Three Walks

I am walking along a beach on a cloudy day (it is March), and, at ankle height, grains of sand are racing past me at a rate of ten thousand per second.  They sculpt themselves into ribbons and waves, trailing out, billowing, resting, and rushing on again, in a never-ceasing race to escape the sedentary secessionism of those they trample underfoot.
I feel like a giant, towering eighty metres above a desert sandstorm, as it engulfs sheikhs and Bedouins, caravans and tents, oases and all the other stereotypes of a life I do not know.  My ankles barely feel the weight of the sand’s incessant hurling, and I’m happy to have my hair whipped around and to admire the pretty spirals.

I am walking along the spine of the Salisbury Crags, where the hunched shoulders of basalt slope down the gentle gradient of long grasses to a loch.  The city is left behind, and I find myself in a different September – somewhere back in the 18th century (or 17th, or 16th).  The soils are thin, the sky is pale blue, and I’m happy to be here, pinned to the ground by the bluster.
The great wide tidal wave of the slope spreads out before and behind me, furrowed by multiple streams of air parting the grasses as so many manes of horses, galloping up to the brink and over: down, down, to be torn apart on the rocks below.

I am walking through a wood of maples and sycamores.  These trees haven’t been here too long – only thirty, forty years, maybe.  And in that time they’ve already seen their fair share of leaves.  An old stone wall to my left has created something of a natural funnel, and the leaves (it is November) are breathing and sighing; up, down, and across the footpath, rising dangerously close to my pink face as they reach back toward their former homes among the lower branches.  And then, with another sigh, they settle for the floor once more.
The leaves are dying.  Their life-blood is draining.  The green is gone, but in these convulsive death-throws, the withering skeletons of cellulose, chlorophyll and starch suddenly discover a second beauty, albeit a fleeting one.
The year is dying, decomposing, but in these last few days, the fertile soil of future springs will be prepared, as this year’s growth is laid to rest, like so many unfulfilled dreams.

Jeremiah Whisper

Jeremiah_thanks_small_4 Thought I’d introduce you to Jeremiah.

He’s an old American guy I’ve come across in Edinburgh.  I’m helping him out with a MySpace page (here) and so on, as he tries to get established (he’s a blues singer, but he lost the masters for all his old recordings in a fire.  Pretty tragic stuff)

If you’d like to be his MySpace friend, this is the sort of message you’ll get (although this photo is about 30 years old 🙂

A Brief Dictionary of Jeeves

I’m working on a little cross-cultural phrase book, so that we mere mortals may pass at ease into the world of the gentleman’s personal gentleman.  Suggestions gratefully received.

Jeeves’ Phrases, with Translations into the Vernacular:

Yes, sir?
You have my attention.

Yes, sir.
Please continue, even though I know what you are about to say.
You have reached the correct conclusion.  At last.

Thank you for (finally) agreeing with me.

Really, sir?
I think you many be mistaken.

Indeed, sir?
I highly doubt it.

Are you sure, sir?
You are definitely wrong, but I’d prefer it if you worked it out for yourself.

Well, sir.
I’m afraid that I will have to correct you on that point.

I fancy sir, that…
If you had my advantages, you would recognise that…

Thank you, sir.
That is very gracious of you and I appreciate it.

Oh yes, sir.
You have caught up with me, so I shall now expand upon the point.

Very good, sir.
I will acquiesce to your request
I will acquiesce, though only under protest.

No, sir.
I fear that, once more, I will have to enlighten you.

The Shame of Unemployment

I have now been officially unemployed for 6 weeks, and it feels like a lot longer.  Not that I’ve been dossing about or watching daytime TV or anything, but for the first time in my life I’ve been discovering how it feels to be ashamed of your occupation, & the baggage thereof: being asked "What do you do?" and knowing what a slacker you sound like when you answer; applying for jobs that you don’t want; NOT applying for jobs, because it’s so disheartening to have been turned down.  etc.etc.

So, what have I been doing?  Well, apart from job-searching, applying for housing benefit, and attending to other practical money-related things, I’ve been writing (novels & stories mostly, hence The Pig of Happiness), working in a charity shop, networking within Edinburgh’s Christian sphere, helping out my blues guitarist friend Jeremiah, and spending time with Maria.

And bits & bobs of other stuff.

I’m also (starting this week) hopefully going to start doing some work with/for my church (I’ll find out what this might mean on Tuesday).  But it very much is a life of odd & ends at the moment, which makes it awkward to notice whether or not we’re making any progress.  I’m still looking out for all possible options, while becoming steadily more aware of what I would ‘do with my life’ if money & practicalities weren’t such obvious monkeys.

It’s so easy to let ‘them’ win, you know?  So easy to give up wanting what you want, cos The Man is so flipping good at pointing the obvious common sense holes in your hopes.  Very disheartening.  But then, the whole deal with the Kingdom of Heaven is that it’s not based on common sense – it can include it, but often it’s completely crazy, following God’s way.  And that’s the way I want to go, even if I don’t see it much just now.

The Pig of Happiness [1st chapter]

The Pig of Happiness woke up and smiled.  He was a happy pig.
He looked up at the bright blue sky and smiled, he smiled at the two clouds that were passing across it, and he also smiled at the waving tree branches above his head.
He had spent the night under his favourite tree in all the world, and was glad that he had.  It was an oak tree.  The ground beneath this tree was soft and grassy (not bare or root-infested, like so many), and there were usually a few acorns lying around too, serving as an impromptu pre-breakfast.  He started to look about for some.

Suddenly, something small and hard dropped from above, striking the Pig just behind his ear.  It was an acorn.  The acorn did not hurt him of course, but it did startle him slightly.  He stretched back his neck and looked up, searching for the source.
“Hello hello mister Pig!” said the sprightly young voice of a squirrel, who was sitting directly above.  The Pig smiled at him – he liked meeting people; it made him happy.
“Good morning master Squirrel,” he called up, warmly.  “What be you a-doin’, dropping your precious acorns on my head?  I was quite startled for a moment.”
“Oh yes, I’m sorry about that,” replied the squirrel, looking from side to side in a nervous way.  “But you see, you’re a good friend to all the squirrels, and I didn’t want you to be going hungry.”
“What do you mean, goin’ hungry?  What should I be a-goin’ hungry for?” the Pig replied, remembering as he did so that actually he was a bit hungry, and that he had been just going to look for a bit of something.
“Do you not know what’s happened?” asked the Squirrel.  “We’ve been given orders.  We – the tree-dwellers – have been told not to let any of the floor-dwellers have anything of ours any more.”  The Pig of Happiness looked a little confused, as the Squirrel continued.  “Can’t you see?  Look around!  We’ve been told to collect up all the acorns and chestnuts and berries and cherries and apples, and bring them back into the trees, where they belong.”
The Pig’s mouth dropped open.  He wasn’t happy.
The Squirrel looked from side to side again, even more nervously than before.  “I can’t talk to you any more: one of the crows might be listening.  Bye bye mister Pig, and good luck,” he said, half whispering, before scampering off.

“Well!” said the Pig to himself.  He wanted to put a bright face on things, as was normal for him, but no matter how much he looked up at the sun in the sky and down at the flowers in the grass at his feet, the happiness didn’t seem to want to come back.  He wondered what to do.
And while he wondered, a big black bird swooped down, picked up the Squirrel’s fallen acorn in its beak, and flew off again.
“Well I never!” said the Pig, his eyes following what must have been ‘one of the crows’.  He knew, of course, that they, along with the starlings and the magpies, had for a long time been jealous of the floor-dwellers, who didn’t need to build nests in order to sleep, and could expect to find a bit of food wherever they went.  But he had never expected anything like this.

the long defeat

In choosing to express my inner geekdom, I presently have SIX books by my bed that are by or related to mr Tolkien (I have about 12 bed-side books in all just now), and last night I read something that kind of pinged me inside somewhere.  Here’s the quote:

                    Actually, I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic;
             so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’
                        – though it contains some samples of final victory.

Now, I don’t think I’ve ever before come across anyone telling me that this is a (or The) standard Christian worldview – I suppose in the circles in which I’ve moved, the emphasis has tended to be that because God is living and active now, everything of His in the world is in the process of redemption (ie. everything’s getting better).  But now I’m not sure.

Everything in creation is decomposing (everything physical, I mean); I know that. We are in a world where humans are constantly trying to make things that last, whilst concurrently destroying (or at least messing up) the only things that actually do last – creation, friendship, God etc.

Elves in Middle-Earth had a weird role.  They had LIVED in paradise (the High Elves had anyway) and seen perfection.  They remembered it.  But they weren’t a forward-thinking people – all their songs and ideals came from millenia previously, and it was all they could hope for to ‘preserve all things unstained,’ as Elrond said.  I think all of us instinctively recognise something about the good old days which made them good in contrast to now, but we’re told that we are silly to think like that.  I’m not so sure.

        Through the ages of the world we have fought the long defeat     [Galadriel]

The idea of the long defeat is definitely not very triumphant, in the Pentecostal style of Christianity.  The Rohirrim ride ‘for ruin and the world’s ending’, not for a present victory, which is only a fool’s hope (says Gandalf).  Recently, I’ve been noticing the sensation of ‘hanging on’ quite a lot: kind of a helplessness; the world’s wheels are turning and I just need to keep going, keep hanging in there.

When he needed to, Sam saw a star through the smogs of Mordor and ‘the beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.’  I need that.  Just plodding through smogs is CRAP, however heroic a story we paint ourselves into.  We need to know that we win, in the end, or even after The End.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

                                 How can you prove a victory before
                         It’s won?  How can you prove a man who leads,
                                  To be a leader worth the following,
                               Unless you follow to the death – and out
                                            Beyond mere death               [GA Studdert Kennedy]

too many friends in too many places

I got to see one of my best friends on Friday (Andy Rowlandson) – we just get on in one of those ways that you can’t fake cos it’s just so easy.  We share an awful lot of love: he’s just flipping wonderful – absolutely totally fantastic – someone about whom I can think of nothing even slightly negative.

And so, of course, I haven’t seen him at all for 15 months, and even then it was only for quarter of an hour.  I think it was August 2003 when we were last able to be in each other’s company for more than 45 minutes.  This year, I missed his wedding, his honeymoon trip to New Zealand (by just a few days), and was out of the country when he found out that he got a first for his degree (the completion of which had been delayed by the death of his Dad and his chronic dyslexia).

On Friday I think we were together for 20 minutes (he picked me up and gave me a lift to the station) and that was it – off again, for however long.  Having friends that you really really love is so sore sometimes.

oh and by the way

              IT’S MY HALF BIRTHDAY TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                                                                                                                               [yay me]