Alexander Averin

Tuesday 22 February 2011



Why did God make Men; was She only joking?
Why does the caged bird sing?
Why do I beat myself up and always drive myself on?
Why do the good die young?
Why do I always fall asleep on the sofa
and then wake at the end of the film?
Why can’t I sleep when I get to bed
but not want to wake in the morning?
Why do I feel wide awake at night
yet  could easily drowse the day long?
Why does time pass more quickly the older you get?
Why does each year go faster than the last?
Why do a few minutes pass so slowly when I am willing them to go by?
Why do hours just whiz by on the computer?
Why does time fly when I’m having fun?
(Where does the time go?).
Why does food always taste better out of doors?
Why, if I am looking for a particular card in my purse, it will be the last to be found?
Why does a good book always end too quickly?
Why do people only call by when the house is a tip?
Why does no-one call when it’s clean and tidy?
Why, if heat rises, is it colder the higher up you go?
Why does the phone ring just as I am dishing up a meal or wallowing in the bath?
Why does a word keep cropping up after it has been discussed?
Why do we always want what we haven’t got
and not appreciate what we already have?
Why is youth wasted on the young?
Why can’t there be an end to war?
Why do we never learn from history?
Why do we laugh?
Why do we cry?
Why do we write?
Why do we blog?
Why are we here?
Why are you reading this cr**?
Why do we worry anyway?

Answers on a postcard please.
(Or in comments below).

Cait O’Connor

Friday 18 February 2011

On Finding An Ancestor's Will

On Finding An Ancestor’s Will

In Cumberland, upon a hillside’s crag,
sweet Archibald, I  found you.

But were you really not so sweet,
were you rather sour and tight?

You lived and worked by border folk
and married one, Christiana.

Two hundred years have passed,
each archive speaks, yet hides from us its story.

You made and dealt in earthenware,
you dreamed in clay, your land was stone and slate.

A gifted artist, palms worked their alchemy
to make the finest china in the land.

You left great wealth but all was spoken for
by creditors, well more than one in truth.

When you were safely cold, buried deep
and moulded in St  Andrew’s clay

the first in line was Samuel Binns, the local man of coal.
Another dealer, patient, open-palmed,
he’d quietly watched you die.

Six hundred pounds lay wait for him.
his conscience clear and firm, un-pricked,

the money owed to him had kept you whole,
had warmed your body and its heart

and hopefully your artist soul,
through all your long, cold, dying days

in Cumberland, upon a hillside’s crag.

Cait O’Connor

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Adele at the Brits

I was babysitting last night and only caught some of the Brit Awards.  A lot of what I saw left me unmoved but not Adele's performance.  What a talent; she stood out from the rest as far as I am concerned.

See what you think.

I heard that your settled down.
That you found a girl and you're married now.
I heard that your dreams came true.
Guess she gave you things I didn’t give to you. Old friend, why are you so shy?
It ain’t like you to hold back or hide from the lie.
I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited.
But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it.
I hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded
that for me, it isn’t over.
Never mind, I’ll find someone like you.
I wish nothing but the best for you too.
Don’t forget me, I beg, I remember you said
“Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead”
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead, yeah.
You’d know how the time flies.
Only yesterday was the time of our lives.
We were born and raised in a summery haze.
Bound by the surprise of our glory days.
I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited,
But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it.
I hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded,
That for me, it isn’t over yet.
Never mind, I’ll find someone like you.
I wish nothing but the best for you too.
Don’t forget me, I beg, I remember you said
“Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead”, yay.
Nothing compares, no worries or cares.
Regrets and mistakes they’re memories made.
Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?
Never mind, I’ll find someone like you.
I wish nothing but the best for you too.
Don’t forget me, I beg, I remembered you said:-
“Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead”
Never mind, I’ll find someone like you.
I wish nothing but the best for you too.
Don’t forget me, I beg, I remembered you said
“Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead”
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead, yeah.

Monday 14 February 2011

Just a litle romance

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
   Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
   And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
   And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
   By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
   Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
   When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
   So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

William Shakespeare

 Here is a song for the day.

First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the empty skies, my love,
To the dark and the empty skies.

The first time ever I kissed your mouth
And felt your heart beat close to mine
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command, my love
That was there at my command.

And the first time ever I lay with you
I felt your heart so close to mine
And I knew our joy would fill the earth
And last till the end of time my love
It would last till the end of time my love

The first time ever I saw your face, your face,
your face, your face

Friday 11 February 2011

Crazy Valentine

Dear Diary,

When love is not madness, it is not love.  
Pedro Calderon de la Barca
I was thinking this morning (dangerous I know) about the places and times that inspiration strikes me.  I usually get an idea for a poem, or a line for one in in the middle of the  night,  in the shower, out on a walk,or when I am driving.  These are all places where a notebook is of no use whatsoever.  I wonder where you get your flashes of inspiration about what will be your next creation?  Do you always carry the essential notebook and pen?  Or are you like me who often has little scraps of paper all over the place?

I was leafing through a Country Life magazine in the library in my lunch hour yesterday as there are often interesting snippets in it.  I have discovered an artist I had not come across called Arthur Hacker, (1858-1919).  I expect you all know of him but my education is often sadly lacking.  I have picked one of his pictures to illustrate a wee poem about Valentine's Day.  It is a bleak poem which is about love but not the happiest aspects of it so I am posting it before Monday when I expect the day to be a happy one, full of Cupids, arrows, soft nothings and anonymous messages of love.

Vale of Farewell
Arthur Hacker

The idea for this poem came to me when I was driving. It is a true story, based on real people who shall obviously have to remain anonymous.

Crazy Valentine

He has lost his wife.
Some folk said he should have been more careful,
that the cause was his neglect.
He swore she was not lost,
that he had just mislaid her
but now she lays with another.

He lives a solitary life now
in their longhouse below a Welsh mountain.
Memories of their sweet union still hang around the yard.

Even the hills are sexy, their curves seem way too beautiful;
symmetrical, symbolic, their view from the cottage
both attract and pain him in equal measure.

He has joined a dating site and goes on nervous assignations
but the women all seem coarse and not remotely like his wife,
the one he swears is calling to him from some secret  place.

She is still arty, awash with sweetness and a cool allure
which he knows can quickly sway according to that moody moon.
He looks out for her in special hope upon the feast of Valentine.

Sometimes she is dominant and close,
sometimes distant, hidden and reserved.
but he believes that she is there and that she calls to him alone,

that she is waiting for the moment to return
that life will return to normal
and that everything will be the way it  always used to be,

before he had woefully mislaid her.

Cait O’Connor

Wednesday 9 February 2011

About toleration

Dear Diary,

A short blog post today. It is a trifle chilly up here in the study and I am a little under the weather today. The sofa and log burner (and Brian Keenan) are calling me from downstairs so I won't keep you.  My book group are comparing Brian Keenan's book An Evil Cradling with John McCarthy and Jill Morrell's Some Other Rainbow, an excellent choice for this month by one of our members and I am looking forward to the discussion.

 I apologise because I have been lazy and posted a copy of an article.  It is Nicky Wire of the Manics speaking to Robin Turner of the Guardian.  I realise I am preaching to the converted here but I am so incensed that in a so-called civilised society anyone could even consider closing a library.  There is a great song at the end for you.  Stay with it.

Do check out the Lauren Laverne link, (if you missed it on 10 o'clock live)........ it's great.

It's hard not to feel utterly despondent at the current plight of public libraries. Along with the NHS and the BBC, our libraries are some of the few truly remarkable British institutions left. So often absolutely ordinary in appearance, a good library should offer escape routes down the most extraordinary avenues, pathways into different worlds from the one you've left outside. Ridding our villages, towns and cities of libraries, which are essential in shaping a nation's consciousness, seems like a direct attack on the soul of the country.Libraries have always reassuringly been there when I've needed them. Blackwood library in Wales helped me through my O- and A- levels. They have given my parents decades of pleasure, satiating their desire to read and learn. This country's greatest ever poet and one of the biggest influences on my life and work, Philip Larkin, was – of course – a librarian. My wife Rachel worked as a librarian across all the branches in Newport. My brother Patrick worked in Blackwood library. I remember clearly my mother bringing home a biography of Under the Volcano author Malcolm Lowry during my teenage years. Here was a life that was truly beyond eccentricity, incredibly sad and fucked up. I was wholly drawn to the nihilistic, hyper-intelligent nature of Lowry's story. That was the turning point that made books so precious to me, part of the transformative process that would eventually make me almost fetishise books themselves. For these and countless other reasons, the public library was a key factor in shaping who I am today.
There's a tendency to resort to romantic cliche when talking about libraries; clearly in a digital age they aren't a "sexy" alternative. Maybe I'm old-fashioned but I still believe that the core of libraries will always be printed words rather than screens or keyboards. In any town or city, you can walk in and pick up the works of TS Eliot or Brett Easton Ellis, extremes of taste that you can dip into and thumb through without having anyone nudging you to make a purchase. There really aren't many things in life that can enrich you for free yet ask for nothing in return.
As an utterly self-made band, in our formative stages we vociferously consumed high and low culture – magazines, literature and TV. Without money, libraries became something of a lifeline, offering a clear window on to a wider world. In the summer of 2009, the band were honoured to be asked to open the new Cardiff Central Library. For us, it seemed like a chance to give something back to Wales. Seeing one of our lyrics – "Libraries gave us power", from A Design for Life – inscribed on the opening plaque was in its own way as affecting as playing the Millennium Stadium.
That opening line was adapted from an engraving above the entrance to Pill library in Newport that read: "Knowledge is power." The weight of those almost Orwellian words became intertwined with an idea about what the miners had given back to society when they built municipal halls and centres across the country – beautiful looking institutes that they proudly left for future generations. The lyric was me railing against what I saw as a flippancy pervading the country with the rise of Britpop, a wholesale adoption – and bastardisation – of working-class culture.
The double life of that song's opening line is one of the most amazingly serendipitous things that's happened during the life of the band. I still feel intensely proud when I hear it cited out of the context of the song, like last week when Lauren Laverne dropped it into a brilliant piece of polemic on 10 O'Clock Live.
At the moment, it really does appear that the establishment is back in control of Britain. After 30 years of semi-pluralistic governance, the establishment is pushing hard its own agenda. When you look at the cabinet, the millionaire's row in the front benches of Parliament looks like a very public-school coup. One of the most amazing things about public libraries remains their utter classlessness. You don't have to have gone to Eton to make the most out of a library. They aren't inhabited by the kind of people currently damning them. The closure of libraries in conjunction with tuition fees, the sell-off of our forests and radical reorganisation of the NHS are symbolic of the blatant power grab of this fiasco of a government. There is a way of solving these problems – it's called higher taxation of the wealthiest 10% of the country. In the 90s, I'd have gladly included myself in that bracket.
We need to cherish these things while they still exist. Seek solace, seek knowledge. Seek power.
• Nicky Wire, the Manic Street Preachers' bassist and lyricist, was talking to Robin Turner of The Guardian.

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Sunday 6 February 2011

Libraries Change Lives

This will be the first of many posts about libraries and the fight to save them.  

Support your Local Library – The Pillar of Civilisation

These are the words of Shoo Rayner, a very popular children's author and illustrator.
I tried very hard to embed a copy of his video (with his permission) but to no avail. It can be found here should you wish to view him speaking. However I am able to copy the words below.

I don’t get this country sometimes. As an island nation in a cruel, new, worldwide economic environment, we are in peril.
Our future relies on the imagination of our people. The future will be dominated by the intelligent and the imaginative. That is where profits will come from.
So what do we do in a time of short term political stress? Obvious… go for the short-term easy option – as always. Let’s cut the libraries.
Great Britain became great for many reasons, but I would hazard to suggest that universal education was the main reason.
The real driving power of the industrial revolution was the autodidact, the man who wanted to better himself and move up. How did he do this? He went to the library or the worker’s reading rooms and taught himself. That is the British way – that is the British genius that has kept us “punching above our weight” all these years.
Andrew Carnegie, the richest man that ever lived, understood this. He was that self-made man. He knew what it took to make it in this world, and far from pulling the ladder up behind him as our politicians propose now, he bestowed thousands of libraries to provide a place of learning for those who would follow him in self-reliance, determination and all the other qualities needed in The Big Society.
So now, at what is probably our hour of greatest need, what do we do? We start closing down public libraries!
I admit, there are so many good accounting reasons to do this. You can massage the figures anyway you like, but leadership is not about accounting. A great leader listens to his advisers and makes brave, visionary decisions. Any leader who follows the obvious advice of accountant is just a manager – not a leader.
My mind has been in turmoil over the issue of public libraries in the current economic situation. The internet has changed everything. It is cheaper to ask library users to order their books from Amazon and keep them, rather than pay for a library and its staff.
But a library is so much more that a pile of books or bricks. At its best it is the heart of the community and the centre of life-long learning. With the rapid pace of change, life-long learning is something we will all have to get used to, and the Library is the perfect place to go for the information that we need.
People of my generation are obsessed with books and paper. Kids really couldn’t care what form their information comes in. They have no loyalty to paper or books. If they weren’t told to read books because they are a “good thing”, they wouldn’t.
I find that scary – I make my living selling books. I know I and all authors have a very scary but exciting ride ahead. The times they are a’changing.
Forget books. They are not the point – it is what is in the books that counts. All that information needs filtering, storing and organising, and that’s where libraries and librarians come in.
Libraries have changed a lot since I was a kid and I think they have a long way to go yet. In fact, I think the role of the public library will always keep changing. But a public library’s core business is knowledge and information.
Maybe those in power want to keep us in ignorance? I don’t believe that’s so. I tend to go for the cock-up theory of politics. Keeping us in ignorance will lead to a “Fourth World” future. Post-industrial, bankrupt and only fit to make cheap plastic goods or decontaminate the waste of the rest of the world.
Our future lies in motivated, educated citizens and the library should be at the heart of their lives. Teaching them the stuff they need to know to keep this country at the forefront of the information revolution.
Librarians may well be stereotyped as quiet, tea-drinking cat-lovers who will go meekly when presented a P45, but in reality they are the guardians of our knowledge, our history and everything that has got us to where we are and where we shall go.
Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” And so our vision of the future is only possible because we stand on the shoulders of those that have come before. Their legacy is kept and guarded by libraries and librarians.
Librarians are priceless and so is the service they provide and so are the buildings they work in.
We need to have a discussion about their future and our future, but there is no point having that discussion if the buildings and the people who know how to handle information have gone.
At the moment, the Library is there for children who need to read books, They need to read lots of them repeatedly. Wonder why literacy levels are falling? Literacy is not about school records or results. Literacy comes from reading lots of books. It takes a lot of practice to get good at reading. Reading books may be seen as entertainment, but if a book is not entertaining why would a child want to read it? Literacy comes from reading entertaining books. Fact. Get over it!
Oh! And let’s not forget the home schoolers and the sick. And story time and toddler’s groups and craft sessions. Libraries are as much a part of our children’s education as schools are. In some case maybe more. The library is where you go when school’s out or it doesn’t teach what you need to know.
And what of older people once they have switched the telly off? There’s not a lot on the box for them. The Library is there not only to borrow books from, but it’s a meeting place and source of information.
The library is often where older people discover and use the internet. How confused are you by your computer? Can you imagine being eighty and trying to get to grips with one on your own? Libraries provide computers that work and don’t need to be fiddled with all the time.
And the computers are there for everyone else too. Information at your fingertips in the information age, with Librarians there to help you find what you want. Yes, computers are cheap and easy to get hold of now, but they are no easier to maintain. How many people have a computer sitting in their front room, unused because it won’t start up and no one knows what to do with it? Millions probably.
And what of all those people out working all day? The ones who earn the money to pay the council tax, who complain about the expense of the libraries?
Well, maybe we need to re-examine opening hours. Maybe we need to examine what those people want and need from libraries.
Maybe more evening book groups, special interest groups, more adult education.
Maybe this is where the Big Society comes in, local lectures on any subject under the sun, passing on information, making connections in the community, building new groups and businesses, the library as the human/person/body/real-life meeting place of the faceless, FaceBook generation.
I know that libraries are going to go through massive change in the next few years. I’ve met one or two young librarians who are champing at the bit, with visions of entirely digital libraries, free of the weight of paper and dusty shelves.
There is an amazing future ahead for public libraries, at the heart of our communities and at the heart of the life-long learning and self -improvement we will have to invest in for the sake of the country’s future.
But if you take away the very pillars of civilisation don’t besurprised if everything comes crashing down on you!
Take libraries away and they will never come back and soon the dark shadow of a post industrial wasteland will descend upon this once great nation.
We can rise again and lead the world into the next historic revolution, but not without our libraries..

Shoo Rayner