Alexander Averin

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Midweek Ramblings

Dear Diary,

War does not determine who is right - only who is left. 

Bertrand Russell

Hell, it is a week since my last post, I really must try harder, it seems I have had lots to do and have not been able to put my mind to blogging.  This morning though I woke feeling the need to write down my thoughts, they are very random, I apologise in advance.

There are things I need to help me get going in the morning; things that make them bearable because I am a night owl and do not function well at day break.  What do I need?  Amber nectar first which is a big mug of Yorkshire Gold laced with local honey - though the Welsh stuff  is now £4.95 a jar which I cannot afford so I am reduced to buying the inferior supermarket jars, whatever is the best buy - it is usually from abroad.  I realise the honey is expensive because of its scarcity - the problem with disease that beekeepers are having.  Perhaps I should become a beekeeper myself?

My radio brings me back to reality and this morning and I have a treat in store - Johnny Walker - no not more amber nectar of a different kind but my favourite DJ who is sitting in for Terry Wogan.  He plays my favourite tracks but I don’t know how he knows they are my favourites?

So this morning I avoid Radio 4 and the Today programme, it is always doom and gloom as news always is and it unfailingly raises my blood pressure.  I get so angry about things especially what I hear on Radio 2 news today - the death of another soldier ten days after being blown up in Afghanistan.  It seems like the First World War to me sending young boys off on patrol (?) to their almost certain death.  And they are no more than boys, I am a mother of a son myself and I can only barely imagine the pain the mothers of these soldiers are going through.    I know one mother of a soldier out there who is a borrower in the library and she has become very quiet when she comes in - she used to be bright and bubbly.  It is difficult to know what to say to her.

 I think we should get out  of Afghanistan and soon.  When will Man ever understand the futility of war?  Which reminds me, someone has recommended a film directed by Clint Eastwood that is about this very subject, I must order it (I forget the title, anyone know?).

I digress, sorry.

Other things I need.  A shower and a short yoga session to get my blood circulating and relieve tension,  Then I need my cranberry juice, my organic porridge with cinnamon, ground almonds and fruit, my daily fix of ‘supplement’ pills, another mug of the amber stuff and then my day can begin.  Am I set in my ways would you say?

Johnny has played Chris Rea, Roxy Music, Eva Cassidy , George Harrison, Manfred Mann and many more lovely tracks.  I know they are old songs but the sign of a good songwriter is if the song  is still good twenty years later.  After all no-one says that classical music is old so it is not worth listening to.

Talking of classics I want to force a book on you if you haven’t already read it.  It is Deaf Sentence by David Lodge.  So laugh out loud funny,  so tearfully sad, so very moving.  I will say no more,  Just read it.

It’s not the weather to be outside today, apparently we are going to be in the tail end of a hurricane called Bill.  I may have a polish-fest in the cottage, (a very rare event for me getting out the duster) and some ‘proper’ nice smelling polish is called for.  I have a daily battle with cobwebs too as I never kill spiders, I only remove their webs.  (If you want to live and thrive, let a spider run alive - that is a gypsy saying).

Before I go I want to share with you this poem that won the recent Welsh Poetry Competition.

All I could say when I first read it was Wow.

The Origami Lesson

To make Derry Railway Station,
fold the gentle Foyle
beside this end, thus,
where the train breathes at a slight curve,
and for the white fence,
press the line
upon the middle crease
in a fine rain, then
unfold the sheeted roof wing by wing
in line with dim bridges
and the rounded wall.

For Evarethilion,
begin by folding lengthwise
and separating
amongst bright enamels.
To make the unearthly shine,
fold the top point –
which will be the blade –
into a garnet beast, and double back
the silver pommel
into the dotted fist.
Align the creases as if
a rainbow were a staircase
upon which
folded feet boldly tread.

The leaping gnu.
You may use the shimmer
from a lake amidst grassland,
but a hill will do.
Divide the top half into three hearts:
cow, horse and goat.
Take point X upon the hoof
and fold the top edge, thus,
upon its grunt,
so it is roughly equal
to the distance from
the far sun that pours
beneath black clouds to the brown,
dusty horizon.
To make the water,
turn the world over,
and crease.
Your gnu will fall from the mountain fold
towards sunset.
The valley fold will open upon it,
and his beautiful beard
will make a tasselled shadow.

John Galas

I shall sign off now; when I started writing this the pine trees outside my window were completely still, now they are starting to wave at me energetically and the aspens are quaking - Bill must be on his way.  I’m off to batten down a few hatches.  Sorry its been a bit of a ramble today.  Better than nothing I hope.

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Less is More

Time Passing By

The artist - Gyuri Lohmuller

Dear Diary,

fear less, hope more;
eat less, chew more;
whine less, breathe more;
talk less, say more;
love more and all good things will be yours.

Swedish Proverb.

I promised I would tell you about two books that I have enjoyed recently on the subject of time. The first was recommended to me by a fellow blogger and is called:

Ten Thoughts About Time. How to make more of the time in your life.
by Bodil Jonsson, a Swedish author

and by pure synchronicty (I don't believe in coincidences) I have picked a Swedish proverb to start my post.

When I read Mark's comment I looked the book up straightaway and luckily found it in our library catalogue so I put a request in for it and then (synchronicity again) I stumbled upon another on the same subject that embraces that less word word that is so dear to my heart at the moment. I thought the book was excellent as it seemed to make many practical suggestions for dealing with time.

It is called The Power of Less by Leo Babauta.

This is its blurb.

With the arrival of the 21st century we have encountered a mental and material explosion in the Western world: we have near-unlimited information at our fingertips, we can have children who are healthy and safe, and we have wealth and possessions beyond what most of the world can dream of. Yet we are more stressed than we have ever been: the majority of us are profoundly unhappy. But the flipside of our society is that we can choose what to accept, and what not to accept: what to keep, and what to lose, joyfully and consciously. With this handbook of simplicity, Leo Babauta shows us why less is powerful, the difference between what you want and what you need, and how to clear out what you don't.

This author also has a blog that needs no recommendation from me - it is in the top thirty blogs apparently but is (obviously) well worth a look, there are some great ideas there.

That’s all for today, my garden is calling me for some attention, I have a fig tree plant to repot, a bed to dig over, a seat to sit in and a Good Book to read - and heyho it is a fine day!

So bye for now,
Enjoy your time,

Monday 17 August 2009

Church on Sunday

Flowers and afternoon sunlight at St Mary's.

Dear Diary,

Just a short one today as I am rather busy - Monday chores to do and I am soon to be chasing the dead again.  It's an addiciton that doesn't damage my health - apart from the lack of sleep that I am suffering from which is caused by too many late nights on the Ancestry website.

Thank you for the comments on the previous post (self portrait poem) - it was written a bit tongue in cheek and I used a few untruths, sorry -  a little bit of poetic licence -  but some days I do feel like the archetypal grumpy old woman.  But I am not yet completely steely grey...not quite yet.

Yesterday we went to visit a church where one of M's ancestors was christened in 1730 - St Mary the Virgin's in Middleton-on-the-Hill which lies in deepest Herefordshire.  And I mean deepest - it took us ages to find the place; as usual it was a case of really poor signposting.  The area of Little Hereford is a literal maze of narrow lanes, farmland and scattered cottages, it felt like going back in time and we could imagine how remote it would have been when his distant grandfather lived there.  M has Huguenot roots so I am busy researching all about them.

This is the church, it is 12th century and was so very beautiful and peaceful.  The approach to it was across a straight track between two wide fields of barley, they were fields of gold indeed yesterday in the golden sunlight and the wide flat fields reminded me of Norfolk.  Yesterday was a real summer's day for a change - a perfect afternoon to be out and about.  I am pleased to say that all the churches we have visited in Herefordshire recently have been unlocked and so welcoming with their atmospheres of peace and perfect calm.

I have a thing about church windows. This one was very narrow.

Another sweet flower arrangement on a wall.

Before I go here is a poem I wrote that was inspired by my latest addiction.

Family Tree

Another day, another show, a drama in the making
but I wake to insignificance, hearing only a small whisper
for I am clothed in human form
and only chasing the ungrateful dead.
Tracing the past has narrowed my vision.
Is this how an addict feels?
For like a drug, it absorbs and excites me
yet shrinks me down in an unstoppable fashion
till I am the user at the break of dawn,
or in the dead of night when you may catch me
as I leap from branch to branch,
peeping at paper records, tapping at keys.

One man and one woman; it always ends with two
and their love and passion for the other;
‘tis the human trait we cannot help but recognise.
Then it dawns: we are all just part of One Big Pattern
almost holy and connected..

I travel back as far as only hope can
to reach the proud ones standing tall astride tree’s majesty.
Then I fade once more to narrowness and feel so small
not realising that I am still on stage now,
and it is not yet time to take my curtain call.

Cait O’Connor

Tomorrow I shall recommend two books for you that are really worth reading if you feel you don't have enough hours in a day.  They embrace the magic that lies in the word 'less' - something I have been thinking a lot about lately.

So do call again.

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Self Portrait

You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul

George Bernard Shaw


Self Portrait

Who is this old woman I catch sight of every day?
The face with wrinkly lines,the voice that seems to moan a lot
and always boasts of times gone by
when absolutely everything was so much better than today.
Her hair is steely grey now but she says she doesn’t care.
She says she’ll grow it long and throw the dyes and all her caution to the winds
and wear it in what old grannies called a bun.
She eats little and just loves her herbal brews,
treads carefully upon the stairs in case once more she falls.
She’s careless, loses words and patience,
names and glasses,
keys and memories.
(And doesn’t hear too well).
She hasn’t any vices, I cannot think of one at all.
She doesn’t drink, she doesn’t smoke,
she even tires at middle-day and sometimes takes a nap
and still retires to bed at night with only cocoa and a book
and tells me it is heavenly!
(Could she be more boring you may ask)?
She seems to know me very well, too bloody well in fact,
(we must be closely linked somehow?).
I really cannot fool her though however hard I try.
She’s seen it all and done it all
and brags to all and sundry
the fact that she’s a granny now and her three girls
are definitely the best and just the brightest in the world.
I kind of recognise her eyes and voice,
they seem familiar in a way.
But still I wonder who she is for
I cannot recognise her.
Her clothes are mostly purple now,
she doesn’t give a damn,
she knows just what she really wants
and what she will or will not ever do.
She’s been near death so values life
and loves her precious family.
And in some ways I envy her because
she’s become with age a lot more wise
(she’s read a lot you know)
and seems so happy in her skin.
I do enjoy her company
it’s almost like we’re kin.
But every time I see her face
she tells me she is me!
But it can’t be me, I feel so young!
Oh tell me please
where lives that soft young woman I once was
with my babies on my knee?

Cait O’Connor
PS Who invented mirrors? The swine!

Monday 10 August 2009

Musings on Time

Dear Diary,

“The real dividing line between things we call work and the things we call leisure is that in leisure, however active we may be, we make our own choices and our own decisions. We feel for the time being that our life is our own.”


I woke up naturally again today, no alarm, no Radio 4, no Today programme which, much as I love it, does raise my blood pressure. Today is the last day of a couple of weeks’ annual leave/change of routine. Because I work part-time my holiday ‘extends’ even if I only take a few days off, one of the advantages I guess. Tomorrow I will be back in the library, I really love my job so no hardship there but I do love the freedom that no-work gives me. A taste of what future retirement will be like perhaps?

M and I  often try and guess the time when we don’t know it and I am usually spot-on or only a few minutes out in my estimation and this morning, just after eight o’clock was no exception. I must keep a kind of unconscious vigil on time in my brain which is rather worrying. I got to musing about the whole subject of time this morning so from now on this post is just a few random ramblings on the subject before I rise and ‘seize the day’ (or the moment).

There are gentle rains falling and I have much work still to do in the jungle - sorry garden - as most of my time off it has been raining. We could almost make hay with the garden cuttings alone. Talking of which we’ve just had a small spell of hot dry weather though and thank God, the local farmers have at last been able to finish making silage or hay and they have been working flat out. Our field has been done - my favourite time - all pollen banished now - and the dogs and I enjoyed an evening walk yesterday on the virginal grass stubbles, weaving our way through the shiny black wrapped bales of silage.

And these last few days I have found my garden again, albeit overgrown and buried amongst weeds and M has strimmed all the grass which had grown too high to mow. All my plans of clearing and creating ‘new’ flowerbeds have not come to fruition. Never mind, there is always another time, God willing.

How did I cope with time when I had ‘time off‘?

I chased time but it was always out of reach and was never letting me catch it. It has never hung on me, never been an empty vessel with me wondering how I could fill it - I have never been bored in my life - (there are always books aren’t there?). At break of day I would ask it to stretch for me so I could fill it only with pleasure, small tasks of joy rather than necessity perhaps, not chores of pain or work. I could have a spell of this, a stint of something else. I could be quiet and live only in the lull or go with the proverbial flow of soft time - have you tried this? It is truly energising. Usually chores jostled for my attention and worst of all there were those dreaded lists of ‘things to do today’ with each item fighting for dominance. Why do unpleasant tasks always weigh so heavily on our minds? - I have found it is sometimes easier to tackle them and get them out of the way first, doing them can be easier than not doing them.

Is there an angel of Time? I doubt it for Time is man-made like armies are and it marches onwards, it advances quick-time left to right and I feel and dread its linear regimentation, I crave the gentler pace. At certain times; the cooling of the day or at sunset or when I gardened or did my yoga then time became my best friend, at last she acquiesced and lay down around me, expanding in all directions, becoming at last circular which was always my Celtic soul’s unconscious intention.

How does time elapse and pass? People say ’Where does the time go?’ I would like to face them to the wall along with the clocks and live only by my own desires or be almost like the cradled infant just listening to my own body’s needs and rhythms. There are only moons and tides, the Sun and the planets, seasons and lifetimes, the future never will come but every moment is an ever-present gift to us.

I would love to rise with the dawning of the light and sleep with its fall. I would like to dream with the seasons and celebrate each of their own unique gifts. Time is just our present, it is but a moment of stillness and ‘stiller’ too if it is silent and is met with solitude.

I will sign off now; I feel that the time is right. I will try and remember each moment that life is but a dream and that we are all dreaming and creating our own lives with the energies of our thoughts. Perhaps we should dream away and not waste away each day of our all too short lives on planet Earth.

I must owe you a poem.

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Theodore Roethke

May all your time be soft,

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Saturday 1 August 2009


Dear Diary,

Vincent Van Gogh

It is the artist's business to create sunshine when the sun fails
Romain Rolland French writer 1866-1944

The weather is foul - where and why is the Sun hiding itself? Derek Brockway, our lovely Welsh TV weather man says it’s all to do with the Jet Stream that is sweeping over us - I’ve never heard of it before but I wish it would sweep somewhere else. I think I will be curling up with a good book later when I have done a little more work on the family tree. Before I do though I promised I would tell you what books I have been reading, so here goes, there are some old, some new.

The Story of Lucy Gault - William Trevor. I love William Trevor books and always thought I had read this one but surprisingly it turned out I hadn’t. I happen to believe it is his best.

Now another Irish author - I hope I am not too biased.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

This man writes so well, I have read all his books and this one is so lovely. It goes its way slowly, gently but so so smoothly and I am sure you will enjoy it.

The Road Home by Rose Tremain. I am reading this at the moment and I don’t like putting it down. It is not a ‘happy’ read, it’s about an economic migrant and doesn't exactly lift my mood in this grey weather but I will persevere as it is such good writing. I recommend it highly, every sentence is just perfect and a joy to read.

I am just about to read the new Salley Vickers. Did you know why she spells her name Salley by the way - it’s all down to Yeats and his poem Down by the Salley Gardens. Yeats was her father’s favourite poet. Salley means ‘willow’.

Also on my to-read shelf is The Reader by Bernhard Schlink - this has been recommended to me by two people, one is my daughter. I don’t think this will be a cheerful book either but I will read and report on it.

I have really enjoyed David Lodge’s Deaf Sentence - I won’t say any more as the Purplecoo Book Group have chosen it for discussion in a couple of month’s time. I would force it on you though as a must-read. Lodge is another of my favourite authors - he makes me laugh out loud. This book has more than just humour though……….

I am sure to find a laugh or two as well in Lucy Mangan’s
My Family and Other Disasters. I used to enjoy her extremely funny columns in The Guardian.

In a car boot sale recently I found a Diana Cooper book on angels - Angel Answers. If, like me, you believe in angels and have questions to ask, you will enjoy this one.

For my ever-present poetry-hunger I have borrowed from the library’s new additions:

Long-Haul Travellers by Sheenagh Pugh

And more poetry-food has been bought in Hay (as very cheap bargains)

Not in these Shoes by Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch.

All Alcoholics are Charmers (great title and written by Martina Evans who grew up in Cork).

Exemplary Damages by Dennis O’Driscoll, another Irish poet (Tipperary born).

Last but so very far from least comes a great favourite of mine, the great Kerry writer Brendan Kennelly and his book of three-liners called Now.

Here is a taste … I will open it at random., I am a great believer in oracling, what will it tell me I wonder?

Looking forward, it seemed like eternity.
Looking back now, it’s a moment.
I’ll settle for now.

When words make love to each other
some beautiful children are born
and the occasional monster.

How much of a man is lost in success?
Quite a lot she thinks, looking at the man
To whom she almost said yes.

Before I go I will give you a song version of the aforementioned poem: I sing this around the house or in the car myself when no-one is around.

My favourite YouTube version of the song could not be embedded - do go over and listen to Maura O’Connell and Karen Mathesa singing it together, it sent shivers down me.

Here are the words.

DOWN by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Well I will sign off now, there are more book titles I could suggest but I will save them for another time.

What are you reading?

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,