’s fragility stares us in the face.


To wit, …

© Jonas Classon Night Hunter……………………………………………………………. A Swedish great grey Owl, allegedly

A Bird Photographer of the Year finalist with this image, we say grattis, Jonas Classon.

But what competition judges appear to have missed – as it simply wasn’t mentioned – is that a witch has trapped a person inside an Owl in ironic punishment for making his entire family homeless.

Do you see it: the thinking going on behind its eyes? That’s not an avian expression, nor are those slightly worse-for-wear eye-whites (who knew birds had white sclera?). That is a 37-year-old with a gambling addiction who’s just bet his house on the toss of a coin and lost. It seems he’s clenching his fist in dratted vexation at both his loss and transformation into a bird-who-preys by a passing, broomsticked witch.

Doubtless, ornithologists will howl in complaint of such anthropomorphizing: yet doesn’t this seem an avian wonder? Or, it is a clear demonstration of there being one life force to which all living creatures are subject? The possessor of this faculty – let’s call it consciousness – processes information pertinent to its needs, experiences environmental alterations and perceives with all five senses humans enjoy plus those we don’t.

To wit, let’s celebrate the nobility of existence in forms-beyond-number and ways-beyond-understanding.


Sloely does it

© Spirits Beacon Wait til they’ve gorn black before tweeking from stems

Up in North London where slugs have had a bonza year but the voles seem few and far between, it’s been a mixed nosebag, too, for the early risers. Too late for Haylage, Hay’s been lumped rather than baled for some reason and mounds lounge carelessly for anyone to settle into for a read in the rising sun.*

Unlike Elderflowers whose pollen benefits from a full day’s sun before picking, elderberries, redcurrants and cherries are most succulent after a drench by dew and before the sun has winked, warming their fruity boughs.

A complete washout for Blackberries; have you noticed? Ush. No bramble jelly this year alas. However … and this is the point … sloes are having something of prodigal return to favour. Previous couple of years were somewhat lean. But, but, but: suddenly great fat blackthorn berries burst out in the joy of last week’s Indian Summer.

With so much gristle on our plates with narry a crust to mask the grinding nature of getting through the next six months, it is really heartening to be reminded that so long as we can just hang in there, there’s hope for better. We can and will get through the testing times ahead. Sloes can do it: so can we.

* But this morning was the start of what is going to be a long, long … long haul to careless, cheerful Spring 2022. Dank and howling, crackling leaves dropped by age, crispend by warmth are soggy markers, reminding one that if we are to persist through and vanquish what lies ahead, compassion is going to be a strong weapon in the armoury of endurance. Remember: each thing gives birth to itself. Kindness builds muscles for kindness.


Emmancipating Tennis Stars

© WTA ….. Emma Raducanu, five minutes ago: before her future began

On a scale of 1 – 10, how sp-Lendidly happy is it Emma Raducanu won the second Grand Slam event in which she played? That’d be a 42?

Fresh as a daisy and fragrant as mimosa, the potential for her life to blossom makes it all the more important she’s given a chance to live privately. Remember when the teenage Rafa Nadal sat bouncing with excitement between the very retired Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe as the three of them were being interviewed at Queens Club some time in the v. early Noughties? And you just knew glittering prizes were destined for the smiling Mallorcan yet to win his first major tournement?

Well, the same could be said for the graceful 18-year old whose Bromley tennis development is the shot in the arm the country needs right now.

Wouldn’t be gorgeous if she were shielded from all the social mediocrity which seems to demolish so much of what is never really given a chance? By freeing herself from the emotional baggage which can journey alongside players in all fields, she will grow within the resilience she’ll need for her long, long … long career.

We hope this emancipated, hard-working tennis player continues developing emotional intelligence along with her game, winning all she blooming well deserves.


It is meaningful this shining, hopeful Hope won her first Title at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens on the day the world was paying attention to Manhattan, the Pentagon and Shanksville Field. Reshaping history, smoothing its edges. It shows dark evapourates in Light.


Perhaps they’ll listen now?

Vincent van Gogh’s heart-breaking metaphor expressed in 1889

The infinitely empathic Don McLean will perform at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in Sierra Vista, Arizona on Eleventh September, the twentieth Anniversary humanity’s insanity reached that decade’s nadir.

It is fifty years since in Vincent, he distilled the idea of Listening (the skill we’ve been teaching since 1996 along with all its associated explicative reverberations ) as a thing that might never happen: could never happen.

Glum news for us: glum for us all if it means we shut off flowing through eachothers’ lives with understanding, kindness and grace.

When blind focus meets deaf certainty, it is a moment to pause, breathe and consider if greater compassion might not be more productive than moulding others to our will in a forge of fury. A snowflake in the avalanche of Afghan woe is that the everlasting, starless night shrouding their future could entomb more than hope. #Talibanished from Freedom.

Starry Night, a surprisingly small canvas on view at MoMA, NY

Now, I think I know what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will

Vincent: © Don McLean, Songs Of Universal Inc., Benny Bird Co. Inc.