Wednesday, 29 September 2010

what to do

when recovering from the flu. probably best not to decide that last night was the night to get back out with the tuesday boys. true, i was fooled by the fact that although i could feel the rain in the air it wasn't actually raining, at least not until i'd got ten minutes up the road. another sign, aside from the drenched nature of the car park, should have been that only two others turned up but never mind - i had my mud guard on and that, along with the fact i was wearing 3/4's and long fingered gloves, was preparation enough for me.

it turns out in interim that one of the longer absentees in the group is refusing to come out on the grounds 'none of the rest of us are fit enough to keep up with him'. he said that i say? and make a mental note.

but not for last night. my legs don't feel bad in the flu aftermath but equally they're not great tho on the bright side the expected lung chunder, happily, does not arrive. rather than the drag up to the loch we decide to go a different route which entails a bit of tarmac at the start rather than at the end, a novelty for us and we ascend a route we more often descend.

after a bit of an early wobble i settle into the fact that the middle ring is what i'll be climbing in and ease up. i realise that this is the first night ride i've been on this year! so i edge myself away from the other two so that i can find my pace and also just to enjoy the forest which is drippy wet and eery with mist. i switch my lights off and ease thru it like a ghost. the pine needles look silver and the only sound is water. that's right, i remember, this is why i do this!

i'll give the boys their due - at the top of the climb as we rejoin the main track they gamely volunteer for a second climb, steeper and longer than the first. it has to be said that at the top i'm starting to feel it, not least because last time i was up i did most of it in the big ring and this time i'm struggling in the middle. granny to the top and it's fine. down to the loch isn't quite so easy, not least because i haven't gotten round to taking my dry weather race tyres off this bike. mud is slidey but the rocks are unfeasibly slidey! and then there's the frogs. t would be proud of my frog avoidance skills!

and it's very wet. at the loch i get cold. and then i realise, yes, i'm not over the flu. i never get cold! even the boys notice that one! on the descent i notice how amazingly tentative i am with lack of night practice even allowing for the tyre issue. mr p falls off with a balletic grace that voids any concern i may have had when he went over the bars. i particularly admire the second roll he does before landing in the mud!

both me and g have been ruined by summer cycling and are expressing concern by the time we hit the road and our bikes are creaking and grinding with grit and gloop. of course now mr p decides it's time to get the head down. i notice that g is conserving himself. he notices that i notice but what he doesn't notice is that i'm freewheeling with a fistful of gears. mr p loves a crazy break so i stick to his back wheel and watch him push the pace. as soon as the road steepens i'm off. shouts of frustration behind! g makes a manful effort to catch up on the flat but to no avail. and then we're back at the car park, old maybe, slow definitely but still laughing like idiots. top night!

so today my winter bike goes into the shop to get the stuff done i should've done at the beginning of summer.
and today will be the day, as it really is only weather for ducks, that the trainer comes out of the shed. not having a day off you might ask? absolutely not. because it's that time of year (and esp with me being away for relentless) when the subject of strathpuffer rears its head and even asking that question means that any day off the bike is a potential regret in the dark hours of a january morning!

alexander pushkin

Day's Rain is Done

Day's rain is done. The rainy mist of night
Spreads on the sky, leaden apparel wearing,
And through the pine-trees, like a ghost appearing,
The moon comes up with hidden light.
All in my soul drags me to dark surrender.
There, far away, rises the moon in splendour.
There all the air is drunk with evening heat,
There move the waters in a sumptuous heat,
And overhead the azure skies...
It is the hour. From high hills she has gone
To sea-shores flooding in the waves' loud cries;
There, where the holy cliffs arise,
Now she sits melancholy and alone...
Alone... Before her none is weeping, fretting,
None, on his knees, is kissing her, forgetting;
Alone... To no one's lips is she betraying
Her shoulders, her wet lips, her snow-white bosom.

No one is worthy of her heavenly love.
'Tis true?... Alone... You weep... I do not move.

Yet if...

trans unknown

Monday, 27 September 2010

what we did

when we had the flu.

nothing says you care like sharing so far be it for me, having dragged myself to work earlier the week, not to allow t the same experience.

friday passed in a dream like torpor, me in recovery and t, less fortunately, on the ugly slide to two days of unpleasantness.

on saturday we could manage no more than our planned matthew vaughan triple bill. we did manage a bit of a conversation around jane goldman's script writing and what marked out layer cake as vaughan's first film but, it has to be said, a leaky face and persistent cough does not make for critical thought. that said, we got the fire stoked up for the first time this year and surprised ourselves with just how much a bit of flame will make you feel a bit better psychologically.

i'd hoped t would be better for sunday but sadly not. i managed out into the garden in the morning which was lovely, given that it's been the nicest weekend this autumn, beautiful for cycling, getting out in the boats or whatever else it was that we weren't able to do. as it was geo turned up, fresh from a week away with the eccentric boys (we were supposed to visit for the weekend but..) and, to his credit, dragged me straight out for a wander along the gask ridge which was just lovely even if we did feel a bit guilty leaving t leaking on the couch. i did phone but all i got was a tirade that she'd exhausted all her crap tv and had been reduced to watching deep space 9 ('a bunch of blokes running about with fannies on their heads'). we returned and soothed her with ice cream.

we listened to many things but mainly amalia rodrigues and tara fuki and all in all, aside form the obvious flu related issues, it was all very relaxing. not as much tho, as drifting down the river yesterday would've been but what can you do. our next weekend off together (aside form the stockhom baby trip) - that would be january!

lisel mueller

Monet Refuses the Operation

Doctor, you say that there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and changes our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

jimmy santiago baca

I Am Offering this Poem

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,

I love you,

I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,

I love you,

Keep it, treasure this as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe

I love you,

It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;

I love you.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

edwin morgan

One Cigarette

No smoke without you, my fire.
After you left,
your cigarette glowed on in my ashtray
and sent up a long thread of such quiet grey
I smiled to wonder who would believe its signal
of so much love. One cigarette
in the non-smoker's tray.
As the last spire
trembles up, a sudden draught
blows it winding into my face.
Is it smell, is it taste?
You are here again, and I am drunk on your tobacco lips.
Out with the light.
Let the smoke lie back in the dark.
Till I hear the very ash
sigh down among the flowers of brass
I'll breathe, and long past midnight, your last kiss.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Wir machen Sauerkraut im der schottischen Stil

which hopefully describes what we're about in some sort of germanic style.

yes the autumn is upon us and while, finally, our tomatoes are finally ripening what it really means is we can go out and pick a whole bunch of brambles, brambles the like of which i have never seen. what an abundance! the bushes in places look like they're hung with grapes!

so this evening we made both bramble jelly and bramble jam. still to come is rose hip syrup and (a new one on me) hawthorn jelly. not only that we finally (after the predations of last years butterflies) harvested our 3 kilo red cabbage from the front garden and, amongst other things, are having our first go at making pickled cabbage. t looks so fetching with purple hands!

later in the week we'll be doing something with the beetroot and then i'll be harvesting the root crop so we can have a big autumn roast and various soups.

autumn. i love it!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

dylan thomas

In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

Friday, 17 September 2010


so my ancient amp finally gives up the ghost and we have a bit of a run into edinburgh to get a replacement, not least because the van's working again and t's under the weather so it did her good (well that along with the indian food i filled her up with!)

and then an amp, a piece of equipment which only just remains compatible with my so-called luddite tendencies, which sounds lovely yet i still have to operate with a remote control and, despite the myriad of technology, only has 3 inputs. what's all that about!?

but, to the point. as we lounge through our indian t mentions, almost absent mindedly, that maybe i'd care for a walk across the bridge on the way back. oh no, not me i protest but on the way back i find myself pulling in and getting out of the van in a very no time like the present manner.

and so we went off. i couldn't of course walk anywhere except the line that was equidistant from the yawning chasm on either side. and the mild breeze that was blowing was to me a gale that would pitch me to my doom with every gust. other than that it was fine. i could look out to the horizon no bother it was only looking down (or up. oh the up!) that caused me problems, a feeling of complete disorientation, akin to dizziness but without any sense of control. i didn't like it at all.

but it was useful. not least because t saw me in a state of somewhat lackadaisical fear but fear nonetheless. so i guess i'll do it again sometime. but not soon...!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

cesare pavese

Alter Ego

Dal mattino alla sera vedevo il tatuaggio
sul suo petto setoso: una donna rossastra
fitta, come in un prato, nel pelo. Là sotto
rugge a volte un tumulto, che la donna sussulta.
La giornata passava in bestemmie e silenzi.
Se la donna non fosse un tatuaggio, ma viva
aggrappata sul petto peloso, quest'uomo
muggirebbe più forte, nella piccola cella.

Occhi aperti, disteso nel letto taceva.
Un respiro profondo di mare saliva
dal suo corpo di grandi ossa salde: era steso
come sopra una tolda. Pesava sul letto
come chi s'è svegliato e potrebbe balzare.
li suo corpo, salato di schiuma, grondava
un sudore solare. La piccola cella
non bastava all'ampíezza d'una sola sua occhiata.
A vedergli le mani si pensava alla donna.

From morning till evening he saw the tattoo
on his silky chest: a russet woman,
lying concealed in the field of hair. Beneath there was
sometimes chaos, she leapt up suddenly.
The day passed in cursing and silence.
If the woman were no tattoo but
clung alive to his hairy chest, he'd
cry out more loudly in the little cell.

Wide-eyed, he lay silently stretched on the bed.
A deep sealike sigh swelled
the big solid bones in his body: he lay
as on a boat-deck. He rested heavily on the bed
like someone who on waking might jump up.
His body, salted with spray, poured out
sweat full of sunshine. The little cell
was not big enough for a single one of his glances.
His hands showed he was thinking of the woman.

trans unknown

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

tyehimba jess

martha promise receives leadbelly, 1935

when your man comes home from prison,
when he comes back like the wound
and you are the stitch,
when he comes back with pennies in his pocket
and prayer fresh on his lips,
you got to wash him down first.

you got to have the wildweed and treebark boiled
and calmed, waiting for his skin like a shining baptism
back into what he was before gun barrels and bars
chewed their claim in his hide and spit him
stumbling backwards into screaming sunlight.
you got to scrub loose the jailtime fingersmears
from ashy skin, lather down the cuffmarks
from ankle and wrist, rinse solitary’s stench loose
from his hair, scrape curse and confession
from the welted and the smooth,
the hard and the soft,
the furrowed and the lax.

you got to hold tight that shadrach’s face
between your palms, take crease and lid
and lip and brow and rinse slow with river water,
and when he opens his eyes
you tell him calm and sure
how a woman birthed him
back whole again

Monday, 13 September 2010

in between

the reading of poetry again and the watching of films we actually made it away. i cycled a good old way and my knees weren't too bad - have tried adjusting all my angles, lowering the seat etc so now my left knee doesn't give way as much but my right knee does. will it ever end! lol

so, anyway, we ended up in oban seeing geo and, to save my poor joints i decided a bit of sea kayaking would be in order. t had mentioned she'd fancy the idea of a trip but, given the fear of water/boats/swimming i suggested a taster suggestion might be a better deal. before she could bottle it i was into the rather excellent sea kayak shop in oban where i not only booked her in but had phoned geo, who is almost as afraid of the water, and got him involved as well.

cue much buying of wetsuits before i realised that i had no kit with me and the thought of doing it in waterproofs felt a bit too much like bravado so my kayaking kit expanded ever so slightly. t was very happy tho so that was all that mattered. at least until she got into the boat.

i have to admit i noticed neither the fear nor the tears which was just as well as by the time we were heading back in from our morning out i was looking at her form with quite some measure of envy. true she was burst when we got back in but it was burst and cheery so only then did she tell me how close she'd been to running away. maximum credit to helen the instructor. i'd told her i was only along for the paddle but she managed to not only give loads of attention to two complete beginners (and fearties) but also to get me on my edges without a dunking. i was very impressed. and the other two loved it. i'd highly recommend it.

but what t hadn't done was get swimming. so a couple of days later i packed her into the van and off to st andrews for a dip. i let her paddle about a bit before doing what i swore i never do again after ruining myself on the west coast and actually went for a swim in the north sea. it still isn't pretty water!

but again, just as well as i soon realised just how petrified of the water t actually is. no matter, we braved the waves, splashed about and i'm confident that after a few more sessions a measure of confidence will have been gained. i don't think t'll ever be up for big waves but equally neither might i. full credit tho for confronting the fear head on. i was well impressed.

so much so i felt some sort of reciprocation was in order just out of respect for her effort. me, i'm petrified of heights over water, land no problem, but water!! it's really quite annoying but time to get a handle on it so i suggested we walk over the forth road bridge at some point just so that the shoe could be on the other foot. even the thought makes me feel sick! lol

a full report shall follow...

Sunday, 12 September 2010

umberto saba

Citta Vecchia
(da Trieste e una donna 1910-1912)

Spesso, per ritornare alla mia casa
prendo un'oscura via di città vecchia.
Giallo in qualche pozzanghera si specchia
qualche fanale, e affollata è la strada.

Qui tra la gente che viene che va
dall'osteria alla casa o al lupanare,
dove son merci ed uomini il detrito
di un gran porto di mare,
io ritrovo, passando, l'infinito

Qui prostituta e marinaio, il vecchio
che bestemmia, la femmina che bega,
il dragone che siede alla bottega
del friggitore,
la tumultuante giovane impazzita
sono tutte creature della vita
e del dolore;
s'agita in esse, come in me, il Signore.

Qui degli umili sento in compagnia
il mio pensiero farsi
più puro dove più turpe è la via.

Old Town

Often when I'm walking home I'll go
by way of some dark street in the old town
The thoroughfares are crowded, the streetlamps
shine in puddles with a yellow glow

Here. among the men that come and go
between tavern and home or the brothel,
where goods and the people are the petty
flotsam of a great sea port,
Iin passing find eternity
in wretchedness.
Here the prostitute, the sailor, the old man
shouting curses, the woman in a twitter,
the dragoon eating fritters
sitting in a store,
the lovesick adolescent girl
who wants to be adored,
allare creatures of this world
and uits reward
of sorrow; and in them all, there moves the lord.

Here, when in the presence of the lowly,
I feel my thought
in the streets of squalor grow most holy.

trans unkown

Thursday, 9 September 2010

matthew vaughn

after a run of frankly dire films which has seen t reluctant to even watch a dvd, as she was felting the other night i idled in with kick ass. i was hoping it might be okay but expecting less than that so i figured she could watch it in between the wool action.

how wrong. we were glued to it. i've always been a fan of layer cake and vaughn returns to the same colour palette that he used in that. if there's a director who loves yellow more than he does then i don't know who it is. plus he seems to have a fascination for industrial settings that i've yet to see equalled. and aside from all that, even if you're not up for the violence, explosions, script etc you get to play spot the art. any scene that sets up the baddie with marc quinn's blood head is alright with me.

and it's this attention to detail i was loving from the start. the film is alive with references, not ladled on as some sort of homage but just there, letting you know the writers, the director etc are all really into it (check out the credits for the spice girl henchmen). this is reflected in the performances which are uniformly excellent. mark strong in particular is delightfully unhinged. exception must be made obviously for nicolas cage, for whom the words great performance should never be applied. here, he says, he's channelling his inner adam west. it's just wrong.

one of my other reasons for watching was the media controversy around chloe moretz's language. true if you're not a fan of the salty language then this isn't for you and, apparently, swathes of journalists were shocked out their seats by the sight of an eleven year old girl calling the bad guys 'cunts'. they seemed somewhat less appalled by the ensuing violence. and for me this is the issue around which the film revolved. true there are other moral questions raised but the sight of a wee lassie as the main protagonist in laying down gleeful savagery i found genuinely disquieting.

at the same time at no point did i have the slightest doubt that my own daughter at eleven would have loved it. as with his references vaughn makes it plain he's questioning this (a similar tack is taken to the issue of the aftermath of killing in layer cake) as the character of hit girl jokes with her dad she wants a puppy and a bratz makeover for her birthday when in fact she wants a set of knives. hit girl is doubled against the girlfriend of kick ass who occupies a much more conventional set of behaviours. she needs the hero's assistance, she wants him at home rather than endangering himself. hit girl has no such conscience but then again she is a child soldier and endowed with all the viciousness that such a state can bring.

of course there are bum notes. nicolas cage every time he's on screen for instance, even if you could argue that given the source material there's needs to be an element of cheese. and vaughn it appears, can't do fire.
but those are small complaints. if you're after a film that does characters, dialogue, action and still manages to ask questions without needing to beat you around the head with them, this is worth a watch.

so much so that t and i are reserving a rainy winter's day to watch all three vaughn movies, stardust, kick ass and layer cake, in that order. i look forward to it.

cesar vallejo

piedra negra sobre una piedra balnca

Me moriré en París con aguacero,
un día del cual tengo ya el recuerdo.
Me moriré en París -y no me corro-
talvez un jueves, como es hoy de otoño.

Jueves será, porque hoy, jueves, que proso
estos versos, los húmeros me he puesto
a la mala y,
jamas como hoy, me he vuelto,
con todo mi camino, a verme solo.

César Vallejo ha muerto, le pegaban
todos sin que él les haga nada;
le daban duro con un palo y duro
también con una soga; son testigos
los días jueves y los huesos húmeros,
la soledad, la lluvia, los caminos…

Black Stone lying on a White Stone

I will die in Paris, on a rainy day,
on some day I can already remember.
I will die in Paris--and I don't step aside--
perhaps on a Thursday, as today is Thursday, in autumn.

It will be a Thursday, because today, Thursday, setting down
these lines, I have put my upper arm bones on
wrong, and never so much as today have I found myself
with all the road ahead of me, alone.

César Vallejo is dead.Everyone beat him
although he never does anything to them;
they beat him hard with a stick and hard also

with a rope.These are the witnesses:
the Thursdays, and the bones of my arms,
the solitude, and the rain, and the roads. . .

trans unknown

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

alice oswald

Time Poem

now the sound of the trees is
and I'm still here
staring when I should be bathing
it's late, the bike's asleep on its feet.
the fields hang to the sun by
slackened lines...
when the grass breathes, things fall.
I saw
the luminous underneath of a moth.
and a blackbird
mouth to the glow of the hour in
who left the light on the step?
what is the pace of a glance?
the man at the wheel signs his speed
on the ringroad
right here in my reach, time is as
thick as stone
and as thin as a flying strand
it's night and somebody's
pushing his mower home
to the moon

Thursday, 2 September 2010


i was saddened yesterday to hear of the passing of laurent fignon. he'll always be remembered for 'that' race, something i've always felt somehow diminished him as a racer. also he had plenty to say for himself which, these days, seems quite unusual. fifty is far too young.

a far better innings by the others. i'm surprised by the lack of attention to the passing of frank kermode around blogland. at 90 it wasn't altogther unexpected but i was still reaching for my copy of shakespeare's language immediately on hearing the news. i said something at a reading recently that went along the lines that when a person does not really die as long as the things they touched are still used. i can't read shakespeare or forster without, at some point, referring back to him. you can hear him, briefly, here.

and of course, edwin morgan, who leaves a massive whole in scottish poetry but more than that by the outpouring of warmth from those who knew and read him. like kermode it seems he has left a well of affection amongst those who knew and read him. i've heard a lot fo these responses recently and i'm amazed at their variety (was he really the first one to translate eugenio montale?), a wee bit like reading morgan himself.

so what have i been doing? got out on the bike, read shakespeare's language and morgan's selected poems (and got involved in an edwin morgan memorial). they may be gone but in now way are they absent. chapeau, the lot of them!