Six blade knife ~ what my writing is to me

Six blade knife ~ what my writing is to me

Your six blade knife can do anything for you
Anything you want it to
One blade for breaking my heart
One blade for tearing me apart
Your six blade knife-do anything for you
You can take away my mind like you take away the top of a tin
When you come up from behind and lay it down cold on my skin
Took a stone from my soul when I was lame
Just so you could make me tame
You take away my mind like you take away the top of a tin
I’d like to be free of it now – I don’t want it no more
I’d like to be free of it now – you know I don’t want it no more
Everybody got a knife it can be just what they want it to be
A needle a wife or something that you just can’t see
You know it keeps you strong
Yes and it’ll do me wrong
Your six blade knife – do anything for you

(six blade knife, dire straits)

It never surprised me as an adult how racked with angst my favourite song writer Mark Knopfler turned out to be. As a teen I listened to every album, every song, studying the words possibly harder than I studied Shakespeare. During my pre-teen years, I roamed the countryside, climbing trees, damming streams, whittling wood, and one of my prized possessions (much against the liking of my mother) was a pocket knife. It had only two blades, though. These days I have a suitably impressive Swiss army knife at the bottom of my handbag, ready for action. It has rather more than six blades, but you get the gist.

From a shockingly early age (before I could actually properly read, in fact) I wrote stories, so the songs I listened to were both a backdrop soundtrack and a constant source of inspiration. But they were always far deeper, far darker than the young me really understood. That’s why much of the music has stayed with me; I grew into it. (I grew out of Abba, though. I’d only got into it to try and fit in with my peers)

The symbiosis between music and writing is an ancient one, and Roz Morris’s Undercover Soundtrack explores in great depth and details the individual relationships between authors and their music. Yet it’s not music I want to write about today.

My six blade knife is writing. In the words of the song, it’ll “do anything for you.” The addictive, destructive aspect of a six blade knife is much underestimated. People prefer to focus on the benefits, quite understandably. It can be quite difficult to understand why someone would want to be rid of it “you know I don’t want it no more” when they would themselves rejoice in such a gift. Yet there are no unreciprocated gifts in this life: at some level you pay for everything. Exchanges of energy, perhaps, but you still pay. To use a cliché it’s a double-edged sword.

My writing, my books, my poetry come from deep inside me; my desire to share them comes from somewhere just as deep. It’s about balancing the figures, really. I have a gift with words; the price for having that gift is the obligation to share the product of the gift. I believe it’s not just a matter of personal choice. I tried not writing, I tried not sharing. Believe me when I say that my soul shrank and became wizened with both attempts.

When I hurt, I write. I capture the pain in words, and weave it into something that by some unseen alchemy eases the pain.

When I am angry, I write. The words cool and ease the fury, tempering it into something I can handle and analyse without harm.

When I am in joy, I write. I detail the fleeting, butterfly moments so I can remember their colours when the darkness comes again.

When I grieve, I write. By committing memories to paper, the dead can live again.

When I lose hope, I write. Somewhere in the gap between fingers and page, I find enough shreds of optimism to continue. The few seeds are enough to grow good plans.

When I am lonely, I write. The people who inhabit my dreams and daydreams are powerful companions of the soul, and the stories they tell me are meant for more than me alone.

When I am lost in darkness, I write. The spark of light is struck by the forging of words. It may only be a tiny will o’ the wisp, a flickering candle flame but the glow it sheds is warm and spreads wider than just my own fireside.

Words drive me. If you cut me like a stick of seaside rock, there would be words at my core. I see-saw between wanting to write and not wanting to write, to be free of something I love, that defines me and creates me, sentence by sentence. Many of you only know me by the words I put out into the world, the whittled sticks my six blade knife has crafted: knotted, twisted sculptures, that reveal the original shape like a ghost in the machine. So much of my work is about self-discovery and exploration of the soul, but it’s also about self revelation and confession, because I believe deep down that we are not alone, that we are all connected.

My six blade knife is writing. But it cuts deep when it has to. And not merely the wood I carve with words.

The Winter Queen, set to music!

If you enjoyed the Otherworldly aspects of Away With the Fairies, and The Wild Hunt, then you may well enjoy the Celtic Myth Podcast Show . I bumped into Gary and Ruth on Twitter and they really liked my poem, The Winter Queen.

Anyway, their winter show is extremely enjoyable and uplifting at this cold, dark time of the year, and they have done a wonderful, spine-tingling reading of The Winter Queen, with the music of Phil Thornton as evocative backing. I confess I was in tears when Gary (one of the presenters) messaged me on Facebook and I listened to the show, because it felt so lovely to have been included in this way. I’m probably a Celt by ancestry, but I am very much a Celt at heart whatever my blood might say.

Do download the show. The Winter Queen comes at around 35 minutes.

The words to the poem can be seen here:

The Undercover Soundtrack

A month or two back, the lovely Roz Morris asked me if I’d consider doing The Undercover Soundtrack, a series she runs on her blog where writers share the music they write to.

I agreed( I almost bit her hand off!) and this is the result. Hope you enjoy the music and find it revealing too.

Stepping into the past ~ the Painted Church in Poitiers


Stepping back in time ~ The painted church at Poitiers.


The air in the square outside the church is filled with the scents of fish from the market stalls now dismantled and gone in the heat of the afternoon, and of soap from the soap-maker’s stall, still with his wares laid out. I buy Alep soap and pure Arabic kohl, and pass the time of day discussing the properties of bay oil and the power of ancient remedies like kohl to restore sight and clear the vision. The stall holder is swarthy, from the far south of France or maybe from the territories of the Moors; he is delighted to discuss his wares and seems free of the habitual disdain many French people have for the English. This far south, this coolness seems to have slowly warmed into something friendlier. Perhaps while he can tell I’m not French, he’s probably not certain I am English. I walk away, drawn by the music that plays now in the area in front of the main frontage of the church.


I stand mesmerised as the drone of small-pipes mingles with the guitar and drums beats, and a shiver passes down me. It’s thirty degrees and the sun on my bare arms is reminding me that I’m going to burn soon if I don’t seek shelter. Yet the sound of the music is unearthly and makes me want to dance. Me, dance? Yes, to swirl and twist and stamp in this bright public square, trailing long sleeves along the ground as I spin like a slow Dervish, and feel the swish of silken skirts as they brush the dusty stones.

Looking down, I see my navy blue combat trousers and my arms in white cotton to the elbow and wonder for a second where my gown has vanished to. The neat satin slippers are not there, and my feet are encased in sturdy walking shoes.

Dizzy and a little disorientated I seek shade and make my way into the beautiful Romanesque porch and see that the heavy wooden door to the church stands open and with the music still pulsing in the hot air, I step inside.

A scent of old libraries fills my nose. Parchment and pigment and a hint of mildew, this is how I imagine the Great Library at Alexandria to smell. A faint trace of incense tops the whole aroma off and I take a moment to breath it in, a fragrance of lost centuries and secrets vanished now into the abyss of time.

I gasp, as I glance around now my eyes have become accustomed to the dimmer light. Pillars and walls and ceiling are all painted in intricate patterns of colour and form that defy capture. They’re faded a little now, but for a spilt second I can see them still moist from the paintbrushes of the townspeople and the colour is vivid and startling. Blues like polished lapis-lazuli, crimsons and scarlets like blood and poppies, ochre and white, and greens like slices of malachite and jade. Then the vision fades and like a great old lady whose face holds the memory of the beauty of her youth, the church seems to simply smile at me, and tells me that true beauty is eternal. While paint and rosy cheeks may fade, the loveliness beneath them cannot be touched by time; for those who can still see them, both the realities stand sentinel over this moment in my life.

Talking slow steps that seem to mimic the tread of the processions of the faithful from the last centuries, I walk round, taking pictures to try and capture the feeling and the power. And yet, when I see the photos later, much like the paintwork, the power is faded. You had to be there, to feel and see it.

The music swirls on, little dulled by the heavy walls of the church and as I step back out into the sunshine, I am filled with the desire to capture and retain some of the music. I ask one of the crew if there is a CD I can buy and am brought over to meet the musicians as the finish their set. I tell them their music has touched my soul and that they are like the ancient troubadours who lived in this town in the fifteenth century. They light up with real delight and give me a web address to find their music, and I wander away, thwarted in some way of my desire to bottle this feeling, this moment so that I may uncork it and relive the memory.

Rejoining my group, I sit in the baking sun and drink lemonade and listen now to hip-hop and watch the dancers in the square and the contrast to the grace of the dancers in my vision could not be more obvious nor the centuries gone by more distant from me now. The harsh modern lyrics and the skilled but disturbingly graceless movements remind me that every era has its iconic markers. Perhaps the future will look at this era with the same visionary nostalgia that I felt for the music and the art of the time when this church and town stood as important places.

Too soon, it’s time to leave and I shepherd my charges back to the coach and we drive away, back to our very modern hotel. As I go into my impersonal room, I have a sense of something being very close to me, and I turn to see what is there.

 A breeze touches my face and is gone and the moment passes and I go inside to wash and change for dinner. Yet the distant memory of music and of lights and of dance and devotion haunt me all evening, and onwards into the future.

Black Holes and the (Meta)physics of Popularity


Black Holes and The (Meta)physics of Popularity

Have you ever stopped to question how something becomes and remains popular? Has it ever baffled you beyond words why a singer or a film or a book gain a massive following, and yet has left you cold, and unable to see its appeal? Have you ever finally succumbed to peer pressure and bought the latest must-read book, that must-have music and found yourself wondering why the blazes this has somehow hit the big time when you can see few redeeming features in it?

I bought the novel Twilight about two years, to read while away on a trip, and was seriously disappointed. I got to the end and was unable to see why it has become a global phenomenon. It is poorly written, and unoriginal; someone has described it at Jane Eyre with vampires and werewolves. The characters are flat and unrealistic, the plot thin and predictable and it doesn’t even scare. While I am fully aware I am not a part of the demographic for which it is intended, I am also aware that a hefty section of the fan base comes from women of my age and background. I remain baffled.

The same applies to certain of the big blogs, which will remain nameless and linkless for reasons I hope will become apparent as I go on. These are the blogs that have hundreds of thousands of hits a day, who have subscribers in their tens of thousands, and every post draws hundreds if not thousands of comments. I’ve had a look at such places and come away baffled by why the numbers are so high. They don’t usually offer anything that strikes as wise or clever or helpful or really anything out of the ordinary; the self help ones seem to repeat the same type of information you can find anywhere. There’s nothing there to keep me coming back. And yet people do. They come back and read obsessively and comment and recommend and re-tweet.

These are the blogs I call the Black Hole Blogs. They inhabit the same universe as I do, they occupy a tiny space(virtual places are virtually without geography) and yet they have such immense mass that they draw in everything. Other blogs speak of them with awe and reverence and even a little fear. There’s always a danger they will swallow up all the readers who have an interest in that subject, and once those readers go past that event horizon from which exit is impossible, they are lost to lesser blogs.

It’s the same with best-seller books and authors, and blockbuster movies and chart topping music. Once something reaches a certain size, the size alone is what draws people in. How many of us went to see Avatar, because everyone we knew had been to see it? It’s a very average movie, with recycled themes. I was disappointed (I saw it in 2D so perhaps that is another factor) and couldn’t see what the fuss was about.

In the end, I do question whether popularity is more about herd mentality than it is about the quality of the product itself. Nobody wants to be the odd one out who doesn’t watch a certain reality TV show (insert whichever is current) or hasn’t seen the in-film or read the in-book. Every time a Harry Potter book was launched, commuter trains were packed with adults reading the latest offering from JK Rowling. Before that The Da Vinci Code was the in-book. It doesn’t matter in the end about the quality of the product, if the marketing gets a certain number of people to buy into the adventure(music, book, film TV whatever) then a strange cascade effect takes place.

There are plenty of times where the popularity is deserved. A great book, a superb film, a fabulous album can just as often reach the heights. And yet, so too does total and utter rubbish. It baffles me. It’s beyond  simple issues of taste and choice.

In blogging terms, there is a possible collateral benefit of being associated with a Black Hole blog, at least in the minds of the smaller bloggers. Commenting on such a blog may bring readers to your blog, may even attract the attention of the Black Hole blogger, though in practice, I suspect that the majority of this kind of blogger may at best skim through their comments and only reply to those who are already a part of their network, if at all. If a post is getting hundreds of comments, or thousands, it would be a full time job reading the comments alone.

If you only equate success with numbers, then allying yourself to the Black Hole blogs and aiming for their level of ‘success’ is a futile and probably deadening exercise.At best you’re going to be a pale shadow, accused of copying them or be swallowed up by them and get no readers of your own. But if you leave aside concepts of numerical success and examine things based on their own intrinsic worth then a very exciting universe emerges, one where you can make discoveries for yourself.

Be a pioneer. Find books that make you go, “Hmmmm!” when you read the cover and turn over the first pages with the excitement of a Dr Livingstone of the literary world. Don’t wait for recommendations from the media for what films to see or music to buy; go out and see what you can find. Don’t mindlessly obey those little prompts you get at Amazon, “If you liked X then you will like Y”. Avoid automatically buying another book by a famous author simply because the words NY Times best-seller is printed in bigger letters than the book title.

Look for blogs that intrigue and excite you because of what the author says or does, not because it is endorsed by a celebrity or because you think you may get traffic as a result, or because you are convinced that something that has gotten 10 million hits somehow MUST have something. It might, but it no longer needs YOU. Go and find the blogs that are out there that are languishing for lack of hits, but whose author has talent and insights, and encourage them with your comments.

Open your mind to the small, the independent, the quirky and unpredictable things of the world, those mindblowingly undiscovered places and things and people and writers and musicians and artists. Open your eyes to see beauty and talent, open your ears to new experiences in music and find out for yourself what you like without being brainwashed that it is whatever product the sellers happen to be selling at the moment.

In other words, don’t be a sheep. Be a wildly alive explorer and see what new worlds within this one you can find and share.

There is no map but the one you create for yourself. So go and explore and steer clear of Black Holes. I’m looking forward to reading your Captain’s log.

Music to lift the spirits

I’m feeling low and dreary but that’s my baseline setting, the default programme for me. You wouldn’t guess it if you met me, though.

I love music but unless I upgrade my wordpress account, I can’t share it here, but I can share youtube clips.

The following link is one of my favourite songs of all time and yes, I do know it’s in Italian. The words talk about wanting a house that is beautiful and full of joy and welcoming and where everyone has a place and no one is turned away.

I just like the way it makes me feel; the lyrics are a bonus. I concur with them. I’d like a house where all my friends, real and cyber ones, can come and be happy and peaceful and be full of joy. Until the day comes, there is always dreams and music.


Untouchable Face

I don’t know about other writers but I often find I get a certain song with lyrics that strike me as powerful stuck in my mind when I write. It’s a kind of litmus test for the kind of prose I am working on at the time.

I’ve found this song curiously inspiring for a number of years. The emotions it paints with such feeling are at the heart of obsessive love. I’m working on something right now that this could be the theme tune for a central part of it.

Please be aware this song contains strong language. This song would turn the litmus paper bright vivid blood red….

A first

It would appear there is more than one clever bugger out there..

Huge thanks to Jonathan aka Madpriest from Of Course I Could be Wrong for the help in doing this. Not being a techie I was lost….
This ought to link to the song that mentions the Queen of Sheba.
Its from Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band’s album Gold Frankincense and Myrrh and the track is called Balthazar, the third and youngest of the so-called Wise men or Magi who visited Christ as a baby. Considering I’ve recently seen the Ark that contains the relics of the Magi, it seems appropriate. Enjoy! It’ll only be up for a week as I am borrowing bandwidth so don’t delay!