A Living Nightmare of a Decade?

A Living Nightmare of a Decade?

There’s been a thing going round. One of those things. Posting a picture from ten years ago and one from this year, to illustrate the changes in a decade. Another thing has been to list your achievements in the last decade. Both have made me shudder. I couldn’t find a picture of me from 2009 that I wanted to share and when I have compared to now, it’s clear the decade has aged me. But ten years ages everyone, so no surprises there.

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To Catch The Wind

To catch the wind

There was a busker in Norwich, singing to his guitar, and as I walked past, I found myself in a brief flood of tears. He was singing an old song, one redolent of the sixties and the protest movement, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8hjEYTpwE8 Donovan’s Catch the Wind. It’s a very beautiful, poignant song, both words and music and it caught my aching heart for that moment.

I’ve not written a blog for several months. 2019 has been among the hardest years of my entire life, and it’s only ¾ done. Today’s the autumn equinox, that point where summer and winter pause, stand side by side, and after today, the light lessens and the darkness grows. I feel as though everything is growing dark: the political situation in my own country has riven the land in two, and the rift looks unlikely to heal any time soon. Further afield, the world is in turmoil. It feels as if everything is up for grabs. There are known liars and rapists in office, men (largely men but there are women too whose integrity is at best compromised and at worst, non-existent) who should not be allowed to run a raffle at a school fair, let alone a country. And my father died a few weeks ago. I cannot write of that, not yet.

I was born in the second half of the sixties, and my earliest memories are hazy and homely but I look back at the hope, and the energy, and the belief that we can make things better, and I shake my head and wonder where it leaked away. Then I hear of people like Greta Thunberg, and of the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets in my own land, of the millions beyond our shores, to protest and demand that we take action and change the terrible downward spiral of history. And a tiny flame of hope, no bigger than a seed pearl, begins to burn.

Donovan sang of the futility of trying to catch the wind. Yet suddenly, in writing this, I know how to catch the wind.

Hoist your sails, no matter how patched and ragged, and let the wind carry you where it will.

Aiming for the stars

Aiming for the stars

The 50th anniversary of the first Moon landings is rapidly approaching. It’s set me thinking about various things, but I’ll stick to one or two here. I am old enough to remember the event, though I was a very small child at the time. My father insisted we be woken to come down and watch it on the television (black and white and a very grainy image) because to him it was so momentous; my mother believes to this day that it was all a fake. It set in train my love of astronomy, an ambition to become an astronaut and an enjoyment of sci-fi that endures to this day. Dad is also responsible for my love of Star Trek, allowing us to watch it when my mother didn’t think it was suitable. Thanks, Dad.  Continue reading

“We left the camp singing” – the interrupted life of Etty Hillesum

We left the camp singing” – the interrupted life of Etty Hillesum

These words, written on a postcard thrown from a cattle transport on its way out of Holland to Poland and its ultimate destination, Auschwitz, were some of the very last words written by Dr Etty (Esther) Hillesum. The postcard had been found on the 7th of September 1943 and posted by the farmers who found it a few days later. Dr Hillesum died on the 30th of November 1943. She was 29 years of age. Between 1941 and 1943, she kept a diary of her life in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, detailing the privations, the fears, the joys, the hopes and her extraordinary inner life.

I’ve been reading it in chunks, often during those frequent occasions when insomnia and pain and worry have driven me from my bed to read downstairs on the sofa. It’s been a true companion to me. Her voice, silenced for many, many years, rings out, true and clear and full of life. Her love of life, her resilience have been an inspiration and not a reproach to me in my own troubles (and believe me, virtually every self-help book I have come across, every nugget of a meme from some guru or other, has left me with nothing but guilt and self-reproach for my own lack of strength and guts) and I finally read the last section of the book today. It’s a collection of the letters she wrote from Westerbork, the camp Dutch Jews were held at before being loaded onto cattle trucks and sent off to Auschwitz. The voice in these letters differs only very little from that of the diaries; her integrity and pure honesty shine out, unmistakably amid the events of those terrible days. Humour, love, gentleness and a lack of bitterness that is almost shocking.

I’d put off reading this book, because the core of the book is something I cannot look at square in the face without feeling the abyss opening. Yet the abyss IS indeed opening. Concentration camps exist again in the so-called civilised world, and the fact that many dispute the use of the word is proof that they have become inured to the concept. But the book brought me some comfort that a voice of sense, reason, justice and love can still ring out across the years since its owner died. It reminded me that we have lessons from the past that can and should be learned from.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Interrupted-Life-Diaries-Letters-Hillesum/dp/095347805X/

It never rains but…

It never rains but…

You know the saying, and others like “troubles never come singly”. It seems to be true. The last blog post I wrote, I said I was very close to releasing a new book. I still remain very close but the chances of getting the final tasks done any time soon are fairly small.

April was a cruel, hard month. First one family crisis came along, and dealing with that left me so depleted, I came down with shingles. That’s not fun, I can tell you. Then, just as we thought we’d got the situation under control, I got complications with said shingles. More pain, more anxiety, more feeling like death warmed up. Then a further family crisis happened. That’s combined with everything else and I have a full-on flare of the EDS/JHS. The pain is excruciating and I am so, so tired.

Shingles alone is nasty enough. The risk, post shingles, of heart attack and stroke, rises by around 40%. Being post-menopausal, my protection against those catastrophes, afforded by a functioning set of ovaries, is gone. If I push myself, I put myself at greater risk of serious consequences. I’ve had some extra blood tests to rule out various other things but the musculo-skeletal issues are draining me of all energy anyway.

And the other question is this: is the world in a hurry for yet another book, to add to the millions of others out there? Short answer: no. While I know that many are looking forward to a new book from me, I also know that nobody is wanting me to put my health at risk to get it. I know my books make a difference to lives and that makes me content that it’s worth writing and publishing in a world that is largely dominated by capitalist models that I despise and abhor, because what I write fills a valuable niche, however small (in capitalist terms, read that as unsuccessful financially).

So, enjoy the May-time flowers and if you have good vibes or prayers to spare for me and mine, they would be gratefully received.

Fragments and Inertia (musings and mutterings)

Fragments and Inertia (musings and mutterings)

In the ten or so years since I began blogging I’ve seen a lot written about SEO (search engine optimisation), detailing how to gain greater prominence among the various search engines. I’ve concluded that for the most part, what gives greater prominence is paying for it, whether by using a paying platform, or by plug-ins that you also pay for, or by choosing a blogging platform closely allied to the companies that run search engines. So for years I tried to use titles that might spark interest or somehow be picked up by the search engines (I’m not naming any…). But these days, finding a title for a blog post mostly involves finding something, anything, by which I might find it again amid the thousand or so articles filed away. Hence the fairly uninspiring title of THIS post.

I wanted to write a post that gives some sense of what I’ve been doing and what I have managed to do and what I have not managed to do. Oh, and why.

Good news is that I am quite close to publishing a new book.

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Grab a paperback of “Away With The Fairies” on a special price

Grab a paperback of “Away With The Fairies” on a special price

For reasons best known to itself, the Mighty ‘Zon has lowered the price of “Away With The Fairies” to £6.65 (UK, not sure about US). There’s no way of telling how long this is for, so if you’ve been wavering about grabbing a paperback copy, maybe best to get it now.

Might make a great Easter present (to yourself, even) or a Mothers’ Day gift. Or hide it till December.