Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Last Post ...

Good Morning My Dear Friends!

Welcome to the Last Post of the year; it has certainly been a good length of time since last we spoke and I offer no explanation for this other than to say it has been totally unavoidable and due to a whole series of events which are so breathtakingly tiresome as to not warrant mentioning further! Suffice it to say, there have been significant upheavals in both my personal and professional life; one knock-on of this is that this particular message is without the usual photographic accompaniment, this is due to being composed (with much eye squinting) on my iPhone !

Nonetheless, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you an extremely wonderful, prosperous and happy 2012 and to reflect that, although this year has had some significant downsides it has also had many positives, not least the preserving and persevering love from family and friends which, as Lou Reed said " ... made me forget myself; I thought I was someone else, someone good".

So as this year ends and I ponder the coming 366 dawns I am determined to try and carry that love and its positivity forward; I have made some simple resolutions, all of which are SMART - you know: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Limited - and all of which I hope will benefit myself and those around me ... We shall see!

I'm not going to say much more; I have to brave the elements to pop out for some comestibles for a quiet NYE supper and so must get my act together. One final thing, I do hope this blog reads as the others; formatting is somewhat tricky at this scale - no, absolutely nothing to do with my age and failing eyesight, as if!

So all of my love and best wishes and

'til next time

Be Seeing You!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Shorter days, longer shadows . . .

Good Afternoon Dear Friends!

Welcome to the study at Myrtle House at just a shadow before 3 pm . . . following a rather damp and drizzly morning, a splendidly sunny day is gracing proceedings, albeit with a decidedly autumnal feel and so soon despite the sunshine, flames will lap and lick at coals and the scent of ginger and orange oil will float through the air and suffuse the later afternoon with the spice and promise of the coming seasonal occurrences . . . and so here I sit with tea at my hand and write to you, wherever you may be, which is not here.

Living in the Victorian Quarter in autumn is a very sensual experience nasally; I'm sure I have mentioned before about the wonderful fragrance of the local Santus mint ball factory which wafts gracefully around the environs . . . this Sal and I usually pick up on our way to the Parish Church Gardens - one of our daily constitutionals - it walks with us, protecting us from unpleasant odours, until it hands us over to the waiting arms of the Allgates Brewery, whose warm hoppy mash wraps us in invisible fleecy cotton wool until the gardens are behind us and the familiar figure of Uncle Joe is encountered waiting patiently at the stepped exit to the gardens, with the backdrop of railways behind him . . . all very À la recherche du temps perdu ! This morning our walk took us along the streets of the Old Duchess' childhood and through the still lovely Mesnes ( pronounced mains!) Park where the photograph above was captured in the Pagett Rose Garden . . . I do feel I am so fortunate to live in Myrtle House; so close to the centre of the town and yet so peaceful  and only a few minutes away from access to the local countryside . . .

So what has been happening since last we met? Well, the counselling practice I mentioned before is officially up and running - you can see details of it at our website here which is, I hasten to add, still in it's early days and not yet as swish as it could be, but the practice itself is really quite sweet - we're deeply involved in the process of putting together all the promotional literature etc which seems to take an age but we will I'm sure get there eventually.  We are located in a little backwater just off Wigan Lane - the website has a map and directions - far enough away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to be a sort of little oasis of calm and serenity . . . you can expect a few photographs of the interior to follow shortly; I may even pop one or two in this post if I can get them back from the chemist in time . . . that was a joke for my older readers naturally! 

Meanwhile the year turns and all things autumnal come to pass at a rate which seems swifter each year - before you know it Halloween will be upon us, then Bonfire Night and then it's a swift slide in the snow to Christmas . . . oh hum where does the time go?  When thoughts like this invade my bonce I try to remember to slow down and stop if possible; and to taste and savour each moment and live in it rather than speed ahead and miss the now . . . not always easy but often very profitable . . . I think the world of retail is very much to blame for this chronological confusion with its propensity to advertise Halloween in September, Christmas in October and Easter eggs in November - madness! Even though I can buy lovely German Christmas biscuits and enjoy them now - which I do, of course - it still feels somehow wrong; unseasonal maybe, like winter strawberries . . .

And so with those musings I shall put down my pen figuratively speaking, take up my cup and head to the kitchen for a refill  . . . the choice of activities awaiting me could be a good read by the fire or, as has been haunting my mind over the past few days, a hour or so in the company of the delightfully sweet and batty Margaret Rutherford  - there was only ever one Miss Marple and it was she!

I hope you all are happy and glad to feel the pulse in your veins; may the rest of your weekend be filled to the brim with love and happiness, and may there be enough to slop over into the saucer of the week ahead.

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Thursday, 6 October 2011

In Memorium

Steve Jobs  1955 - 2011

I'd just like to add my voice to the many millions around the world who are mourning the loss of a very talented individual.  I didn't know him or ever meet him but I am, as you know, an Apple fan - though much to old and staid to be a fan-boy!

I use an iPhone4 and this blog is being written on a MacBook Air - the ease of use and sheer joy which these objects bring into my life would be reason enough, in my book, to want to remember him. I have never enjoyed interfacing with technology as much.

I know that, if you aren't a card-carrying member of the crew like me, you may wonder what all the fuss is about; well, that's fair enough.  As I wrote in the early hours when I heard the news, let's just remember that a family have lost someone today, as have many families around the world.  I'm choosing to remember them all but think of one in particular.

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Painting: The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather, and exposing them to the critics . . .

Good Morning Dear Friends . . .

And welcome to the study at Myrtle House, just slightly before breakfast, on a quite unseasonable first day of October from where, I am glad to say, three white rabbits - the usual suspects - clad somewhat bizarrely in bermuda shorts, send their familiar monthly welcoming greet!

What a bizarre few days we have had: whether the little summer of St Luke (October 18th) beginning slightly early or perhaps, in a more Mediterranean frame of mind, Veranillo del Membrillo or the summer of the quince as they call it in Spain,  it has certainly been welcome; definitely a season of Magosotos rather than mist and mellow fruitfulness!

I have spent these glorious dog days not basking and topping up my non-existent tan, but being heavily involved in a rather exciting and yet terrifying project; along with a good friend - and excellent counsellor and hypnotherapist - I have decided to take the leap into the unknown and set up a private practice!  Now whilst this sounds like something off Young Doctors or some other antipodean drivel, it in fact involved a long slog around lots of unsuitable premises until one was found that fitted the bill as closely as time and money would allow - I had in fact used this place in a previous life to edit and shoot film, bizarrely enough!  Since then it's been one long giddy social whirl of undercoat, and overcoats and gloss and emulsion and lamps and chairs and - well, I'm exhausted and probably need counselling but we are more or less ready . . . in between all this I've been putting together a simple web site - with much guidance and head-shaking from the kindly Sam @Gecko  with the result that we should be launched onto an unsuspecting world on or around October the 10th - eek!

I shan't pre-empt the launch by hinting at anything as mundane as the name and address of the practice but can reveal that it will act as an affiliation of practitioners and will provide facilities for other therapists seeking space to practice, so if you're one of them keep your eyes peeled too !

Sal has been a tad grumpy as her walks have been relegated whilst the dreadful but necessaries on the practice have been completed; to be honest though the heat does not sit too well with her where walks are concerned and so early mornings and evenings fit the bill much better . . . this does not stop her sitting at home in grumpiness, very kindly opening and shredding my mail for me . . . I sometimes, in a bout of forensic activity, manage to read some of it too.  Still, today is a Saturday and other than a bout of retail therapy later, it is a day to chill and relax ( note: not chillax  - whatever that may be!) and dismiss my already very forgettable and deplorable painting skills until at least tomorrow; the front door does need another coat, ah me . . .

With all this swirling around my bounce there has been little space for the old writing compartment of my life and less for wondering what can possibly be happening on the Isle of Jura with my prize winning story . . . today is the official 7 monthaversary of the announcement of my winning this coveted prize - surely, as gestations go, that is long enough? I could have walked, caught and individually flayed the deer population of the island (c 5000) and used their pelts as a cover for a limited edition version publication in less time . . . call me impatient but I'm impatient! I can feel an (other) email coming on !

However, that will probably wait until I have breakfasted and had a matutinal meander with my micturating mammal - mate before the the sun gets too high in the sky . . .  Have a delightful day and a wonderful weekend filled, once again, with sunshine and love.

"til next time

Be Seeing You! 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

C'est un chanson qui nous ressemble . . . *

Good Evening Dear Friends . . .

I'm so glad you decided to pop in, despite the weather which, whilst certainly worth complaining about as per usual, is at least somewhat seasonal . . . we are fast approaching Autumn  - only eight more days to go - and the weather is sufficiently gusty and wet to allow us to cast our minds back the the heady days (counted upon the fingers of one hand probably) of "Summer" - you remember? That week in May, wasn't it?  Anyhow, here you are in spite of  the squalls, so take a seat near the fire, I shall rustle up a pot of tea and we shall see where the evening takes us . . .

First of all it has been an inexcusably long time since I last posted; at that time the first white rabbit of the month had just revealed the tips of its snowy ears; now the only thing remaining is the tail and the oink as it were - not that rabbits have an 'oink' obviously, but I use this phrase as it is a much belovéd remnant of my childhood and one that I rarely get to utilise these days . . . so what has been happening in the intervening time since the last posting here? 

Well, now that I am sitting in the study in front of my lovely little Book of the Air I have to be totally honest and say not a great deal at all - but I suppose a little goes a long way and takes up much time in a quantum kind of way . . . I am, by the by, a big fan of science even though I understand very little of it; I especially love the weirdness that is the quantum world and, as it says in Maggie McKee's Introduction to Quantum World:
Quantum objects can exist in multiple states and places at the same time, requiring a mastery of statistics to describe them. Rife with uncertainty and riddled with paradoxes, the theory has been criticised for casting doubt on the notion of an objective reality - a concept many physicists, including Albert Einstein, have found hard to swallow.
Now how did we get onto that subject? Hmmm . . . Well, I suppose it's because I seem to have been thinking a lot about thinking really; I've been trying to understand why I think the way I do and therefore why I make the decisions I do  - and why I have made those I have have made in the past.  I suppose the way we think describes and dictates who we are and the way we behave: I think, therefore I am, as old René D was oft want to say . . . I do find it strange that something like thinking which takes up all of our conscious and unconscious time is something that lots of us rarely consider;  we tend to block it out by being busy or by anaesthasising ourselves in some way, yet spending time considering it, asking some seemingly simple questions, can give some fascinating insights into our very own world, the quantum world that is our inner self that is often "rife with uncertainty and riddled with paradoxes " too 

And so, along with this reductio absurdum, come thoughts for new works and revisits of old ones; I can see patterns in the way I write that show I've been asking the same questions over and over again, just using different words . . . some of these examples are to be collected together for the first time in "Ex Libris Somnia" a collection of shorter short stories and poems which I could have sworn I'd already told you about but, flicking through the last few posts, can find no mention of . . . all this thinking is causing a few of the old circuits to burn out perhaps! Anyhow, it's a wee anthology of stuff and of which more later - perhaps!

Last week saw the first  birthday post-mortem of the Old Duchess; I thought perhaps it might be a sad time but was pleasantly surprised to have only happy thoughts.  Whether this is because of the amount of time I spend dealing with bereavement or, more likely I feel, that I am convinced that she died when she was ready to and that there was nothing else left for her to give on this particular plane . . . Anyhow, the day was spent with Sister Cate - my other sister being waterlogged and unable to attend - we did some very mundane things; had tea and cake, shopped etc and, alongside these everyday activities that constitute Life, remembered her with happiness - which, I believe, is all one can ask. A small notice was placed in the local rag, along with a copy of the poem I wrote for the funeral service (not my idea I hasten to add) along with other memorials from the OD's sister and her family.  One aspect I found interesting was that I know that some of my clients have had issues with graves; some really need somewhere to go to talk to their loved ones or to place flowers; others avoid such places as though death is, in some way, catching! May's ashes were scattered onto the sea and so there isn't anywhere to place flowers or to go to talk to her . . . and I find, to my relief, that I really don't mind; I don't need to go to that place as it is already within me.

So that being the time before what of the time that will be? What joys await yours truly in the forthcoming days? Well, I'm doing a little secret planning for a venture into the world of mind bending with a lovely chap who I had the very good fortune to meet a couple of years ago; we are planning a meeting in the coming days to take the idea to the next stage which is exciting.  It has taken some time to put together but, thanks in no small part to the absolutely fantastic support of the two dearest friends I have in the world - you know who you are - I am ready to go for it . . . intrigued? Ah, don't be, it's not that exciting . . . well, it could be !  Another meet with Sister Cate is also on the cards - we are slowly working our way through repairing our senses and this week should see new eyes ( or glasses at least) for her whilst I very seriously need to consider getting some kind of ear-trumpet as I am becoming more and more deaf! Last week I visited a Buddhist Centre in Cheshire for a study class in meditation; it was over subscribed and I was seated about ten feet away from the monk who was leading it.  He was quite softy spoken, as one would expect, but even so I was applied by the fact that I picked out about one word in twenty if I was lucky! my friend who was with me had to tap me on the hand to tell me when the meditation part was over . . . so it's off to see my trusted Dr Liam and see if audiology will do anything for me. Whenever I get together with Cate I am reminded of May and her brother Derek; they were both exceptionally deaf and would have long conversations of "Eh! What? Who?" etc  a bit like the three old dears out for the day: one says "Oh it's windy today" the second says "No, it's Thursday" to which the third replies "So am I; let's have a cup of tea" !

Talking of which, there's me blathering on and I haven't even poured the tea . . . Goodness me is that the time? Well, maybe you would be better getting back and having one in the comfort of your own home? I expect so too . . . Thank you for dropping by again, so lovely to have you here in Myrtle House; I hope the rest of the week is an absolute joy to behold for us all and that you are forever burdened like a donkey with an unending load of love and happiness!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

* What about a competition? Can anybody see the connection between the title and the subject matter of this post? If so, let me know by email for a chance to sieze the glittering prize! :) 

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Let the Dog See The Rabbits . . .

My Dear Friends . . .

First of all a somewhat tardy but nevertheless well intentioned "White Rabbits x 3" to you one and all, as we slip seamlessly from the torrid rain of August to the blistering heat of September . . . well, for today at least . . .  I hope you all enjoyed the Bank Holiday and that the sandbags worked as well as expected; although Irene wasn't due to call over here I got the impression that she at least left her Carte de Visite for us to consider!

So here we tumble, like many-hued leaves subject to the vagaries of the zephyr's breath, blown headlong into Autumn and the thrill of the changing year . . . For some of you that may mean the excitement of a new start in the hallowed Halls of Academia, for me it signals, for the time being at least, an end to such fancies; my portfolio is finished and submitted and is such stuff that reams are made of! Eighty Three blood, sweat and tear soaked pages . . . they'll never accept it in that state! Anyhow, the deed is done and the picture above shows my last view of platform two for a wee while . . . I shall miss my evening permabulations around the park though; they were a godsend and a source of quiet inspiration.

In other news I'd quickly like to send the hugest possible best wishes to my dearest Lambkin who has managed to secure a position ( Oo-er, Missus!) which could be the start of a whole new life - Well Done to You ! And on the flip side of that hugs of commiseration to Miss Shepherd who has looked after the flock member in question most ably  - I hope that opening the gate of the fold and saying goodbye is not too painful . . .  I had to say goodbye this week to some rather unpleasant and uninvited guests when it was pointed out to me that a neest (rhymes with east) of wasps (rhymes with clasps) had taken up residence in my attic; their comings and goings were causing quite a stir in the otherwise tranquil environs surrounding Myrtle House and so the relevant Ninjas were summoned and in four minutes had completed their task - the sting in the tail (Ho!Ho! Ho!) being the accompaniment of the famous Hefty Bill . . . ah well, it had to be done although being of buddhist (with a small bee) leanings it did perturb me to have to perform waspocide on such a large scale!

Looking out of the study window I can see the inky darkness of another night has descended - and it isn't even eighty-thirty yet! Another twenty days and Autumn will be upon us . . . The Famous Sally Dog and I took our matutinal meander around Mesnes Park today and I was amazed at the number of leaves already turned and fallen, yet the air was as warm as Summer - actually warmer than it had been so far - we could be in for a Little Summer of St Martin, you just never can tell, they will certainly be Dog Days in any case - especially if the canine in question is you know who . . . and as if by magic the ears prick up and the stirrings on the study sofa convey silently but eloquently the next job on the list of things I must do before I even consider a brief rest . . . yes, I must accompany her on her evening outing . . . it really is a dog's life.

I'm sure there were many more things I meant to tell you but I shall save them for another day and another thrilling episode in what passes for life in these parts.  I hope the coming days and weeks are brilliant for you all and that the only burden you suffer is how to carry around all the love given to you!

"til next time

Be Seeing You !

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Barred in Stratford: A Bit of a Big Dig!

Good Evening Dear Friends . . .

 . . .  and welcome to yet another Thursday evening in the study at Myrtle House; I am, as you can probably tell returned from foreign parts and relatively sound in mind and body, so please feel free to pull up a seat and rest for a few minutes while I regale you with tales of my travels in the shires of Hamp and Dorset!

The reason for the journey was, of course, to re-unite the Old Duchess and her brother in the swirly swishing wishing well waters of the sea just off Bournemouth in a rather swell location called Sandbanks.  My original plan had been to pop over to a nature reserve called Brownsea Island a little further west in Poole Harbour to do the deed but, on the day, the weather was just a little too grey and tending towards squally rain so I made an executive decision and deposited her, as requested, in the briny from the end of the groyn pictured above.  The picture was taken about a minute after I had done it and the weather changed perceptibly so perhaps she was insisting that I listen to her - for once at least!

The task having been completed - and photographs taken, shells collected as momentos it was then time to explore further afield.  So it was all aboard the chain ferry to the Isle of Purbeck (which, of course, isn't) and the lovely Olde Worlde charm of Swanage where a most lovely repast was had in the company of good folk. It really is quite a lovely little watering hole and somewhere I had never been before - I can thoroughly recommend it, not too crowded but quite picturesque.

Then it was over to a rather sad and forlorn place called Tyneham Village; in a remote valley and reached by traversing Army Firing Ranges  - when the big guns weren't looking - its population was evacuated on December 19th 1943 because the army needed the space to practice wars or some such silliness . . . they were told they would be allowed back but this has never happened and the tales of bitterly disappointed people are posted throughout the village which now stands as a monument to uprooted lives.  It is a bit of a trek to get there but well worth it, and certainly worth more time than I had allowed for it . . . it is, indeed, somewhere to explore more fully in the future.

On the way back up north I elected to visit somewhere I, as a writer, should be making a monthly pilgrimage to . . . I refer, of course, to Stratford Upon Avon and, if you can possibly imagine this, it was my first ever visit! I was very impressed by the number of places that Old Father William had lived/owned/walked past at some point in his life and was intrigued to see one with an archaeological dig in progress . . . access was allowed (for a fee, naturally) and so I entered the building and peered around the corner to see the extent of the dig at which point a curator positively bellowed at me from behind a desk that I could go no further without payment.  I said I was merely looking to see the extent . . . I got no further; who did I think I was to be allowed to walk around without paying? I did point out, in somewhat vociferous terms, that I had been on the point of entering but now would require the strength of several equines of inflamed temperament and possible mental instability to force me to stay! He was so rude!  

So I have no hesitation whatsoever of recommending that, should you be so foolish as to attempt to visit the dig at Nash's House, you either throw your purse in first or simply punch whoever happens to be behind the desk before they get a chance to insult you! it really quite spoiled my day there, despite the charms of the theatre which could have persuaded me to linger longer into the evening . . . ah well, maybe someone involved with the preservation and presentation of the nations most treasured properties will read this and "have a word" perhaps?

Anyhow, I am returned and so is the Famous Sally Dog; freshly bathed and smelling momentarily sweeter than normal thanks to the ministrations of the good folk at Talbot House who she loves dearly. There was a good deal of excited scampering about and licking at our reunion but they are quite used to me by now  - Sal was equally excited and watered each and every tree in sight in my honour; I was very proud.

And so here we are, in the study with the light fading and my keyboard glowing; work is cantering on a pace and may even be finished by next week's deadline; tomorrow is a day for meeting counsellor chums and so much and many tea and cakes are to be consumed with glee and by me.

I hope you have a fun Friday and - if a Tweeter - remember to #FF me; have a lovely weekend and may you be swathed in riches of kisses always!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Nostalgia . . . *

Good Afternoon Dear Friends . . .

. . . and welcome to Saturday in all its silentness and solitude; I sit in the study and listen to various pieces of music that I have loved over the years and think of all the associations they bring with them ... Listening to Elgar I am reminded of the time I used to spend in Barryfield, a very large Victorian house in the depths of Stockton Heath, where I would sit in the music room and compose on the (rather poor) piano some twenty plus years ago . . . when the strain of creativity would get too much for me I would resort to listening instead to some of dear old Sir Edward's stuff that fitted the surroundings so well; the house had rather nice grounds including an orchard and looking out at this with the sound of the Enigma Variations or Serenade in E in the background summoned up the essence of the Edwardian period very nicely for me - a sort of pre-war innocence which, with the gift of hindsight, was already tinged with the sadness of premature loss.

As the music continues and the sounds of Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis fills my head and heart - for it is one of my most favourite pieces ever - I am transported, not as one might expect to Tudor England, but to its filmic counterpart A Man for All Seasons with the inimitable Paul Scofield as the doomed Thomas More dying for his faith . . . it also starred a practically juvenile John Hurt as the arch-betrayer of both More and Fisher, Richard Rich. The music has a rich lusciousness and also a stark, bare harshness reflecting beautifully the themes of the film - faith and betrayal and, subsequently, of life and death. 

It has been quite a day for nostalgia really; and, although obviously still August, the stillness of the air reminded me of the turn of the year with its inherent beauty and sadness . . . in fact, the memories have been flooding over me quite a lot recently; I've spent some time driving around Cheshire and re-encountering places like Great Budworth where I once wanted to live - there was a house I adored there; it had French windows there and it was always my dream to have a study with such windows where I could place my piano (grand, of course!) and look out into the garden as I played! - and all the twisty lanes and byways of rurallity . . . the fantastically named but ultimately disappointing Antrobus, and a number of places dotted around on the banks of the Weaver . . . 

Talking of venturing abroad, in a few days I am leaving the shire and journeying south.  It will be a holiday of sorts but the main purpose is to take the Old Duchess on her last outing; one of her requests was to have her ashes scattered near Sandbanks in Bournemouth that they might mingle with those of her brother who she loved dearly and so I am off to stay in Winchester and spend some time exploring that wonderful and historic city before slipping the thirty miles or so to the coast and saying a final farewell to her earthly remains  . . . and as I type that sentence the music has changed to Nimrod which we played as she entered the chapel at her funeral, very apt and moving . . . the plan is to take the boat over to Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour and say goodbye there.

This, of course, also means that Sal is off to spend time in her favourite hotel, the really quite splendid Talbot House in the wilds of Worthington . . . she actually loves the family who own the kennels and so I can leave her there for a few days without feeling too guilty . . . but before all that though I have lots of work to do on my portfolio in order to actually qualify as a fully-fledged counsellor; my colleagues on the course have received their certificates and are now "proper" . . . to be honest, I am sadly lacking motivation for such things but it does seem a waste of four years hard work if I don't do this final task - a mere six thousand words or so; if it were fiction it wouldn't be more than a couple of days work . . . so I have to buckle down to it next week before the outing, oh hum!

Anyhow, I still have a breathing space before Monday and so I shall leave you to your weekend as the music  - An Oxford Elegy by Ralph Vaughan Williams, an enduring masterpiece and all time favourite - swells and breaks like waves of memories over my head until I am drowning in images and times gone by . . . have a wonderful weekend liberally bespattered with sunshine and love

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

* The word is a learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος(nóstos), meaning "returning home", a Homeric word, and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning "pain, ache".

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sit Still, and Hear the Last of Our Sea-Sorrow . . .

Good Afternoon Dear Friends . . .

And one which finds the Good Ship Yours Truly  becalmed and still in the doldrums, somewhat adrift in the latitudes of lassitude, not quite himself, as it were . . . whether it's because of the weather or just a general malaise brought about by circumstances, I know not but I shall be rather glad when the wind rises and I can navigate myself out of these depths and steer a clearer course for horizons new and uncharted . . .

The light is very flat today; on days such as this when I used to do more photography than I do, it was always difficult to make anything look even remotely decent; the light is so diffused by cloud that shadows disappear and the world takes on an almost two-dimensional appearance . . . having said that I wonder just how much our actual view of the world is influenced by our emotional viewpoint? Quite a lot I would have thought . . . and peeping out of the study window I must say that the light matches my mood and vice versa!

I thought perhaps that spending a couple of hours in the company of those good BBC people with their coverage of the Hungarian Grand Prix would lift my ennui but it seems not; although it was quite an exciting race I must confess I did have trouble keeping my eyes open . . . quite shocking!  Even Sal - who is currently stretched out on the sofa in the study, making her own hirsute contribution to the otherwise fetching cream and green combination - seems rather tired of it all; perhaps she is just reflecting my aura, sensitive soul that she is, and having gauged my mood has decided that sleep is the best policy - she could be right!

But fie! What place have such humours in this world? Are we not made of stouter stuff? We are responsible for the warp and weft on which our pattern is embroidered; and that pattern too, is drawn by our own hands . . . if I must stand on the bridge and blow my breath into the sails I shall;  Let us cast those horses of doubt and uncertainty overboard, lighten our draught and fathom a course towards a sunlit shore where we shall find light, shade and above all happiness . . .

Hmmm . . . went all Shakespearian mixed metaphors there, sorry about that! It's sort of like the literary equivalent of a strong boot up the bum and probably just what I need . . . that and a nice cup of tea!  Yesterday Sister Cate and I  popped over to Cedar Farm near Mawdesley and I came away with a rather sweet coaster as
depicted here; I do find it to be the case, especially when it goes hand-in-hand with a phone call from a dear friend who is always guaranteed to lighten my gloominesses and put a fatuous grin on my fat face once more! It certainly seems to be the case that no man is an island; no matter how we yearn and long for solitude and independence, the essential essence of human contact is the oil that perfumes the life of this particular hermit at least!

And with that last blast this particular Prospero will retire to the kitchen and rustle up something approaching food; it's been a peculiar posting, hasn't it? I hope it hasn't darkened your day too much and that the forthcoming week finds you weak with happiness and limp with love

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Here Will I Sit and Wait . . . *

Good Evening Dear Friends

And as the sun sinks slowly in the west and clouds creep in to cover the previously unblemished heavens, I thought I'd spend a moment or two in your company and pass a wee while in wistful thoughts and conversation . . .

It has been a quiet and peaceful day following on from a very enervating evening yesterday when I allowed my dissatisfaction with telephony providers to colour my mood . . . but today I decided I would try and be of a more positive and possibly less beige frame of mind and so Sal and I popped off to the local beauty spot for a bit of a stroll in the sun.  Being that time of year again - i.e. when the inmates are freed from their academic chains - and besides the supine forms of teachers lying exhausted in small heaps on the grass there were a significant number of children around too -  the place was positively bustling with activity . . . this, of course, doesn't exactly meld with my curmudgeonly demeanour but we managed to avoid too much contact and had a spiffing stroll in the sunshine.
It is some while since we've managed such an extended stroll, due to all the business I've been dealing with and a general lack of enthusiasm - purely on my part of course as Sal would walk at any hour of the day or night . . . of course, with the temperate clime came the urge to dowse herself in ornamental ponds which resulted in a shower upon our return . . . whilst not resisting she is none too keen to ablute in this way and looks positively suicidal until she bounds out and runs around like a cross-country dervish in an effort to dry herself !  She is now very curly and fluffy but assures me normal hirsuitness and odour will be resumed as soon as possible  - more's the pity!

This is the third IanMc iMac posting but this time we are using the newly "refreshed"  (to use an Apple term)  MacBook Air (MBA) which is all super-duper and has double the RAM and twice the storage and is jolly nice 'cos the keyboard illuminates itself in the dark too!  Those poor unfortunates who know me personally will verify that my conversation is practically all mac-based these days and the level of ennui is stupefying in the extreme but, as a writer, it's wonderful tool and a marvellous experience after so may PC years . . . and I will be the first to admit that, until around two years ago I was very biased against Mac stuff; then on the way to Damascus - or possibly Manchester, but I forget - my conversion duly came about and here I am now totally at one with my beautiful wee MBA . . . the ease at which I can write anywhere is totally astounding - and more than that it makes even the most tiresome project at least a pleasure to type . . . anyhow, I'll stop now and try and talk about something other than this sleek silver sliver of gorgeousness ... oh dear! I fear I'm a lost cause . . .

The latest piece of writing "The Princess of Stargazey Halt" is coming along nicely and an idea from a few years ago popped in to my head today along with a slightly different approach and so another little piece of my art may soon be in the public domain . . . I do say that tongue-in-cheek, not least because of the delays that are occurring with "The Maelstrom' which is still being looked at by the 'digital people' by which I presume they mean the people who will upload it to the company's website . . . it really seems like forever ago that I wrote it; still, patience is a virtue as is said though not one I possess in any great abundance.

It is now fast approaching ten pm and already it is dark; summer, whilst not long upon us, seems intent on gathering up her belongings and preparing to head south with the swallows . . . however, she may rest a while yet and allow us some time to stay our days on thyme-scented banks and daydream in the yew tree's shade of summers long ago; unreachable as yesterday always is and as unthinkable as snowflakes in August.

I hope you glean whatever goodness you can from the coming days and that you are assured of love and happiness wherever your feet may take you.

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

 *  Here will I sit and wait,
      While to my ear from uplands far away
      The bleating of the folded flocks is borne,
      With distant cries of reapers in the corn 
All the live murmur of a summer's day.

From "An Oxford Elegy" comprising of two poems by Matthew Arnold "The Scholar Gypsy" and "Thyrsis" set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Friday, 22 July 2011

After Horace . . .*

Good Morning Dear Friends

And here we are, once again, in the study at Myrtle House for a few brief words before the day begins in earnest (lovely chap!) in the most delightful way with a cup of green tea and possibly a lemon and poppy seed muffin in Nero - my favourite table is pictured to the left . . . I am meeting up with the lovely Sam from Gecko for a catch up and possibly a continuation of our 'debate'  - though some could term it violent argument -  regarding the relative merits of iPhone / Mac vs. Blackberry / PC ; all good clean fun . . . until the knives come out, that is, but generally they are there to cut up the delicious Pastel de Nata!

The old posts have been a bit thin on the ground recently as I'm sure you've noticed; I think the main reason for that is that I've had so very many things to do but not much to write about! Hopefully, with the OD's estate more or less sorted and such like, there will be a return to things more cerebral and interesting than my whinges and aches and pains . . . It was quite sad to close up the stately pile for the last time; she had lived there for the past twenty-five years and wondering through the rooms without her being there was somewhat disconcerting . . . I felt that she would pop around the doorway and complain about the mess we had left it in! Anyway, that particular chapter is now closed and this poor orphan of the storm had better attend to his toilette or my green tea will be going cold . . . to be continued shortly . . .

And now it is a shortly or two later and I am back at Myrtle House following a successful meet with GeckoGirl Sam; much tea was consumed (and subsequent visits to the little boys room by yours truly) followed by a spot of the old retail experience as she and Mr Gecko are off to a wedding, of all things, up in the wilds of Scotland soon and an 'exciter'  - possibly not the correct term - had to be purchased . . . they sit on your head evidently instead of a hat . . . anyhow, once that was done and all desires satiated I returned home burdened by a new bed for the Famous Sally Dog . . .

I had placed hers outside yesterday to freshen up  a tad but managed to forget about it as the rain fell . . . the resultant soggy and very stinky mass could not be allowed back in and so she is now the proud possessor of a fancy polka dot snooze pit . . . very posh! Should you ever desire to meet up with this pooch célèbre you will often find her looking after the very lovely shop pictured above right: a small prize will be awarded to the first person to identify said boutique (who doesn't actually work there!) and will, as is usual for this blog,  be a stunning example of what can be achieved with no expense spent!

So the weekend is practically upon us; the forthcoming week brings a temporary farewell to friends as they head south for the sun - here's hoping you come back relaxed and chilled for the rest of the summer . . . talking of which, there appears to be a huge burning fireball in the sky at the moment - not too sure what it is but believe it appears in summer, sometimes for a whole day or two at a time!

Hope your weekend is love and sunshine filled

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

* "You will have written exceptionally well if, by skilful arrangement of your words, you have made an ordinary one seem original" Horace

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Remains Of The Day . . .

Good Afternoon Dear Friends!

Here I am again in the study at Myrtle House, slaving away, pounding the keys of a hot, electric golfball typewriter just for you . . . well, to be strictly accurate and in the interests of transparency, I should really say that in fact I'm tapping gently on my newly-acquired but already beloved MBA which has now finally replaced my old PC set up - hurrah!

It is somewhat scary to trust all my work to one slight silver sliver of aluminium but, having bitten the bullet, I am in paroxysms of joy at the ease and speed of migration!  So, welcome to the first of, I hope, many IMc iMac blogs!

So what news? Well, finally the end is in sight with regard to the saga of packing up the Old Duchess' belongings and finally distributing them to the needy of the parish - in fact they will be making their way to the shops that support a local children's hospice of which the OD would have very much approved - and what a long haul it has been! 

I trotted over to the stately pile earlier today to do a final count up and recce and discovered that the bags we had, of necessity, placed outside for the refuse collection had been ripped open and the contents strewn everywhere! Why do people do that? They were more than welcome to take anything but why scatter it all over the garden . . . it's bad enough having to sort out the OD's things and get rid of her life in bin-bags without those with no morals or conscience making things worse!

Anyhow, all of that will soon be over and done with and, as that particular chapter closes, we prepare for whatever lies just ahead . . . I'd love to do some travelling around this summer although I think any that does occur will be somewhat limited; my oldest friend and I have spoken about touring around the UK to our childhood haunts and holiday places, maybe in something like a Morris Traveller or VW Camper; I'd also like to spend some time writing in lovely locations - Venice? Well, maybe not, but one place I shall be visiting at some point will be Bournemouth as the OD's desire was to have her ashes scattered in the same place as her brother and so her wish is my command . . . I know it's probably against every H&S regulation but I feel that her wishes supersede mere legislation!

Anyhow, that's about it for today; since I began the day has turned slowly towards evening and I've shifted rooms and am now inhabiting the lounge whilst Sal sits snuffling in doggy dream debris besides me on the sofa . . . I wish you all a wonderful week ahead and 

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Thursday, 7 July 2011

In the Midst of Life . . .

Good Morning Dear Friends

Apologies for the huge gap in posting; there has been so many things to do regarding the stately pile and sorting out the Old Duchess' affairs that I have been nearly always engaged and, when not so, exhausted and not much in the mood to post . . .

However, things are coming together finally and, with any luck, all should be done and dusted by next week - phew!  The funeral itself was short and sweet and was attended by a number of old friends - to whom I owe a great deal - and for it I wrote a short verse which I shall post a little below this as another little tribute to the woman who had been present for every second of my existence.

In other news a new piece entitled "Our Beloved Sister" (see the cover above) has winged its way electronically to the Wells Literary Festival and so fingers are once more crossed;  "The Maelstrom" has received favourable comments initially from the good people at Weber-Shandwick in Edinburgh who handle PR etc for the Isle of Jura whisky and so it's now a case of waiting (yet again) to see where and when it is to see the light of day.  I want very much to publish all my works on the Myrtle House  site but, in the norm, competition rules state that the work must be previously unpublished and, sadly, this even includes blogs for the most part, oh hum! 

Also in the offing is the first George Orwell Festival which is taking place in September in the lovely environs of Letchworth Garden City; I am doing my best to ensure The Maelstrom becomes a part of proceedings! For details please visit the festival site here. . . and in a final attempt at international stardom some of my work is possibly going to flap its way across the pond to Chicago's Dream Quest One competition  - as those people at the National Lottery say one must partake to reap the laurels - or something along those lines anyway!  I've also managed a bizarre little piece called "The Voles of England" (see cover above) which I love but have not the vaguest idea what will happen to it! 

Not such good news on the counselling front however, where the funeral and related business prevented me from submitting my final piece; I have agreed a delay until the end of August but this will inevitably also delay the granting of the diploma ( should I manage it) and subsequent plans for September now seem a little less solid than before . . . I suppose that, given that it's taken 4 years to get this far, a few more weeks isn't the end of the world . . . is it?

Anyhow, that just about wraps it up for today; a small terrier is mumbling mutinously about walks; the weather changes more often than the excuses at the News of the World - appalling business - and I must about my errands.  Before I go I will let you have a glimpse at a small poem written specifically for the Old Duchess shortly after her death - I hope you enjoy it . . .

The Final Days of Spring

In September she was May;
In Autumn born, she was the Spring
Of herself she gave away
To us the gift of everything
Her time, her love, her peace, her breath
She gave us life; the chance to be
And, at the hour of her death
Once more with those she longed to see
She gave us memories to hold
And with our words her life remember
With love until we too grow cold
A breath of Spring; May in September

I hope your week is filled with love

'til next time

Be Seeing You!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Old Duchess - Going Home

The Old Duchess May McLoughlin 7th September 1923 - 17th June 2011

My Dear Friends

It is with great sadness that I share with you the news of the death, some four hours ago, of The Old Duchess, my mother May.

As I posted recently she had been quite ill this week but her passing has still come as a shock as I think we all secretly believed she was indestructible. I believe her death came quite suddenly, and in her own home which is as she wished.

I will write more later but for now ask that you keep her in your thoughts and wish her a happy reunion with her loved ones who went home before she did.

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet, are of imagination all compact . . .

Good Evening Dear Friends

Welcomes and apologies in equal measure; it's been somewhat of a frantic time since the last posting and I have found myself with little time for anything other than writing words out of necessity rather than pleasure and dashing back and forth across the local environs to minister to The Old Duchess who is, sadly, laid up and rather under the weather. 

As is often the case the apparent cause of her malady seems none too serious on the surface but the knock-on effects are quite debilitating and worrying . . . still the various family members have got together and are providing care on a shift pattern so with any luck she should be on the mend rather sooner than later. Any messages you would care to leave would be gratefully received and passed on by hand to the sick room at the stately pile where broadband is a creation of science fiction suitable only for children and strange adults.

To be totally honest I have to admit to squeezing in a few words of pleasure as a short story I am rather proud of entitled "Our Beloved Sister" comes into being; it is very short indeed -only around 1500 words - but quite effective I believe and so I am now in the process of editing the final draft and looking around for suitable competitions to enter . . . I am still waiting for news of the final resting place of "The Maelstrom"  - things do move exceedingly slowly! -  and as soon as I know I shall share the knowledge with you all.   Two other projects are still in progress: a book of doggerel and a book explaining death, both aimed at 9 - 13 year olds . . . watch this space and also this one for more details about release dates and possibilities for download.

The bulk of words due to drip from my pen are destined for the counselling portfolio which must be finished, bound and submitted by two weeks tomorrow; I have about 6,500 words left to write which, were it fiction, I would  considered a mere bagatelle!  However, the nature of the beast and my reluctance to commit to it means it is a bit of a grind . . . it will happen, even if both ends of candles and midnight oil in barrels end up in the conflagration! I wrote a quick thousand this morning and was so pleased with myself that I took most of the rest of the day off - this will not do! Actually, the main reason for the break was to give Sal a bit of an outing . . . the combination of bad weather and visits to the stately pile mean her outings have been somewhat restricted  - one must ensure the metal health of one's companion remains as perky as possible, or so she informs me!

And that is pretty much it; I'm over to visit the OD at the crack of dawn tomorrow so an earlyish night is on the books and, looking in the mirror, the old phisog could benefit from a few extra hours kip - and a severe session with a steam press . . . it's a bad sign when your faces matches your linen trousers!

I hope the climatic conditions remain good but that whatever the weather you have a week filled with love, hope and sunshine!

'til next time

Be Seeing You!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Last Man in Europe . . .

Good Evening Dear Friends!

Well, here I am, back from my travels and sequestered once again within the homely grange of Myrtle House with tales to tell of the seclusion and isolation us poor starving writers - that's me -  have to face in order to feed the ravenous cravings of our fans - that's you, in case there was any kind of silly misunderstanding!

The long-awaited trip to Jura has been and gone, seemingly in a flash, and left me somewhat adrift but with a finished product in the form of my short-story "The Maelstrom".  I could make lots of fuss about it and liken it to gestation and pregnancy and giving birth but, let's face it, it would be rather ridiculous and could invite rather unsavoury comments about the state of my waistline . . . strangely enough though, completing it does feel rather strange; I suppose I've had it inside me since November or so last year, knowing where it was going but not exactly how . . . anyhow, whilst sat in the Music Room in Jura entranced by the view ( see the pic above) I managed to pull it all together and the birth was relatively easy!

It's fate is another matter; I believe the Diurach's will be wanting to inspect it with a view to publishing it on their website; I also want to do an e-version of it for download which one hopes will be available from the Myrtle House site sooner rather than later . . . whilst reading it out loud I suddenly imagined it on Radio 4 as an afternoon short story . . . Hmmm, you never know!

Jura is without doubt an intriguing place to visit; as an 'island off an island off an island' it is obviously remote in one sense but it is the absence of small, everyday things that make it seem so distant. The Long Road - as the one and only road on the island is known - isn't that long; about 32.5 miles or so from the port Feolin Ferry to where it ends at the farmhouse at Kinauchdrach and is single track for all of its distance, thankfully with many passing places although the traffic is not what you would call heavy. One thing I did enjoy about driving there, and on it's big sister Islay, was the fact that everyone - drivers and pedestrians alike - waves to you as you pass, rather nice I thought!

The Lodge where I stayed was in Craighouse which is the biggest settlement on the island and boasts not only a hotel and a bistro but a general stores and a telephone box - one of three I saw on Jura. A building from the original distillery built in 1810, it has a bizarre and fantastically eclectic interior by someone named Bambi Sloan - appropriately enough as Jura comes from the Norse for Deer Island and the population of 5,000 easily outnumbers the human one of 180!

I found myself unexpectedly sharing the Lodge with two Norwegian journalist who - judging by their expressions - were equally surprised and I worried that this would affect the creative process; when I write I like to have peace and solitude and need to 'set up camp' as it were in a chosen location which could lead to issues if others were there wanting to use the same space . . . I commandeered the Music Room which overlooks the Bay of Small Isles and sat in the bay window hopefully not looking too unfriendly and managed to press on with the job. The Norwegians spent much time in the distillery and associated tasks so I saw little of them but was relieved when they left on Thursday morning, leaving me to spend the day in full creative spurt as it were!

And so the deed was done and, waving to passing traffic,pedestrians and deer, I made my way back here; I will have a sort though the photos I managed to take and post a few if any of you are interested . . . in the meantime life goes on and a search for further literary prizes begins - I quite fancy Iceland next, what do you think?

I hope you have a week full of joy, love and happiness

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Famous Sally Dog and Other Tails . . .

Good Morning Dear Friends!

Well, just two messages this morning; first of all an exceptionally fine and joyous birthday to  The Famous Sally Dog who is six years old today! Except for a slight twinge now and again in the old legs she is still as sprightly and adorable  as ever! We've been more or less continuously together since she was 5 weeks old and it is through her interventions that I have found many new friends - mainly to apologise for the fact that she is sitting by them refusing to move until they share their sandwiches!

She will be spending her birthday in her luxury holiday apartment because, after seeming like it was forever away, the day for my jaunt to Jura has finally arrived! All is nearly packed and ready; I'm trying to convince myself that I haven't forgotten something vaguely important like the laptop with my story on - my reason for going to Jura in the first place! And so this will be all from me until I return some time in the near future, laden with photographs and, one hopes, a finished story with which to delight you all!

I hope your day - and those that follow - are filled with joy and love and happiness!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Thursday, 26 May 2011

What the Caterpillar Calls the End of the World . . .

Good Morning Dear Friends

I began this post a couple of days ago but life seems to have a habit of getting in the way of my writing - something needs to be done, that's for sure!   So here I am on Thursday morning, and beyond the study window the world is a relentless drip of grey; the sky is the colour of pigeons wings and an altogether flat feeling pervades my thoughts . . . I had a bit of a sleepless night which no doubt hinders my cheerfulness to a greater or lesser degree . . . however, sworn as I am to positivity and happiness-spreading I shall try my best not to buckle under the weight of barometric pressure which, conversely, will be low, won't it?

Anyhow, there's been much talk lately of endings; it is just over a week since college finished and I'm due to end with my clients in Bury in the next week or so plus, of course, the news on Saturday that the world was going to end and the great cataclysm would be upon us  - which, as I write, has still not happened or if it has I've been too busy to notice . . . anyhow, as I was walking with Sal the other day I was thinking of all these endings and I looked up from my ponderings, as it were, and saw a structure, the image which is posted above; I was instantly taken back to when I was around 3 years old or so and learned something that I was able to use many, many years later . . .

My maternal grandmother lived in a wee house - now demolished - just beyond this bridge and when I was three years old she died and I found her bed; in the following weeks as we continued to visited my granddad who still lived there but was preparing to move, I asked constantly where she was - I had, of course been excluded from the funeral and, as far as I was concerned, she had just disappeared.

I remember my mum pointing up and saying to me " She's in heaven now" and, looking up, I saw this huge massive structure.  I said " Can she see me from up there? " "Oh yes" said my mum and I waved . . . for some time afterwards I continued to look up at this bridge and wonder what my Nan was up to in 'heaven' ! Many years later, I was involved in a bereavement course and we were speaking about all the different  euphemisms for death and how they could confuse children's understanding and I though instantly of my three-year-old self waiting for his Nan to get down from the West Coast Mainline!

And it is on this very line that I will begin next weeks jaunt to Jura -  in the face of, it has to be said, considerable opposition from the natural world!  Not only have gale force winds been blowing the wrong kinds of trains off the tracks in Scotland but our dear old friend the Grímsvötn volcano in Iceland has manage to wreck havoc on air travel with its clouds of volcanic ash  . . . flights from Glasgow Airport which is, of course, my airport of departure, seemed to be quite badly hit at one point although today things seem to be back on a more even keel . . . anyhow, if all goes according to plan, it is there I hope to have the enforced solitude and muse-filled inspiration which will enable me to finish "The Maelstrom" which is of course the reason behind this trip in the first place . . . 

I've had to do lots of research for this book; The main character Blair is based on George Orwell and the events that occurred to him whilst he was staying on Jura make up some of the story line for the book . . . it has however been changed and manipulated somewhat, not to mention augmented by a few of the myths and legends that surround this lonely and far-flung outpost . . . hopefully the resulting cocktail will be palatable and enjoyable . . . not least to mine hosts the Diurachs of Jura Whisky who will be publishing it on their wonderful website  - -    shortly after completion.

So as one time of being ends, another begins; as the title of this post relates "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly" one of my favourite quotes from Richard Bach's terrific book  "Illusions"  . . . life all about change and embracing it positively; something which, I must admit, I am rather better at in theory than practice but I hope I am improving . . . and as if to reward my little burst of positivity the sun has begin to peep through the wings and into the study windows . . . the rain has stopped - at least for the moment - and small hounds are making "Well? Are we going for a walk or what?" type glances and movements - Sal is so eloquent in her silence!

So I will leave you here and hope your day is fortune-filled and full of love and laughter

'til next time

Be Seeing You !