To Wander

I no longer travel.

Some of my encounters with Newtonian Physics – especially gravity, mass, motion and in particular, very rapid deceleration (and let us not forget Time) – have rendered a resilient human body less a vehicle for the jaunts of an impetuous spirit, more a hammock for the sequential siestas of a broken imperative.

I no longer travel.

All too affordable aeroplanes available to everywhere and, unaffordable and unavailable trains to a diminishing clutch of unlovely nuclei have made the act of Travelling as attractive and satisfying as the little meals on plastic trays they serve up while you are in transit and the swollen feet that accompany the tee-shirts on the trip home

But there were joys to be had, as in life, from the journey itself rather than in the destination which is after all, the common one.

“Give to me the life I love, Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above And the byway nigh me. Bed in the bush with stars to see, Bread I dip in the river—There’s the life for a man like me, There’s the life for ever…” Listening just now to the striding, exciting setting by Vaughan Williams I was struck as I was in childhood, not just by the nigh-unsingable modulations, but by the word “Lave”.
Some write that it means ‘brook’ – if if it’s already going by me, why walk the extra mile to dip one’s bread in the river? – and etymologies variously give Lave as a noun referring to Remainder, the Residue, and thus the Rest of the folk past whom one would wander rather than have them, en masse, go by. My infant excursions into language saw a connection with water, plausibly as in laundry or lavatory, but would a poet, however romantic, recline and contemplate while such trundled by?
My conservative Uncle JW said it meant “those that are bathed” in contrast to the “great unwashed” wherein he lumped all those of the Travelling persuasion (including us; a calumny my papa resented, for – spartan that he was – he seized every opportunity to drench our nakedness in cold water, even at isolated village pumps)
Robert Louis Stevenson’s protagonist may also have washed, as he lived in the heyday of The Bummel, a leisurely walking tour far more gemütlich than today’s strenuous Hike and, he would have had access to public bath houses. The Corporation of Liverpool opened the first known warm fresh-water public wash house in May 1842.

Pictured: Contemporary Bummel: Nordic Walking at Devil’s Drop, entirely for pleasure, oil on canvas.


Much, much rattling weather on the Farthest Edge

This month, this week, this hyperconscious day,

Weather that tempts with sunbeams,


With dazzling rainbow mists,


With downpour and with rushing flood


That every seed, corm, bulb, rhizome and root in the dark moist soil

Thrust forth

Swift forests of javelin green

Only to wilt and, terrify that eager chlorophyll blood

With blades of gale, with ice like fire:

Come! Kneel,

Bow your buds

To Nature’s ineluctable behest!

The lingering leaves of Autumn

In slippery insurrection

Drape a dwindling, fading tent

With their last skeletal tissue,

Now entitled by decay

To find Nirvana

In their final Earthly rest.

Venus in Scorpio

The long night’s rain has stopped,
leaving captive drops in the Erica “Exeter”, a heather that was one of the few plants to raise its head above the Bracken that ruled the croft when I was a child. It has grown into a small tree, bare-stemmed and, really, not very pretty in its wabi-sabi dotage.
When at this month of declining perihelion the sunrise strikes between the Oak my girlish mother grew from a borrowed acorn and the Cupressoideae I planted when Xenia was born, smacking those raindrops into a zodiac of diamonds, I realise afresh why I haven’t cut down the stag-horned old eyesore.
The splendour, even through the weather-stained window, is enough to drag me from the warmth of the bed and out into the morning air with my camera.

Holding it above my head I grope for the contact and, to the entirely synthesised click of a non-existent shutter, I fire its little pixels into what I hope will be a capture. I am cold, and go back indoors and into the bedroom, where The Elf, who still cannot subsume the monitory tones of the Boss Restaurateur even when half asleep, comments that I have no clothes on. Although older than the Oak we still sleep au naturel; when I was little we couldn’t afford pyjamas and I never acquired the habit save when travelling. The old wooden house moves a millimetre or two a year, but that does not, you know, count.

I go and make a jug of coffee and, climb back in alongside. I open my MacBook and slam it shut again, as the morning chill plus the crazy climate-change pollen has provoked sneezing on the Richter scale.
The Elf with wifely amusement hands me a tissue and goes back to her Tablet and the world of rescued animals, sick or celebratory friends and total strangers doing fatuous things.

The coffee kicks my brain open, and I initiate the arcane process called – I know not why – Bluetooth. Bleeps are heard and after a couple of slippery goes, my new images crawl onto the screen.

The camera has captured the dawn, but the diamonds are disappointing dots.
But there above the stag-horns is a green blob. It’s there in all the photos I took and so, not an aberration. My wife looks across and says
“Oh, there’s Venus! We’re two days into Scorpio.”
The green planet is there indeed, bisected by perhaps an insect or, a bit of space debris. I’m not going to get anymore information out of seven pixels, so I slap my monogram into the corner, save the image and return to the laborious updating of my website.
There awaiting Enhancement are two early four-foot paintings, homages to the Catalan Surrealist Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí, tho’ I denied such discipleship at the time, being slightly snobbish and more enamoured of the work of Max Ernst and my teacher John Tunnard, two paintings (I wish I could say “canvasses”; the boards are mighty heavy) that are titled “Venus in Scorpio”


And, the galleries on this site WILL be restored before too long x


Last night I dreamed that Emily, forceful daughter of a dear friend and Themself an Editor-Jounalist-#activist of awesome clout, told me sweetly but firmly, (as They would,) to Update my Blog.
I wasn’t aware that I had one, but it may be correct to assume that this sporadic posting is what They meant…

I awoke full of inspiration and resolve with the dream still present…

When also full of coffee, I located my most gemütlich Device, blew the cobwebs from the lid, thumbnailed it open and dived into: not the smoothly maintained Mac of remembered fancy but, a digital Petrie-dish of sliding desktops, multiple message systems, alerts and applications akin to the Sleeping Beauty forest of thorns with an added detour through the entropy of Password Hell, in order to fix the DNS of my website, the payment for the domain and, my access to the Demon Social Site that, like the Soma of the Lotus Eaters, softens the brain and dissolves all desire to return to work. It seemed cruel to ignore the messages from a new crop of honest if fancifully-named young persons in dire difficulties that need my friendship and my bank details to journey safely home and, buy themselves the underwear they so blatantly lack.
…so, Yes, I have learned some new stuff, tho’ not how to turn off the computer’s thuggish robotic voice notification that shouts
“It is Naow Sick Stein Huvvers” (the nearest the poor creature can get to pronouncing ‘hours’ on the nominally “British-English” setting) and indeed it is now: Four o’Clock. The ice-white sun is barrelling through the spectrum towards a hard horizon, slicing shards of chromatic unbelief through the diamond-rattling trees and across a sea the colour of butterflies’ wings.
My day is gone, my blog still nascent. It is Cold outside.

What I wanted to say is that society may indeed need scientists and mathematicians as well as its mightily undervalued workers; but above all, we need Historians, Journalists and, Artists.  

I allow that to cite the latter is to fight my own corner, as historically did the brilliant AA Milne in an essay I can’t find online; but Historians, now:
Historians will be able to tell you with proportionate hindsight what journalists are clamouring to tell us now – some with the hysteria of ignorance, some with tears of realisation – that: Market Forces enshrined as deity are every bit as harsh as the jealous god of the Old Testament, setting up tyrants without conscience to reward their Own faithful with obscene riches while they defecate on the legions of the poor who must balance the equation by sinking starving ever deeper into the mire.
They will tell you that even in fairly civilised Britain society is in crisis.

Did I say civilised? The last two men hanged here were dispatched in 1964, in living memory for many of us, in the Swinging England of Carnaby Street and the chart topper by British uber-band The Beatles called ‘Twist and Shout’.

The swinging, twisting rope would have prevented much shouting and they died largely unnoticed; but back in befrilled and pantalooned Merrie England, judicial murder was a rowdier affair. People (some of them actually guilty) were viciously unsexed and, literally gutted. Sliced up on the gallows in front of uncountable spectators who thought themselves not mentally sick for queuing up to watch. We know of this shaming underbelly of our most velvet-clad reigns through the journals of eyewitnesses and the writings of contemporaries. Word of mouth does not long outlast the mouth itself, but parchment and paper endure.
We also know what the people who relished or, suffered these horrors looked like, from the work of those who wielded the astonishing skills of the figurative artist.
In today’s rather kinder society (really? People are still entertained by graphic butchery albeit simulated in splatterfest cinema while outside in the street children die sleeping in cardboard boxes) …in today’s Kinder Society, we still need people that can depict: us and, what we are about in lasting form, for without such accounts and images, when our numbingly vast digital archives succumb to future technologies that will not know their codes, Archaeologists may be left with less to go on than a Millennial confronted with a floppy-disc.

Taking the attitudes of ourselves to lost civilisations as a marker we may be thought to have been just a little superstitious.

Why else would we place our Dead, some with their pets and toys to provide amusement in the afterlife, inside glazed, upholstered coffins with rubber-tyred wheels on the corners and, bury them in the basements of the half-mile -high steel and glass tombs that we, in our naive stupidity, believed would carry us to Heaven? It will be unthinkable to a wiser future – for we all consider ourselves wiser than our forebears – that these rusted and radioactive towers once housed a society that actually wanted to work and live in the sky, or that, blessed with a world of wonder and beauty, chose to loot it, poison it and, blow it, to pieces.

Maybe, against all the odds, we won’t…

It Is Finished

The story of the murder that took place at Golgotha under a grim eclipse among the bones of uncounted atrocities was once universally known. A young radical prophet, said to be a miracle-worker, was beaten half to death by the Authorities, stripped naked – as were all for this maximum spectacle of agony and shame – nailed through the bones of his extremities and hoisted up to writhe until dead for the gawping glee of the masses. Mary tore her veil to cover the loins of her son. His death was accompanied by metaphysical phenomena and his inalienable teachings persist, not least because he rose from the tomb.
The festival, from prehistory associated with rebirth, has many mystical layers; but for generations now it merely signifies the descent to Earth of Chocolate Rabbits.

It Is Finished…

Displayed in Saint Ruan Church on the Lizard Peninsula

A Stormy Spring

Since I last reviewed my website, the wider World has endured wars, volcanoes, floods, fires, and, the Covid virus pandemic. Here we’ve merely had a little über-wet roof-ripping weather.
Now a new, nearer war has begun: Irony rattles across the news screen: men with assault weapons wear anti-viral masks lest they breathe on their marks fleeing terrified across the snow.
There are some 12,705 nuclear warheads on the planet. 4,000 are already on the gas-ring awaiting a safety-match.
Past my allotted three-score years and ten as I am, there is scant I can do with whatever time is left, save to hope and pray for swift and effective dialogue and resolution and then view the meadows and minefields of my own life and my unscripted leaps, scrambles, lurches and spills along the unmarked and sometimes unlit path. While my mobility has changed (and my appearance! I thought it a fairy-story that hair could go white with shock and, I’d had no idea I was so vain!) the mind has expanded and the creativity has gone into – indeed jammed into – overdrive.
This is fortunate. My having agreed to become a trustee of the South West Academy, the Cosmos said Aha! and provided commissions for five unexpected and demanding canvases and, enquiries for enough further painting to keep me occupied for the next two years, while my role on the Academy Board has compelled a swift embrace – more of a grope in the dark really – of zoom meetings and not-so-very-broadband.
I started my life a full two miles away in a cottage in the lily-sweet valley of Landewednack on The Lizard Peninsula. My father, a muscular Fabian conscientious objector, had spurned a protected job in aircraft design, and was working as Ploughman and Cowman at Churchtown Farm while my mother was not entirely overjoyed to be the farm slavey.
With what conscience I know not, they held hands and watched the sky across the Channel gleam with fire as France burned.
Please may it never again come to that. Carn Barrow March 2022

Early Summer on the Edge

Doh, Mi-soh-la-soh *doh… ti/la/soh/mi/doh.

The weird spring has given us no young toads. The weather frightened the bees and, burned the buds from the Birches with icy wind, the unusual sequence of cold, wet, hot, wet, dry and, wet again, has delivered crazily overgrown Umbelliferae over a carpet of lesser grass-proof weeds, it’s also bestowed a merry cohort of Blackbirds, very many blackbirds indeed. They squabble a lot and evidently mate successfully, for there are treefuls of fat, torpid babies to tempt the Sparrowhawks. Meanwhile, in between feeding them beak-to beak, the glossy males find the energy to sing their beautiful well-known Blackbird song.  All save one eccentric whose liquid voice runs up and down a melody very close to – I think it’s the second subject? – a tune from Camille Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony.

         I’ve known other wild birds copy sounds they’ve heard; when there were abundant Starlings, they learned to drive me mad by mimicking the burble of a little frog-shaped telephone I’d bought in Singapore, sending me sprinting to a silent instrument whenever they felt like it; but Impersonator-Blackbirds?


There he goes again, Ta da te DAH diddlediddleum…


Listening to their music and the ripple of the ocean far below – so close to the shipping lanes that there really are Ferries at the bottom of the garden – one can apply Gravity to the Deckchair, elevate one’s feet and, in the words of Dobie Grey, Drift Away, but it’s only a month to Midsummer when the  The Labyrinth will be, for a few short hours, Open. With a few furlongs of paths to weed and, twice the same in hedges to clip and argue back into place after the spectacular overgrowth, leisure will now not just take a back seat but, ride standing on the running-board.   

                                                                                                             JXC 2019