character building

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The face looked back at him, a stranger’s face.

Eyes once strong and sincere, bold and blue.

Eyes that looked deep into you, not at you.

Eyes that once left you engaged, eager, expectant.

Eyes that made you want to know more, to reach out.

Those eyes, had become washed out and grey. Where was the sparkle, where was that singular smile that shone from inside.

The lines crawling from the corners of his eyes, trailing back away from his face. He wondered, were these the lines of laughter, or furrows of fear. From where had they come.

And how had he not seen until now.

He shuddered a little, as he recalled a time when those eyes were scrunched up, when fingers and fists had been screwed into them, the skin dry and hurting and still he rubbed and rubbed.

And it wouldn’t go away.

And still, deep inside those eyes, he saw a flicker, a not quite faded flame, fighting back.

The pupils dilated, blue growing stronger.

What was this.

He saw, inside, there was still light, flecks of grey swirled and shifted and blue blossomed once more.

The lines, those lines he once feared, those lines were friends.

They spoke of shared smiles, lessons learned, fears faced down.

Lines of life.

So, on reflection, as he looked in the mirror, and turned off the light, he decided, it had all been

a

character building experience.

(for wordpress writing 101 – day six)

unlock the mind

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So, I used to be chastised for starting sentences with that word, and in that way. Come to think of it I have always felt that my grammar skills lacked, well, lacked skills. But, no matter. I have always enjoyed writing and so, here I am doing just that.

Actually, right now, what I am doing is free writing. It is Saturday, and I am finally attending to my “homework” set on Day One (Monday) of the WordPress bl;logging u. writing 101 online course, the third such course I have taken recently in an effort to learm, or stop my braincells decaying as they will, or something.

The challenge here is the free writing means just hat, you write and write and write for a timed period with no clear plan and woithout going back to edit and chck, so please forgive the typos and Mac inspired c=sleppchecking if there is any, I m not allowed to check or go back and review – so, unusually for me, “i` will do as i am told

The rules, ssuch as there are any require you to write from the mind or heart or wherever for a fixed period and unlock water lies beneath, quite asacry prospect no?

What I am finding interesting is that I have set the timer of my phone and I will only wrote for 20 minutes and will stop and not eddf ay the end of that..And i am finding that my old exam fears have come to the fore, whenever I sat an exam, especially one that i knew i could handle and knew my stuff, i would shut down and write so fast that my fingers would ache and scream as my hand shot across the page trying to show the examiner that i really d ‘know’ , often of course that meant after the 20 allotted minutes for that question had es;asked, I would stop, look at the page and realise in a cold slimy feeling of horror, that i had answered the spring quarsion. ever been there?

So….pauses for breath, perhaps i will slow down a little, and in case you are interested, the timer now tells me there are 12 minutes and 18 seconds to go although by the time i finish writing that time will have changed

Which also reminds me how fascinated i am with time and what a strange concept it really is. What is now? Now is utterly meaningless, like schodingers cat 9yes i know i misspelled it but j am not editing tthis pieve ok? So, like the cat whose master i failed to spell, now is a hard concept to pin down, by the time we has uttered the word or considered now it is already gone, never to come back and only the future awaits, and that now rapidly becomes a memory and later fades, and yet at the times it was so very real. So, what is now?

I should also add that at school i was always told off for talking in class and generally not sitting still I remember well the time a frustrated teacher, well a dark
black clad irish priest threw a board rubber at me (ha anyone even know what one of those is) and the chalk dust exploded in my face which whitened as the prisest simply uttered my last name in a for of frustrated malevolence

And noww? Now I am writing this, against the clock, I really must get all my ideas out or i will fail and how will i survive/ And now? Now I am listening to BBC Fadio 4 listening to an article on why men once thought mullets were cool an ocasionally staring into space at the rain outside and listening to the laundry rotating in the machine behind me

Quick check on timer tells me that there are 5 minutes and 48 seconds to go, the radio is now talking about lewis caroll and I am beginning to tire, how do writers do this. And like in those examination days the point of what i am doing is lost in the moment, lost in the now as i strufggle to remember the question and try to piece together the facts and ideas whistling in my head with whatever the examiner sitting in a dusty room somehether thought it would be fun to set for students struggling in an airless room in the june sun, oh yes thanks for that memory

and so back to now, what is it, i really do love think about it, those people who say you must live in the now, not the present not the future, do they know what the are saying? like a mayfly to live in a moment that will vanish, never be there again, perhaps not even live at all because there is probably a mathemeticla equation that proves that now is an impossibility, so i must keep going, the clock is ticking my time is rnbbinyg out so this will no longer be now but added to al, the faded memories except this one with all the typos will be there for ever in cyber apace

so, i will keep writing, maybe to stay sane and then what will i do next, as now becomes yesterday

so, now that terror as the mind goes blank and i realise that i can’t remember the answer and that I will not be able to

(for wordpress writing 101 – day one)

(and for lucile’s photo101 rehab)

*precisely twenty minutes of free writing (which means no editing hence all the typos) for the first day of the wordpress writing 101 blogging u. course with a photo shot on a 32 year old olympus om10, shot in aperture priority mode with lens wide open with a roll of my favourite ilford delta 3200 inside, only edit to the images was to straighten the image in lightroom 5, after realising that i was apparently unable to stand up straight when taking the shot, go figure*

be brief

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I stumbled, and in doing so, kicked it into the gutter. Again.

I stopped. Knelt down on the hot paving stone. Reached out and felt for it.

Finding it, I picked it up carefully. Anxiously.

I could feel the cold metal surface. The familiar buttons. I knew what happened next.

I turned away from the light. Raised my hand, lifted a corner of the stained bandage from my eye.

I lifted it so I could see the screen. And there it was.

The message.

That simple, clear message, no ambiguity. My breath caught in my throat. I knew that I had to, I had to give it back. I must give it back.

That noise, again, the screeching.

The blinding white light and then.

Then nothing.

Gradually, I became aware of my surroundings.

I stumbled, and in doing so, kicked it into the gutter.

(for wordpress writing 101 – day five)

serially lost (1:3)

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 I have been thinking a lot recently about absolutes.

You know, right and wrong, good and bad, left and right, up and down, inside and out, yes and no, true and false. Perhaps even, lost and found.

What strikes me about all of these absolutes is how little relevance they end up having in life. Well, ok, maybe when you are driving, the concept of left and right is fairly fundamental.

But, I do recall, as I followed the tangential arc of learning, how many things learned as a child had to be unlearned, as I discovered that things “don’t work quite like that”. The mind boggling transition from Newtonian physics where everything is grounded by an apple tree to the insane world of quantum mechanics and the trials and tribulations of Schrödinger’s poor mistreated cat.

The point I am (not) making is that as child we often see things in this absolute sense and it is only later, as life happens to us, that we begin to see the ambiguity of our world in all its glory, and sometimes, its horror.

And then the places that shaped us, that seemed like rocks, foundations, safe havens, gradually slip away. My sister texted me today to tell me she was standing outside my former Hall of Residence at University in London. Or, more correctly, she was standing next to a hole in the ground where it used to be. A similar fate met my boyhood school some years back. My foundations not just crumbling, but demolished and replaced. And in their place, in years to come, someone else’s foundations will take their place.

What a race.

And, so far, I am digressing. Filling space on the white screen in front of me as I build up to write about what I really want to write about. Or, perhaps, what I don’t want to write about at all. But will. And, in doing so, learn and move on.

I intend to write about my father.

About what happened to him. Or what he “happened”. And about the consequences. The final end to the right and wrong phase. The time that Schrödinger’s cat finally bit deep into Newton’s apple.

A story which involves a tennis court, a phone call, a student sitting on the kerb, an elephant slide, a drive through the country.

And, the end of absolute thinking.

(for wordpress writing 101 – day four)

three songs

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So (yes, I say that a lot when writing and talking, it’s a kind of way of allowing myself to think before acting, saying or doing anything), this is my second post in response to a prompt posted on the WordPress Writing 101 course. Confusingly, or not, I am actually responding to the prompt to Day Three after posting my response today to the prompt for Day Two and giving some thought, although perhaps not enough, to the prompt to Day One to which I might, or might not return and respond. We shall see what we shall see. Or not.

So (there, see, I’ve gone and done it again), the challenge, prompt or task, for today is to write about “the three most important songs in your life and about what they mean to you”. And, so the prompt goes, this is best done by “free writing” which apparently involves emptying your mind, not censoring yourself, not thinking, and more specifically, letting go and allowing the emotions or memories connected to those three songs to carry you. Presumably, just before the men in white coats begin to knock at the door?

On top of that, those people at WordPress can be hard task masters, the twist is a challenge to commit to writing practice, with a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

So (again), that introduction has used up pretty much half of my allotted time to free write about songs that mean something. Yes, I write so slowly.

Also, I can’t help sharing how I am writing this, I’m using an app on my Mac called iA Writer Pro, the reason I love it, is that it allows you to type on a blank white screen, in a great old fashioned typewriter font. The idea being to facilitate free writing perhaps? Of course, as you may be able to tell from the photo at the top, I also stopped to take a photo of me writing freely in a non-distracted way. Fail?

Turning now to the three songs, yes, I almost forget that part. A charming trait I seemingly (and yes, I hate adverbs) developed during those long Summer days of my (long ago) youth not answering the question on all those examination papers.

Hell, I’m nearly out of time, maybe I will never get round to those three songs?

And, yes, here are three songs, they may not be the “three most important songs” in my life (and I really do hate such confining questions) but, for better or worse, I do remember them.

So (that word again), I start with “Fanfare For The Common Man” as interpreted in 19XX by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Why do I remember this? Well, I had fallen hopelessly (adverb alert) in love with a perfect Romanian gymnast at a time when I was convinced I was going to run at the Olympics one day. A perfectly misaligned set of goals and dreams.

She did, I didn’t.

But I never forget the feeling or the power of that dream.

The song was used as a theme tune by the BBC for the Olympics (or something like that). And I went out and bought the 45 vinyl in a paper sleeve, I felt such a rebel. And her biography, in a cheap light blue paperback, with her picture on the front, did I say I was so in love? Oh, and the B side (yes imagine) was the offbeat “Brain Salad Surgery”.

Song number two. Imagine, a Ford Transit van, light blue in colour, wooden slat seating, minimal provisions, everything in a borrowed rucksack. Cash in ten different currencies in a rucksack (Euro, hello, what Euro?). Tents, minimal hygiene, border crossings and girls from foreign parts. And, oh, the friend who actually owned a portable cassette player. And one tape, yes, one tape that we (eighteen of us, all boys) listened to over and over for three weeks as we camped our way around Europe. The song, “Runnin’ Blue” by The Doors. All I can say is “pretty little girl with the red dress on…”, but that’s another post for another day.

And so, the climax.

The third song, just a few years later. “The Knife” by Genesis.

And, no, I really can’t tell you that story.

Not tonight at least.

(for wordpress writing 101 – day three)

a room with a view

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This may well be one of the first posts that I have ever posted anywhere that does not include a photograph. Which is strange because that is what I do, I photograph things incessantly and then post them. Oh, and when I talk, and write, I sometimes ramble a lot before getting to the point.

More recently, I decided that I would like to write more.

And to write better.

My first concerted effort to do so was taking part in Writing 201 Poetry. And now, here I am taking on what feels like a more intimidating challenge, Writing 101.

So this, my first contribution, is a response to Day Two, written and posted on Day Three and featuring “a room with a view”.

The room, the view, in question, was so special to me that I not only photographed it several times, I took out pencil and paper and sketched it.

The use of the room was the gift of a friend at a turning point in my life. So, for that reason alone the room acquired substance beyond the confines of its walls.

And what walls they were, a building of whitewashed stone. Approached by climbing a short flight of stone steps from a cobbled square in the centre of a small village on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea. The sea over which the sun set each night.

A simple room, two chairs by the window. Stone floor. Stone walls.

A window flung open to allow the sea breeze and the sounds of voices in the bar below to drift up and swirl softly around the small space.

A room in which, each day, I ate simply and well. Fresh crusty bread, ham, tomatoes, local grown olives and a glass or two of red wine.

A room with little in the way of furnishings. But what there was, functional, clean and comforting.

A room from which I first glimpsed a precious view.

Not the sea, not the sunset, not the villagers at the bar, not the coffee shop, not the model being photographed on the stone steps, not the tourists passing through.

The view from this room was far more precious.

This room, gave me a glimpse into my heart, my life.

A room with a view.

(for wordpress writing 101 – day two)

(the razor’s) edge

"entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem**"

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searching for an answer, what, where, which, when, how
why
                 look, question, yearn for the truth, the search continues
                                 choices and decisions, facts and figures to be weighed
                                         complexity and detail challenge and defy
logic
                                 when there in front of us
lies the simple truth
                  it’s really not that hard, not that complex
                                    when faced with a choice
                                                         the simplest solution is often the
best

(for justine’s eclectic corner #9 – photography, quotes and poetry – a free verse poem featuring the edge)

** occam’s razor is a problem solving technique, the latin text roughly translates to “no more things should be presumed to exist than are absolutely necessary”

poetry 101 rehab: home

“the ache for home lives in all of us the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned”   ― maya angelou,
“the ache for home lives in all of us
the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned”
― maya angelou
                ever hear about the one who was always alone?
                                                            how he tried as much as he could to atone
                how he woke in fright
                looked round for the light
                                                            and realised at last that being alone was being at home

(for mara’s poetry 101 rehab – home)