There’s a cat-shaped hole in our house tonight.
Been sharing some lovely unintentional Ivor Cutler poems.
These make me smile.
“Slippers For Feet”
Served With A Jug of Cream.”
If you have never heard any Ivor Cutler poetry, and you love words and absurdity, you might like to discover more.
I suppose I ought to write something.
Just so it looks like I am still around.
Here it is.
When I’m feeling suitably writerly miserable, when all avenues to creativity seem blocked, when hard-fought written words are thrown away like litter, the cheery rhetorical question of this ad makes me want to laugh. Madly.
No previous writing experience necessary.
There was a zombie woman on my early morning train.
Her face was a skeleton. Smooth tea-coloured skin stretched over dry bones. Milky blank eyes of faint cataract blue. Colourless dry wisps of hair stuck to the dome of her skull.
Her maw was opened. Dark. Like a tunnel. The dry lips strained. Mouthing.
She stared forward. Focusing on nothing. On no-one.
More dead than alive.
And yet, still she moved amongst us!
I looked around the crowded train to see if anyone else had noticed the Death Stare Zombie Woman on the packed commuter carriage to Hell (next stop London Waterloo).
But everyone seemed calm. Dull-witted. Asleep, yet standing.
Swaying. Clutching their phones, their tablets, their e-readers, their morning papers. Someone even had a paperback book. Old Skule style.
No-one had noticed the open-mouthed yawning look of death of the Zombie Woman.
No one was scared she might bite. Might waken into a tearing ravenous rage.
Were they all dead too?
A half-remembered line of T.S. Eliot poetry crawled through my mind.
‘So many… I had not thought Death had undone so many.’
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
From The Waste Land – T.S. Eliot
He knew it already, even then, back in 1922!
He saw it.
This sad, shambling semblance of life.
The mindless swarm, the meaningless repetitions of daily commute, of deadly life.
Going through the zombified living death, day after day.
I stared out of the window as the train slowed on the outskirts of central London.
The smut-stained streets and walls of Victorian houses, old businesses and ageing shuttered warehouses. The closed, dark, dusty past, now being overshadowed by the city’s shining steel and glass newness.
That was when I noticed something. There, poking out of the top of a rusting black drainpipe, clinging sadly to a drab brick wall.
A straggling scribble of life (‘bush’ would be too big a word to describe it).
A struggling buddleia growing – or trying to grow – from an old drainpipe, hanging from a dying building.
No soil. No nurturing.
Just trying its best to live, to survive, in a grim and hostile city environment.
Nobody loves it, I muse.
Yet still it clings to its stupid, meaningless life at the top of an old London roof.
How many years of dirt and disregard has it survived to get there?
And yet, there it is.
A buddleia – a ‘butterfly bush’.
And I thought: life persists.
I hope it was worth it, little bush.
I hope the butterflies will come to you.
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter …
… I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
From The Waste Land – T.S. Eliot
The train dragged itself into the mainline station and the zombies shuffled out onto platforms to go and bite other people, or work in offices or shops or whatever they do for a ‘living’.
I lost sight of the Zombie Woman amongst the murmuring, moaning walking dead.
It left me thinking: how many years have we all survived to get here?
Half-dead, but persistent.
Often disregarded, sometimes un-nurtured, we are all clinging on to our lives.
It’s banal. It’s trite.
But Life goes on.
And so can I.
My London Observations are an occasional series
fuelled by sporadic bouts of freelance copywriting
That’s what I’ve been doing.
Not looking after myself.
I’ve had long blank months where I could have written that novel/children’s story/poetry/comedy script/blog.
And yet I do nothing.
The more I feel I *should* do something constructive, the more useless I feel.
I might thrash and splutter a bit, but not so much you’d notice.
My head barely struggles through another meaninglessly fluid day.
And when people tell me (when I tell me) I *should* be making the most of this, this most precious time, it’s like taking in another lungful of water.
I’ve hit an iceberg.
I’m drifting, sinking.
I am going down into darkness.
All hands on deck.
Waiting for a lifeboat.
Whales. Poor whales.
Poor dead sperm whales, to be specific.
Six of them have beached themselves on the east shores of the UK over the last few weeks.
I don’t have any theories as to why they washed up. They were still alive (well, at first) so it wasn’t something as basic as their mighty corpses being driven in by tidal action.
And they arrived in twos and singles.
Mass suicide? Disease? Environmental issues? Whale SatNav failure?
Even the experts don’t really know for sure.
Seeing that huge mountain of animal stuck heavily in our dry alien landscape – the sheer size, the fleshiness, the Whale Wall BIGNESS – made me think.
If primitive man had come across this massive gift on the beach, this natural and glorious largesse, might he not see it as a Blessing from the God(s)?
A bloody miracle, like whale manna from heaven.
I can just imagine the Chief Magic Man/Priest taking the credit for interceding with the gods.
I can speculate how the important bits like the liver went to the most important members of the clan.
And I can ponder how every speck of internal organ, meat, oil, bone, would be respected — gleaned, harvested and used by the grateful people with happy glee.
This would be something to talk about around the fire for generations, until maybe the next rare occurrence of the god’s magnificent gift from the sea.
But what do we make of the same thing today?
Tragedy. Distress. Sadness.
We blame ourselves.
We think we must be doing something wrong.
The Whales’ deaths are our fault.
Also, they are seen as a problem.
A public nuisance.
Apparently, the cost to the British taxpayer for the disposal of just three of the whale carcasses on the east coast amounted to £26,000.
So not a blessing, then. A misfortune.
That got me thinking.
When something like this happens – something that can’t immediately be explained – there is a tendency to blame ourselves.
“Oh no! It must be something we are doing wrong.”
But back then, when we were struggling for survival through a cold northern winter, we might have thanked the mysterious powers above.
“Oh yes! It must be something we are doing right.”
Click on the link at the end of this sentence (not the pic) for poignant thought-provoking aerial footage of the Beached whales
There are a few theories on Why Do Whales Get Stranded? This link will take you there. Warning – this does have sad scenes of the dead and dying whales.
And here’s a time lapse of two of the whales being removed. It is a whale of a job
I follow the thought-provoking blog A Narcissist Writes Letters, To Himself so it was wonderfully exciting last week to find a yellow padded package (with an exotic San Francisco return address) stuffed into my humble post box here in the UK.
The Narcissist (E.I. Wong Himself) had kindly sent me a copy of his book*.
I sat down at my quintessentially English breakfast table, poured myself a cup of quintessential PG Tips tea (pyramid teabags, natch) and began to peruse the pages torn from the tortured Poet’s mind.
All of human life, rich in experience, is here.
From the evident joy of harpooning a pelican, to depression echoing the symptoms of a giant tapeworm, this small book covers a multitude of subjects to make us all pause for thought, and wonder.
How often have you considered the implications of a birthday surprise from friends that features deadly blow-darts?
Or that by simply walking into a web you can turn an excited spider’s dream feast into a broken home hell?
Amazingly perceptive, perspicacious and pretentious.
On every page E.I. Wong (I think I can call Him Eric) teaches us that life knows we are all idiots; indeed, ‘life’s main purpose is merely to try and replace us with something better’.
My particularly favourite poem is ‘A Shrill Shriek Follows Me’, which I reproduce here for your delight, and to give you a small flavour of the mad genius that lies within this small book.
The Poet’s explanatory notes beneath His poems and prose are worthy works of their own: poignant, funny, erudite and often downright rude.
Bald, bold, bad.
This book is provocative, sometimes sexually graphic, and occasionally non-PC. But E.I. Wong doesn’t care what you or I think**.
And for that I have to admire Him.
In his defence, the book’s cover notes tell me E.I. Wong ‘attended the University of Oregon for Poetry, where He was not well received’.
I commend this book to all who enjoy discovering a different poetical perspective on life. I recommend you follow E.I. Wong’s blog too. Even if you don’t always like his writing, I understand he is very good looking.
I’ll leave you with some final precious advice on the art of creative writing, direct from the virtuoso Himself:
‘Write better poetry.’
*I had to agree to review it. So I am.
**He just wants the coverage.
I wanted to be a poet once upon a time.
Ha ha. But please feel free to Open door
Then a storyteller.
Well, I ended up with a blog.
Then I wanted to work in advertising.
And I did. I was (and am) a creative copywriter.
But along the way I learnt how to suffer when my creation was pinned to a wall.
There’s nothing quite like presenting your first idea to a group of fellow creatives.
You feel raw.
The birth of an idea can be very painful.
The delivery onto paper can be slow, and fraught with difficulty. Sometimes even blood is involved, if the art director annoys the copywriter enough.
And the copywriter happens to have a heavy steel ruler in their hand.
But then, at last, you have your beloved concept.
‘My baby. My love. Heart of my heart.’
You beam. So proud.
The time has come to present it to the world.
You hold it up for others to admire.
And so often they slowly (joyfully?) tear it into pieces.
If you’ve worked in the commercial creative business, you too will know the hot, wrenching physical pain of your work being picked at, dissected and destroyed in front of your friends, colleagues, and most horribly, your rivals.
The deep cuts of scything criticism. The shredding power of chilling sarcasm.
I used to hear a small child’s voice inside me, begging the critics and the creatives to move on, move away.
To please, please, PLEASE look away from my precious, previously loved work.
My beautiful baby.
Only now I see it is maybe not so beautiful.
It has many faults.
It is deformed. Wrong.
Nobody loves it.
When you decide to pin your heart to a wall, or a page – or a blog – everyone has the right to look at it.
To hate it.
To ignore it.
Or to love it.
It can be difficult to keep on going.
Sharing an appropriate salute to the past fortnight.
Pic taken from the Twitter feed of @CardinalPhink.
I’ll leave you with Alan Rickman’s words.
“A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.”
Ain’t that the truth.
So that’s Christmas over.
That means no wine.
The above is quite a crisp and refreshing experience for me.
I’m feeling cool and deliciously smooth, with a hint of tropical fruits (mainly because I’m eating a lot of tropical fruits).
It’s good for my mental health and my attitude to business for 2016, because for the past few months I’ve been experiencing a lull.
Lull (not LOL)
Now, I like lulling as much as the next (wo)man.
But when it gets too lully, I get a bit edgy.
I’m currently feeling like Matt Damon in The Martian: joining up pieces, scratching around for fragments to make things happen, so I can carry on living.
Building a life support system on a cold and barren planet may sound a lot more dramatic than building a business in Surrey.
But we all have to do what we can to survive.
And we all get lonely. And fed up.
Trying to build something out of nothing.
Trying to make things happen.
Having the energy to keep bouncing back after frustration and disappointment.
Working to help things grow where there is less than nothing.
Waiting for a sign — any sign that someone knows you are still there.
You just have to keep going.
I’ve finally managed to open some lines of communication to NASA (London) so I’m hopeful I’ll be off and away again soon.
Before I run out of potatoes, at any rate.
Until then, Happy New Year — I hope it’s a good one for you.
Lots of lull xxx