Trampled. Green. And sparkly

Flick. Skim. Flick. That was me, last Sunday, with the newspaper. Jaded with news, jaded with the world.

Just jaded.

Then an opinion piece caught my eye. About ‘the song of the selfie siren’. And the deaths that result from pursuing the ultimate shot.

Towards the end, author, Eva Wiseman, wrote:

There is a way to prevent more deaths by selfie, except it involves reducing the power of the selfie itself. Part of that is promising to believe that a person once saw a fast coming train, or stood on a very tall cliff, without expecting time-stamped proof. Another part is learning how to tell better stories, without the use of pictures.

Then she added, by way of example:

“The light was the colour of custard,and it reminded me of being six”

Wow.

With that one sentence my confidence toppled.

It was still on the floor, next morning, when the first rejection arrived. And trampled it, while it was down.

Many thanks for getting in touch, but your project is not for us and I wish you all the best elsewhere.

One sentence – just the one – for the thousands I’d gambled in the harsh game of authors’ submissions.

After the hollow feeling had begun to subside (via toast with blackcurrant jam), I took myself off for a trip.

Just a few miles.

First to an old, worn branch of my favourite, family-owned supermarket, Booths.

The velvet slipper of the supermarket world.

There I bought food we didn’t need. And afterwards went for a walk.

A walk to let the light in.

And I thought of Eva’s words. About telling better stories without using pictures.

So I put my phone in my bag, with my camera. And I tromped.

Everywhere I looked, I saw green.

A kissing gate (but no-one to kiss). Its blonde wood pale with the green of late, damp winter.

A path between trees of many types and ages. Their trunks lime-green in the sun.

Over some, ivy ran rampant, with berries black as sin. Its heart-shaped leaves a glossy, dark, blue-green. Like shiny shadows on the neon green of the trunks they were busy smothering.

A hawthorn’s snaggle-jagged branches tipped with pinches of juicy green. Bright frothy leaves, tentatively unfurling.

On the ground, clumps of sharp green daggers waited for bluebells to emerge.

Primroses, milky-yellow on sallow-green leaves, clustered on muddy-green banks.

Above, pretty against a sky-blue sky, frail white blossoms fluttered, shielding tiny dark stamens. The would-be leaves barely pinpricks of green on the twigs and branches holding them aloft.

In the dappled shade of marsh and swampy pond, almost-felled trees lived on. Still rooted, parallel with the dark water, clothed in lush moss. Velvet green, like a dinner jacket for a frog that should be a prince.

Frailer trees, with slender trunks and branches, wriggled over marshy mud. Their limbs, too, dressed in moss. But a fleecy gym-clothes moss, not the royalty-appropriate kind.

And on the damp margins of swamp and pond, tall bright spears thrust upwards, readying themselves for the glamour of soon-to-be irises.

Elsewhere, whip-thin stems of sappy trees rose, straight and vertical, from old stumps coppiced long ago. Ripe for basket making. But not around here, as far as I know.

Another lonely kissing gate, a country lane to cross.

Puddles, where the path sloped down, attracting two wellington-booted toddlers, wielding sticks.

Not stomping and splashing, but beating the puddles like an old, folk ritual of spring.

Well, it was the equinox. So perhaps a natural urge was buried in their genes. Innocent, toddling, carriers of our adult superstitions.

Here and there I passed men walking, women walking.

And dogs tugging. Herding, leading, sniffing. Relishing mud and water, the dirty, smelly patches their humans would rather avoid.

Below the path the reed pond was stagnant, the water scummy surfaced. Like dull raw silk, the colour of chip-shop mushy peas.

The reed maces still stood guard, but their bold brown drums were turning now to fairies – or tinder for survivalist fires.

I reached the end of the path and had to retrace my footsteps.

Ducks quacking – in pairs, because it was spring.

Geese honking. Seagulls squawking and wheeling, somewhere, way up where.

While nearer the ground, red-breasted robins hopped from tree to tree.

Silver-grey, fuzzy-tailed squirrels, fur spiced with a touch of rusty orange, scurried for height at the heavy approach of a human step.

And the sky-scraping poplar, its delicate, almost-white branchery dazzling in the sun, screamed, ‘look at me, I’m different’.

Bright as an omen, in a world that was mostly green.

A verdant, promising, budding, germinating, growing world.

And all this to the accompaniment of piccolos – birds, being birds, in springtime.

One last touch of nature awaited in the car park.

I ran my fingers over moss on the fence. Felt its springiness. And spring-ness.

Up close, it looked like tiny ferns – for elves or pixies or will-o-the-wisps

Back in the car I ate a tuna sandwich.

And on the way home the world darkened.

By the time I reached the coast, the coal-dust sky was striped with fat, crude, yellow brush-strokes.

Rain poured, out at sea. Sneaking, slowly, inland. To descend, of course, upon me.

In an ordinary supermarket, I bought ingredients for dinner, on that green, grey, rejected day.

I also bought sparkly jelly.

And it rained.

Those careless brushstrokes of lemon-icing-yellow – not custardy yellow, note – had found me.

Six. Or maybe seven, years old. With a packet of sparkly jelly.

Can you picture that?

Posted in Art, jaunts & going out, Lancashire & the golf coast, Thinking, or ranting, or both | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

More things in heaven and earth

Last Saturday, early in the afternoon, I stood before a cottage window, gazing across a wide valley.

Filtered through mist, great hills rose and fell, like whales caught in freeze frame, arcing from a hazy sea.

Below the window, mere strides away from the cottage – and  barely visible in sodden long grass – was a milestone. A Roman milestone.

Behind the old, stone cottage, a single-track road crawled up the hill.

I imagined the feet of legionnaires, marching.

Beyond the road, bounded by dry stone walls, a field clad the hillside to its summit.

A home to hares, leaping.

And final resting place, somewhere towards the crest, of my mother’s ashes.

This I didn’t know, when we set out that morning.

We met our hosts in April 2013.

It was a forced introduction – destiny had us share a table at an event featuring a Liverpool poet and a celebrated Texas Jewboy.

Destiny. A sly word. Full of meaning – and yet nebulous.

The four of us went on for more drinks after the show.

And as I stood outside a packed pub in the unseasonable warmth of the night, an air conditioner dripping water on my head, I knew something odd had happened.

The woman of the couple, until that night a stranger, had been born in the nursing home where I was born. We met, random table-mates, in a city neither of us inhabited. It felt odd.

We exchanged contact details, the four of us. But didn’t meet again. Until last Saturday.

The first I knew of their proximity to my mother’s ashes was a sign we passed, to a local beauty spot.

We absorbed the strangeness, much as we had the coincidence of our birthplace – and headed out for lunch.

In a quirky, elegant glass house, we drank tea. Ate open sandwiches.

On the way out a young woman with eyes too deep to fathom took our debit card.

‘Is that a pentangle?’ asked my husband.

She fingered the silver ornament around her neck.

‘I don’t know, I wore it because my daughter asked me.’

She smiled, deep eyes opening wide, raven hair framing her face.

‘But I do live in Sabden, under Pendle. And I do have a black cat.’

A woman in witching country, living with a familiar.

Perhaps she’s a genuine Lancashire witch.

I‘ll write about them one day. Not now.

Driving home I felt calm. Full of wonder at the world in which we live.

I’d had a strange week. A week of meetings and confessions. Successes and new starts.

So when I woke at one in the morning, a head full of jostling ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, I wasn’t at all surprised.

Then I woke again at three.

As four came around I slipped out of bed and went upstairs to the kitchen.

I made a hot drink and took it into our den, a room at the front of the house whose window overhangs the front garden.

I drew back the curtains.

Beyond the fence, to the west, we’re fringed by pine trees and birches. The ‘rough’ of a golf course built on old sand dunes.

The fat moon, haloed by a rainbow, beamed behind the black silhouettes of the pines.

Two fierce bright stars shone from a night sky drained of its darkness by the light of that fat moon.

Slender white clouds, scalloped and frail, like fragments of lace from a dainty nightgown, dotted the heavens.

On the cosseted grass of the golf course, a grey mist lurked, like a watchman, waiting.

Mesmerised, I opened the window.

Cool, moist air poured into the room. As if it had been waiting, at the sill, to be let in.

A rush of scent. Musky, sharp, but also sweet.

The scent of the currants growing lush and wild behind our fence. Domestic escapees in the rough, feet chafed by brambles and tickled by rosebay willowherb.

I leaned out.

A sound which could have been the sea reached a crescendo and faded. Not waves, though, the night was too still. A distant car, journeying who knows where. But gone, soon enough.

Remembering my hot drink I shut out the world once more.

Glancing east, I realised the world inland was dark, lit only by the street lights. No hint of the luminous night in the west, out above the sea.

I drank my draught of malty, milky comfort. Padded back to the window to gaze again on the day-lit night.

But the world had changed.

The treacherous clouds, their innocent vanguard the lacy trims, had stolen up from the coast.

No stars twinkled. And sombre shades obscured the dazzling moon.

I’d been granted a vision which had vanished.

A world seldom seen.

No wonder it couldn’t last.

Still seeking some lingering hint of the magic, I opened the window.

But even the scent had gone. The cool night air was now just cool night air.

And then a lone bird sang out.

High pitched but husky. Not equal to its starring role.

I listened a while. In the darkness.

Then a single ‘coo’ escaped a wood pigeon. And the blackbird awoke.

The prima donna, centre stage.

Dawn was on its way, whether I saw it or not.

I pulled out the sofa bed, wrapped myself in a woollen blanket and dozed.

Chilly – and ready for my Sunday cup of Assam tea – I woke at seven o’clock.

Tired.

Subdued.

But full of wonder.

The world turned.

And I saw it.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Lancashire & the golf coast, Thinking, or ranting, or both, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Democracy Dies in Darkness

Diogenes, it’s said, carried a lamp by day as he walked the streets of Athens. Asked why, he said he was looking for an honest man.

Is this a perennial quest, to remain forever unfulfilled?

Because we simply don’t know who to believe or who to trust?

And thus we trust what we want to trust,  believe who we want to believe?

Well, I’m not happy with that.

The truth isn’t an easy thing to pin down. But lies, it seems are even harder to name.

In my last post I mentioned ‘operative’ and ‘inoperative’ statements. An innovative categorising of accurate and (let’s be kind) inaccurate by Richard Nixon’s press spokesman, Ron Ziegler.

Does that wilful dissimulation remind you of anything?

Alternative facts, perhaps, from Trump team member, Kellyanne Conway?

The new team in the White House has developed a remarkable hallmark style. As spin goes, it’s in a league of its own.

And where does all this creativity with the truth leave us?

We have access to more information than humans have ever had at their fingertips – but truth has become a soap bubble.

Try and grab it – ping! It vanishes.

But it’s plainly nothing new in modern politics. Or even ancient politics. Witness Diogenes.

And, frankly, I realise now that in taking this semi-analytical, semi-historical path, I’ve taken on too much.

Watched too much, read too much, thought too much. Therefore…

I’m going to say a few things, make a few suggestions for further watching and reading, then exit gracefully (if it’s not too late) from this pit I’ve dug for myself.

I hate giving up, but, frankly, none of your lives will be changed by my thoughts on a world-scale conundrum – and I really ought to be writing something else.

So, for what it’s worth, here are the bare-bones thoughts.

There are parallels between Trump and his election campaign and Nixon and his. This has already been pointed out by one or two people who have rather bigger audiences and more research facilities at their disposal than do I.

There are also big differences. Chiefly, Nixon was expected to win, Trump wasn’t. So you could argue Trump’s campaign had more reason to – perhaps – get outside help in stymying the Democrats than did Nixon.

Both men have/had press spokespeople who are extremely inventive with the ‘truth’.

Ziegler, Nixon’s spokesman, was, according to the man himself and also other people, duped.

Perhaps Sean ‘Spicy’ Spicer is likewise being duped?

One of the things that hammered the nail in the Nixon presidency’s coffin was the firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.

But Nixon thought he, as President, could do anything.

Here’s part of his interview with David Frost:

Frost:

Would you say that there are certain situations …  where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation, and do something illegal?

Nixon:

Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal

There are those who say Trump believes he can do anything. He’s apparently one of them. This is what he said during his campaign:

‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters’

I suppose he didn’t say he wouldn’t be arrested but…

People in Trump’s team seem to keep stumbling over the truth.

Did the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions meet the Russian ambassador? Did he lie? Weasel words abound, but he’s not the first, not the last – and it doesn’t look good.

Here’s what the Guardian newspaper had to say:

Sessions has faced growing pressure from both Republicans and Democrats amid claims that he “lied under oath” after about twice speaking with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, during the presidential campaign, in apparent contradiction to his testimony to Congress.

In the latest (as I write) episode of the Russian did-they-didn’t-they saga, Trump’s man Spicy has said, when asked if there would be a Special Prosecutor appointed to investigate this mess:

‘Special Prosecutor for what?’

There are other examples of Special Prosecutors bringing down Presidents. Could this be Trump’s nemesis waiting in the wings?

Looking back to Nixon once more, the big smoking gun was those tapes. The ones he himself had secretly had made of his conversations in the Oval Office.

And – germane to today’s political climate – the Republicans voted for them to be subpoenaed. They put country, not party, first.

The whole truth, despite the subpoena, will always be missing. Eighteen and a half minutes of the critical tape had been wiped.

But through dogged reporting of the early days of the scandal, a President had been brought to the point he had to resign.

I’m not going to go into ‘defense’ spending increases and the military industrial complex and employment … and where all that might be leading.

It’s time to shut up and reach a conclusion.

Here we go.

Truth.

How do we find it? Well …

The scandal that was Watergate began thanks to the Washington Post.

Last week the Post broke the news that Sessions had met the Russian ambassador.

And here’s a final quote for you, from the Post’s former Executive Editor, Ben Bradlee:

in my experience, the truth does emerge. It takes forever sometimes, but it does emerge. And … any relaxation by the press will be extremely costly to democracy.

There is no perfect source of truth.

And proving a lie can take a lifetime.

But real, reputable newspapers with a long pedigree, which employ real journalists, trained, paid and with instincts honed by dealing with inveterate liars, some of them politicians, have a chance. A better chance than people like me.

Newspapers have their biases. Don’t we all?

But if you know what they are, you can take those into account.

I have paid for subscriptions to two newspapers.

They are not perfect.

But they try.

And the strapline of one of them is the title:

Democracy dies in darkness

 

Postscript:

bizarre, as I finished this see what the Washington Post reported:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/03/04/trump-accuses-obama-of-nixonwatergate-plot-to-wire-tap-trump-tower/?utm_term=.2972ea0740c5&wpisrc=nl_most-draw16&wpmm=1


 

Further watching/reading

All the President’s Men

I suggest you order the book (has more detail than the film) from your local bookshop and if you want the film in Britain get it here (blu ray and DVD and collectable cards!) not form Amazon:

http://store.hmv.com/film-tv/blu-ray/all-the-president-s-men-(hmv-exclusive)

All the President’s Men Revisited

The Fog of War

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Thinking, or ranting, or both | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments