Google+ A Tangled Rope: 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Roadside

Days grow and fade, crumbling to dust behind us. We look back to see even our last footsteps are now out of reach. Too late to turn away from this dusty road, we are left with only two options.

End it here, now. Sit and wait for the sunset.

Or, carry on towards the horizon, hoping that its hazy distance hides that secret for which we have so long searched.

Here she sits by the side of the road, waiting. She doesn't really know what she's waiting for. These days it seems it just comes down to waiting for the time to pass.

Years ago, when she was young: before marriage, before children, before age, it seemed as though the days passed so easily. One day she was a girl, the next a woman, then a bride and then a mother. It seemed her life grew with her to fill the days.

Back then, she gave a brief smile as she thought of her own mother. 'Back then,' was her mother's standard conversational opening. She remembered her and her mother shelling peas in the sun-bright scullery together. Freshly-shelled peas, now that was something she hadn't had in… in… she couldn't remember how long. The small, young ones, raw straight into the mouth from the pod. So long, such a long time ago. These days it was - or so it seemed - the icy cold frozen green bullets, or nothing.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sex Difference

Yet another article at The Grauniad’s CiF site on ‘our deeply sexist culture’ by

Rosie Boycott.

My Comment:

I've been a house-husband for about twenty years now, bringing up - reasonably well, it seems - 3 children. I don't regret what in working career terms is my wasted life, but I do know that my wife would have been far, far better at bringing up the kids than me.

I have - especially watching the differences between my son and daughters - come to the conclusion, rather regretfully since I used to believe so much in equality, that the biological differences between the sexes are far more significant - and ingrained - than the left can allow itself to understand.

Sad but true.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sometimes You Can See Another Life

If you look long down the road to where the rest of your life is waiting, near the crossroads, you can see only so much of what lies beyond. Each road turns off away from the others and is lost in distance and high hedgerows. Sometimes, when the landscape opens up around you, from the one road you are on it is possible to catch glimpses of the other roads you could have taken. Sometimes you can see another life; one you could have lead unwinding along another road – at least for a while.

You could have been there, you could have gone there; you could now be standing with those people you see off in the distance. That one, standing there, it could have been you.

The dusty road you travel on seems to lead nowhere but deeper into a stark wasteland, whilst that other road off to the other side seems to head down into valleys and alongside tree-shaded streams where children laugh and play and a woman waits to take you by the hand and lead you off into the soft long grass.

So many roads, so many choices, so many wrong turns, but you are on this one now and you will stay until there is no more road left.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Human and Natural

You would think that, after so many thousands of years, people would have got used to the rain by now. That they would have learnt to ignore it, learnt to live with it. But you still see people dashing for shelter. It seems that the natural offends people. It makes them feel uncomfortable.

We construct elaborate rituals what have been called our 'baser' functions, but why?

We like to feel that we are above and beyond the animals, the other animals. Our consciousness makes us self-conscious, makes us see how close we are to the others. It makes us see that the differences are only matters of degree.

We invent religions to give humans (but only of our own tribe) distinctions that separate us from the animals. We are apart, and those traits we do share with them: eating, secreting, sex, dominance conflicts and so on, are put into elaborate - the more elaborate the better - rituals and structures.

We create civilisations, structure, to formalise the rituals and put greater divisions between the man and the animal. The animal and the traits we all share with them are looked down upon and despised. We create distance, but still we all fall, for the base is us.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Opinions Are Like…

A Guardian CiF Piece on opinion by Jon Blyth provoked my comment below:

My Comment:

I had an opinion once, it was purple and furry and I called it Simon. We were happy together for a while, but Simon began to suspect that he was just a minority opinion, which he found depressing. One day it all got to much for him and he ran away to join an opinion survey.

When he got there - he found to his surprise and relief - that he wasn't a minority opinion after all. I see him every now and then firmly among the other 76% of opinions that are like Simon, and I am happy he has found a place he can call home.

I have thought about having other opinions, but deep down I know they will all remind me too much of Simon and our brief period of happiness together, so now I prefer to just read the tabloids and have brief, but often sordid and unsatisfying, relationships wit unthinking knee-jerk prejudices, usually about some current moral panic. At least that way it isn't me who ends up feeling used and abandoned when it is all over.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

When Hunter-Gatherers Go Shopping

For women shopping is a gathering spree wandering around picking the best/ripest, comparing and contrasting, checking what the others from your clan around you think and so on.

For men, shopping is a hunting expedition. You go out, spear you catch, bring it home.

For me, a shopping trip is closer to a commando raid.

First, you plan: decide what you want, decide where you are getting it from.

Then you plan your route to make best use of your time, as well as fallback positions to alternative shops if the original does not have what you want.

You go early – as soon as the shops are open and before the crowds.

You go, get in and get out with as little contact with the enemy… shop staff as possible. You do not browse and therefore fall into any of the cunning little traps the retailers have set out to ensnare you. You do not use the aisles set up to lure you into their purchasing zones. You outflank the shop, going directly from one purchase place to the next, ignoring all else. Eyes always on, and only on, the object of the mission.

Success is when you get back home with what you went for, nothing more nothing less, preferably in under an hour.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cool Daddy-O

I was musing - as I sometimes do - and I wondered why is 'cool' still… well, cool. As far as I know the word cool as an expression of approval dates back to sometime around the 50s - e.g. Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool was made around the turn of the 50s. Presumably, the word was in use then. The OED's first citation of cool in this sense is, 1947 (record by Charlie Parker Quartet, Dial 1015) Cool Blues.

So, why is it sill around fifty-odd years later, and showing no signs of going away when a whole shed load of slang, argots, or whatever you want to call them have disappeared. Why is cool still around when, for example, groovy, fab, far out and so many other, presumably later, coinings have fallen out of use?

I have no big - or even, any - theory as to why it is still around. It is odd, especially when you know that teen slangs seem to form as a way of preventing older folk from knowing what the 'kids' are really up to. You would think that a word like 'cool' would, if it were still used by the teens would change its meaning, or at least fall into only ironic usage. But, as far as I can tell (which is not that far), it still seems to mean what it has always meant.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


As I grew older, I lost the secret of how to get the girls to take all their clothes off just for me. To get them to reveal a deeper kind of nudity than just the holiness of bared skin, freed from the tyranny and coercion of clothing. I loved the smell of those naked girls, not sugar and spice, but soap and something as clean as grass under the warmth of summer sun.

I didn't keep score or anything puerile like that. I didn't play that kind of game. It was not a matter of numbers. It was not to be used for boasting and strutting either. I never told anyone else, certainly never told those few other men and boys I could talk to.

This was just between the girls and me. It was a private, personal, sort of thing that should remain our secret, even from their own boyfriends. For the boyfriends would not understand that there was something special beyond mere macho sexual boasting, a completely new world hidden and unknown to them, unreachable by mere ordinary male understanding.

The boys would have to let go, learn to set themselves free from the chains that held them rooted to the rocks of the male understanding, the male psyche. It was hard, too hard for them to give up on what had been so painfully, so recently learnt. They were all standing on the edge of adulthood, learning the rules that separated the men from the boys: how to walk; how to talk; how to touch and how to fear. Without an understanding of these rules they would never be able to walk the corridors, the streets of manhood, never find the key that unlocked the code that would reveal how to be one of the lads.

But, while they were all doing that, I was off with the girls, learning something else. A different way to talk, to walk, places to touch, where to kiss and a wordless language of tongues. I was an initiate into an old religion, perhaps the oldest religion. This was something quite holy, and religion only truly matters when it is private and personal. It was only between the girls and me.

I knew the boys would never understand. I knew they would never see that I wasn't taking anything they believed belonged to them. I was there to receive a gift, a benediction, freely bestowed by someone else, some other really free person who could belong only to herself and all promises of fealty were declarations of slavery that contradicted all decencies. It was an authentically free act, and through it, we became free people who could almost understand and make sense of our young world.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Expecting The Worst

Anyway, it was that time again. We all knew what in meant. We were all expecting the worst. So, when it failed to be as bad as everyone expected there was some disappointment. It does seem odd that people can be disappointed - looking back - by the lack of suffering, death and destruction, but we were.

When I awoke in the morning, surprised to be still alive, it seemed strange to go about my normal routine. It seemed much the same as any other day. Even when I turned the radio news on, they were still talking about the same old trivial political non-story they'd been boring everyone senseless with for well over a week.

It took around twenty minutes for them to get around to discussing the events of the previous night. You could sense too, that they too were disappointed. Perhaps that was why they were so reluctant to get around to the story - or rather, the non-story, as it turned out. It seemed they too wanted the misery, the fatalities, the heroic acts, the drama, the event.

I suppose something like that is the journalistic equivalent of the cup final. Something they dream about being involved in. I suppose they feel lucky to get even one such event in a career. The disappointment of last night must have felt like losing in the last minute of the semi-final.

Friday, February 15, 2008


'Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.' - Oscar Wilde.

Back in the days of punk (1976-1977), we used to sneer at those old (40+) rockers who used to bore everyone about the good-old great days of Elvis, Jerry Lee, Little Richard. We listened (eventually) - and most of it - of course - was crap.

Looking back now, from my own 40+ years I can't say that our music was any better - despite what we so naively thought at the time. Nor can I say that punk itself was anything other than an utter waste of time, except for one thing.

When looked without the distortions for nostalgia for youth, it is easy to see how crap punk really was. The music of course was terrible - as I've already said - even by the woeful standards of most rock music. The stupid clothes - bin liners and bondage trousers, and the terribly stupid haircuts and dyed hair. The pointless petulant attitude - I'm so bored (it is actually true that only the boring get bored) and the sneering, self-righteous and self-regarding smugness.

In fact, the whole pose of punk with its faux-nihilism is so hysterically funny - and phoney - when you look back at it from the advantage of maturity.

However, it was not all a total waste of all the bright possibilities of youth. There was one thing, but only thing, that us ex-punks could be proud of. There was one thing that made the whole sorry episode worthwhile - and slightly more than an embarrassing footnote in the short stupid history of teen culture (what an oxymoron). This was that we - once and for all (or so we so naively thought, but hey, we were young) got rid of flared trousers.

Flared trousers were just two great swathes of superfluous material flapping around your ankles as if you were two inverted perambulating flagpoles. Was there anything more pointless in the entire history of fashion (including periwigs and bustles)?

And yet….

And yet….

The bloody things came back into fashion! Santayana must be spinning in his grave.

However, that is the nature of fashion - its essence. Change is fashion's only constant. Nothing matters except change. It doesn't matter that it makes no sense to wear - for example, trousers that cover only to just below the knees in mid-winter. If that is what fashion decrees, then that must be what is done.

The same, of course, goes for anti-fashion - sub-sub cultures like Goths et al - as for fashion itself. If fashion followers are mere sheep, then Goths are just black sheep.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

Back in the days of myth and legend it all used to be so much easier. However, in these days of political correctness and ‘Health ‘n’ Safety’ you can no longer go out and slay a dragon for her, especially now dragons are a protected species.

In recent times, Valentine's Day has become just another commercial rip-off, built up to only separate people from their money in the name of ‘romance’. It is all nonsense, hyped-up by all the various commercial interests. I do not play these sorts of games and I am disappointed by those who do.

It has now become a simple equation. The amount spent on a valentine is directly proportional to how much you love her. Spending a few hundred quid for a luxury romantic meal, a night in a pink heart-shaped bed, and a matching heart-shaped box of chocolates, shows her what a potent lover you could be.

In contemporary society, though, the amount of money you spend on anything shows how important that thing is to you. Even those things that are supposed to transcend commercial considerations - like love - are made into functions in the commercial equation.

We are only allowed to be consumers; every relationship must boil down to a commercial transaction. If there is no money in it, then it is worthless. Monetary value becomes literal value. If it doesn't cost, then it is not worth keeping.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Singing For Your Supper

Here is a comment I made on The Grauniad’s Cif site about the recording industry becoming redundant.

My comment:

Technology changes and new industries come into being – like the record industry in the 20th century. Then technology changes and industries fade away and some die. The record companies existed to get a physical thing – the record, cassette, 8-track, CD DVD - out into the mass market. That is no longer necessary as the physical object nowadays - the CD or DVD - is no longer needed to transport its contents from producer to customer. Therefore, the record companies are no longer necessary – despite what they claim. The only real possible claim they can have against ‘pirates’ anyway, is against those that make and *sell* the actual physical object – only then are they actually losing a genuine sale as a downloaded ‘illegal’ copy is only a tenuously theoretical possible loss, if that.

The question now is what the makers of the tunes want to do with their stuff, nobody really wants to pay for stuff off the web and once the tune exists in digital form, extra copies of it are virtually costless.

So, that’s it really. If people want to buy a physical object professionally produced with a cover, case and so forth the band (or whoever) should sell it to them. These sort of threads always seem to have loads of people who want that. Otherwise, the raw tracks should be free, out there for people to do with what they will. They could look upon the recorded stuff as adverts, publicity, PR – what you will. The bands will eventually not even have to pay the server cost of hosting the files as they roam free.

Quite simply, the cost of making recoded music is now negligible – as compared to days of yore – and the costs of getting it out into the world are now virtually non-existent. So the only question remains as to whether the artists should be paid for making the recording, but if they look at it as a form of PR, advertising and so forth for their live gigs or whatever, then they will get some return on their time spent making it.

It may mean the days of limos, mansions and groupies are over, but there may be enough for a reasonable living, after all nobody is forcing them to do what they do, are they? So ANY reward at all is a bonus, after all we are often told that the world doesn’t owe anyone a living.

Monday, February 11, 2008


She looks out from her balcony and sees the sun-bleached buildings - mostly white - climbing back up the hillside, crowded together seemingly without reason or order. She thinks about the buildings back home, dark, drab, damp with rain and cold. She sighs.

She had always thought of herself as a summer person, bursting into bloom whenever the sun warmed her skin. Now, to her surprise, she found herself nostalgic for the shiver when she crawled reluctantly out of bed on a dark, cold, wet and windy February morning. A time when it seemed as though summer, or even ordinary sunshine, would never be seen again. She could now understand those ancient pagan rituals that begged for the return of spring at such times, and why the early Christians had been so eager to appropriate them.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Stars

I remember it all so well, the dark clear nights and so, so many stars. There they were, all up there and waiting, waiting patiently for us. We were on our way, too. There were men actually walking on the moon as I stood there, looking up at it. So, I, we, thought, it would not take long, not very long at all. Soon mankind would reach the planets and then, then it would be on to the stars.

But, we, mankind, stopped, turned back, lost interest. When the planets, the stars, were there - waiting for us - we turned our backs on them. Instead, we turned on more lights at night, so that the stars could no longer compete. We no longer looked up, but looked across at our neighbours and the things they were buying. We no longer reached for the stars; we only reached for what was on display in the shops.

We gave up on dreaming, of looking for something higher, something greater. It al became unreal. We lost that belief, that optimism, that desire. It all became petty, shallow and meaningless.

I do not go out much at night now. I suppose the stars are still there, but I do not look up that often. The disappointment is hard to bear. I stay inside and watch television instead.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof - Henry David Thoreau

To my grandmother – a staunch Methodist – religion was vital to her life because it gave her the answers to all those questions about life and what it was for, and so on, that she – probably unconsciously – realised that she did not have the equipment – either mentally or temperamentally – to discover for herself. While – to me – that was the very reason – probably the reason above all others – to despise religion, because it had the temerity to attempt to give answers to questions that I felt – and still do feel – can only be discovered by the individual through individual effort.

People often say that all human societies have religion. That is - as far as I know – true, but what does it really mean? People speculate about things - it is what we do, we have brains and we use them. We make up stories to cover the gaps in what we know. Some of those stories become myths, become religion.

Just as from the Greeks onward, knowledge was a subsection of philosophy which as over time developed and became the separate branches of knowledge like biology, physics, chemistry, psychology and so on, the same has happened to theological ideas. People would be religious in earlier ages, or in less developed societies, because there was no other word, no other concept, for them to use to describe that particular branch of their experience. But, as we have learnt more, understood more, the theological has become replaced as it has become irrelevant.

Of course, it is a wild generalisation, but religious people - to me - always seems to have a missing… dimension, seem incomplete, as though they have refused to take that necessary step towards full self-definition. Often they have the look of people who have remained living in the parental home long after they should have left. Perhaps it is that fear of parental admonishment; long after it should have been nullified, that gives them that vague, distracted, haunted look, an aura of intellectual naivety, timidity and blandness.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Whenever I think of family holidays from when I was a child I always seem to recall the rainy days. Holidays would not be the same without rainy days. It is an essential part of the experience of a holiday. Going abroad to places with more consistent 'better' weather has robbed the British holiday of one of its most significant aspects. The disappointment, the sense of being trapped within a small area with limited resources is akin to those exercises for trainee army officers that management-types appropriated for those courses they like to send each other on. However, such courses seems to have more to do with an attempt to change the image of the office worker from that of pampered wimp into macho dynamic professional.

These paramilitary style courses are not really that necessary - except in the image sense as above. All they really needed to do - if they were serious about their charges actually learning something useful - is to put a new clause into all their office workers' contracts. A clause that states that the workers are obliged to spend two weeks every year on a caravan holiday in Wales with a young family. That would sort out the thrusting go-ahead achievers from the time-servers. That is if any of them survived.

However, it is more likely that it would be the go-ahead thrusting dynamic sort that would fall apart when faced with real problems. But that wouldn't really matter as business these days is more about image than anything else, if it was ever otherwise. Whatever happens, the thrusting dynamic youngster in the expensive suit is going to appear far more dynamic than the balding, middle-aged bloke in the jam-stained cardigan.

Nevertheless they would do wise to remember that in the Bond films it is the old, faintly ludicrous Q that comes up with all the useful devices, Bond is just a tool.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Handful Of Stars

These things we think of, now and then. On waking suddenly in the coldest, darkest heart of the night I could speak of those things, but not now. They are all gone, lost on the wind that sweeps through the mind, purging it of all its night time thoughts.

The day begins slowly with the night sliding reluctant from the mind like some creature of the dark shadow-places retreating before the hesitant dawn.

Those things look different in the light of the day. The darkness of the night gives credence and plausibility to those things that would seem to be so absurd in the daylight.

Later, as the day draws to a close, when darkness falls and distances stumble to a few steps either side of you and shadows grow wide and tall enough to contain and conceal a whole world beyond you, it is then you look deep into the fire. Then, without taking your gaze from the dancing flames, you talk of those things that seemed foolish in the warm soft light of the day, realising these things need more light than a solitary fire and a handful of stars.

New Post Label

A new label for blog postings may not seem a bit enough deal for a posting of its own, but I think I may have come up with something new (for here anyway), which may increase the rate of new posts appearing here.

In various folders on this computer, and in various files on my shelves, I have quite a lot of what I am going to label here as Fragments. These are also going to be labelled as Fragment-Poetry and Fragment-Prose – which will be further divided into Fragment-Fiction and Fragment-Non-Fiction.

They are, as the label indicates, various unfinished pieces of poetry, fiction and non-fiction that have not – as yet – grown beyond a paragraph, stanza, idea or two. Consequently, as they are Fragments, I make no claim for them to be anything other than what they are, nothing more, nothing less.

Of course, I do want to continue with the blessays (blog essays) idea I stole from Stephen Fry, and what you might call fuller-length blog postings, but - by their very nature - such longer pieces will be less frequent than these shorter pieces.

It is possible that I will return to some of these fragments and expand them out into full poems, stories, essays or whathaveyou in the future. If I do, I will try to link back to the original fragment wherever possible.

I don’t know when the first of these Fragments will appear, as I said there are a lot of them, probably numbering in the hundreds. So it will take some time to sort them out, but I hope to publish some here as I go along.