Sunday, April 30, 2006

Crossing the park

It had been a very long week. So when I finished work on Friday evening I walked part of the way home, just to reconnect with the planet, to breathe deeply and to feel my body move and stretch. I needed real light, not the artifical variety, and movement.

I started by crossing the nearby park. The right decision - it was just what I needed and I lingered en route.

Deck chairs

Always a sign that summer is not far away - the park deckchairs.


A snack by the lake. The grey squirrels are exceptionally tame and will feed out of your hand if you stay quiet and still enough. This one was completely unfazed by my presence and by the clicks and whirrs of the camera.

Relaxation. Obviously a master of the art ....

Girls in the tree

This was magic. The group in the tree were singing softly as I walked by - and they were good. Another photograph here.


And the tulips by the exit gate - another shot here.

The weekend so far has been productive. Time on my own, time with friends. And it has provided a space for some needed reflection.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Keeping an eye on things

Keeping an eye on things

in my absence.

Working long hours with no internet access this week and next. Thank goodness for the 3-day weekend ahead.

I am conscious too that I have fallen behind on visiting other blogs. I will catch up but it may take a little while.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I do like memes. This one is from LJ.

- Name three books that have truly shaken your worldview.

  • The first large world atlas I came across as a child. Don't know its name. I fell in love with maps and the idea of travel as I traced imaginary journeys.
  • Writing Down the Bones - Natalie Goldberg. Bought on LJ's recommendation. Writing as spiritual practice.
  • The Chrysalids - John Wyndham. I was haunted by this book. First published in the 1950s. Post-apocalyptic novel set in Canada in a fundamentalist society that has survived a nuclear holocaust and does not tolerate any kind of deviation or mutation, be it in plants, animals or people. It doesn't date - if anything it's more relevant now than when it was written. I prefer it to the author's better known Midwich Cuckoos and Day of the Triffids. If you've read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood you will see some similarities ....
  • There are many, many others.

- Name three movies that make you wish you'd written the script.

  • Transamerica: Fresh in my memory - some great lines.
  • The Fisher King: Redemption plus fantasy, pathos, wit and humour.
  • The Straight Story: Spare, beautiful dialogue. Each word counts.

- Name three things you like about yourself.

  • My willingness to do things that scare me.
  • Mischievousness. I like my playful streak.
  • The ability I have to be objective when necessary.

- Name three careers you think you might have been good at.

  • Postwoman: A good job if you are a lark rather than an owl. A useful service, fresh air, exercise and on the whole people are pleased to see you. As a bonus you get time to do other things at the end of the official working day.
  • Gardener.
  • Teacher of English as a Foreign Language: I may still try this.

- Name three things you say to yourself all the time.

  • Stop reading blogs and go to bed: Self explanatory.
  • Stop worrying: Ditto.
  • I need to phone X (insert name):I'm punctilious about returning calls,

- Name three things that you know now that you didn't know three years ago.

  • That I would start trying to write.
  • Relationships of all kinds work better when you don't try and control people and outcomes. And it's such hard work, controlling.
  • I can trust my intuition. The trick is learning to recognise it.

Feel free to use this yourself on your blog if it appeals.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Thank you


Thank you feels too feeble a phrase to convey my gratitude for the response to the post below. The warmth and generosity of the feedback has been overwhelming and each and every individual comment is cherished, as is its author. I'm very lucky with my blog friends.

Of course the problem my father and I had was not so much that there were problems - all families have those - but rather the impossibility of talking about them, of real communication. Tamar's referral to her 18 January 2005 archived post, where she describes writing a moving letter to her own father after his death for this reason, is extremely helpful.

The experience of writing this post and receiving the replies reminds me above all that words coming from the heart need to be spoken and/or written. That's what they're for. As long as they stay bottled up, unexpressed, unformed, just going around in the mind, they cannot do their work. They cannot create connections or inform us that we are part of a greater whole.

And as Sky says in her beautiful comment:

It is in this state of being human that you both made choices which failed to bring you the intimacy you both wanted. ......

Perhaps the lesson you have taken away from your connection and love with your father - the expensive cost of not fully risking - will be the grandest gift of all......

Indeed. Thank you all - through your words you have helped turn this particular anniversary into one of hope for the future amidst the memories. I am so grateful.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Church tree

My father died on 22nd April 1998, and yesterday I re-visited the place where my sister and I scattered some of his ashes, the churchyard in the London suburbs where his own father is buried. As with a lot of things these days, I was conscious that it will be more difficult to do this once I have moved.

It's not easy to get to even from where I am living now. You take the train from Liverpool Street station and after about twenty minutes you change onto a branch line for one stop. There is a walk of a mile or so to the church. Once the centre of a small town, it is now surrounded by rows of suburban housing and shopping complexes, a neighbourhood subsumed into Greater London just before the latter peters out into the flat fields of Essex. It is an unexpectedly beautiful and peaceful churchyard for such an unprepossessing area, quiet save for a chorus of birdsong, and green and wild without being unkempt.

I have known that I would want to blog about Dad at some point, and that it would be hard to do. Our relationship was not easy. He was a good man, sensitive, kind, but distant and sometimes authoritarian. A lot of the qualities that I would like to think I possess to some degree, at least on my good days, I have inherited from him: friendliness, integrity, consideration for others, a sense of humour and an ability to laugh at the ridiculous. The other part of the deal is that along with these he passed on worry, perfectionism, a certain judgmentalism, distrust of strong emotions and a lack of confidence.

He was trying hard to hold a tricky marriage together - a more than full-time job - and had no emotional reserves left over. I was a bright, lively but hypersensitive and insecure child, craving affection but sensing rejection even where it did not necessarily exist. Put the two together and it was not good news.

By the time I was a teenager the walls between us were in place. Rows, tears, silences. I was convinced he had no time for or interest in me and withdrew totally and he responded in kind. Or did he withdraw first? Who knows. We were both hurt and neither could help the other. Awful. And since then the automatic emotional tic of anticipating rejection and exclusion and retreating before it happens has been difficult to overcome.

We settled into a polite, friendly but distant relationship when I became an adult. Both of us hated upset and confrontation so we went out of our way to avoid it. There were things I would like to have talked through with him, questions I wanted to ask, but I wasn't able to speak. My defences by then were so strong that I couldn't say the things I needed to say to him and hear the things I needed to hear from him - the real things - even when I knew he was dying.

It wasn't always this way. I was told once that it is worthwhile searching very early childhood memories, that in some way they hold a key, they illustrate a theme that will recur throughout life.

The clearest memory I have is of waiting with my mother at the bus stop to go to visit my grandmother, probably at around three years old. My father had boarded the same bus earlier along the route having come straight from work, and I was literally jumping up and down with the excitement of going on a journey with him. I can remember running ahead of my mother along the aisle of the bus when it arrived and clambering up alongside him on the seat.

I was waiting for my father to arrive, and he did and I was overjoyed and so was he. I have spent a lot of my emotional life trying to recapture the essence of that moment.

I believe that he would want me to heal anything that still needs to be healed, to move on, to love and to live well and to remember him with compassion and affection. I want that too.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


The rock pools fill, long liquid fingers
invade the mounds of seawrack
in the midday heat; the incoming
tide moves swiftly, dangerously,
covering my footprints.

It will recede: the relief is ephemeral,
the sun still burns the skin,
the craving will not be satisfied here.

Far better to wait for nightfall,
for the cool moon reflected, refracted,
as she extends a silver pathway
over the dark waves,
and silently calls me by name.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Talking and walking

My longtime friend G is visiting London over Easter and we met on Saturday morning for a talk and a walk along the south bank of the Thames, between the Millennium Bridge and London Bridge. The weather was dull and grey but we hardly noticed. It was the first time we had seen each other since Christmas and we did indeed talk. A lot.

Tate Modern

I visited Tate Modern briefly while waiting for G. An old power station, the former turbine hall is used to stage exhibitions on a grand scale, such as the current one, Embankment by Rachel Whiteread, consisting of 14,000 casts of the insides of different boxes. Yes, really. Take a look at the link .... the human figures in the photo give an idea of the scale.


Once G arrived we made our way eastward along the Thames, snapping the treasure seekers at low tide under Southwark Bridge.

We opted for this unique museum-cum-cafe when we needed a caffeine fix.

Tea pots

The window display.

Coffee time

Even the vases were teapots. The piano has a sign on it "Pianist only". Maybe they hold tea dances? In any event, it's definitely more interesting than Starbucks. G's right hand and my glasses are in this shot as well .....

Our final stop was a foodie's delight - the best market in London in my opinion.

Borough market

G bought some honey and I made a beeline towards the barrels of loose rocket and spinach leaves - the basics for a salad supper.

Market signs

Interesting signs ....

Borough Market

.... tomato heaven.

This will almost certainly be my last summer in the capital and I will be making the effort to have more days like this, to absorb the sights and sounds of what is after all one of the world's great cities. I hope to blog about at least some of these outings - it will be a way of keeping a permanent record of this transitional period. It would be good if the coming months could be lived with appreciation and mindfulness, and become a starting point for the next chapter ....

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Here comes the sun ...

Daisy 2
Click to enlarge

Common Daisy/English Daisy (Bellis perennis):

It is a herbaceous plant with short creeping rhizomes and small rounded or spoon shaped evergreen leaves 2-5 cm long. The flowerheads are 2-3 cm diameter, with white ray florets (often tipped red) and yellow disc florets; they are produced on leafless stems 2-10 cm (rarely 15 cm) tall.

It is thought that the name "daisy" is a corruption of "day's eye", because the whole head closes at night and opens in the morning.

It is not affected by mowing and is therefore often considered a weed on lawns, though many also value the appearance of the flowers .

from: Wikipedia

Taken on the lawn of the garden of my block of flats. How could anyone think this is a weed?

A Happy Easter to all.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Katherine Mansfield from

Thanks so much to everyone who commented on the post below. One of the lies that blocks like this tell you is that you are the only one who has ever experienced it. Naming the beast on the blog, and the response, has been such a relief and I am very grateful.

Up until a few years ago, when its spine broke and pages started to fall out and I had to throw it away, one of the most re-read books in my collection was Katherine Mansfield's Letters and Journals. I can't remember why I bought it, I had never read any of her short stories, but I was captured from the first page.

A New Zealander born in 1888 and living in London in the early part of the twentieth century, a friend of D H Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield instinctively understood the importance of the everyday : books and writing, her husband, her cats (which she adored), flowers, other people (she could be remarkably funny and sometimes bitchy on occasions, which adds to the interest), her travels, the countryside, dealing with her own illness.

She had an anguished relationship with her father, a wealthy banker, whom she felt didn't approve of her lifestyle. There was a failed first marriage and several affairs. She loved her second husband and eventual publisher, John Middleton Murry, but spent many months away from him towards the end of her life trying to find a cure for the tuberculosis that eventually killed her in her thirties. And she wrote about it all - her daily life - in her journals and in her letters to friends. She wrote, too, beautifully judged short stories about people and their seemingly mundane lives. No question about it, she would have been a blogger par excellence.

And thinking about this makes me question why I am being so critical about my own writing at the moment. I've half a dozen posts in the Drafts folder, it's not that I can't write, I just can't press the Publish Post button and I'm far too adept at pressing Delete. Too self-absorbed, my Inner Critic says, you can't write as well as X (insert the name of any blogger here), it's not intellectual or deep enough, too superficial, you can't post that, in fact why don't you just stop blogging altogether ...

Katherine Mansfield celebrated the value of writing about the so-called ordinary. As do the bloggers I admire. Not all of the latter turn out deathless prose with every post. But they trust their own truth, whatever it is on that day, and they press the Publish Post button. They take the leap of faith and it works.

I'd actually forgotten about Katherine until yesterday when I was googling for something, some words of wisdom, that would provide a solution to how I was feeling about my writing. The search engine threw up this quotation of hers which I think is just wonderful and a great mantra for bloggers like me who take themselves far too seriously:

Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything than nothing at all.

I'm considering renaming the blog. Twaddle? A Breath of Twaddle?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006



Struggling with the blog at the moment. Words come, then I delete them because they're not what I want to say, then more words come ....

Friday, April 07, 2006



We see that right livelihood begins in the heart; that the resolution of the question about work in the world is how to work more on ourselves, how to make every action a further opportunity for practice. When we're investigating what right livelihood is, we're no longer meditating only when we're sitting. The meditation encompasses the whole day.

Stephen Levine: A Gradual Awakening

The temp assignment I've had this week has brought this passage into focus for me. At times - quite often in fact - its premise has seemed laughably impractical and idealistic. Occasionally though I can remember not to resist the stress of a new and unfamiliar job. Be with it. Feel it. Breathe it. Take the next necessary action. Then let it go and move on. It is only for today, for now. Yet another opportunity to learn to accept my mistakes, my human imperfections - a difficult lesson, this one.

There have been some bonuses: the possibility of future work; a sense of some things well done; an enjoyable conversation with a colleague; stepping outside at 6.30 pm after a long day and it's still light .....

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

In transit

In transit
no station

not yet launched
on the tide
where voices call
from the sea-mist
and mermaids play

no longer
with a foothold
on the earth
dust-dry and arid

the old points of reference
can be felled and
used to build
a raft perhaps
it's all they’re good for now

no wind
no moon; impossible tonight
to know the direction
by the stars.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Rhapsody in Green

Green 1

I was struck by the shades of green in the communal garden of a London square. In particular by the sudden proliferation of new leaves on the shrubs and bushes.

Green 3

If I'd ever wanted a visual definition of the colour Spring Green, here it was in front of me.

Green 4

New life.