Alexander Averin

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Smoke rising above the showers

Dear Diary,

Rain, rain go away.  Come again another day.

Early this morning the sun was out, I could hardly believe it and I (almost) got up to rush out with the camera to capture the brightness, fearful that it would not last.  I should have acted on my instincts, it did not last and today has been showering heavily on and off and it has been dark, very dark.  I wanted to post some sunny pics for you but never mind, there will be sunshine one day, folk have told me so.

Today’s blog is as mixed as the weather, there are a few bits of sunshine but there is an angry raging section too.  Right at the end you will smell the smoke rising.

I have acquired a new library book, not a novel this time, it is Dara O’ Briain’s new one about the English.  I am not very far into it yet so I will report back another day with my opinion.  I wanted to read something funny and always find him laughter-inducing as a performer. 

This is a description of the book.

Tickling the English

Nostalgia, identity, eccentricity, gin drinking and occasional violence... these are just some of the themes that stand-up comedian Dara O Briain explores in Tickling the English. O Briain moved to England many years ago, but when he takes his show on tour around the country – from deserted seaside towns and remote off-shore islands, to sprawling industrial cities and sleepy suburbs and it's clear to him that his adopted home is still a bit of an enigma. Why do the English pretend to be unhappy all the time? Why can’t they accept they rank about 5th, in everything? And what’s with all the fudge? But this Irishman loves a challenge; he's certainly got the gregarious personality and the sure-fire wit to bring down the barriers of that famous English reserve, and have a good old rummage inside. Swapping anecdotes with his audiences and spending time wandering in their hometowns, this nosy neighbour holds England up to the light while exploring some of the attitudes he brought over here with him too. As Dara goes door-to-door in search of England in this part tour diary, part travelogue, the result is an affectionate, hilarious and often eye-opening journey through the Sceptred Isle.

There have been other blessings today, I felt rested after a long good night’s sleep in clean sheets and I have a day off from work.  It was very busy yesterday in the library, I think everyone is escaping the weather and losing themselves in books.  I have swept up even more wet leaves, got lots of indoor chores out of the way and that always makes me feel better.  I’ve written a poem too.

The debate about global warming has been in the news again, re. does it exist or is it a fabrication?  Global warming or not there is definitely climate change, the winds are stronger, the rainfall heavier and floods are becoming commonplace.  It’s almost as if the Earth is showing its anger at Man's greed and the rape, violence and plunder it is experiencing.

I shall finish with something serious.  This is not just a rant, it is both alarming and outrageous.  I want to draw people’s attention to the fact that cancer drugs (and other drugs too) are in very short supply because pharmacists are taking advantage of the state of our pound and are selling drugs abroad in order to make more money.  A very good friend of mine has been experiencing difficulties in obtaining her supply of a drug called letrazole that she has to take on a daily basis.  And not only a friend of mine, I have too!  My friend C was told that there are only ten  packs of our particular drug left in South Wales.  C and I take this drug as a preventative measure but it is also given to patients with advanced breast cancer. So lives will be lost if their medicines are not available to them.  My friend’s pharmacist actually told her that he has been asked to send a photocopy of her prescription to the wholesaler in order to get two month’s supply of letrazole!  This surely goes against the data protection act apart from anything else. This time last week  I had a real to-do with two local pharmacies and eventually got my three month’s worth - thanks to G my breast care nurse from Cardiff (a real angel flying too close to the ground) who acted swiftly on my behalf and contacted said pharmacies. 

So that’s all for today, C and I are on the case and will be contacting our Welsh Assembly member and our hospital consultants who have prescribed the drug to us.  My GP did not seem particularly caring when I rung her about it, she feigned ignorance on the matter even though it has been in the Times and the Observer and all over the Internet. She said I should order the drug two weeks in advance and when I said I had to travel 22 miles to get my tablets and that they very often have none in stock when I get there - even before all this blew up - she more or less blamed me for living in the country. 

Watch this space,

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit.

Monday 23 November 2009


Dear Diary,

Our river has gone down a little and when I wake it isn’t actually raining. This state of affairs doesn’t last long though and then when I switch on the radio I hear sad news - a woman is missing after she fell into the River Usk at Brecon and then there is coverage of the ongoing suffering in the flood-stricken county of Cumbria. I am reminded, as if I needed to be, of the supreme power of Nature and I can foresee that these cataclysmic floods will soon become too commonplace for comfort. When will governments realise/own up that climate change is the real terrorist hiding in our shadows? We should not be at war in far off countries (for dubious reasons) killing innocents and sacrificing our young soldiers but rather fighting to save Planet Earth of which we are all citizens. I feel we are not taking it seriously enough and just paying minimum lip service to the environmental cause. If we go on like this it will become too late - I really pity the world we are leaving to our grandchildren and great grandchildren and I carry some guilt along with that pity.

I have started reading Banville’s The Infinities. It could not be less like Love and Summer and I am not sure I am in the mood for it. It reads like another Booker winner for him though - Banville won it in 2005 with The Sea. I loved The Sea but the subject matter of his latest book is depressing me, even the parts which I can see are meant to be darkly humorous. I am always being reminded that sometimes a book will only work when the mood of the reader fits. I am in low mood today, can’t you just tell?

So here is a poem by the dear departed John O’Donohue.

Just for me.

It is not even nightfall and yet various things have unnerved me today and sometimes only these words will do.

Beannacht (Blessing)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue

Bye for now,

Sunday 22 November 2009

A Good Read

Dear Diary,

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted. You should live several lives while reading it.

William Styron

After a night broken by thunder and lightning the monsoon season continues and we spend a lot of time watching the river to check if the water level has reached the bridge yet. The garden is one big Sog and I only venture out to empty the compost bin. We lit the woodburner this morning to cheer the cottage and even the dogs are happy to stay in by the fireside.

Today I did something I haven’t done in a long while - I read a book in one sitting. It was Love and Summer by William Trevor and I can highly recommend it. It takes a very special book to keep me in my armchair for four hours but this one is THE book. I had forgotten that it has been Booker short listed but I think it deserves to win and I am not biased just because it is an Irish novel. This man writes like a dream, the setting is an old Ireland and the pace is slow but it draws you in. It is unashamedly old-fashioned and very moving; I would say it is his best book yet. It did put me in mind of Colm Toibin's Brooklyn, if you haven't read that one it is another must-read,

I am starting John Banville’s The Infinities next, I will report back on that one.

Are there any blessings? Apart from books?

Well there are poems, here is one by one of my favourite poets, Czeslaw Milosz.

And Yet The Books

And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
“We are, ” they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame
Licked away their letters. So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagine the earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant,
Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.

Czeslaw Milosz

Bye for now,
Happy Reading,

PS Here is another must-read.
Talking of books I have been meaning to recommend this blog for all teenagers who love reading.
It is called Wondrous Reads

Monday 16 November 2009

Nemesis, David Gray

Neath an avalanche - soft as moss
I'm a creeping and intangible sense of loss
I'm the memory you can't get out your head
If I leave you now
You'll wish you were somewhere else instead
I'm the manta ray - I'm the louse
I am a photograph they found in your burned out house
I'm the sound of money washing down the drain
I am the pack of lies baby that keeps you sane
Gates of Heaven are open wide
God help me baby I'm trapped inside
Feel like I'm buried alive
I'm the bottom line - of the joke
I am ecstasy - spilling like bright egg yolk
I'm the thoughts you're too ashamed to ever share
And I am the smell of it - you're trying to wash out of you hair
Gates of Heaven are open wide
God help me baby I'm lost inside
Feel like I'm buried alive
Possibilities limitless
Just give me something that's more than this
One shot and I'll never miss
I'm the babe that sleeps through the blitz
I am a sudden and quite unexpected twist
I am your one true love who sleeps with someone else
I am your nemesis
Baby I'm life sweet life itself

Saturday 14 November 2009

The storm has passed

Dear Diary,

Music by Halle

Do not believe in anything because you have heard it.  Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumoured by many.  Do not believe in anything simply because it is found in your religious books.  Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.  Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.  But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

Hindu prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism 563-483 BC

Well the rain is still falling; it seems as though the Welsh monsoon season has arrived and today it’s that slow, steady, quiet kind of rain, dropping in a soft way onto the already sodden ground.  The river is behaving itself so far but we followed the course of the River Wye in the car yesterday, down to Hay and it was already up to the top of its banks.  

We had battened all the hatches and were on high flood alert yesterday but the gales that were forecast were not as bad here as predicted, I think they were at their peak overnight but we may have missed the worst of the weather for a change. 

I had stocked up with food and had meals planned for a few days - I’m not usually this organised but I am in hibernation mode and comfort eating always accompanies the survival of Winter as far as I am concerned.  That and nice log fires and books of course.

And I’ve more books!  A lot of new books are published at this time of year, ready for Christmas. 

There are two men I hold in high esteem, one is my hero Tony Benn who is 84 now.  Whatever your politics may be he is a man of high intelligence and the words he writes are laced with great wisdom.  I have borrowed his latest book, Letters to my Grandchildren. Thoughts on the Future.   If you are tempted to read this do also read his book Dare to be a Daniel because this is another great read.  All his books come highly recommended, there are many to choose from.

Don’t tell anyone but I’ve fallen for another man just lately, it is Monty Don - I blogged about him just the other day. I reluctantly returned  his Ivington Diaries to the library this week as there is a waiting list for the book. 

Monty is another ‘sweet heart‘, a beautiful and a gentle man in the truest sense and such a gifted writer, I think whatever he wrote about I would read  because he writes from the heart, his words flow with passion and an enthusiasm that just shines and inspires.  That is a word I love… enthusiasm - it comes from the Greek… en theos… from God. 

I am now reading his book My Roots.  A Decade in the Garden which is made up of articles he wrote for The Observer and Monty admits in its introduction that he always wanted to be a writer, not a gardener. To my mind it is obvious that he is a very successful gardener but he is first and foremost a writer.

It is not only men who write sense.  I have just read Janet Street Porter’s latest book. Don’t let the B******* get you down.  I am a great fan of JSP and I do recommend her book although I have to say that with me she is preaching to the converted and I already practise and am prone to preach most of what she espouses.

So are there any other blessings on this wild, wet day?

Welsh lamb stew bubbling away on the hob, dumplings to be added soon. 

The woodburner is lit and a stack of logs is at the ready.

Television.  Sometimes it is just the thing, usually when I am tired and want to flop.

And it’s Sunday tomorrow, my favourite day.

Before I go here is a poem - and it is written by another octogenarian, Maya Angelou.

Touched by an Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Have a great weekend,

Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Monday 9 November 2009

About profusion

Dear Diary,

How long should a cyclamen flower? I have one in a pot which lives on a windowsill in my cottage that I bought last Christmas. It has flowered since then and not just a few, it blossoms in abundance. the flowers seem everlasting, the whole plant is amazingly healthy and somehow radiant. I took advice on the best way of watering these plants as before I had not kept them flowering for long and had always planted them outside when their flowering days seemed over - under the pine trees on the riverbank, where they always surprise me come springtime. I have blogged about them in the past.

A very wise and very experienced plantswoman by the name of Withy Brook told me not to water from below, not to stand the pot in water but just to keep the soil moist and water regularly from above. I have never fed this cyclamen, well only with loving glances and the occasional stroke, just to keep it happy you understand. I don’t think I have ever spoken to it though I do speak to some of my babies.

Here is a photo of said plant.

Soon I will endeavour to make babies from this plant and so may have to consult dear Withy once more.

That’s enough about plants.

On to books.

I have another gem to recommend, this is our latest book group choice and it is yet another American novel, The 19th Wife by the rather good looking author David Ebershoff.

There are so many great American and Canadian writers aren’t there? This one is a thickish tome but I would wager that its size will not daunt you once you start reading it. I won’t say too much as I always think it is off-putting to have too many preconceptions about a book before reading it. All I will say is that it is impressive writing, very well constructed and seems to have been researched in great depth from an historical perspective. It is one of those books whose subject matter stayed on my mind even when I wasn’t reading it and I am still thinking about it now it is finished. I've been thinking about (in no particular order) men and even more about women, about sexual orientations, about power, evil, child abuse, religious faith, cults, marriage and of course polygamy. Parts of the book are chilling, nauseous even, though there is some fine humour within its pages. I am looking forward to our book group meeting and hearing how other members got on with it. I will report back.

And now for something completely different. I am going to read The Return Journey which is the latest offering by the dear Irish writer Maeve Binchy; this one will make a change as they are short stories. I have also added to my book mountain Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures. Apart from the book mountain at my bedside I have an ever-growing list of titles recommended to me by enthusiastic readers at the library.

So many books so little time.

I often wonder how others manage their time? Can anyone tell me how to lengthen a day? I have so much writing to do, blogs to read, my own to write (more often) and so many poems to bring to life that are labouring in my head (as well as an ongoing novel) That is apart from other projects I have on the go. Sometimes I envy retired folk but there is no use looking forward to those days as I know I shall have to work till I drop.

So I shall sign off now but would love to hear how you ’spend’ your days, how you decide whether to read or to write, to garden or to walk, to cook or to not cook, to go to bed at a sensible time or to stay up late, to do housework or to ignore it, to go out or stay in………………I could go on.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Monday 2 November 2009


Dear Diary,


Samhain left us quietly and October was pleasant, warm and perfectly well-behaved to the very end.  That month has given way now to All Souls Day, the first day of November.

October may have been undemanding but November came in like a new born baby making himself known in a big way.  I blame myself, I should not have badmouthed him in a previous post.

As you may know our cottage sits beside a mountain stream and we woke yesterday to an unfolding drama,  heavy rain and rising waters; the field was awash in a big way, luckily for us the flood water was heading that way and not towards the cottage, not yet anyway.  I had not heard the rain but it must have been torrential all night. I had slept silently and dreamlessly fully expecting any rough weather to arrive during the day but No, this baby had come early.


The waters are rising and even though it goes against the grain because it is a Sunday morning I must rise too, I dress quickly and don my wellies and rain gear.  Once outside it is already dramatic, the sound of the wind, the roaring of the water and the extent of its spread.  We know what to do now though, it is a race against time, experience guides us as we have been flooded before.  Everything is moved, anything that could float away.  We must move things before they are moved for us.  In the past we have lost benches, tables, chairs etc.  We rescue the mowers and the chainsaw from the shed;  pots, tables, chairs, ornaments and bits and pieces I value, even the bird feeding station, all are moved to higher, safer ground.

It rains on, waters rush by and  rise.

I have a great time then sweeping the leaves, both our own and those that have swept downstream in the flood.  I clear them all and send them on their way further down the river.  It was a job waiting to be done so I feel quite pleased about that.

We watch giant pooh sticks sail by and wonder if they will go left into the field and be future firewood or if they will go straight on and end up who knows where. 

The wind is very strong and we wonder if any trees will come down anywhere, not here because we are in a fairly sheltered valley but we know if the wind is strong here then it will be very wild elsewhere.   The bridge has been covered in debris, mainly wood and leaves and it strongly resembles Niagara Falls now but God willing the bridge itself will not move this time as it is now jammed against a tree.  A new kind of island has appeared in the field and we know that the river course will be altered again.  ‘Twas ever thus.   I thank God it has made a good flood plain though and  the cottage has not been put at risk.

Even so we phone the local council emergency line as the water is edging towards the back door, it is about twelve feet away but we know from past experience how quickly it can move.  Even though it is a Sunday it is not too long before the sandbag angels arrive (Aren’t they wonderful?  Full credit to our local council) and the men lay the bags snugly at our threshold and leave us some spares too.

Then at last everything calms, the rain eases and then stops, the waters recede slowly but not completely.  We are safe and we can relax,  We take the dogs into the field, going round the main road way and we survey the damage, wading through the floods we take a few more photos and then return to the cottage for a well earned hot cuppa.

November has settled now and like any new baby, this new month has quietened at last…..until the next time. 

And today there is no drama, no excitement and the river too is quiet, she does not cry, she only murmurs.

Bye for now,

PS  I am still reading Monty’s Ivington Diaries and have discovered that he too lives by a river, the Arrow, his garden is flooded sometimes and the water in the past has come to his back door.  That is comforting in a way especially as he thinks it is a beautiful sight and considers himself lucky in that the flood water is clean and brings not rubbish or anything disgusting with it but only lovely silt to the garden.  Dear Monty, he is a man after my own heart.