Blinking marvellous


© NASA                                           From 2016, a ‘supermassive black hole’

If a thing winks, so it declares itself to be an eye. Today, the Hubble Telescope, a miraculous gazing object which sees into an infinite past, celebrates its Thirtieth birthday: it is also the start of Ramadan.

© NASA, ESA, M. Sun (University of Alabama) and W. Cramer and J. Kenney (Yale University) via Yale News                                                                     The spiral galaxy D100, on the far right of this Hubble Space Telescope image, is being stripped of its gas as it plunges toward the center of the giant Coma galaxy cluster.    Hubble’s picture shows a colorful and poignant scene – the last of the galaxy’s gas being ripped out from its center in a massive stream of star-stuff that’s twice the length of the Milky Way Galaxy.
“It’s a 200,000-light-year-long tail of gas that you can see is very narrow connected to the center of the galaxy. You’re really seeing this galaxy in the last stages of its lifecycle of producing stars.”

Scale is incomprehensible: 200,000 light-years long? 1 light-year stretches 5.6 trillion miles. If I understood what that meant, it’d make me weak at the knees: “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment” (thankfully, happened on my behalf shortly before birth!)

With Ramadan, Rūmī waltzes and whirls to mind.

Persia brought early understanding of the Heavens. Rūmī, born in Afghanistan at the start of the Thirteenth century, would have had closer proximity to all things celestial than do we by virtue its principles informed the basis of life. Not surprising then, he stiffens the sinews with exquisite shatterings, en-couraging those who hear.

“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

© NASA                                                       Hubble capture of “Pillars of Creation” The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revisited one of its most iconic and popular images: the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation. This image shows the pillars as seen in visible light, capturing the multi-coloured glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-coloured elephants’ trunks of the nebula’s famous pillars.
The dust and gas in the pillars is seared by the intense radiation from young stars and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars. With these new images comes better contrast and a clearer view for astronomers to study how the structure of the pillars is changing over time.

In these uncertain days and weeks, I wonder if pondering the place of the heart in the universe of our soul might melt the barricades we build against life?

“The wound is the place where Light enters you.”

Quotes are Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī‘s, 1207 – 1273

Stew, Stew, Barley, McGruel, Cupboard, Dribble, Grub


© Gordon Murray                                Trumpton’s heroic firemen dashing out

At the time of writing, of the 1.5 million felled by this global, indiscriminate pestilence, 88½ thousand have died. It is bewildering, tragic and will need more than fortitude to protect the vulnerable and conquer its cause.

While complying with instructions to make way for key workers and help the NHS by washing hands & staying home, the one walk a day has been a perfect moment for idle reflection and escape from the grimness of it all.

Do you think in music? words? pictures? numbers? colours? scents? something else entirely, perhaps? Whatever its medium, the mind can soar with spectacular freedom, particularly when there’s nothing else one is obliged to do.

For example, now that grocery shopping has become a rice-less requirement of careful planning, daily menus have evolved à la Trumpton. The entirely justified, well spaced queues at food stores focus concentration on exactly what’s needed as nipping out for a loaf or pint of milk is no longer a matter of … nipping.

Therefore, if prone to stepping across the threshold of shops and entirely forgetting what you came for, here’s a cheerful mnemonic for each day of any week: Stew, Stew, Barley, McGruel, Cupboard, Dribble, Grub.

Bon app’tit.

Let’s pander to our humanity


© South China Morning Post                     Ye Ye & Ling Ling, wondering why

HoooooDaThort? It seems privacy ain’t just a human requirement and desired acknowledgement of respect.

Th-Rilling evidence has emerged that with Covid-19 forcing the withdrawal of visitors from Hong Kong’s Ocean Park zoo, a Panda couple has felt more relaxed.

Indeed, it seems removing spectators from wild animals’ orbit enables them to feel more like Ailuropoda melanoleuca at home in South-West China chomping through, inter alia, up to Forty pounds of Bamboo daily.

Ling Ling and Ye Ye have been behind bars, together for ten years. Doubtless, the constant zoological scrutiny traumatizes sensibilities to such an extent, only now that she’s not on show, Ling Ling exhibits signs she inclined to natural behaviour while Ye Ye has left markings around their dwelling.

That which infuses our uncertain times is the scent of longing for something more imaginatively humane. We reached #PeakWeaponizingHearts aeons ago.

While we have time, might these not be moments of wonder? To take a breath and muse on how better/ deeper/kinder/brighter/smarter we step on the Earth: in tandem with which, how we flourish and ventilate understanding that living creatures are conscious and consciousness is life.

From Pandas International: When available, Giant Pandas will eat fish, flowers and small animals. In captivity they also receive milk, eggs, ground meat and specially formulated vitamin bread. Apples and carrots are a favorite treat.

Since the Giant Pandas’ digestive system is not very efficient, they must consume large quantities of bamboo every day in order to obtain the nutrition they need. Cubs are especially prone to digestive problems.

© Scientific American     In supine relaxation

Pandas eat for up to 14 h/day holding and biting the bamboo stalks. They generally eat in a sitting position but also like to snack lying on their backs.

Harvey Weinstein Goddam


© NTS                                                                     Nina Simone telling it how it is

Beyond Coronavirus, life goes on. This was written last week, before sprouting segments of the Globe were swept up in the tornado of Covid-19. We’re posting it because it’s still relevant and because we’re all capable of holding more than two ideas at a time.


One might legitimately ask the question ‘why has it taken so long’?

Why, when all women have known for their whole lives that we don’t like being man-handled, have our protests not been heard?

Mebbie because Listening’s only just become a thing?

Nina Simone’s excruciating line from Mississippi Goddam “you don’t have to live next to me, just give me my equality” gets right to heart of injustice. One way to interpret that is: you will never be anything other than what you are. For some crazy reason, you think I should only exist if I am compliant.

The pandemic sweeping itself across the world will bring in its wake threats and opportunities on a scale we haven’t seen … maybe in our lifetime. An aspect it affords is the chance to re-think how we … each of us … behaves.

What is the chance, do you think, that the MeFirst thing – you know, iphone et al – might pivot to #U-phone or even better #phone-U?

We’ve talked about Smeagol/Gollum before in the context of holding onto to stuff that damages us. Well, he’s also an example of how a creature shrinks its heart through grabbing for himself everything in reach whether needed or not.

Putting others first rarely jeopardizes us: no, we benefit. Think of the last time you did some small kindness for its own sake … and how good that made you feel.

Well, maybe treating men and women with kind courtesy, respecting their inalienable right to exist and contribute to the world’s wellness might have a positive role to play in fashioning values of which we might all be Goddam proud?

Peace it together


Before the encroaching Coronavirus tide engulfs us all, there is some really cheerful news on the Listening front.

You know that we’ve been banging on about Listening and teaching its skills since the Nineties. You may also be aware we feel proud of the effect this has had in raising its crucial role in fostering understanding and bringing it to the top of many an agenda?

The hard work of leaving oneself behind and devoting one’s whole attention on the speaker, their words and delivery is something we recommend practising every day, like piano practice.

The dividends Listening yields far out-stretch the effort required. Not only are you gifting some-one their voice but in offering the kindness implicit to generosity of spirit, you grow as a human being. The symbiosis has an immediate effect of soothing situations, cooling heated encounters and creating space to ventilate thinking.

Well now, the gorgeous news is more important work is being done to reinforce the emphatic place Listening … or Deep Listening … has in poulticing perspectives. By offering acknowledgement and validation, those in dialogue receive the shattering relief – that doesn’t leave one in pieces – of being heard.

If you can, listen to Crossing Divides today or catch it on @bbc5live iplayer. Emotional intelligence needs folk like Emily Kasriel, a solutions-focussed journalist who has edited this series which seeks to bring peace between ears, sufficient to hear the pain.

Turner corner


The Fighting Temeraire                                                                                                      JMW Turner playing with light and messing with our minds in 1838

Seemingly, this noble salute is the nation’s favourite oil painting, capturing the final fathoms slipped by the veteran of sea-battle Trafalgar before she was broken up.

Why do we ponder on this now? Well, both picture and painter grace the new polymer Twenty Pound note.

The sense of gratitude the image inspires for the Temeraire’s heroism two hundred years later is miraculous; can there be a doubt that Turner’s mind, alive to what she represented, sought to lift spirits above those of nostaligic national pride?

Is that why he’s playing us?

I’ve donned an anorak equivalent (a Barbour, obvs) so as to get really picky. You see, the boat was towed up the Thames to the breaker’s yard at Rotherhithe, on the south bank, upstream from Greenwhich and opposite Wapping. Why then is the sun setting over Eltham, in the SarfEast? Poetic license gone mad.

It seems we’ve turned a corner. There’s talk that cash is on its way out and the two billion £20 notes currently in circulation will not all be replaced with this year’s model. Rather, fewer bills will reside in the national purse&wallet as our love affair with tapping cards continues.

Does the lack of romance implicit to assets beyond physical reach demonstrate the sun is setting on a way of life & say something simple on how all things, eventually, are towed off to be broken up?

The new Twenty … Turner, ship and that sun


Laying out the Coughin’


Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah for @MumsforLungs

This twitter handle is the hook on which to hang pictures of all the drivers who decline polite entreaties to switch off idling engines.

Less name n shame: more picture their discomfort.

Empirically speaking, it seems to be the case responses divide into a genial 65/20/15 split.

No, I’m just waiting for my mum who’s gone to get somefing / oh yes, course. Dunnowhy I do it / why don’t you mind your own business?

Vexaciously impotent to press the argument with the belligerent, now there’s a fab retort. Snap the driver and their registration number and tweet @MumsforLungs. See if that leverages evolution of behaviour?

You see we can’t continue as before. Being kinder to the atmosphere is being kinder to ourselves. Added to which, it flourishes emotional intelligence (EQ). In the making of decisions that benefit as many as possible not merely ourselves, so is cultivated the desire to repeat the feeling that generates.

EQ isn’t candy floss but a chunk of titanium. Although light, its suasive strength holds its ground.

Air quality matters to young lungs. Will parents waiting outside schools / husbands in supermarket car parks / gangsters in Covent Garden side streets who scoff at entreaties to switch off, will they never grasp they’re driving others into the path of coughin’ to coffin?



Seemingly, “The longest palindromic word in the Oxford English Dictionary is the onomatopoeic tattarrattat, coined by James Joyce in Ulysses (1922)”.

This is wildly unsurprising – remember the sound of crashing waves? – but pours us into a fizz of celebration that:

  1.  It is Groundhog Day: the middle of Winter.
  2. The date is a delicious palindrome: 02.02.2020
  3. Just wait til two minutes past Eight this evening when      it’ll be … yes you’ve guessed it … 20.02 on 02.02.2020
  4. Yabadabadoooodabadabay.

Such simple pleasures make me smile.

Note: this afternoon in London, the temperature will reach 13° centigrade / 55.4° Fahrenheit. Punxsutawney Phil wouldn’t bother to get out of bed in such swelterage, shadow or no shadow surely?

Image © Oxford World’s Classics cover to Ulysses

So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, À Dieu


©                                    Channelling England from France

Yesterday at 6.40am, the radio blythly told us in passing “… tomorrow the UK leaves the European Union.”

My heart hangs heavy.

Four years ago, it never occurred to me quite how out of touch I was with 17.4 million inhabitants of the so-called United Kingdom. (Those of voting age was 45.7 million. Do th’arithmatic)

Truly, I had no idea and even less conception that Northern Ireland (not), Scotland (not), Wales (?) and England felt so threatened by immigration that severing ties with the EU was the only option to protect&secure UK borders.


In some respects I geddit.

I get that seeing people who have no respect for UK values and traditions demand and receive tax-payer-subsized lifestyles is puzzlingly irksome. I am hip to the notion that lack of self-determination appears a dismal quid pro quo for membership of a disordered club: a club which had the gentleness to sing Auld Lang Syne as the UK contingent left in graceless shambles.

And yet.

1973 happened. It’s over. Returning to 1972 is a) ill-advised and b) impossible. Heraclitus’ river has flowed on by.

My heart hurts.

The putting asunder of the United Kingdom seems an inevitable consequence for Britain (it ceased Greatness some while since).

Shakespeare has John of Gaunt in Richard II*, (Act II, Scene i) say this:

…… Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.

This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself

Against infection and the hand of war,

This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall,

Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happier lands,

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,

This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,

Fear’d by their breed and famous by their birth,

Renowned for their deeds as far from home,

For Christian service and true chivalry,

Of the world’s ransom, blessed Mary’s Son,

This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,

Dear for her reputation through the world,

Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,

Like to a tenement or pelting farm:

England, bound in with the triumphant sea

Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege

Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,

With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:

That England, that was wont to conquer others,

Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.

* Richard II 1367 – 1400: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose



© Daily Express                                                                              Please: do better

There’s a bliss of simplicity when the clue’s to be found in the title, no? Could there be a clearer instruction than Climate. Change! ?

The Earth’s meterology is a symptom of industrialization whose laudible focus has been to provide for an ever swelling demography. But now we know better. Now there’s no excuse not to alter every day ways of being and ensure the lightness of our tread. We’re wearing it out, our jewel of a planet.

There are so many ways each of us can refine how we live: switching off the engine while parked up, respecting ourselves such as to consume less of the best rather than more of the lowest, imaginative re-use of resources over single event utility [best stop there: you’ve got the idea].

Before buying food/home/utility provider/holiday/stuff, think Climate: think Change how we live before the climate changes it for us.