Tuesday, 30 November 2010

what i learned this weekend

only last week the countryside looked something like this

then the snow came. not a lot of snow but enough i was happy enough to take the specialised out. and even tho the first lesson of the day is that mud tyres are not snow tyres it was okay.

okay that is until i tried to change gear. but why should that be you ask, haven't you had that mech into two separate bike shops on five different occasions? on the grounds you have spatial dyslexia and can't tell left from right? and they've all assured you that your diagnosis - i need a new mech - is the wrong one. yes, yes, it's that bike. the one that always breaks at strathpuffer, the cables freeze and due to some vagary of the bar set up it makes me feel like i've got a broken wrist after about two hours. yes i love that bike.

but even so to be out early doors with blue skies and a couple of inches of fresh powder was something like sublime. even on my now single speed bike coming down the back hill with not even a footprint for company was something special

i figured a couple of weeks of that would be just lovely. and then the snow came. and it snowed and snowed and snowed. and over the weekend we become something like an island as all the main roads were effectively blocked. it was a bit like that episode of the simpsons where there's no tv. people came out walking. we spoke to each other.

they didn't go very far tho. which was fine as it meant me and t had what should have been my daily cycle all to ourselves. (i would've gone out, no really i would've but, as i said to my lbs guy today i need to work my way into snow and thick snow is just a bit much for me. it's tricky, forgrounds all those bits of technique that you lack - and i lack technique in so many, many areas!). and it looked a bit like this -

it was all rather lovely. and got lovelier when we got back, stoked up the fire and i got busy in the kitchen making all manner of tasty goodness including marmalade. which t obligingly converted into cake. perhaps this was what did for her in the end...

jaime sabine

La luna

La luna se puede tomar a cucharadas
o como una cápsula cada dos horas.
Es buena como hipnótico y sedante
y también alivia
a los que se han intoxicado de filosofía
Un pedazo de luna en el bolsillo
es el mejor amuleto que la pata de conejo:
sirve para encontrar a quien se ama,
y para alejar a los médicos y las clínicas.
Se puede dar de postre a los niños
cuando no se han dormido,
y unas gotas de luna en los ojos de los ancianos
ayudan a bien morir

Pon una hoja tierna de la luna
debajo de tu almohada
y mirarás lo que quieras ver.
Lleva siempre un frasquito del aire de la luna
para cuando te ahogues,
y dale la llave de la luna
a los presos y a los desencantados.
Para los condenados a muerte
y para los condenados a vida
no hay mejor estimulante que la luna
en dosis precisas y controladas

The Moon

You can take the moon by the spoonful
or in capsules every two hours.
It's useful as a hypnotic and sedative
and besides it relieves
those who have had too much philosophy.
A piece of moon in your purse
works better than a rabbit's foot.
Helps you find a lover
or get rich without anyone knowing,
and it staves off doctors and clinics.
You can give it to children like candy
when they've not gone to sleep,
and a few drops of moon in the eyes of the old
helps them to die in peace.

Put a new leaf of moon
under your pillow
and you'll see what you want to.
Always carry a little bottle of air of the moon
to keep you from drowning.
Give the key to the moon
to prisoners and the disappointed.
For those who are sentenced to death
and for those who are sentenced to life
there is no better tonic than the moon
in precise and regular doses.

translated by w. s. merwin

Sunday, 28 November 2010

andre breton

Toujours pour la première fois

C’est à peine si je te connais de vue
Tu rentres à telle heure de la nuit dans une maison oblique à ma fenêtre
Maison tout imaginaire
C’est là que d’une seconde à l’autre
Dans le noir intact
Je m’attends à ce que se produise une fois de plus la déchirure fascinante
La déchirure unique
De la façade et se mon cœur
Plus je m’approche de toi
En réalité
Plue la clé chante à la porte de la chambre inconnue
Où tu m’apparais seule
Tu es d’abord tout entière fondue dans le brillant
L’angle fugitif d’un rideau
C’est un champ de jasmin que j’ai contemplé à l’aube sur une route des environs de Grasse
Avec ses cueilleuses en diagonale
Derrière elles l’aile sombre tombante des plants dégarnis
Devant elles l’équerre de l’éblouissant
Le rideau invisiblement soulevé
Rentrent en tumulte toutes les fleurs
C’est toi aux prises avec cette heure trop longue jamais assez trouble jusqu’au sommeil
Toi comme si tu pouvais être
La même à cela près que je ne te rencontrerai peut-être jamais
Tu fais semblant de ne pas savoir que je t’observe
Merveilleusement je ne suis plus sûr que tu le sais
Ton désœuvrement m’emplit lex yeux de larmes
Une nuée d’interprétations entoure chacun de tes gestes
C’est une chasse à la miellée
Il y a des rocking-chairs sur un pont il y a des branchages qui risquent de t’égratingner dans la forét
Il y a dans une vitrine run Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
Deux belles jambes croisées prises dans de hauts bas
Qui sévasent au centre d’un grand trèfle blanc
Il y a une échelle de soie déroulée sur le lierre
Il y a
Qu’à me pencher sue le précipice et de ton absence
J’ai trouvé le secret
De t’aimer
Toujours pour le première fois

Always for the first time

Hardly do I know you by sight
You return at some hour of the night to a house at an angle to my window
A wholly imaginary house
It is there that from one second to the next
In the inviolate darkness
I anticipate once more the fascinating rift occurring
The one and only rift
In the facade and in my heart
The closer I come to you
In reality
The more the key sings at the door of the unknown room
Where you appear alone before me
At first you coalesce entirely with the brightness
The elusive angle of a curtain
It’s a field of jasmine I gazed upon at dawn on a road in the vicinity of Grasse
With the diagonal slant of its girls picking
Behind them the dark falling wing of the plants stripped bare
Before them a T-square of dazzling light
The curtain invisibly raised
In a frenzy all the flowers swarm back in
It is you at grips with that too long hour never dim enough until sleep
You as though you could be
The same except that I shall perhaps never meet you
You pretend not to know I am watching you
Marvelously I am no longer sure you know
You idleness brings tears to my eyes
A swarm of interpretations surrounds each of your gestures
It’s a honeydew hunt
There are rocking chairs on a deck there are branches that may well scratch you in the forest
There are in a shop window in the rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
Two lovely crossed legs caught in long stockings
Flaring out in the center of a great white clover
There is a silken ladder rolled out over the ivy
There is
By my leaning over the precipice
Of your presence and your absence in hopeless fusion
My finding the secret
Of loving you
Always for the first time

trans unknown

Saturday, 27 November 2010

chap hop/cricket rap

a niche if ever there was one

but anyone who can rhyme tawdry with charles haughtrey is alright with me

and if you liked that check out professor elemental on the topic of brown joy

the history of chap hop you ask?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

jaroslav vrchlicky

To Be a Poet

Life taught me long ago
that music and poetry
are the most beautiful things on earth
that life can give us.
Except for love, of course.

In an old textbook
published by the Imperial Printing House
in the year of Vrchlickys death
I looked up the section on poetics
and poetic ornament.

Then I placed a rose in a tumbler,
lit a candle
and started to write my first verses.

Flare up, flame of words,
and soar,
even if my fingers get burned!

A startling metaphor is worth more
than a ring on ones finger.
But not even Puchmajers Rhyming Dictionary
was any used to me.

In vain I snatched for ideas
and fiercely closed my eyes
in order to hear that first magic line.
But in the dark, instead of words,
I saw a womans smile and
wind-blown hair.

That has been my destiny.
And Ive been staggering towards it breathlessly
all my life.

translated by ewald osers

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Monday, 22 November 2010

what you should not do

is be less than sensible about where you put all your notebooks.

and most especially after getting it together to have some sort of system to keep track of them all you shouldn't lose the one you've been using most, yes the one with all the notes of all the writing you've been doing since april and should've, was going to, maybe tomorrow but honest really i'll get to it all that writing up, yes that one. that's the note book you really shouldn't lose.

i'm sure it's in the house somewhere. i really, really hope it is....

Sunday, 21 November 2010

women in science

those of sharper memory might remember the poem i did about mary somerville a while back so it was a happy find today when i came across this article in the guardian today. better yet - and is it really two years since richard holmes' age of wonder was my book of the year - it turns out that richard holmes has a follow-up, the lost women of victorian science, coming out sometime in the next year. i can hardly wait.

best not read the comments section in the above if you've enjoyed the article. may spoil it!

miroslav holub

In the Microscope

Here too are dreaming landscapes,
lunar, derelict.
Here too are the masses,
tillers of the soil.
And cells, fighters
who lay down their lives
for a song.

Here too are cemetaries,
fame and snow.
And I hear murmuring,
the revolt of immense estates.

trans by ian milner

Friday, 19 November 2010

norman maccaig

should you have access to iplayer and a spare hour i'd highly recommend using it to watch billy connelly and ally bain in fishing for poetry where they commemorate they late friend norman maccaig. well worth a watch.
and aly bain a man utd fan? what's all that about?

Thursday, 18 November 2010


you just want to kick yourself. much excitement as i read that james turrell is doing a show at the gagosian. faster than a take that fan on news of their reunion i'm straight onto the website. london, easy. when can i get a ticket. except it's not my plane/train ticket that's the problem, more tha fact that the show itself is completely booked out.


heaped upon disaster as i decide that i'll do a bit of googling to find out what he's been up to recently, only to discover that rather than noodling about in his crater, as i very much like to imagine him doing, he's had a big show on in wolfsburg at the beginning of the year.

it's like some sort of stupidity affected attention deficit disorder sometimes....

James Turrell - The Wolfsburg Project - English subtitles from Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg on Vimeo.

lisel mueller


It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.
It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.
It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.
It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

it's not the crashing

but the aftermath that matters. i'm off up to destination x on monday. i notice, on the drive up the glen, it's just a wee tad icy. no matter i think, a couple of hours of 'sunshine' will sort that nicely. sadly no. i do avoid sliding off down the hill in one direction and into a cliff in the other, all this observed by some woman who's been doing a u-turn to avoid the slidiness. being an audi driver tho, she decides that the most appropriate response to my weaving about is to drive about fifteen feet behind me. choice! so i think i've made it, just at the last corner before the main road, when the van loses it and i plough into a field. audi woman drives past, face full of inconvenience, doesn't stop, doesn't acknowledge me, nothing.

the next car along does, four wee old folk looking out, slowing down, saying 'look there's some boy crashed into a field.'. stopping, offers of help? nothing. and then the next car! and again nada.

later i get asked how the crashing makes me feel. great, i say (not the answer that was being looked for!), i like that out of control then getting to walk away feeling. true, the banging about didn;t make my spine feel the best but otherwise, no problem. what gets me is the folk driving by. i don't understand that. a daily uncaring that makes me die a little every time i see it. these people i think, must be a different species.

and then to the cycling. the planned trip to destination x is off due o the icy crash risk so we decide we'll go out more locally. gymbolina has, as predicted, dodged out of an appearance. all the better for me to get more training in for next time! and more specifically because the impending races seem awfully close. but off we go up the hill. take it easy on us say the boys as we make our way up the steepest way possible. and i sort of do. my legs feel better than last week but i'm still getting strange drops in power. fortunately my head seems set right so i just ease off and cycle within myself. i'm still a front ring below where i should be tho.

anyway, the general meandering goes on. my erratic performance means everyone gets a chance to overtake me (or leave me behind!) which is great for the group dynamic and, in its way, good for me. our alternate destination is a good choice as it's almost dry and out of the (chilly) wind. we have a few detours thru some more technical forest sections, just to remind them what they'd be getting in destination x and there is much hilarity. of course i then get lost, have to put a bit of speed on to catch up. the problem being that the last bit we do is beech forest so the ground is leaf covered. of course when i say the ground i mean the fallen branches. fallen branches covered in moisture and general leaf mould.

my front wheel slides over a monster one of these, like i'm doing some sort of rail grind. except i'm really not. i catapult off the bike. dead sailor? no, a proper head over heels somersault followed by some it really should be on the gymastics mat rolls before i faceplant in the mulch. easily the biggest and best off i've had this year. i get up, dust myself off - unbelievably unhurt! and then i look around. not a soul. not even a glimmer of lights.

of course when i find them no-one wants to know. what took you they say. i had a massive off i say. yeah right they respond and off down the hill, an unwitnessed off being like the fish that got away - a story that might well have truth in it but with no one to see it isn't even worth the retelling.

i get home, mud spattered and happy. i fell off my bike i declare. did you dear, says t, now go and wash...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

when i think of afghanistan

this does not leap to mind

SKATEISTAN: TO LIVE AND SKATE KABUL from Diesel New Voices on Vimeo.


more lucille clifton

Song at Midnight

…do not send me out
among strangers
Sonia Sanchez

this big woman
carries much sweetness
in the folds of her flesh.
her hair
is white with wonderful.
she is
rounder than the moon
and far more faithful.
who will hold her,
who will find her beautiful
if you do not?

Poem in praise of menstruation

if there is a river
more beautiful than this
bright as the blood
red edge of the moon if
there is a river
more faithful than this
returning each month
to the same delta if there

is a river
braver than this
coming and coming in a surge
of passion, of pain if there is

a river
more ancient than this
daughter of eve
mother of cain and of abel if there is in

the universe such a river if
there is some where water
more powerful than this wild

pray that it flows also
through animals
beautiful and faithful and ancient
and female and brave

Monday, 15 November 2010

lucille clifton

to my last period

well girl, goodbye,
after thirty-eight years.
thirty-eight years and you
never arrived
splendid in your red dress
without trouble for me
somewhere, somehow.

now it is done
and I feel just like
the grandmothers who,
after the hussy has gone,
sit holding her photograph
and sighing, wasn't she
beautiful? wasn't she beautiful?

Sunday, 14 November 2010

virgil suarez

Hail Storm

The last time my mother visited Cuba
she found a car and driver to take her
to the province of Las Villas, seven
hours from Havana, and on the way
it started to rain, and the driver, a young
man kept telling her to relax, that this
was the way it always rained in Cuba
this time of year, and she kept telling
him she wasnt a tourist, that she'd been
born here, and the driver drove on
in the wolf-mouth-dark of the road,
insects and sleet rain crossing the head
lights, and my mother couldnt relax,
and when it started to hail, fists pounding
on the hood of the automobile, she
panicked, prayed to the point she spooked
the young driver into stopping by
the side of the road, if only until the hail
storm stopped, if only until her heart
settled and she began to recognize
that what was pounding the car wasn't
ice balls, but her memories falling back,
her life welcoming her where she belongs.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

return of the turntable

*disclaimer - unless you have had an enduring love for a turntable and the playing of vinyl records then this is probably a very dull post and best avoided.

once upon a time a owned a michell hydraulic reference turntable, a beautiful thing even if was a mirrored green in finish. stuff happened and i sold it, sort of, to my friend euan for a song in order, as he said, to buy 'other things' but wiht a long term understanding that one day i'd be getting it back. quite when that was wasn't specified and he always refused to commit saying that the extra time was justified so that, as he said. it could ' be a lesson for me'.

later i got myself an even more beautiful oracle delphi mark II. it was a nightmare to set up and even more fiddly to work than the michell but sooooo lovely to look at that when the divine s, with whom i lived at the time, changed status from partner to best friend (albeit with a hiatus of not really being very able to tolerate each other), she couldn;t bear to be parted from it and to this day occasionally taunts me with her possession of it (along with the vile music she plays on it).

in the interim i got some sort of thorens, easily the worst turntable i've ever owned. as i was into electronic music at the time it didn't seem to matter even if, as it turned out, i stopped listening to vinyl altogether. it gave up the ghost a couple of years ago and has sat, taunting me with its non-function and generally acting as an expensive and useless shelf.

which brings us up to the present. euan is now dead and i'd kind of thought that both the turntable and the records would fall to me. certainly when he died the first thing i did, aside from the blubbing, was go and listen to lots of music that we used to listen together. all very sad. but no turntable. and no vinyl. those went to his brother, the kaiser.

now the kaiser is a man with baggage, to put it mildly. at the same time he's my oldest friend and has easily earned the right to be the biggest - something between arse and galoot but with a completely contrary dose of affection - i know and get away with it, a right he exercises frequently and with gusto. but i love him with the same frustrated tolerance i would a brother so that's that.

anyway, recently he's being having the michell refurbished. he thinks it's a gyrodec (there's one on the cover of that morcheeba album he tells me. big calm, i say. hate it) and who am i to tell him differently? so, kindly, he's offered me his old linn (for money obviously, there's no giving of things in the lexicon of the kaiser). of course there's needle there. i always used to say i'd never have a linn in the house, back when such things made a difference (the pre-thorens days). and there was always the issue that the kaiser's stereo equipment, of which he made much, was the aural equivalent of a ford mondeo. and kind of still is. me, i've given up on all of that, even to the point of the linn. but, we're still who we are!

which is why we spent a very pleasant afternoon, despite the undercurrents (offering to sell me his dead brother's big black records. to me! the wrongness! but only if they were worth something mind. otherwise he's keeping them despite not liking them. a buffoon of a man!), along with geo, listening to old music, at an age now where we're too lazy to demand we make the choices. for two of us at least, and maybe, just maybe, for the kaiser, it was just a bit sublime.

and then back to the house where today i rejigged the bits, set up the linn (oh gods of sterophilia look away now) and settled down for an evening of vinyl listening at my gentlemanly ease (t being away for the night). i'm not saying vinyl sounds better, certainly not with what's left of my hearing, but really, it kind of does. if you like mp3s well there's really no talking about the notion of sound quality and cds, even allowing for things like hearing and system deficits there's still that tactile thing that is the physical fact of 12 inches of vinyl. proper, heavy in the hand and, because you've got to turn the thing over, it's not something you just have in the background. you have to stop a bit. listen. and that's kind of wonderful.

so what did i listen to? these -

my life in the bush of ghosts - david byrne and brian eno
speaking in tongues - talking heads
satyricon - meat beat manifesto
sandwiches - the detroit grand pu bahs
automatic - the jesus and mary chain
nico and the faction - camera obscura
beethoven's concerto no 5 in e-flat - allegro - boston symphony feat artur rubinstein

and then t came back. 'did you have a nice time?' she asked. 'listening to your old records?'
yes, i said, yes i did. and i had.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

carola luther

'I watch the bees slow down the summer'

I watch the bees slow down the summer. Honeysuckle sink
beneath their substance. Yellow busbies stuffed with sleep
and ochre powder making journeys, wavery, vague,
full of just-remembered purpose, so I come to think
of geriatric gardeners, with their pots and hats and secret
pockets full of dust, casting stuff on yellow air so seconds
stretch (a whole, long, summer each, if we could only enter them)
a gift of sorts, for us, a hunch, as if they've guessed, the bees,
and understood the rock at the garden's end, the crouching
sky, the path on its narrow belly, dropping to the sea.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

christmas is coming

and swiss is getting fat....

training for cyclocross and strathpuffer is not aided by three weeks off the bike, two of which consist of gorging on cakes. no, it is not. and while i might allude to t being a bit of a feeder it is she who forces me out into the cold for a night out with tuesday boys.

and after a few weeks with very few of the regulars showing up tonight there were five of us including that very individual who claimed he wouldn't be out as the group 'weren't fit enough'. great i thought, of all the weeks i turn up it's the one where i've conditioned with lard.

so i stick on the wheel of gymbolina (he's done ten miles today already. on a trainer. yeah, right) to see his form. and he's in the granny waaaaay too early, unfortunately as he's being tailed by a wheezing fat man it doesn't bother him overmuch.

so i guddle along, falling back, catching up. there's a study to be done somewhere about the detrimental effects of night shift on the body. i'm missng a gear and there's nothing i can do about it. still, gymbolina is alive with cracks. he can only climb at one pace - his - and he's just plain not good when he's off the fire road. and his head is rubbish. he likes to nip off your lines on the overtake even if you're queueing up behind. i briefly mug him on a singletrack climb before sliding off a rock and gracelessly into a bush. the acceleration does me for the next climb. i slide down into the wee gears and bide my time.

which is the singletrack back along the river. again we're lolling beind him, gymbolina closing off any attempt at speed. until suddenly there's a fallen tree and i'm off, a clear half mile into him in five minutes. finally my mud tyres are doing what they're supposed to. and even better dr k decides he's keeping me in sight and drops gymbolina also.

at the end the boys decide they want a tour around destination x. gymbolina says he'll come but we all know the subtext. destination x is a hell of mud, technical sections and bad, bad roots - all the stuff the boys have realised gymbolina can't do. the blood is in the water! and of course there's not a one of them who, seeing my ample winter layers, won't be fancying putting one over on me on my home forest.

in the mean time we will return to our lives as family guys, middle aged working types until next week's installment where, in our little world we are grimpeurs, racers, hard eyed bike men! you have to laugh...

james dickey

The Heaven of Animals

Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycles center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

Monday, 8 November 2010

william carlos williams

The World Contracted to a Recognizable Image

at the small end of an illness
there was a picture
probably Japanese
which filled my eye

an idiotic picture
except it was all I recognised
the wall lived for me in that picture
I clung to it as to a fly

Friday, 5 November 2010

strathpuffer is go

this year my strathpuffer entry was in about thirty seconds after the website was opened so come january yet again i'll be out in the winter darkness trying not to break me, my bike or both before the dawn actually comes around.

we'll be doing it in conjunction with slp in some form or another. currently, along with the usual shenanigans we're thinking about some form of moby dick type thing going on (it was a close run thing with ulysses but the whale won!) so if anyone's got any favourite passages from the book they feel are compatible with a 24hr bike race in scotland i'd be glad to hear them.