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.

Tipping point


©                   Melting Antarctica: solves the avalanche problem, huh

As we’ve known for a while in virtue of the campaigning group, 38 Degrees is the angle at which snowflakes come together to form an avalanche. In short, E pluribus unum.

At around One o’clock on this hot, snowball-chance-in-Hell afternoon, Mrs May left the chamber of the House of Commons to a standing ovation on her way to tender her resignation to HM The Queen.

Tomorrow, assuming the Queen’s agreeable, is Mr Johnson’s first full day as Prime Minister. The weather in London is forecast to be 38° centigrade.

Just sayin’.

Bleakness induces screaming ab-dabs


Listening to Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, this morning talk of the state of play, it was impossible to expunge the slippery image of Mr Vholes from one’s mind.

Dickens published Bleak House through 1852/53 and in it gave voice to his dismay at the wanton, excruciatingly self-serving legal processes which grind away at the little man. Mr Vholes claims to his naïve client that the wheels are turning when the bleak truth is that nothing ever happens in Jarndyce. 

Has politics ever been more interesting than at this moment? The atrophy seeping through both major parties has sheered off individual members of each, frustrated by the absence of moral authority, leadership, vision and compassion.

Mr Hammond spoke words which appeared to lack content: or purpose, or even direction. He didn’t sound as though he was expecting to convince the audience in light of he himself being sceptical of where, as a Party, the Tories are headed.

Bleak times indeed, particularly as the stakes simply couldn’t be higher.

All that was drafted on 21.ii.19: inertia prevented its posting. Since then, countless others appear to take up the Vholes baton. But last evening, while gliding from shower to wardrobe, I caught Matt Thorne sharing that idea of Jarndyce & Jarndyce skinship with Brexit.

On the day the Disunited Kingdom was to have sheared itself off, the week also heard a perfectly rational explanation for the mess. Alas, I forget which broadcast it was but a journalist (?) rather thought the zeal with which the PM has driven forward Britain’s exit is a function of her dismay at the decision these isles made.

I wonder if we haven’t all been thinking that but it is the first time I’ve heard it uttered.

And that was written on 29.iii.19

Lithograph in forthcoming BM exhibition Edvard Munch: The Scream

Neither was posted: it seems trivial to point out what stares us in the face.

But self-control evaporated yesterday when Jeremy Hunt actually said on the radio news that the wheels are turningPositive proof, were it needed, that nothing ever happens in Brexit.

The British Museum opens an exhibition Edvard Munch love and angst on 11.iv.19

Amid Lambo and Purgatory


© Compassion in World Farming                                                            Spring

First Day of Spring has a different ring to it, donchafind? 2019: there’s an otherness. Not even near cresting its Fell / Furth / Munro / Fawr … top is what I’m trying to say, it seems as though we’re all goldfish, opening and closing mouths with nothing useful emerging. Our unchartered waters are … well, what are they: choppy? turgid? modal?

It feels like we’re all in a state of suspended animation.

Terrible things, really terrible things are happening in the world yet there’s a sense each is just another fish in the bouillabaisse of woe. The grinding tedium of this dismal process offends every fibre of generosity cultivated over a life-time of believing that we’ve just this one world [unless and until China finishes building its new wall on the Dark Side of the Moon] and isn’t it kinder to be cheerful with our neighbours?

Not an apologist by nature – I wonder how these isles would respond were they forced to devote n years’ time, humanity and resource to the internal affairs of a neighbouring country? I daresay the UK would respond as Princess Anne so ably instructed a photographer eons ago [Badminton, 1982] to Naff Orf.

© News International                                                                                  Image

As we ricochet between Limbo and Purgatory in a kind of maniacal pinball, what words of comfort are there to find, better to soothe geological laid furrows of our brow?

We can and will do this: we can and will make it through and we shall emerge into a fully sprung Spring with something over which to be joyful.

Convinced? Naaaaaah: neither am I.

Pulling in opposite directions


Many moons ago, my boss chirruped that an old mucker of his had become the Prime Minister’s press secretary. Plain old Gus O’Donnell was a bright chap well versed in finance and had spent the preceding year in a similar role for the Chancellor: given the holder of those two great offices of State shared numerical identity in the form of John Major, that’s not so surprising.

Weaving himself through the highest echelons of power, his tenure as Cabinet Secretary from 2005 to the end of 2011 was not to be the end of his political prowess and he now sits in the Lords as a Cross-bencher.

To say he knows a thing or two about how Westminster functions would be uncontroversial.

On the radio this week in the context of Brexit’s impasse, Baron O’Donnell said “What the Civil Service is after is direction”. [BBC R4 PM 12.iii.19 @ 17.24]

And there we have it.

While you may also have steam of frustration and tears of exhaustion pouring out of you, maybe you also wondered how a once finely-ordered set of isles had imploded into a cess-pool of its own creation?

Seemingly, it lies in virtue of the Government and Civil Service being in a tug-of-war. [After Brexeat, what next?]

Where does one even begin with this vacuous void? Perhaps with a spot of emotional intelligence-gathering?



Image                                                               North Atlantic King of Fish

Well, well. It seems an atmosphere of uncertainty infuses thinking at every level. Overheard while trying to pass a crocodile of bobbing heads the other day was ‘it might be because of brexit‘. “Will it stop at Christmas?” ‘Dad said it’ll never stop.‘ 

Atmos, Greek for vapour, coalesces as a notion to convey some ephemeral, lingerless possibility; its dispersal an ever-present threat. Which returns us to the protectionist policy of Brexit so troubling to those Year … 4’s(?).

At that age, I struggled in ceaseless confusion amid Cold War and Cod War. They melded in my mind and with hindsight one wonders how my contribution to dining table discussion didn’t highlight this lack in knowledge.

A troubling upshot of uncertainty is the seepage of alarm into the cracks of stability. Radio news & current affairs programmes are subsumed by the subject such that one’s deep fatigue is in danger of switching off the ability to care about the British departure from the Union.

It’s ironic: the only argument which ultimately might have tilted my pencil towards Leave was that suggesting determination of fishing policy and restoration of control over UK waters. [Tiens, eh ben dit donc or Nå må jeg sige as Danes might say: even after March, Poseidon will seemingly continue to answer to Copenhagen].

Emotional resilience, as we’ve been hearing in recent weeks, is increasingly recognized as a core constituent of balanced stability. A demand it makes is to recognize individual sovereignty to assume responsibility for our actions. Being answerable for all we do guides a kinder infusion into the atmosphere we generate.

Snap, crackle and pop


Image: Bob Vila

The avalanche of news as well as weather is ironic: when the hole we’re excavating gets deeper, convention is to stop digging.

It’s hard to conceive how a greater hash of Brexit could be made. The heroic absence of sensitivity towards the EU appears a badge proudly borne by the Government’s negotiators to whom it grows increasingly implausible to credit the ability to deliver an imaginative, workable deal.

Listening is done with the ears; with the heart, eyes, skin: attending with the complete self to the complete picture in front of you.

The team of British negotiators are lost, have lost, were lost before they began in virtue they just don’t get it. They don’t get the hurt the EU feels and they don’t get we no longer have a voice.

Blustering in with demands will not achieve them. Deafness to the impact our message yodelled across the channel in June 2016 will only shrink further the shred of benevolence for which it’s plausible to hope.

Infusing the approach to negotiations with emotional intelligence would still not alter that unfortunate inevitability of approaching severance. It would, however, demonstrate an intellectual sensitivity and willingness to show strength through flexibility: better that than the brittle snap of failure to which we toboggan.