When will we wake up?


© Beanotown Photography                    A random Venetian arcade, currently 

This morning there came a communiqué from a friend in Venice, which is engulfed by water.

Exactly ten years ago – 19.xi.09 – two deluges of approx 180mm fell on already sodden Fells. This water tumbled into the Cocker – one of the country’s fastest rising rivers – and the Derwent. They meet at Cockermouth.

I watched the foot bridge at the Cocker’s mouth disappear while on the phone in my flat in the middle of this gorgeous, 18th century market town. I’d stood on Waterloo Bridge the day before and been physically intimidated by the volume of water roaring towards me. I assumed it’d been washed away but it re-emerged two days later. For 48 hours, the river engulfed and drowned it: the Derwent is yet a far larger affair.

Cockermouth’s Main Street on 20.xi.09     © Paul Brigham

Cockermouth’s heart beats in the privately owned shops, hotels and the brewery of this jewel of a Town, 90% of which are along Main Street and Market Place.

All were destroyed.

Illness & death followed for a grim number of shop-keepers.

The shock, you see.

Before and since, the heavens open and drown life beneath: it is happening with increasing frequency all around the Northern Hemisphere and probably the Southern too.

Venice is as precious to its residents as Cockermouth is to those blessed to live there. But the world probably cares more about this architectual, artistic, cultural, historic, pivotal, floating city: sophisticated commerce could be said to have evolved there in the thirteenth century.

It is trivial to say the climate is changing. All the money in the world wouldn’t impress the atmosphere. Using it with finer-grained thinking to arrest its destruction … and therefore ours … may mitigate what awaits us? 

There are still those who refuse to connect their action with the consequences and consequently, for whom all this seems unrelated and unimportant. How can that be when the evidence washes around us?


Dead-heading the roses: better than bubble-wrap … or cannabis


© Getty Images

Over the late summer, a fresh evening-stroll-route took me through a park with four formally-spaced, voluptuous rose beds: perhaps 20′ x 10′ in size with mebbie thirty tall bushes in each?

One of the many glories of roses is that by dead-heading them – snapping off the old bloom – another will be generated. The reward is a greatly extended season.

At the centre of these beds, separated by crossed paths, is a small fountain whose pool has been filled in with bedding plants. A fortnight or so after I’d begun the dead-heading, a couple of fierce muts along with their drug-dealing friends took to congregating there.

I’m far too lazy to go looking for trouble but if accosted by it, award it fairly short shrift. The dogs came a-snarling and backed away on being told off in Swedish for being so rude. That was followed by their owner, a spaced-out and emaciated skin-head, who shouted over at me. 

It was impossible to decipher what he said, so he was asked to repeat it in a manner one might understand. “Whaaaaaa youuuuuuuu killing vem flaaaaaarz?”


Thrilled to pass on the lush joy implicit to dead-heading, I extolled its virtues in some considerable detail.

The dogs did not approach on subsequent occasions, nor did the group continue to gather for much longer at that spot.

not just that, snapping the stem below the head feels even more satisfying than popping bubble-wrap.

☆☆ you may be assured I let the dreamy irony of life-extension amid life-curtailment waft into their plumes of wearisome smoke with suasive determination.

Mapping imagination’s contours


© M@                                                                       Click on the map to enlarge

If, by virtue of bewildered exhaustion with the depleting state of the human heart amid slavery, extortion, poverty, hunger and homelessness, you too are in soothing need of something cheerful, this map of fiction’s finest locations may help.

It is a work in progress, created & co-ordinated by Matt and Rhys B Davies of Londonist by whom your ideas for additions are welcomed.

What is it about maps that appeals so strongly to minds and hearts? The irresistible pull to gaze and imagine allow the inner eye to roam as witches, swooshing across landscape, mapping the contours of reality with metaphysical swank.

The mist of wonder that descends during the process of raking over places hides that what we seek is rarely found: or if it is, it’s never enough as the appetite to look seems resistant to being sated.

What’s fun about this map is to understand others’ locations. That intimate agreement fully to enter into a figmentary universe renders the world a warmer place somehow. And in whatever spot you find yourself at this moment of ubiquitous turmoil, comforting solidarity is always a welcome, fire-side idea.


Either fishy or foul


Eileen Agar’s self-portrait in Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse, 1936  
The Bridgeman Art Library represents the copyright holder

In some senses, it seems as though hurling pesci-ness into a court bouillon to let it simmer is a lazy way to describe the UK’s current intellectual, spiritual, emotional and political state. Tilt in a spoon and who knows what’ll be drawn out?

In virtue of our utter dismay with the vaccuous absence … the complete and ubiquitious absence … in politics of kindness & emotional resilience / intelligence ever since Mr Cameron’s failure [to persuade our neighbours to let the UK have its gâteau et le mange aussi], we reflect on Listening‘s suasive strength. We’ve been banging on about this forceless power since 1994, afterall.

You can’t imagine how refreshing it is to hear a political candidate emphasize the importance he places on it.

Diplomats need to tread carefully as the ground beneath our feet is waving, seismicly. @RoryStewartUK has spent the past six months or so, walking lightly on the earth, conducting street conversations in order to Listen to what we’re all thinking.*

* Mr Stewart is an independent candidate standing for Mayor of London.

Walking for Leadership, rather than Running for Election, intuitively seems a more measured approach: one which serves the electorate rather than the candidate; in which dialogue has the time and space to unfurl.


Halloween, which as soon as B Johnson Esq announced as the immutable date of departure we knew wouldn’t be so, when ghouls and goblins teeter around with chocolate smeared faces and pointy hats swish up drives, it is sincerely hoped the damage this brutal, deaf process of Brexit has caused can stop for breath, allowing hearts & ears to open.

The spell No. 10 seeks to cast by virtue of its excruciating slogans could feasibly stun us into submission. There’s something either fishy or pretty foul at play when oratory lacks grace: surely a sign of wizardry at work?


Turkey votes for Christmas


From ABC News                                                          Image AP: Ismail Coskun/HA         Kurdish civilians enduring … civilization

Mr Erdogan. Do Listen.

Altered states


Before Cubism, this was Mondrian                                             Evening Red Tree

In 1991, the successful endeavour to create Scotland’s first writer’s haven was bolstered by a 24-hour Poethon which took place one long day during the Edinburgh Festival.

An engorged Illiad of diverse verse, the work of living poets was [largely] recited by weavers & devotees of silken lines in a kind of beating-the-bounds-of-Old-Reekie: every fresh hour, a shiny new location.

One recital sticks in the mind by virtue of its piquancy. Acrobat was … a poem? … recited by a self-confident soul whose humour seemed to mingle with a profound enquiry into the meaning of words.

The poem was the word Acrobat, said/uttered/expelled/ intoned/mysterified/whispered/murmured over and over: mebbie in over Fifty such exclamations.

Comatose with fatigue before its performance at around Three in the morning, Acrobat woke us up ~ woke me up.

Repetition of a word takes those who listen through a kind of dark night of the soul: acidly stripping meaning, corrosively reforming its structure in order that it rises, as Excalibur, from murk of meaningless chaos to tangible clarity of truth.

The ghastly clatterage of letters which coalesce as Brexit makes that rule. In virtue of its exceptional inelegance, repetition only reinforces the immutably grizzled impli-&-ramifications which remain wholly resistant to redemptive transformation.

Would that poets gathered up the debris this process has wrought such as to re-form it into something kind, persuasive, generous, focussed: they may be the only clear-sighted souls able to save us.

Moniack Mhor is a thriving, febrile throb of writerly longings, whence the inspiring nurture the aspiring.

Squaring the Circle


Da Vinci’s exploration of proportion                          L’Uomo Vitruviano c1490

When something doesn’t function as intended, it seems plausible to fine-tune or alter its operation; no?

Imprison as punishment or for punishment? What occurs but uninterrupted refinement of criminal skills?

Juries determine guilt, judges utter the sentence, the felon sails off to prison for half the due term. Having served their time in Crim Academy, an unsurprising proportion opt to use skills honed whilst inside the penal system and lo, within 14 months are back behind bars.

The Home Secretary announced this week mandatory time served shall increase. Oh joy: greater cost to the tax payer while the dispossessed continue perfecting all manner of nefarious craft.

How would it be were prisons to shift their perspective from being criminal Finishing school to that of Boarding school? Material alteration would be minimal while the refocus could entail wholesale evolution: use-fully occupied days where learning skills valued by Society was timetabled as 9 – 6.

Reading, Listening, growing self-esteem, developing minds to grasp the impact criminal action has on the victim, accumulating measurable achievement all take time – a commodity  that slooshes as Tsunami along prison landings.

The absence of vision in reframing the picture criminals have of themselves incurs exorbitant emotional cost on the country in macro and families in micro.

And nothing changes for the better.

Here at the Materials, we’re interested in causes rather than symptoms: it seems that returning to simple beginnings may hold a key to unlocking the depleting vacuity of what propels crime and its perpetraitors.

Teaching children that if they like a thing happening to them it’s probably right: and if they dislike something then it’s probably the wrong thing to do it to others. Perhaps start by teaching the parents?

Absence of empathy clatters through crime. Absence of empathy enables crime.

If you haven’t been taught to stretch your mind to try to understand others’ lives / perspectives / traumas …, then what you do to them won’t matter to you. It takes dismally little to slough off the veneer of civilization.

And this is how we seem to exist currently. Gorgeous manners and everyday courtesy are ridiculed. Kindness, a virtue which ought to be as unusual as breathing, has become a prudently used weapon aimed at what it might elicit. Generosity of spirit is taken for weakness. It seems all is out of kilter&proportion.

  1. Teach the young self-discipline, self-respect and self-confidence.
  2. Lead by example of kindness, trust, Please, Thank you and putting hands in front of coughs and sneezes.
  3. Proportionately reward all that is good- and punish poor-behaviour.

By such laughably simple means, ends are reached with equanimity and offer a return to Peace. Listen to what’s known at the cellular level and act accordingly. Unbearable chaos in the national heart has led us to the edge of our ability to cope. One wonders how long will be the wait for nuclear winter’s debris to enshroud us?